February 26, 2006
Guy Kawasaki is a new blogger. Since I have vastly more experience on this matter than he (about 2 years...), I will deign to offer him - and anyone else who's listening - some advice on the art of the blog:
- Get a blogroll. You are not a member of the blogosphere if you don't have a blogroll. This is not just an act of vanity (though it might be that too), it is the blogosphere's hierarchical search mechanism. The best way to find blogs you like is to look at the blogrolls of blogs you like. Just as the best way to find friends is to meet the friends of your friends. And the best way to find new hires is by word of mouth (in fact, studies have shown that they are much more likely to be successful than those found by any other means). And don't limit your blogroll to your genre - your readers may find your blog because of the subjects you write about, but they come back because they develop a personal relationship with you. They want to meet your friends, not your coworkers.
- Keep it informal. Reading a blog post should be like listening in on, or participating in, a conversation. True, may people use the blog format to post other things, but to my mind these are BINOs (blogs in name only). A real blog is part of the giant conversation that we call the blogosphere.
- Google is your friend. If you're writing about an unusual topic (pretty much anything but politics), a large percentage of you traffic should be from search engines. Be Google-friendly. Think about what an interested person would search for, and make sure those words, or phrases, are in your post, preferably in the title. My impression is that Google recognizes blog post titles and page names, giving them preference in search results. So if you have pages for individual posts, make sure that the post title is also the page title.
- Lose the empty margins. A common blog format is the skinny line of text down the middle of the page. It's awful. Screen real estate is valuable, don't waste it. Once you get rid of the wasted space on the sides, there are many things you can do with it, depending on your priorities and taste. You can make your font bigger, or show more text on the page, or unclutter the body of the blog. Just do something useful with your screen!
- Make meaning. I put this last because it should go without saying - presumably, if you are blogging, you are writing about something that's meaningful to you. But I will say it anyway: this is the essence of blogging - if it's not meaningful to you, don't bother. If it is, it's likely meaningful to others as well. So don't worry if anyone else cares, just give us the chance to find out.
* Begin with letters early in the alphabet.
* Avoid names starting with X and Z.
* Embody verb potential.
* Sound different.
* Embody logic.
* Avoid the trendy.
It's not that I disagree, but I don't think his recommendations speak to the heart of the matter. To me, these are subordinate factors. The secret of a good name, like all good inventions, lies in squaring a circle - solving two (or more) problems simultaneously, where the obvious solution to each contradicts the other. Here are the two problems:
1. Sound unique - The name must sound like your product an no other.
2. Sound ordinary - It should roll off the tongue. Weird names all sound alike.
Put another way:
1. Be googlable - When people google your name, the first answer should be your product.
2. Sound like what you're selling - All the good names are taken.
Of course, there's no getting around the fact that good names are a matter of taste (and linguistic background!). But I think that "Domicel" succeeds in these requirements. Formally, it comes from the words "domain" and "domicile", but I wouldn't have gone with it if I didn't think it met my requirements.
"We did mood boards," Redhill says. "We did random visual associations, attached to sequential words. And so, when they said, 'We want to be strong‚' we would show them a picture of an ocean wave breaking. And we'd ask: 'Do you want to be strong like a force of nature?' Then we'd show them a picture of a metal chain link fence. And we'd ask, 'Do you want to be strong like a chain? Strong but breakable?'" The final slide was a close-up of a human face. "We said, 'Perhaps you want to be strong like human nature -- indomitable and immutable.' And they said, 'Yes, that's us. That's exactly how we imagine people feeling about our brand.'"
After four months of this sort of intensive brand therapy, the group settled upon the only name capable of conveying such protean emotions -- "Agilent." They took the name into focus groups, where, to their great delight, it was received with admiration, approval and total open-mouthed attention. "I've never seen anything like it," says Amy Becker, who works alongside Redhill in Landor's verbal branding and naming group. "This was a pretty rarefied crowd. We're not talking about the mass-consumer, chips-eating sort of person. This was a very particular sort of business-to-business decision maker. A hard group to impress. And they were just delighted." The name was also a hit among the NewCo rank and file. "It's funny, because 'Agilent' isn't even a real word," muses Redhill. "So it's pretty hard to get positive and negative impressions with any real basis in experience. But I'm pleased to say that when we unveiled the name last month at an all-company meeting, a thousand employees stood up and gave the name a standing ovation. And we thought, 'We have a good thing here.'"
I think "Agilent" is a lousy name. I find it hard to pronounce. I keep wanting to metathesize it to "Aligent". But the company's still there, so I guess it's working well enough. In the end, if the company succeeds, so will the name.
I've read more than a few books about entrepreneurship over the years. Frankly, I can't remember any of them, though in the absence of anything else I'm sure they're worth the read. A few days ago, a well-known Israeli entrepreneur loaned me his autographed copy (no, it doesn't say anything about kissing or licking) of The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki (my own copy is on its way from Amazon). This is a book any aspiring entrepreneur should read. First of all, it's slim (as Guy says, entrepreneurs don't have much time to sit around and read), but most of all, it's right. I can't say I was nodding vigorously throughout the book - I was literally jumping out of my seat with excitement, I was so eager to get to work on his recommendations! My most common reaction was, "I can do that!" - mixed in with a non-trivial number of uh-oh's.
My biggest problem is also my major asset: Domicel, the Infinite PC, is a disruptive technology. Which means that it has no existing market, no competitors, nothing by which an investor can "objectively gauge" the value of the product - as if that's ever possible! But investors like to have their preconceptions confirmed by "analysis". Domicel is like the World Wide Web, email, or the PC. Nobody knew they wanted these things until they became popular, it's only in hindsight that we consider them indispensable. It takes a special kind of investor to back such a project. If anyone knows of one, please contact me.