A recent article in Psychology Today by Jeff Pearlman, Success: Winners and Losers, gives insight into what it takes to build a world class team. A team of individual stars is not nearly as important as a team with a star leader. In most cases, the star leader is not the most gifted or talented person on the team. Using sports team analogies, the author points to a number of teams that had the most talented players, but still didn’t win championships because the stars of these teams couldn’t forgo their egos in order to become team leaders. The star leader is the guy who inspires his or her team though example and inspiration and not by standing out on their own.

So what are the elements that make up a team leader? These elements include a strong work ethic, humility, a love of pressure, self motivation and selflessness. Surprised? When you think about successful business or political leaders, as well as athletes, your list of traits might not include some of these items. But if you ponder what’s required of a successful leader, you can see that each of these traits is essential to success.

In order to promote team and task cohesion, the leader must inspire every member of the team to rise to a higher level in order to reach the overall goal of the team. Some people have great individual skills, but are so inwardly focused they have a hard time doing what is best for the team and foregoing their own self interests. The true team leaders focus exclusively on how to help the team move forward and that behavior is contagious.  

Work Ethic.  Having a strong work ethic is nearly always contagious, unless you work with a bunch of slugs whose only purpose in life is to collect a check and leave when the clock strikes 5PM.  Now I am not advocating working 60-80 hour weeks, but when there is a project or product launch on the line and the only way to get it finished is by putting in the extra hours, then it is up to the leader to inspire his or her team to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Leaders lead by example.

Humility. This trait should be self explanatory, but to those people with very large egos, it doesn’t make sense. Poor team leaders only want individual recognition and don’t mind stepping on other’s toes to get it. While it should be all about the team, it invariably becomes all about them. They don’t seem to understand that what is best for them is not always best for the team. True leaders should make whatever sacrifices needed to advance the team’s agenda. Period. Great leaders almost always defer the recognition for any accomplishments to their team.

A Love of Pressure. Great leaders seem to love pressure and even thrive on it. The harder the task, the better they like it. With great risk comes great opportunity. You can either let another team take the ball and run with it, or you can pick it up, rally your team behind you or in front of you…and you can all run like hell for the goal. If you look at great leaders in business, government or sports, their greatest achievements came when they had the most to lose.

Self-motivation. This trait comes from within. If you don’t believe in what you are doing, how can anyone else? When everyone else says you can’t achieve your goals, regardless of how improbable they might seem, that is when great leaders dig in and work even harder. To a true leader, the underdog label should just make the impossible seem possible. You can use it as a carrot to make your team work that much harder. If the press or your competitors scoff at your claims, then that should just inspire you and your team to prove them wrong.

Selflessness. This is probably the most important character trait of a real leader. Managers and team leaders who dial back their egos are more likely to get their team to buy into their dream. Business is full of individual stars who can’t give up their egos long enough to help their colleagues rise to the top and achieve the team goal. They want to be the star regardless of the cost. I am sure you have worked with lots of these people at one time or another in your business career.

When I managed large groups of people, I felt compelled to hire the very best staff I could find. While some people feel threatened if they hire someone with more talent, experience and skills than they themselves possess, I feel just the opposite. Some very knowledgeable person told me once that if you want a company of midgets, then that’s who you hire. On the other hand if you want to build a world leader and giant killer in your industry sector, then you need to hire accordingly.

What’s you take on this topic? Have you got any interesting ideas on what it takes to build a world class team?

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Let’s face it, given the economy and the number of people out of work, most people looking for a job are not going to be that selective. They would be happy just to find a job. There are others who believe that it makes more sense to begin the process by screening companies before submitting resumes to every company that has an open position that coincides with their job skills, background and experience.

I tend to believe that you should do a company search first and a job search second. Why? My reasoning has to do with the fact that every company has a different set of values, a different culture and a different potential for growth. Consequently, you should consider each of these factors prior to submitting your resume.

Now, if you are worried about making your next house payment or feeding your family, then all bets are off. You should probably apply for any and every job that you think you qualify for in order to feed your family and pay your bills. That doesn’t mean you should give up looking for your dream job. You can certainly continue that search while you are working somewhere else.

It really depends on the urgency factor. If you are currently employed and just looking to enhance your career by finding a better position at another company, then you have all the time in the world to job hunt. On the other hand, if you need a job this week, then you will most likely take the first one that comes along.

Before screening potential employers, you should spend some time reflecting on what is important to you? Your priorities should dictate the type of company to solicit. Some people put more emphasis on the company’s potential growth and available stock options. Others believe that it is more important to find a company that offers long term security without that much advancement. And some want to go to work for a company with a social conscience or a company that is known for its environmental efforts. And by the way, a successful socially responsible company is not an oxymoron.

Regardless of your other priorities, corporate culture should be a key factor in your search. Despite how good a particular job offer might sound, you aren’t going to last long in a company if you can’t assimilate easily and comfortably into their corporate culture.  Some of you might want to work for a company that is a market leader in an emerging technology field. There are others who are set on working at a company that ranks in the “Top 10 best companies to work for” category.

According to a recent survey of 100,000 people in 34 countries by global workforce solutions leader, Kelly Services, about 90% of the survey respondents were more likely to work for an organization that was considered ethically and socially responsible.  Of that group, Baby Boomers were more discerning than their Gen Y or Gen X counterparts, but not by that much. Almost 80% of those surveyed were more likely to work for a company that was considered environmentally responsible. And about 46% of those surveyed were willing to forego pay or promotion to work for a company with a good reputation.

Employees appear to be more fulfilled when working for organizations that focus not only on the bottom line, but also on community involvement and service. During my own career,I have met and worked with a lot of people who place a higher priority on their compensation and benefits, than on their organization’s philanthropy and social consciousness.  That said, I do believe American worker’s views are changing. At least, I hope they are.

Just keep in mind, that high pay and great benefits won’t satisfy most people’s need for fulfillment if the company that employs them is not ethical, responsible or doesn’t act in their community’s best interests. And as I like to say, “Karma will ultimately find you…and paybacks are hell”. There are thousands of reputable, socially and environmentally responsible companies in America. A good many of the companies in emerging or leading edge technology fields are progressive enough to understand the value of social and environmental responsibility.  Remember Google’s mantra, “Do no harm”. Yes, I am sure that some of you who might argue that they are not fulfilling their promise now they are a multi billion dollar company.

So what is your take on this topic? In your job search, do you search for companies first and jobs second? Are factors such as compensation and benefits your first priority or do you place more emphasis on the company’s reputation, social conscience or growth potential?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

 In the last thirty years I have worked as a product manager, marketing manager and sales manager. I even wrote a book on marketing in 2002 titled Marketing Alignment. Shameless plug number one – my book is available on Amazon.com. Based on my background, one might think it would be improbable that I would be in favor of banning any consumer advertising and marketing.

Sure, most people understand why companies can’t advertise automatic weapons or cigarettes on television. And if you NRA members won’t to take me to task on that issue, feel free, but remember I am an advocate of the second amendment. I suspect a lot of you would be in favor of at least limiting the TV advertising of fast food late at night or sugary cereal products targeting kids in the morning. After all, thirty percent of Americans are obese.

My complaint has to do with prescription drug advertising. Congress allocates the FDA $2.4 billion to regulate our foods, drugs and cosmetics. The big pharmaceutical companies spend twice that amount each year on consumer advertising.

About six years ago Congress, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the big pharmaceutical companies were wining and dining the healthcare professionals (doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, etc) in order to get them to prescribe their company’s drugs. So they passed legislation to put a halt to most of these practices. Well, the executives at the major pharmaceutical companies scratched their heads and came up with a different approach. They decided to go straight to the consumers and advertise their goods on national television. 

I am certain a great many of you would be happy if you didn’t have to witness another erectile dysfunction or enlarged prostate commercial ever again. Include me in that group. There is a movement in congress these days to try to put some limits on this advertising. Representative Henry Waxman, (D) California, would like to see the FDA  bar consumer advertising for any drugs until they have proved safe in real world use. Another democrat, James Morgan of Virginia is sponsoring a bill that would ban ads for prescription sexual aids like Viagra and Levitra during prime time on grounds of decency.

The drug makers and their proponents contend that direct to consumer ads educate the public and inform them about medical advances. Personally, I think diagnosing yourself based on a television ad is dangerous and will do more harm than good. I also believe that this television advertising is a significant contributor to the rising cost of healthcare in America. It seems to me that the big pharma companies see this as an easy way to reach the more gullible hypochondriacs out there who will take any pill they can get their hands on. I believe that healthcare reform should include some type of ban on these prescription drug ads.

Marcia Angell, a senior lecturer in social medicine at the Harvard Medical School and former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, says, “Direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising does exactly what it is intended to do – increase sales for drug companies. Increasingly, it does that by promoting medical conditions, as well as drugs. If the industry can convince essentially normal people that minor complaints require long-term drug treatment, its market will grow.”  She goes on to say, “The argument that ads educate consumers is self-evidently absurd. No one should look to an investor-owned company for objective, unbiased information about products it sells. Do we ask the Ford dealer whether his cars are any good?”

Still, there are those that argue that these advertisements go a long way in educating the American public about specific medical conditions and how to treat them. That would be a good argument if it were true. A study that compared the health literacy between the U.S. and Canada demonstrates the fallacy in that argument. Canada, where these ads are not allowed, has a higher health literacy than here in America where we are bombarded daily with these ads.

James P. Othmer, a former advertising creative director and author of the forthcoming book, Adland: Searching for the Meaning of Life on a Branded Planet, had this to say about prescription drug marketing, “My all-time favorite pharmaceutical ad is for something called R.L.S. (Restless Leg Syndrome) a condition whose degree of absurdity is topped only by a drug’s potential side effects: “Tell your doctor if you experience increased gambling, sexual or other urges.” Mr. Othmer went on to say, “If I had a dime for every time I heard the words “ask your doctor” or saw a crude clip of phallic imagery during a commercial break from the evening news, or was forced to contemplate a stomach-turning side effect, I’d be able to afford my own health care.”

So what is your take on this topic? Do you think these drug companies should be able to advertise freely on any medium they choose? Are you ready to contact your Senator or Congress person and tell them to ban this advertising?

If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

In the beginning there was normal reality. What you saw was what was there. Then there was altered reality, but that was in the sixties and you needed a competent drug dealer to ensure you could return from your trip on Transcendental Airways. Next came virtual reality and if normal reality didn’t do it for you, then you could create your own virtual persona and be as cool as you thought you should be. Now there is Augmented Reality. How many realities will we need to experience before it is all said and done? How about your own robotic surrogate? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate augmentation? Well it is the twenty first century.

According to Wikipedia, “Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality. The augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, like for example sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally usable.”

Practical applications for augmented reality are mostly about digitally overlaying information over what you are seeing in real time. These types of applications have been used by the military for years. Head’s up displays in jet fighters, helicopters and tanks are just one example. The yellow first down line on a television broadcast of your favorite college or NFL game is another example. Some automobiles have digital displays projected on the inside of the windshield just above the dash board so you can check your speed or fuel level without taking your eyes off the road.

The most popular consumer uses for AR are apps for smart phones. Yelp was one of the first AR companies to develop apps for the iPhone. Using a Yelp app, you can aim your iPhone at a restaurant and it will overlay reviews and other information about that eatery. Another app will allow you to point the iPhone at an historical site and the app will provide you with a summarized history of that landmark or show you what that site looked like 100 years earlier.

There are apps in development that will use facial recognition to find entertainment or business celebrities in a crowd. Another will allow you to aim your phone at a classmate at a reunion and view that person’s social networking pages. Of course, there will be apps that provide directions from your location to the closest Starbucks if you point your phone at the street sign in any major city.

What if everyone in New York or London is walking around holding their smart phone in front of their face to augment their own reality. How long will it take for them to run into a wall, another person, a poll or walk into oncoming traffic? You thought it was bad enough just having people around you talking or texting on their smart phones while walking or driving. In the future they might be looking through them.

Of course, if that technology takes off, people will purchase glasses or goggles that provide the digital overlays. I have even read about a company that is working on contact lenses that will provide you with terminator eyes complete with computer graphics layered onto your lenses. Naturally, you can expect Washington to provide legislation that will keep us from harming ourselves or others while using this technology.

In the movie, Surrogates, people had human like robots carrying out there day to day activities, while the humans cloistered themselves indoors in their homes or apartments. The humans controlled their surrogates through virtual eyewear and headset devices they put on when it was time for their robots to leave their homes and go about their daily routine.

Their surrogate robots interacted with other surrogate robots both at work and socially while the humans reclined in their beds and vicariously interacted with the other surrogates. I can’t imagine how anyone could go without real human interaction for a long period of time. And if you thought obesity was a problem today, just consider how humans would look if they spent all day reclining in bed.

Is the authenticity of our human existence being supplanted by a digital existence? Social interaction and personal communication are being replaced by digital interaction via smart phones, email and Facebook. And if you think that I am a Luddite rebelling against all forms of technology, you would be wrong. After all, I am writing this blog on my Toshiba notebook computer and publishing it on my web site, Linkedin and WordPress.

I do believe it is reasonable to question the impact of technology on our daily lives. I did grow up in the fifties when social interaction was the only interaction and the only reality. I can certainly see the value in having instant global communication capabilities and the world’s knowledge base at your finger tips. Let’s just not replace ourselves with digital devices. There is a lot to be said for the human experience and face to face human interaction. That is, after all, what makes us human isn’t it?

What is your take on this topic? Technology evolution is impacting everyone on the planet. Now for my shameless plug: If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

In a previous blog, Does Happiness in the Workplace Equate to Higher Productivity, I discussed Alexander Kjerulf’s research on happiness in the workplace. He conducted his research in this area prior to writing his book, Happy Hour is From 9 to 5. According to Mr. Kjerulf, happy workers work better with others, are more creative, have more energy, are more optimistic, are more motivated, get sick less often, learn faster, make fewer mistakes, and make better decisions. It should be obvious that to be successful at your job or business, you need to cultivate happiness in the work place. Yours and your co-workers. So what makes us happy?

Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar teaches the most popular class at Harvard, Positive Psychology, which has been referred to as Happiness 101. His first class had only 6 attendees, but today, enrollment in his “Positive Psychology” and “The Psychology of Leadership” classes has risen to 1400 students. He consults and lectures around the world to high level executives, the general public and at-risk populations. Topics include happiness, self-esteem, resilience, goal setting, mindfulness and leadership.

Dr. Ben-Shahar points out that positive psychology, as a discipline didn’t really exist prior to the late 1980’s. Despite all the self help and new age proponents of positive mental attitude and positive motivational techniques, this discipline has grown to become a serious field of study. Prior to this field coming into its own, psychological research primarily revolved around mental illnesses, anxiety, and depression. Bummer, huh? 

In his lectures, Dr. Ben Shahar discusses his six secrets to happiness. According to the professor, the six secrets are:

  • Give yourself permission to be human. When we accept emotions – such as fear, sadness, or anxiety – as natural, we are more likely to overcome them. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness.
  • Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. When this is not feasible, make sure you have happiness boosters, moments throughout the week that provide you with both pleasure and meaning.
  • Keep in mind that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or the state of our bank account. Barring extreme circumstances, our level of well being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. For example, do we view failure as catastrophic, or do we see it as a learning opportunity?
  • Simplify! We are, generally, too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much.
  • Remember the mind-body connection. What we do – or don’t do – with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health.
  • Express gratitude, whenever possible. We too often take our lives for granted. Learn to appreciate and savor the wonderful things in life, from people to food, from nature to a smile.

His view of happiness makes a lot of sense. Suppressing emotions only leads to those emotions manifesting and erupting into an emotional outburst at a later time. If you deal with these emotions in the present your life will run more smoothly. He points out that 45% of college students feel so depressed and overwhelmed at some point during their education, they can’t function at all. If you feel that way, take time for reflection which can translate into growth. Meditation and reflection will pay dividends both at home and in the workplace. Your best ideas come when you are doing nothing. Simplify your life when things get to overwhelming. Take a time out.

If you can’t find meaning and pleasure in your day to day activities, then you should find people and activities that will provide meaning and pleasure in your life. Self concordant goals are goals aligned with your personal interests and values. You might have to do some deep reflection and soul searching to discover these goals. But it will certainly be time well spent. On the micro level, happiness boosters provide a direct impact on one’s happiness. These can include time with a loved one, a walk on the beach, volunteering at the local soup kitchen or a game of tennis or golf.

Cultivating healthy relationships is a key ingredient to happiness. Whether romantic or platonic, relationships with family, friends and loved ones are key drivers of your happiness. Make sure you take the time to cultivate and enjoy these relationships. Sure there are times when your relationships don’t always equate to happiness, but he says that in a sound relationship, positivity vs. negativity should be a 5:1 ratio. Conflict is an opportunity for growth. Deal with it.   

Another key to happiness is to get out and get some exercise. Dr. Ben-Shahar says that a good thirty minute exercise routine is like taking a small dose of Prozac and a small dose of Ritalin in terms of the chemicals released in your body. And you thought it was an adrenalin high. Exercise raises our base level of happiness, not to mention the health benefits it brings.

Finally, don’t forget to be grateful for what you have. Stop taking your life and your gifts for granted. Another research study concluded that grateful people are much happier than people who feel superior or people who control others. Since Dr. Ben-Shahar recommends some form of regular meditation, whether it be yoga or internal reflection or a walk in the woods, you can take these as opportunities to consider how fortunate you are to live in America and have the gifts you take for granted every day. The happiest people seem to be those who believe what they have today is all they need. Greed (acquiring money and stuff) is not now, nor has it ever been a path to happiness.

What makes you happy? We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you are a Baby Boomer, and haven’t yet joined my web community, www.boomeropinion.com, please do. It is free and only takes a minute to sign up. You can participate in our polls on major issues facing America and Baby Boomers. You can also join in our discussion forums or even set up your own blog at our site.

Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist, wants employers to view potential hires in a non-traditional way. Penelope has built quite a following over the past decade writing career advice to generation Y. She has written a book (Brazen Careerist, The New Rules for Success), she has a syndicated column and her blog has over 40,000 subscribers. She firmly believes that traditional career path fundamentals are outdated and instructs her Generation Y followers to pursue a different path. She believes that traditional career sites are out of touch with the new web 2.0 reality and are a waste of time for young career minded individuals. Given that the older job seekers have longer resumes and deeper backgrounds, she has come up with an alternative way for Generation Y job seekers present themselves to future employers using Web 2.0 networking.

Since the younger Generation Y workers are less experienced than their older Generation X and Baby Boomer counterparts, they have fewer opportunities to secure jobs or advance their careers using the old paradigm of wisdom and expertise gained from years of past employment. Penelope believes that your value to a company should be based more on your ideas and potential than your background and experience. She also believes that the best way to present your self is through social networking. In the past, a lot of young job seekers have been burned by their own content residing on social networking sites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. Inappropriate content was their undoing in most cases.

Before the web came about, Baby Boomers relied on newspapers and personal networking to advance their careers. In the early days of the internet, Generation X used Monster and Linkedin to network and find the job they wanted. In every case, the preceding generations have embraced new technologies if they didn’t want to be left behind. Since traditional career sites focus on experience, younger candidates don’t fare that well. Generation Y feels more comfortable with conversation based networking, so social networking is more appealing to them as a way to connect with employers. Older careerists had better begin to embrace Web 2.0 if they expect to remain competitive in the job market.

In a recent press release, the Brazen Careerist articulates its vision: “Brazen Careerist is a Generation Y-targeted career site that uses social networking to showcase job seekers’ ideas and potential over their background and experience. Brazen Careerist “levels the playing field” for Generation Y by reversing the disadvantage these candidates have faced on other online career sites where experienced Gen Xers and Baby Boomers appear more employable. For recruiters and hiring managers, Brazen Careerist will offer unique deep insight into the critical thinking skills, ideas, knowledge, and peer influence of high performing Generation Y candidates whose potential would not be discoverable from an online resume.” You can learn more at www.brazencareerist.com.

So, will the Generation Y kids ultimately beat out the older more seasoned Baby Boomer and Generation X job seekers in securing the best jobs with the best companies? It is way too early to speculate on that, but my advice to the older career minded individuals is this: you better embrace the new technologies and Web 2.0 sites or you will be left out in the cold for sure. If you are not on www.linkedin.com, then get cracking and start networking. If you consider yourself an expert in your field or profession, then start writing a blog and build a following. Most companies are looking for thought leaders and if you can turn a phrase and have some really good ideas about your profession, share them and you will benefit in more ways than you know. You can go to www.wordpress.com  and set up a blog for free.

Another major consideration for older job seekers is compensation. More and more companies that have been hit hard by the recession are looking at ways to reduce their budgets and younger, less experienced employees are much less expensive to hire than their older counterparts. So my second piece of advice is to be more flexible when it comes to salary and benefits. Once you demonstrate your value to the company, the compensation will take care of itself. Your potential employer will appreciate your contribution to his bottom line and won’t forget you when the economy turns around.

A final note about Penelope Trunk. She was born in 1966, thus making her a member of Generation X and proving that you don’t have to be a member of Generation Y to leverage social networking and Web 2.0 for your own financial gain. Clever individuals can achieve significant success regardless of age. Go Penelope!

Got a opinion? We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. If you are a Baby Boomer, and haven’t yet joined my web community, www.boomeropinion.com, please do. It is free and only takes a minute to sign up. You can participate in our polls on major issues facing America and Baby Boomers. You can also join in our discussion forums or even set up your own blog at our site.

Last week, I began this series on the secrets to building a billion dollar web property by giving a brief analysis of the early development of Facebook and Myspace. I discussed how their visions and value propositions morphed over time. I stated that the number one secret of their success was user engagement. And yes, your vision and value proposition will determine the level and frequency of user engagement, but not always on the first implementation of your concept. You have to continue fine tuning that vision until your growth becomes viral and exponential.

Neither Facebook or Myspace became successful based on the founders’ original target market, value proposition and vision. And they are two of the most successful web sites in the history of the internet. So lesson Number One is: If your site design does not truly engage your users day after day, month after month, and year after year, then regardless of how brilliant your original vision or concept might be, you’ve got nothing.

Neither Facebook or Myspace would have been able to accommodate the exponential growth they experienced had they not considered scalability in the overall design of their sites. There are those who still think that building a successful web property is only about offering your visitors content, media or engagement they can’t get from another web site. Without scalability, your site will crash often and die an early death once exponential viral growth overwhelms your computing resources. Hopefully, if you are in the process of starting a web community, scalability will be a major consideration.

For you non technical readers, scalability covers four critical areas. These critical areas include development platform and language, development talent, hardware and hosting, and last but not least, caching. Skimp or minimize resources in any one of these areas and you will never make it to the next level. Over time visitors don’t return to sites that can’t deliver on the promise of their functionality and content availability. It even happens to the major players…I just logged into Twitter and got this message: Twitter is over capacity…Too many tweets…Please wait a moment and try again. Twitter can get away with this now, but for how long?

Let’s start with the software platform that was or will be used to develop your site. This includes the language and operating system platform on which your web site is to be built. Bottom line: selecting the right development language and platform is critical to building a scalable startup. If you choose a platform that allows you to get the web site up quickly, but is inherently un-scalable, your gamble will come back to bite you in the butt. If your site engages the users, you will also need a scalable database backend to maintain all the information about your membership and their profiles. If you don’t have the technical expertise to understand scalability, then hire a web developer or partner with someone who has that expertise.

That brings me to the second critical factor in achieving scalability. Scalable web startups are willing to make the necessary investment when it comes to securing talent. Hiring and/or seeking advice from a web developers or web architects in the early stages of your site development is absolutely essential to your success down the road. You might counter by telling me that you can’t afford such high level talent. My suggestion would be to seek out a web developer or developers with the required expertise and offer them equity in your startup. If you don’t have the funding to pay them as regular employees, then maybe getting in on the ground floor will entice them.  If your vision and value proposition have merit in their eyes, then they will be satisfied just to work for a piece of the company.

Since my primary target audience is non-technical, I don’t intend to get bogged down in the technical details of hardware and hosting scalability, so I will give the briefest of summaries on those issues. We have already discussed the development platform and talent required, but there are some additional areas that haven’t been covered. It is essential to understand bandwidth requirements with respect to your server connections to the internet.

Suffice it to say, through the use of web hosting services, you can scale your bandwidth up over time as needed to accommodate the traffic on your site. Whether you use the hosting site’s servers or your own, that should not be an issue. The primary difference has to do with costs and your web developers will help you make those determinations.  If your site really takes off, then you will have to transition to your own in-house server farms.

The last critical factor I will mention has to do with caching. Your development guys will understand the importance of caching and should have it as a very high priority from the beginning. Basically, caching takes the load off the disk drives and processes the routines and requests through temporary memory (mem-caches) which will speed up those processes. Speed and performance is critical to a successful web site and poor performance will have a very negative impact on your traffic. Users tend to stay away from sites that are difficult to log into or navigate.

So there you have it. Secret Number Two is: Scalabilitiy. From concept to launch, scalability has to be a major consideration when developing your site. The best web concept in the world won’t make your site successful if you can’t provide your users 100% availability and functionality.

I am sure you have heard it all before. Get yourself a domain name and set up a web site. With the right concept, you will become rich beyond your wildest expectations. You will be jetting around the world and everyone will want face time with you. If you believe that, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.

You know as well as I do, that it doesn’t really work that way. What I do know is that most successful web entrepreneurs built their sites based on one value proposition and before their very eyes their site morphs once, twice or three times before really gaining traction and beginning to grow virally. So where are you? Plan A, Plan B, or Plan Z? Your concept is important, but if you don’t build a platform that engages your audience, you will never achieve the level of success you expect.

Take Myspace, for example. When Chris DeWolfe bought the domain name Myspace.com in 2002, he initially expected the domain to become a data storage and file sharing site. The founders of Myspace, Chris DeWolfe, Brad Greenspan, Josh Berman and Tom Anderson met at eUniverse where they worked and were all members of Friendster, one of the earliest social networks. When they left eUniverse, the guys decided to strike out on their own and create their own social network similar to Friendster.

To make their social network different, they made a couple of significant changes. They designed the site to allow users to customize their profile pages and they encouraged anonymity by letting their members use any identity they wanted to use. The early version of Myspace initially targeted an 18-35 demographic and emphasized content revolving around indy rock and alternative music. Their connection to music and musicians helped fuel the early growth of the site and is still a primary driver of their traffic today.

By giving users the ability to customize their web pages within the site and upload their own photos, videos and music, Myspace morphed into a more general social networking site. Myspace’s reach began to extend to folks of all ages who wanted to set up their pages any way they wanted. As the site grew virally, their value proposition morphed into something totally different from their original concept of appealing to musicians and music lovers, and the rest as they say, is history. Bottom line, they built a platform that not only engaged their users, but kept them coming back again and again to update their profile pages and see what their friends were posting on their pages.

When Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook, it was originally called Facemash, and his idea was to allow fellow students at Harvard to rank female coeds based on their physical attractiveness. Being a geek, Mr. Zuckerberg was trying to find the hottest coeds on campus and maybe even get a date with one of them. After toying with the original site for a time, Zuckerberg and his roommates determined that they could expand their little network if they changed their site into a campus directory for Harvard.

After recruiting thousands of students at Harvard and validating their new concept, his team then opened Facebook up to other campuses and the site began experiencing exponential growth. The design of the site was such that without purposely intending to do so, it became a social network for everyone, not just college students. The site differed from Myspace in that the users used their real identities and the site was open to application developers that developed apps that the users could use to mess with their friends. It also minimized the banner ads that overwhelm Myspace’s pages. And another accidental internet empire was off and running. Bottom line: build a site that your initial users embrace and they will come.

Neither of these two sites became successful based on the founders’ original target market, value proposition and vision. And they are two of the most successful web sites in the history of the internet. So lesson Number One is: If your site design does not truly engage your users day after day, month after month, and year after year, then regardless of how brilliant your original vision or concept might be, you’ve got nothing.

It is important to understand that you can’t build a successful site based on content alone. Unless you have a very large global staff of extremely talented editors, journalists, copywriters and reporters, your content will not keep your visitors engaged. The best way to keep them engaged is by ensuring that they are the ones generating the content and interacting with the content generated by the others on your site.

By the way, Facebook is overtaking Myspace in unique visitors and members world wide. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought Myspace in 2005 for $580M. Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson initially stayed on to manage and guide Myspace. However since April of this year they have, for all intents and purposes, given up their active participation in the day to day operations and management of Myspace. Mark Zuckerberg is still the guiding visionary at Facebook and the company remains private. He relocated the company to Silicon Valley and has hired a number of highly qualified executives to manage the day to day operations of Facebook.

When I told my wife I was writing this blog, she asked me why I haven’t created a billion dollar web site…if I knew all the secrets. My response was that we are in the process of enhancing our web opinion portal, www.BoomerOpinion.com, currently and will launch the new site design before the end of the year. And within a year or less, we should be able to put a down payment on my new Ferrari and arrange financing on that Chateau on Lake Como near Milan. Okay, maybe a new corvette and a house on Lake Travis. We wouldn’t want to fritter away our entire fortune the first year would we?

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have a different idea about the secrets to building a successful web property? We want to hear about it. Post your comments and tell us what you really think. Stay tuned and next week, I will reveal secret number two in this series.

Posted by: goalpath | October 14, 2009

Are Guns in Bars and Restaurants A Good Idea?

 In June of this year, Tennessee legislators passed a new law allowing people with concealed carry permits to bring guns into bars and restaurants in that state. They had to override the Governor’s veto to get the law passed.  And last month, Arizona legislators enacted a similar bill allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons into bars and restaurants in their state. Needless to say, the National Rifle Association backed these bills and lobbied vigorously for their passage.

The right to carry firearms into establishments that serve alcohol exists in 41 states now. So this is not a new issue that has just surfaced in Arizona and Tennessee. And I am sure that in most of these states, the establishment can post signs forbidding customers from bringing firearms into those establishments, as they can in Arizona and Tennessee.

In Arizona, taking a gun into bar banning weapons is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to 30 days in jail or a fine up to $500. Of course, there is a partial legal defense if the sign had fallen down, the person was not an Arizona resident or the sign had only been up for 30 days or less. There will always be loopholes.

In both states, patrons who are carrying weapons are not supposed to consume alcohol. I am not sure how they can be prevented from consuming alcohol if their weapons are concealed. I guess they will be operating on the honor system.

Even if the firearm bearing patrons don’t consume, their fellow patrons will be consuming and likely as not a dispute or argument could arise between an unarmed patron and a patron who is carrying. So what’s to keep a shootout from occurring in the bar or restaurant? It seems to me that we are creating a perfect venue for more gun violence.

According to J.P. Nelson, director of the NRA’s western region, “Bad things happen in bars and restaurants.” He went on to say, “People want to carry a gun and if the facility owner doesn’t have a problem with it, there shouldn’t be a problem. If a person starts drinking and gets into a shootout and kills someone, of course they’re subject to criminal prosecution.” Of course, I not sure the victim’s loved ones will feel all that comforted by the fact that the murderer will be brought to justice.

Now the NRA has its view on the subject, but I can’t say that Mr. Nelson’s statement increases my comfort level. I think every bar owner should be concerned about the consequences of allowing folks to bring guns into their establishments. I am all for the second amendment, but I believe allowing people to bring guns into bars and restaurants just doesn’t make much sense. Sure there are those folks who will say that without such laws the only people packing will be the bad seeds and criminals just itching for a gun fight. Sure, there will be those who will carry concealed weapons regardless of the laws.

So I guess the justification is that you need to protect yourself from all those bad guys who will be illegally carrying guns into these establishments. Personally, I don’t get it. I believe allowing anyone to carry firearms into establishments that serve alcohol is asking for trouble. Isn’t there enough gun violence already in America.

Sorry, I just couldn’t let this news story go by without putting in my two cents. I know there are a lot you out there who will take issue with my opinion. That is good. My web community, www.BoomerOpinion.com, is all about discussing issues like this one, so jump in and let me know how you feel about this issue.  We are always looking for new members who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions, so please join if you haven’t already.  And have a great week while you are at it.

Posted by: goalpath | October 14, 2009

Is Online Rudeness Becoming the Norm in America?

Recent studies conducted by the Pew Internet and American life Project, as well as the Synovate market research group, found that people are ruder online than in person. The studies point out that more than a third of those surveyed are quite aware of the fact that they use language or words online that they would not consider using in person. I am sure this is no revelation to anyone who spends even a small amount of time online, but it does point to a developing situation that could undermine civility in America and around the world.

It is obvious that when we communicate using technology, we isolate ourselves from those we are communicating with and that sense of anonymity drives us to overstep the boundaries of appropriate behavior. And yes, there are those who believe there shouldn’t be rules pertaining to proper online behavior and that anything goes when they go online. Even those folks who are shy and retiring in person can have major personality shifts when they go online. I suppose their perceived power online could be intoxicating to some.  

Is this behavior just a function of the growing online population? Can it be reversed? It’s probably too early to tell, but something should be done. Given we are dealing with the world wide web, government intervention is not an option. Maybe a grassroots movement to encourage civil discourse on the web would be a first step.

Below I have listed The Core Rules of Netiquette from the book, Netiquette, by Virginia Shea. Ms. Shea understands the problem and provides a really good set of rules that people can use to avoid being rude online. I have also included brief portions of Ms. Shea’s explantions for each rule.

Rule 1: Remember the Human The golden rule your parents and your kindergarten teacher taught you was pretty simple: Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you. Imagine how you’d feel if you were in the other person’s shoes. Stand up for yourself, but try not to hurt people’s feelings.

Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life In real life, most people are fairly law-abiding, either by disposition or because we’re afraid of getting caught. In cyberspace, the chances of getting caught sometimes seem slim. And, perhaps because people sometimes forget that there’s a human being on the other side of the computer, some people think that a lower standard of ethics or personal behavior is acceptable in cyberspace.

Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace What’s perfectly acceptable in one area may be dreadfully rude in another. For example, in most TV discussion groups, passing on idle gossip is perfectly permissible. But throwing around unsubstantiated rumors in a journalists’ mailing list will make you very unpopular there.

Rule 4: Respect other people’s time and bandwidth It’s a cliché that people today seem to have less time than ever before, even though (or perhaps because) we sleep less and have more labor-saving devices than our grandparents did. When you send email or post to a discussion group, you’re taking up other people’s time (or hoping to). It’s your responsibility to ensure that the time they spend reading your posting isn’t wasted.

Rule 5: Make yourself look good online I don’t want to give the impression that the net is a cold, cruel place full of people who just can’t wait to insult each other. As in the world at large, most people who communicate online just want to be liked. Networks — particularly discussion groups — let you reach out to people you’d otherwise never meet. And none of them can see you. You won’t be judged by the color of your skin, eyes, or hair, your weight, your age, or your clothing.

Rule 6: Share expert knowledge The strength of cyberspace is in its numbers. The reason asking questions online works is that a lot of knowledgeable people are reading the questions. And if even a few of them offer intelligent answers, the sum total of world knowledge increases. The Internet itself was founded and grew because scientists wanted to share information. Gradually, the rest of us got in on the act.

Rule 7: Help keep the flame wars under control “Flaming” is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion. It’s the kind of message that makes people respond, “Oh come on, tell us how you really feel.” Tact is not its objective.

Rule 8: Respect other people’s privacy Of course, you’d never dream of going through your colleagues’ desk drawers. So naturally you wouldn’t read their email either. Unfortunately, a lot of people would.

Rule 9: Don’t abuse your power Some people in cyberspace have more power than others. There are wizards in MUDs (multi-user dungeons), experts in every office, and system administrators in every system. Knowing more than others, or having more power than they do, does not give you the right to take advantage of them. For example, sysadmins should never read private email.

Rule 10: Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes Everyone was a network newbie once. And not everyone has had the benefit of reading this book. So when someone makes a mistake — whether it’s a spelling error or a spelling flame, a stupid question or an unnecessarily long answer — be kind about it. If it’s a minor error, you may not need to say anything. Even if you feel strongly about it, think twice before reacting. Having good manners yourself doesn’t give you license to correct everyone else.

Ms. Shea’s book is available online through Albion Publishing at www.albion.com.  It should be mandatory reading for every one who goes online. Maybe, just maybe, we can encourage a higher level of civility on the internet and net etiquette can be resurrected.

I have written about this issue in the past, and I am sure I will write about it again. The internet is a wonderful tool for gathering information, social interaction and broadcasting one’s opinions. If we can keep in mind that there are human beings on the other end of the wire who might be interested in what we have to say, but won’t get the message if we shove it down their throat, maybe we can carry on civil dialog, get our ideas and opinions across to those folks and make some new friends at the same time.

What’s your take on this issue? Am I too much of a prude to expect proper behavior from those on the other side of my computer screen? Comment on Linkedin and/or on my web site, http://www.BoomerOpinion.com. We are always looking for Baby Boomers with an opinion that don’t mind speaking out and can successfully complete a sentence.

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