Filed under: Families, FamilyLink.com, Market Research Statistics
I am running a survey tonight on We’re Related (a family-oriented Facebook application with 17 million monthly users) to find out if people know the love songs their parents loved.
Given our modern obsession with music, I find it interesting that only 7% of the respondents say they do. (See Survey Results)
Come to think of it, I don’t know my parents’ favorite love songs, but now I want to. I do know one song that my in-laws fell in love to 50 years ago while dancing because my wife used it as the sound-track for their 50th anniversary wedding video last year. It was really, really meaningful to have that song play along with all the pictures of them dating and then having a family.
Here are some of the answers I’ve gotten so far tonight:
- Waltz Across Texas, by Ernest Tubb. (YouTube video)
- Always Love You, by Whitney Houston (YouTube video)
- Summertime (YouTube–performed by Billie Holliday)
- All Around the Water Tank, by Jimmy Rogers (YouTube video — “it’s a very old song. My momma’s 84 years old.”)
- He’s a Rebel, by the Crystals (YouTube video)
Do you know the love songs that your parents loved?
If you could run a survey about music and families, what would it be?
Filed under: Advice for Startups, Recruiting, Software for Entrepreneurs
The primary purpose of this blog since Nov 2003 has been to discuss topics related to being an internet entrepreneur. But my own personal role has changed several times during these past 6 years, as I’ve been CEO of an internet marketing company (which was sold in June 05), head of an internet incubator (Provo Labs), and then since January 2007, I’ve been 100% focused on running FamilyLink.com (including its genealogy properties, WorldVitalRecords, GenealogyWise, and soon GenSeek.)
During that time I taught business formation classes at (what is now) UVU, and internet marketing for 2 years at BYU. I’ve live-blogged a few conferences, and covered some political and investor topics as well. So I apologize to some of my readers who have noted my lack of consistency in blogging (I used to blog several times a week–now I’m lucky to blog once or twice a month) and the fact that I cover too many disparate topics in one blog. Ideally, I’d have 3-4 blogs dedicated to different topics, but then I’d probably not update any of them often enough. But, things are often not ideal, so I’ll just continue to blog when I can and on what topics I feel are worth covering.
One thing that has been far from ideal is the hiring practices of FamilyLink.com. We don’t yet have a real HR department, though we do have a benefits group that administers our health plan, etc. Growing from less than 20 to more than 60 people in six months poses a lot of challenges, especially when so many of our employees are remote (Seattle, Boulder, So. California, Salt Lake, etc). In the last couple of months we have really improved our recruiting process, our interviewing process, and we have the offer letter step down pat. Our stock options spreadsheet is updated every time we issue an offer letter that is accepted. So things are improving.
But one thing that still needs to be improved is the integration of new employees into the company culture and information flow. I have met with or talked with new employees after say 2-3 weeks on the job, and I’m always surprised to know that they don’t know really critical things, like who some of our other employees are, and what their responsibilities and skills are. When things are moving so fast for our company, it’s hard for the hiring manager to take a full day or two to orient the new employee to the org chart, who does what, what all our plans include. It is easy to make sure the person knows what their immediate tasks are supposed to be, but not necessarily how it fits into the big picture.
I decided a few weeks ago that FamilyLink needed a checklist for the hiring manager to use each time a new employee joins the company, so we don’t overlook any step–particularly with regards to making sure each new employee gets plugged in to who is doing what, and who they should be sharing ideas and knowledge with, or coordinating projects with. (Again, this is especially important because we have so many remote workers.)
Because Yammer is such a powerful tool for internal company communications, the first thing on my checklist would be to invite the new employee to Yammer, ask them to update their profile with all their contact information, and to browse the org chart to see who reports to whom. I wish the org chart could link directly to every employees LinkedIn profile–because I would require all the new employees to review the LinkedIn profile of all current employees. I’d also like them to spend a few hours browsing through various Yammer posts, doing searches, and seeing who has been involved in past discussions on topics that are relevant to them. All this would really give them a feel for who is on our team.
But in order to join our company Yammer account, the new employee has to first have an @familylink.com company email address, so that is actually the first thing on my checklist.
So here is my (slightly modified for public consumption) checklist of what I want to make sure that our hiring managers use whenever a new employee joins FamilyLink.com:
- Offer letter
- Sign Employee Agreement (confidentiality, assignment of invention)
- Get email account on @familylink.com
- Join Yammer: add personal contact info, including cell phone. Review all employee profiles on Yammer.
- Connect with all colleagues on Google Talk
- Define key metric, goal, and reporting tool
- Identify hardware and software and equipment needs with our purchasing manager
- Review mobile phone policy (who needs iPhone, blackberry, etc.?) and our expectations (increased productivity and use of our company applications)
- Complete paperwork to enroll in benefits
- Orientation about company-wide stats emails and confidentiality
- Provide access to customer surveys — training on why it is important (hint: we listen to our customers)
- Uservoice orientation (we use this for each of our sites/apps so customers can vote on what we should do next)
- Set up LinkedIn account–connect with other employees
- Connect on Facebook with colleagues
- Sign up for FamilyLink.com — become an active user of the FamilyStream
- Sign up for Google Reader, and follow other employee bloggers, as well as top industry blogs
- Lunch meeting with CEO
- Discuss which blogs they will read on Google Reader — enabling sharing with other employees
- Conference Plan — list 1-5 conferences they want to attend this year
- What LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups or real world networking groups they plan to actively participate in
- Discuss how to find smart people to follow on Twitter
- Company Twitter / blogging policies
- Discuss key metric, goal and reporting tool
- Discuss list of books to read
New employees in our engineering or web design/development team will have several more items on the checklist, like getting access to our development environment, our SVN source code check-in system, product roadmap, and bug tracking system. New marketing employees will get access to all our analytics and reporting tools for their particular area of specialty. And our ad sales and product sales teams obviously get a lot of training on particular systems, software, and selling approaches and collateral material. But the overall checklist is designed to make sure all employees get connected internally to the people and systems they need to be productive right away.
I remember reading that Google used to publish its daily sales figures internally to all employees until it started down the IPO path. Their philosophy seems to be hire smart people who gets things done and empower them with data. We really try to do the same thing. Our daily company-wide emails provide insight into all our company’s key metrics and our financial position. (Thus the need for a reminder about confidentiality.)
I emailed this checklist to some hiring managers last week and it was well received. But most of our employees haven’t seen this list yet, until today. I’m eager to get this implemented and tested in real life, and to get feedback on it. Some items are more important than others, and some can probably be done over time, instead of immediately upon being hired. I’m sure we’re missing some key items that haven’t surfaced yet.
I hope the checklist reflects some of my personal interest in helping each employee invest in developing their minds and expanding and enhancing their personal social networks. In February 2005 I published an article called “Investing in Employees: Designing a Curriculum for Key Executives.” Our new checklist doesn’t go as far as that article did in making sure employees have all the encouragement and opportunity they might need to become life-long learners, but I think it’s a decent start.
What do you think is missing from this checklist? Have you worked for a company that does a great job at incorporating new employees? What are the worst things you’ve seen companies do when new employees join up?
Please share your thoughts.
I attempted to post this entire apology on Terry’s blog “Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi” but it exceeded the 4,096 character limit for comments.
So I posted part of the comment there, and the entire apology here.
I want to add my sincere apology to Nathan’s. We have made more than one mistake in the 8 days since GenealogyWise debuted. Censoring your comment was completely inappropriate, and the moment I heard about it (I was in a meeting with FamilySearch in Salt Lake City at the time) I said, we need to apologize and to establish a policy of not censoring any criticisms of GW.
The earlier mistake was creating a contest that was a marketing gimmick that had the potential to spoil the legitimate community experience of GW users. I apologize for that too.
May I share with you a little background about myself and some of our team?
I founded Ancestry.com in 1996 and in the early years was very proud of what our company was doing, how we kept our prices reasonable, and how we supported and encouraged a thriving genealogical community. By 2001 prices started to get out of control (imho), the support for a free MyFamily.com disappeared, and Rootsweb started getting far less resources and attention. I had led the effort for MyFamily.com to acquire Rootsweb because I loved how that site operated and allowed so many people to set up mailing lists, host content, and enable genealogical collaboration–all for free. I was very disappointed when MyFamily (where I was by then 1 of 9 board members and a tiny minority shareholder) go from like 17 full-time people supporting Rootsweb to only 2 or 3.
So, I have a long history in the genealogical community. So does some of our team at FamilyLink. But some of our 60 employees and contractors are very new to the genealogical space. They are gifted entrepreneurs, designers, and product managers. Some have even built online communities before. But no community, in my experience, is anything like the genealogical community. And everyone on our team needs to learn what is unique about this community, and how to enable it, and never cross it. We aren’t off to a great start at GW, but we learn quickly. And as everyone can see, we connect in real time via Twitter, Facebook, and blogs like this, so that we can respond immediately to concerns or complaints. We’ll add more personnel very soon so we can cover all the boards and forums, not just some of them.
I left Ancestry/MyFamily.com/TGN/Ancestry.com back in February 2002, but I missed this industry so much. Finally, in 2006, several of the original Ancestry.com team came back together and launched WorldVitalRecords.com first, then a social genealogy site which later became FamilyHistoryLink.com. But our first real, completely supported and very robust genealogical social network is GenealogyWise.
We are extremely excited about creating a very open, free, robust community with all the genealogical features the community wants. GW has the potential to become the next Rootsweb. But instead of cutting support staff, we’ll be adding to it as fast as we need to.
We are looking at building applications on top of the API that societies and individual genealogists will find very engaging. As we add GenSeek and GenStream functionality to GW and potentially free hosting for all kinds of society databases, we think GW will serve the needs of millions of genealogists worldwide.
For this reason, our missteps in our first 8 days are very painful for all of us that sincerely want to create the best social network for genealogy. Again, I personally apologize for our deleting your comments and for launching that $800 contest.
To put our money where our mouse is (and to show our good intentions and our sincerity), we will send a check for $801 to the Itawamba Historical Society, at the above listed address. It should arrive by next week. We will also send $801 to the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, which is an organization that does a lot of good for a lot of people. I know they have had trouble with hosting expenses and servers. If you don’t consider them a non-profit (I don’t know how they are organized or incorporated) then we’ll send $801 to another genealogical group.
Having been in this industry since 1996, I know hundreds of wonderful genealogists all over the world, and there are dozens of society leaders than I know personally and would love to find ways to support.
In fact, supporting societies has always been one of my goals, dating back to the “Society Hall” feature of Ancestry.com in the early days.
If you want to see something that is both interesting and also dates me, in terms of my involvement in the online genealogy industry, check out this Internet Archive link that shows the original Ancestry.com site back in 1996.
I personally designed the logo (I apologize for this too!) and have never designed one since.
My point in showing you the 1996 Ancestry which several people on the current FamilyLink team developed, is that we care deeply about starting small and creating something really useful and helpful for the millions of genealogists who devote so much of their lives to researching their ancestors, and preserving the records and stories which add so much meaning to life.
I don’t know what else I can personally say in this comment that will indicate how sorry I am, and how sorry we as a company are, that we made these mistakes. I will say that last night on my iPhone (after about a 12 hour work day) I read all of the 73 comments in the thread at GW about censorship policies. (Now there are 96)
Yesteday we announced a new full-time community manager for GW, Gena Ortega, who publishes the WorldVitalRecords blog and newsletter and has a lot of experience in the industry. In addition, we’ve added a full-time developer, Casidy Andersen, and we’ll be adding more personnel to help build the features of GW that I mentioned earlier and to interact with the community.
If the community flees from GW now because of our mistakes (and lack of a clear policy about inappropriate content), I think everyone loses. We can’t build a community site without the community–no matter how feature rich it is.
But we want to invest in building something you and others in the community will love. We’re in a unique position to do this.
I spoke at a BYU genealogy conference a year ago and said that the commercial genealogy industry worldwide is actually tiny–far smaller than most of us think. I figure there are probably less than 10 companies worldwide that actually have 10 or more full-time people building genealogical products. There are hundreds of wonderful small companies, too, but very few that have a full team dedicated to building great products for the community.
Because we have 50 million users of our Facebook application, We’re Related, which is primarily an application for families to find living relatives, and because that application is advertising supported, we have had enough revenue to been able to hire dozens of people in the last 6 months to help build our family, genealogy, and history applications.
We want to build the best products that we can, to help everyone in their individual quests to find ancestors and connect with living relatives. We feel satisfaction from every success story we hear.
If you’ll accept my apology, and appreciate our sincerity, and if we (everyone at GW) will learn to respect you and all other genealogists for their opinions and the right to express them — then perhaps all of us can pull together and build something remarkable and free that will bring together the genealogists of the world (and their families) in a special way.
I truly hope so. And I hope you’ll accept this apology and receive the check as a token of our respect for you and all volunteers at all non-profit genealogical and historical societies everywhere.
Filed under: Brand Marketing, FamilyLink.com, Market Research Statistics
Last year, as FamilyLink.com’s product strategy and business model were becoming more clear, we realized again that in many ways, the family is the center of the economic universe. So many consumer purchases are really made within families. Think about the mortgage, the car payment, educational expenses, travel, health-related spending, consumer electronics, and gifts too. Most of our major and minor expenditures have something to do with family.
As FamilyLink reaches more consumers each month with our family applications on social and mobile networks, we have more opportunity to understand our users better. We have developed a robust survey tool that allows us to collect thousands of answers very quickly on all kinds of questions. We often ask our members what they like or don’t like about our applications, what they want us to do next, and how we can improve our products and services. But sometimes we ask our members what products they use, or like most, or recommend. We also religiously read every user post on our Uservoice customer feedback site which contains thousands of ideas and suggestions from our customers, along with their collective votes.
Last year, before we developed our in-house survey tool, we ran a third-party survey to find out what products people used because their mother used them. I blogged about it last February. The top ten products were Tide, Ivory, Clorox, Campbell’s Soup, Crisco, Dove, Crest, Kraft, Comet, Quaker. I have no idea why 7 of the top 10 start with a K sound, but they do. These are all household products that most people use daily or weekly.
I asked a similar question recently to discover what products (brands) people use because their father used them. And for the first time, I’m publishing the list here, in ranked order. We received 19,288 responses to this question.
- Old Spice
- Heinz Ketchup
- Coca Cola
- John Deere
- Dial soap
- Hellmans mayo
- Folgers coffee
- Duct tape
Old Spice had 16 times more responses than Dodge, which was in 30th place. The survey was unaided and all the answers were typed into a text box. The hardest part in compiling the survey answers was in finding all the misspellings of Budweiser. The dads that influenced their kids to drink Bud also forgot to buy them a dictionary.
If you had a customer base of 50 million people of all ages and family sizes using a family-related web application, how do you think this kind of market research could both generate revenue for your company and also provide a better experience for your members than traditional display banner ads? In other words, how do you think we can or should incorporate popular brands into our user experience?
(We have some really fun ideas, and are working with some selected brands already, but I always love to hear other thoughts on big strategy questions like this.)
Our hiring philosophy at FamilyLink.com has been to recruit the best talent we can find, regardless of location. So we have engineers, designers, and marketers scattered in several states and in two countries as well. As we have grown from a dozen to more than 60 employees and contractors, the challenge of communicating and collaborating becomes very significant.
Our social development team has been holding the equivalent of daily standup meetings for 15 to 30 min each day. We’ve been using some voice-only conference calling systems, but as of today, we’ve officially decided to dump voice-only and implement by tomorrow morning a new web-based collaboration system.
We aren’t going to take weeks to decide which system to use. We’re going to take a few hours. After all, the real-time web makes it possible to harness the wisdom of the crowds very quickly. I will use this blog post, LinkedIn Answers, and twitter to gather the information we need to make a good decision today. It may not be the best decision that is possible–but it will be a good one. And tomorrow’s social developer meeting will be far more effective than today’s.
I know that WebEx and Gotomeeting are traditional and well-known options for virtual meetings (both are in the top 5,000 of Quantcast), but I wanted to find some other options that might be easier to use, less expensive, and perhaps more innovative. Some quick Google and Twitter searches brought up several options that look more appealing than WebEx or Gotomeeting. The top five candidates so far are: Yugma, DimDim, YuuGuu, Adobe Connect, and Zoho Meeting.
- Yugma search on Twitter
- DimDim search on Twitter
- YuuGuu search on Twitter
- Zoho Meeting search on Twitter
- Adobe Connect search on Twitter
We have a small internal team that is hoping to try all 5 services today, and evaluate them for ease-of-use and functionality. By this afternoon, we hope to make a decision. And by tomorrow morning’s meeting, we hope to have about 15 remote workers using the new system.
One of the filters I use when checking out new technologies, before making a decision whether to bet on them or not, is how well funded the company behind the service is. Typing in “company name” and “funding” or “venture” into Google usually helps me find what I need.
Quick Google searches showed the following:
- Venture Beat, Dec. 07: ”Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Yugma has about $2.5 million in angel funding.”
- DimDim raised $6 million in July ’08 in a Series B round. It is Boston-based and open source.
- YuuGuu has received some startup funding from Rising Stars and Liverpool Seed Fund
- Zoho is reportedly a 600-person company that is profitable and generates $40 million per year
I like to check Quantcast charts for companies too, to see if they seem to have marketplace momentum.
Then I also like to see if the company has been hit with layoffs recently, so I search for “company name” and “layoffs” in Google. I didn’t find any evidence that any of these companies has had layoffs lately, but several discussions about how the software from these companies can help other companies save money and even avoid layoffs by having more effective remote meetings, and boosting productivity.
Here are a few more interesting links:
- 7 Web-based Collaboration Apps (Information Week, July 2009)
- Top 12 Web Conferencing Vendors (Inside CRM, Dec. 2008)
- review of Yugma from January 2007 (from Center Networks)
If you have love any of the top 5 web-collaboration candidates that I mentioned, or if you use a different one that you think is perfect for a virtual team meeting every day, please share your comments on this blog.
The Utah iPhone Developer Group has announced their next meeting. Here are the details. For those of you who are already working on iPhone apps, this is a great way to connect with the local iPhone developer community. If you are just getting started, or looking for resources to get your idea off the drawing board, come and interact with many of the leading app developers featured in iTunes. All are welcome.Join us for the 2nd Utah iPhone developers meetup.The first meeting was very well attended with over 60 people and standing room only.For this meeting we have gotten a much larger room so we can all fit more comfortably.DETAILS: Thursday July 9th at 6:30pm at the Technology Center at Novell, Building ‘A’We have two terrific presenters scheduled for this meeting. Each has outstanding experience with leading apps in iTunes. We’ll hear about marketing iPhone apps as well as a summary from the recent Apple Developer Conference. We’ll be discussing the new iPhone 3.0, 3Gs, and the latest APIs.
- Evhret Milam – Creator of Green Wars for iPhone and one of the top teams in the Omniture/BYU iPhone application contests.
- Michael Alvarez – Creator of Showtimes and Yellow Pages Directory and a few others. As you can see from his wall post they now have over 2 million downloads.Big thanks to Zagg for providing food for this event and UVEF for the facilities.RSVP on Facebook. We look forward to seeing you all there.