5 Questions with @iancrogers…Ramble

The second week I was at Yahoo! I was sent to a meeting full of intensely smart people who were deciding things about the future of music and which ways to move forward. Two of those people were Karin Gilford and Ian Rogers who fell into the scary-crazy-smart category and really showed me that moving across the country to work at Yahoo! would elevate my knowledge.

There are some people you meet in this life that you admire without restraint. They are not flawless or claim to be, but they even inspire the most burnt out person to whom hope is a just a four letter word. Ian is one of those people. @iancr makes you think, makes you want to do your best and pushes you past that even when you think you are done. He will hear his employees out even if he doesn’t agree with them and find solutions. I beat him at Wii bowling and he even lost gracefully. (Sorry Ian, I have to make people see you are human.) These days he moves music digitally forward at TOPSPIN.

Location: Santa Monica, CA
Vocation: Decentralizer
Sign: Virgo
Blog: Fistfulayen

1)   How has your perspective of launching an artist using digital tools changed since you added the role of co-manager of Get Busy Committee?

There have been a lot of lessons in this; it’s been invaluable.  The two major lessons which come to mind now are:

1) Content is more valuable than promotion.  Not to say money spent on PR and promotion isn’t worth it, but the most important thing is to keep creating.  New sound and imagery is paramount.

2) Know and target an audience before you start.  Attention is moving from mass media to niches, but building your own niche from scratch takes a lot of time and energy.  If possible/appropriate, target an existing niche and see if you can get the folks within that niche to lift you up higher, faster.

2) You are one of the busiest people on the planet, aside from being the CEO of Topspin, Husband, Father of two and co-managing GBC –yet you always return emails within a day. What are your time management secrets?

Well, considering my inbox has 3890 *unread* messages (forget about un-replied-to) in it that’s unfortunately not true.  I’m pretty underwater from a time perspective and the unfortunate fact is I can’t actually do everything I need to.  My entire team is in the same boat.  Plus, we’re a startup so I don’t have the luxury of hiring an assistant or all the staff it would take to support acting on every opportunity that comes our way.

I think this is the case for everyone today.  There’s no shortage of input.  You could spend all day replying to emails, reading Twitter and Facebook, and at the end of the day not have anything to show for your time.  For all of us, prioritization and filtering is important. Some people choose not to participate in things like Twitter and Facebook to cut down on these distractions.  I’m convinced in the future an ability to prioritize and focus, an ability to use these tools for what they’re good for and not be distracted by them, will be characteristics which lead to success.

I have LOTS of room for improvement but here are a few of the things I do to try to remain productive:

I make lists.  In the spirit of GTD (Getting Things Done, the book, the technique) I put what needs doing onto a list when it comes into my head so I can process serially.  If I’m at my computer I record them in a program called Things, and I assign them to projects or tasks and put deadlines on them.  If I’m not, I just write them in my notebook and process them later.

I try to keep my blackberry and computer out of meetings, and not look at my computer when I’m on the phone.  I know my limitations, and if I’m talking to you while I’m staring at my computer, I’m only half listening, if that.  If I’m going to take the time for a meeting I want to focus, know what I am really getting of value out of the meeting, get it, and move on.  If I’m not getting or giving anything of value, the meeting just shouldn’t be happening.

I try to process email only twice a day, instead of looking at it all day long.  Unfortunately that isn’t enough time to get through every message, which is why so many go unread.  But I think it’s more important to spend a couple hours a day going through “the list” than it is to reply to every email.  I’d rather have unread messages than an overflowing to-do list.  Unfortunately at the moment I have both! But I’ll burn the to-do list down faster than the inbox.

I try to use all the tools available to do what they’re good at.  Skype and Google Voice have changed the way I communicate.  I route all calls to my cell and if not answered there they bounce to Skype.  If I don’t answer there they go to Google Voice which transcribes the text and emails the message to me.  Whenever possible I do meetings via Skype video instead of driving across town, flying across the country, or just having a phone meeting where you can’t get any body language as input to the conversation.  I’ll use Twitter to get answers to hard questions, Facebook to keep in touch with business colleagues who have changing email address and to schedule events, WordPress to communicate with large groups of people, LinkedIn to post jobs.  And I’ve used all of the above to schedule meetups so you can get some scale out of your own time and meet lots of people who you don’t have time to meet with during the course of the work week.

Anyway, I’m no expert here.  I don’t sleep enough, don’t see my kids enough, haven’t been skateboarding nearly enough, etc.  But on balance I do alright, maybe the above will be useful for someone.  I’m also open to suggestions!

Grrlgenius note: I feel even more lucky that Ian made time to answer these questions – and, only hours after I sent them.

3) Did appearing on the cover of Billboard so early on in your TOPSPIN career add an extra layer of pressure to succeed?

Yes, it did.  To be honest, it was too early for that much exposure, but how could we say no to something like that?  It was great coverage, and I’m very thankful for it.  It’s been a lot to live up to but we’ve been working our asses off to do it every day over the two years since!

4) The female numbers continue to decline for women pursuing careers in technology while your daughter Zoe is earning a degree at M.I.T. What advice do you have for women on why they should pursue a career in such a male-dominated field?
Two daughters and a wife — I’m surrounded by smart, analytical women so sometimes I forget the field *isn’t* dominated by women.  But we’ve struggled to hire women at Topspin, we’re a male-dominated shop with only two women on our engineering team (Maria and Ana, but we have women in the company in business development, legal, finance, QA, and pro services) but not for lack of trying to hire female engineers, there are simply far less female resumes when you post a programming position.

Zoe attended a great UC program called COSMOS , which was established to take kids with an aptitude for math and science and nurture it before they decided it was “uncool”.  They mentioned they see this in girls particularly, that often they show skills in math and science early but by the end of high school they’ve lost interest. I highly recommend anyone (female, male, or in-between) who has a glimmer of skills here early stick with it and just keep going.  I didn’t know anything about Computer Science when I enrolled in the degree program in 1991.  I think some people think “Oh I don’t know anything about algebra, I’m not going to take that class” so they take an English class because, well, I already know how to read. You have to remember that LEARNING is what those classes are about.  Go in humble and ready to learn and you’ll do just fine.  Ask questions when you don’t know.  You’ll be surprised what you learn.

5) Why is information transparency a good thing and where do you draw the line at what to reveal?

Sharing is caring!  😉  Seriously, I’m convinced The Beatles were right — you get what you give. There have been so many times I’ve wondered if I should share what I was feeling, only to find there were other people out there who feel the way I feel, or who have feedback which could change the way I feel.

I generally only try to share things I think will be of value to at least *someone*. Not that it needs to be high value, but at least mildly entertaining or informative, etc.

People talk about “all the noise” out there online but those folks are really missing the point in my humble opinion.  TV, radio, and billboards are noise because they intrude where you have no choice.  If I’m reading a blog or a tweet it’s because I *want* to.  I control who is on my list.  Betray my trust and it’s one click for me to cut you out of my attention entirely.

Remember, the most awesome value of the Internet age have been people-powered, from Ebay to Amazon reviews to Yelp — even Google’s search results beat the competition because they were able to derive human intention through the links of the Web.  Information sharing + filtering and attention management is legitimate value creation.

5 Questions with @AmyBlogsChow…Ramble

Amy sipping on hot cocoa

Many of us were not born with the natural gift of being able to magically combine ingredients in a tasty way. We’re a modern world full of gadgetry where technology is now ubiquitous so skills like cooking are not always our first priority when it’s easy enough to eat on the go.

@AmyBlogsChow skips overwhelming instructions, caters to the urban dweller and make food easy and fun. She loves food but admittedly is not a chef so instead she created a video series where she gets those who are culinary masters to provide Stupidly Simple Snacks. Mmm! Delish.

Amy knows her food. She is tapped into food trends and provides the inside scoop with the most tantalizing photographs to accompany her words.

Location: Quito, Ecuador right now but usually New York City
Vocation: Freelance writer-food blogger
Sign: Aries

On the web:

1) Your blog has the most brilliant, colorful photographs that make the food come to life. What is your approach to capturing a good image?

I swear by natural light and my camera’s macro-focus. For every twenty photos, I love one, so I take many, many photos. Also, the type of camera makes a big difference. I use a Canon Powershot G10, which has some of the functions of an SLR camera, but is small enough to fit in a really big pocket.

2) What were two of your tips at the recent TechMunch during Internet Week (NYC) for Food Blogging?

There’s a lot of emphasis on attracting readers, but I talked about the importance of keeping readers engaged once they’re on your website. Linking to older posts and using tools like LinkWithin are good starts to prolonging a visitor’s stay. Also, I know that my Stupidly Simple Snack videos attract the most traffic, so I suggested that bloggers post (more) videos!

3) What are your favorite ingredients you picked up from your guests through your Stupidly Simple Snacks webisodes series?

I really love the boozy caramel sauce that I made with my friend Keavy Landreth who owns Kumquat Cupcakery. I use it on everything – sliced bananas, ice cream, cake, brownies, etc. You might want to keep it in a labeled jar though. My boyfriend thought it was apple butter and was pretty disappointed to find out it wasn’t once he slathered it on his biscuit and eggs.

(Grrlgenius note: Keavy has the best company photo headshot on her homepage! Cupcakes yum!)

4) What is your advice for people who are slightly intimidated by the kitchen?

Watch someone else do it first. I learn by example and then by doing, so cooking classes are great too. Maybe take several classes.

5) You’ve tweeted that you get nervous speaking in front of large crowds. Do you think it’s essential to be successful as a blogger to not only write, but develop in-person style for video/interviews/public speaking?

It’s not essential – I know some successful bloggers who are uncomfortable chatting with strangers and in groups. But, like in most jobs, it definitely helps to articulate yourself well, not only on the computer screen and on paper but in person too.

5 Questions with @wallaby212…Ramble

I owe my rock re-education to @wallaby212. We worked together at GetMusic.com. Hailing from the O.C., he wore shorts a lot and over-sized gas station attendant shirts, proudly proclaiming his love of hometown hero Stacey Q. Below your instant gratification moment for Dance Break:

And now back to @wallaby212…. a huggable man with a great laugh, he is one sharp tack who has managed to grow and change with each iteration of the web. Back in our GetMusic.com days once our offices were consolidated (hey you didn’t think this recession/layoff thing was new did you?) to one floor. Our doors were diagnol to one another and so we often blasted music we wanted the other person to hear and be passionate about– imagine a music company playing music. Shut the front door!

Now there's a man I wanna hug!

The amazing Krinsky added to my contact list and my music library which was overloaded with pop music (hello my nickname was Teen Queen.) He still keeps me on the bleeding edge with an annual holiday mix even to my speakers will dig.

Location: the 415
Vocation:online music whore
Sign: Aries

Blog: djwallaby.blogspot.com

1) What are your expectations for Sydney Mardi Gras?
I’m expecting a huge parade that’s also a huge street party, since that seems to be the centerpiece of the whole two weeks.  I’m also excited to see John Waters doing a one-man show at the Sydney Opera House (!). Beyond that, I’m equally excited about seeing as many marsupials as possible.  Marsupials are the coolest.

Wallaby up to mischief!

2) Why did you start a ‘song of the day’ blog?
I was curious to try out blogging (november `05), but I didn’t feel comfortable doing a blog about me, even though a lot of me comes through anyway.  I also geek out on specific songs all the time and I was excited to have a platform to gush about them, in detail.

3) What are the biggest differences between the gay scene in New York vs. San Fran?
I’m not sure it’s fair for me to compare.  I came to NYC single and largely friendless, whereas I came to SF with a partner who introduced me to his friend network, so I had new SF-based friends coming in.  As a result, I can go out to lots of bars here, in SF, and run into people I know, which makes going out lots of fun the majority of the time.  In NY, I usually had to plan to meet up with people to make sure I had folks I knew with me – which is funny because, otherwise, I run into people all the time in NY.

4) As a frequent business traveler does ‘Up In the Air‘ provide insights into life on the road? Are you addicted to travel? How do you define ‘cutting back’ on travel?

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I want to.  There’s all this stuff in the trailer about how the George Clooney character is a travel points whore – which is exactly how I am, so it was funny to see that up on the screen. I have gotten a little OCD about my travel, where I am constantly checking my points, gaming for upgrades, plane seats, etc.  I have scared people with my list of rewards programs, their related credit cards and so on. At the same time, my excessive work travel winds up subsidizing some great personal travel, so I think it’s worth it – I’m doing it for my personal travel and the possibility of greater comfort in my work travel.


5) What are the best places in the world to get wild?

I’m hardly the judge of that – for all my travel, i’ve only been to a couple of places in the world – i’ve just been to them over and over and over!  And I don’t know about ‘wild’, per se, but I do love Amsterdam and Paris – they’re probably my favorite worldwide travel places so far, but I have a lot more places to check out.

5 Questions with @Zandlgroup…Ramble

ZBWOne of the essentials for brands is to keep up with what the marketplace trends are and what’s coming next. When I worked at Disney, Irma Zandl came in to lead us through focus groups, trends and creative exercises connecting us to our target demographic. After moving back to NY, Irma invited me to her annual holiday dinner where I got to know the rest of her magnificent team, Jamie, Anna, Deborah, Paige, Carla and on the West Coast, Brandi (who we had dinner with at Chateau Marmont. Upon leaving she pointed and said ‘It’s an Olson’ and kept walking, only deepening my admiration of her. Oddly, that was the second time I was with Irma in LA that we had seen the Olson Twins.) Their collective blog, Zandland, offers fantastic insights into trends, music and local Buckwick trendsetters in art, clothing and more.

The Zandl Group

Location:  Bushwick, BK

Vocation:  Consumer Research/ Trend Forecasting

1) What are some of the trends you see online?

Jamie & Deborah: Real-Time:

With new platforms like Google Wave, and growing popularity in networked gaming systems like Wii and XBox, there’s a growing shift in real-time interactivity online.  Also, sites and services like Twitter and Facebook allow users to be connected and share information instantly.  If something happens (i.e. Michael Jackson), many users are turning first to Twitter & FB to get the most real-time info, as opposed to news sites.

– Augmented Reality:

One of our favorite tech trends right now, Augmented Reality is the overlay of information or other elements onto a real-time environment.  Yelp was one of the first iPhone apps to get big notice for using AR…We really see this as the start of something huge.

– Aggregators:

Web aggregators like Google Reader and Google News are making for a fine-tuned, personal daily online sweep.  Other servies like OpenID and OpenSocial are allowing users to combine several of their favorite sites and web services into one, with one user name/ password…bringing further personalization to their online world.

2) Being located in the uber artistic area of Bushwick, Brooklyn, is it easy to become involved in the local art scene?

Anna here: I personally have found the neighborhood to be incredibly welcoming, and have really strong ties to the people I’ve met here (this experience is unlike others i’ve had in different NYC neighborhoods). There are so many creative people doing exciting things out here and most folks really seem to be interested in getting to know their neighbors and collaborating. I’ve had the chance to meet so many people through my work with BushwickBK.com that I wouldn’t have and it’s been really rewarding.

3) The Zandland blog focuses on art, fashion, trends, ads, and more. How do you find new websites?

Anna: Deborah (Deborah Hilert, Creative Director, Video) is my personal link genius – she finds the BEST stuff. Also, more generally, we learn about new sites from our panel of 8-24 year olds as well as our Young Adult Thought Leader panel and extensive network. We’re all pretty tapped in, and quick to share the good stuff with each other and clients. After all – it’s all about viral these days!

4) Can you explain “yacht rock?”

Brandi says: Yacht rock is a series of webisodes that follows the fictional lives of soft rock greats like Steely Dan, Toto, Doobie Brothers and Christopher Cross. The music all originated in Southern California and the name “yacht rock” suggests that it’s best suited as a soundtrack for yachting. The series is written by a group of comedy writers in Los Angeles who make their real livings working production on various television shows and movies. They don’t own yachts and obviously love the “so bad it’s good” aesthetic. Yacht rock humor seems to be getting a little passé — right now I’m into www.timanderic.com and Zach Galifinakis’ “Between Two Ferns” interview series onfunnyordie.com for online comedy.

5) What will people be wearing for Halloween this year?

Since we missed our first deadline (whoops, sorry!!) we decided to send you some of our team’s creative costumes (photos attached):