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One Guy's Thoughts On Technology, Social Media, Internet Marketing, Artificial Intelligence, and more


Archive for November, 2009

ad tech new york 2009

As I wrote in my previous post which dealt with my personal experiences at ad:tech, I set up quite a lot of meetings with companies who contacted me. This turned out to be a very positive experience because many – if not most – would’ve been companies that I would’ve been interested in chatting with anyway, so rather than me having to chase them, a meeting was set up with allocated time. I never played the journalist until this conference but really enjoyed this.

Here are some of the companies I met with. The vast majority were very relevant to what I currently do or my background, but not all were. Those I felt I have nothing to write about I omitted.

If anyone spots any mistakes I’ve made – which is possible, since I didn’t take notes but rather counted on the brochures I diligently collected, please do let me know!

2ergo has a technology that enables conducting marketing campaigns on mobile platforms. Interestingly, this strongly resonates with a session I attended the next day (which I’ll describe in the next post) that says teens prefer SMS texting to any medium, really: email, chat, etc. Although I (currently) don’t do anything that involves mobile advertising I can’t help but think that maybe I can utilize this somehow.

BurstMedia: my first question to Jarvis Coffin of BurstMedia is “what does your motto ‘Discover the Long Tail’ mean?”. His response was that they specialize in niche websites – even those that focus on extremely specific subjects. They own a large network of niche sites and enable very targeted advertising on these sites. An example he gave me – and I don’t remember the exact site – was something along the lines of Apparently this site, despite the fact it’s extremely nichy, not only gets traffic, but a very respectable amount as well. Quite surprised me! This is useful both for potential publishers as well as potential advertisers.

I’m thinking of submitting my, ehm, nichiest site there, which gets very decent traffic but monetizes very poorly.

measuring success

Elephant Traffic: although I’m very familiar with the concept of domain parking, which refers to domains that are not actively used but rather instead show relevant ads, Elephant Traffic tackles it in a rather unusual method – by simply taking the search query from a search engine and matching it to a parked domain. i.e. if someone searches for “buying toothbrushes” they’ll take him to a domain they park (this is a made up example – I doubt they have this domain). This offers very cheap and yet very targeted traffic – since it is extremely likely that those who type search query this would in fact be interested in buying toothbrushes. Again, very useful for both potential advertisers and publishers.

I liked the concept and think I’ll attempt to use it from both ends: both use some of the domains I’m not using with them (unfortunately for me there are about 30 of those!) – and also explore getting some of their traffic for the offers I promote.

eZanga is another one of those companies that I would’ve gone to talk to regardless of my being press or not. They are offer a PPC search platform that enables high quality, high volume, traffic for competitive prices. Definitely on my list (for a while, actually) of companies to try.

Looksmart is a second tier PPC search engine network that offers competitive prices. Second tier refers to the fact that they are not Google, Yahoo or Bing. I was actually familiar with Looksmart before I spoke to them and heard good things – though I’ve never used them myself. I definitely intend to give them a shot. Until now, the only second tier PPC search engine that I liked has been 7search (and I still want to kick myself for forgetting to visit their booth!)

As a side note: From what I heard – and sadly, based on my own experience as well – many of the second tier search engines offer really low quality traffic (and often fraudulent traffic – traffic that never converts).

geo targeting

MyPRGenie enables submitting your own press releases. The cool thing is they offer many free yet still useful services. There are, of course, paid subscriptions which offer more, but for the starting entrepreneur this could be very useful.

Netezza was different from other companies I spoke to in the sense that what they do is not really relevant for me now, but would’ve been tremendously relevant for me in the past. They offer a hardware implementation of a data warehousing relational database (such as Oracle, MS SQL Server, MySQL, Sybase, etc). As you can imagine, this offers a significant performance boost (if I recall correctly – and I may not remember correctly – a boost that offers 100 times speed performance). I was really surprised to hear such a technology existed let alone utilized as this could have been extremely useful for me in my last workplace (I worked at a hedge fund and our major bottleneck was analyzing data – even a 5 time speed boost would’ve been significantly useful for us). I can think of three of my friends that can benefit from this technology and might have not heard of it, so will let them know.


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adtech New York

Although I was not sure I’ll be attending ad:tech NY 2009 until the last moment (because of various family and personal illnesses), I’m certainly glad I did. Overall, I can say it was a blast! Bigger than the last conference I attended, Affiliate Summit East (ASE), but somehow less overwhelming too – perhaps because there were more companies that really did not relate to anything I am doing.

After thinking about this for a while, I’ve decided to break my ad:tech summary into three separate posts. One describing my personal experiences, the other describing a few companies I got a chance to talk to, and the last describing the (few) sessions I attended. This is a good point to mention that unlike in ASE, this time I came as press.

udi schlessinger's press badge


Journalism's very best

Journalism's finest

Where shall I begin? Ad:tech took place at the Javits conference center and was enormous. It took me about 15 minutes to just find where I can obtain my press badge. But it was well worth the effort, since after getting it, I saw the monstrous line for ’standard’ passes – there must have been hundreds of people waiting in line!
As you can see, it was pretty crowded

As you can see, it was pretty crowded

Since this was the first time I came as press, I was very determined to do my job properly. About 1-2 weeks before the conference started, I started getting requests from companies to interview them. Since I got so many, I tried to only pick those that are relevant to me/my background in a way. Despite this filtering I must’ve set meetings with about 15 companies.

I started walking the exhibitor booths. The first person I bumped into was Eric Schechter, Clickbooth’s Social Media Manager and a really great guy. I don’t know whether you’re familiar with Eric’s videos (here’s one for example), but he makes the most hilarious videos for Clickbooth. I politely asked him to participate in one of the videos and when he hesitated I resorted to begging. Hopefully I’ll participate in one of those – when crazy is required, I’m always the first to raise my hand ;) .

Later I bumped into my ex-boss and CEO from 7 years ago (in my previous career as a technical lead/software architect, I created/redesigned almost all of the company’s products). Since both of us changed industries during this time, we were both quite shocked to see each other. Certainly a surreal experience for me. I also bumped into a friend I haven’t seen since 1992 (another surprising incident). Considering several friends of mine attended ad:tech and I didn’t see them even once since the place was so big, I consider the former occurrences one of those weird coincidences that occasionally happen.

Although I had a press pass and was really eager to attend some of the sessions, I spent the entire first day almost exclusively running from one meeting to another. Almost surprisingly, this was actually a lot of fun! My first instinct was to ‘pat myself on the shoulder’ for setting meetings with so many companies that are truly interesting and relevant for me, but after talking to several company executives, I realize that the filtering was mutual: it seems many – if not all – contacted me because my background was relevant to them. Most were familiar with my blog and background.

I’ll describe those companies in the next post.

Although I did get to attend a few sessions, I simply didn’t have enough time to attend as many as I wanted. Fortunately the third day consisted only of sessions, and most people were gone by then (no more exhibitors).

In addition I spent a lot of time talking to the various companies – there were just so many! Interesting how my focus changed in the past few months. In ASE I was primarily interesting in finding unique affiliate offers, so had a lot of conversations with both large and small affiliate networks. But now my hands are pretty full in this respect, so this time I was more interested in finding interesting/cheap/unique traffic sources, so primarily was talking to ad networks and other companies that offer equivalent services.

During the day I met many friends I know from the NY affilate meetups, from ASE as well as some of my affiliate managers from some networks that I have not met in person until now. It was great seeing Casan Van Langen, my affiliate manager from AzoogleAds, and finally meeting Melissa Emmett, my affiliate manager from MarketLeverage.

Also great to meet friends I know, such as Dina Riccobono (from MarketLeverage), Heather Smith, Miki Rapoport (see his picture below closing a 7 figure deal – a moment I was lucky to capture in real time), Ian Fernando, Ken Chen, Steve Fulop, and many more.

Miki closing a big deal

Miki closing a big deal

I also had a fantastic meeting with Richard Young (from Arcamax publishing). Just like the last time we have met, we had an absolutely great conversation. I wouldn’t have met him if it weren’t for the yacht party in ASE!

One fun thing about ad:tech was the Twitter board. There were a few of those, and they included tweets that mentioned the #adtechny hashtag. I think this was moderated, because I found myself talking to a guy next to it and neither of us saw our tweets on the board. Though eventually I did manage to get one in ;)

The full Twitter board

The full Twitter board

My tweeted message

My tweeted message



A major aspect of these conferences is the after hours parties. Irritatingly – but understandably – they all took place on the first day. I’ve been invited to six separate parties on Wednesday, and planned to attend three. Unfortunately, I forgot to RSVP one (Clickbooth’s). I went to Azoogleleads’ heaven and hell’s themed party which was awesome (and really embarrassed my wife when I wore the glowing red horns, unlike the standard ‘cloth’ ones, during the entire time. Hey, what’s wrong with some attention? :P ). Unfortunately I can’t provide a picture (believe me, I want to!) because the photographer seems to have omitted it from his website, and did not respond to my email…


Later I went to the VIP Mix+Mingle event (organized by, Adknowledge and GenieKnows) – which was tons of fun as well. Still need to find my picture which was taken there somehow.

I felt kind of stupid when I saw Clickbooth’s party was right across the street from the VIP Mix+Mingle event, and I couldn’t go because I didn’t RSVP… Eric later chastised me for not calling him (I didn’t have his number!).. next time.

I also had to miss the BlogUp, an event organized on the second day that aimed bloggers to meet other bloggers – since by then I started feeling unwell again. Based on what I heard, it was a big success and a lot of fun.


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ad tech

Tomorrow ad:tech NY begins. I will definitely be attending, and am very excited about it (it’s my first ad:tech!). More importantly, I’ll share anything interesting I see and hear there with my readers.

If you’re in the area and feel like meeting, please send me a quick note – it’ll be great to meet!

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moderation of social media sites

We take this for granted, that social media sites are monitored for unruly behavior. Yes, there are flaws, there are always ways for users to break the rules and get away with it, and sometimes what is perceived a harassment by a person may be (strangely) considered legitimate behavior by social media sites. That being said, the fact is, there is a lot of moderation going on which really enables these sites to continue operating – and we take this for granted.

As those who follow me on Twitter must have guessed, this article was inspired by the fact that in the past few days I, and several other people, were consistently harassed on Twitter by a troll. While I don’t think he’s a bad guy, harassment is harassment. Vulgarity should not be tolerated, and if someone does not want to be in touch with you, you have to respect that. I must’ve blocked 8 (at least) of his Twitter users, 3 of his Facebook users and ignored one LinkedIn invite. But this is just the background and not what I wanted to discuss.

So assuming sites were not moderated – what would happen? I know the answer to this all to well and will illustrate this with an unpleasant experience I had three years ago.

I mentioned a couple of times in previous posts that I used to be very active on a small blog network (“and your blog was #1 for a few months, yes, yes, we heard it” – ok ;) ). The reason I chose to leave it is because the atmosphere really turned sour. There were two users, one problematic in particular, that took great pleasure in harassing and offending other users. Both of them were highly intelligent and they tended to pick on people they considered inferior (which was almost anyone to them), and sometimes they just picked on people who did things they considered improper behavior (name dropping was something that really, really annoyed them – if you dared mention you met a celebrity, you risked public humiliation). Both of them actually treated me with great respect, so I didn’t have any personal issues with them – except for the fact that it was really hard to watch the way they behaved.

However, the site owners and creators – who were active participants in the community – never said a word, despite admitting that these two are “occasionally misbehaving”. What could I do? Only watch.

There were very few people who misbehaved like this, but those who did, ruined it for the rest of us. Therefore, I decided to leave, pack my blog and go elsewhere. But due to the addictive nature of such sites (read my article about withdrawal from addictive sites – largely learned through the experiences I’m discussing now), I found this was not so easy.

As a result, I found myself occasionally coming back and never truly leaving. However, certain events – which are too long for me to elaborate on – caused me to “publicly declare that the site’s atmosphere is ruined and is not fun for many people anymore”. I listed many activities which these two starred in and some of my best friends on the site were the target of the mentioned harassment. I also listed people who were not my friends but were harassed.

In hindsight, it was really naive – even stupid. I think I was expecting everyone to say “yes, you’re so right” and for the two guys to say “what, we didn’t realize it bothers everyone so much, we’ll behave from now on”. Perhaps it’s a result of the circumstances that led me to to make this statement (again, very long story), but I just wasn’t thinking.

What did happen is an all-out site war. For about a week there wasn’t a single post in the entire site that hasn’t revolved around this. Another guy joined my side as “the good guys”. Overall, we were winning: about 70% of the community completely agreed with me, and 30% did not (many of these made such incredible conspiracy theories I could never have envisioned… i.e. that I wanted to be the most popular user on the site, so my goal was to get these two guys to leave and “be in charge”. WTH?! – this would never have occurred to me that someone would say this, not in a million years).

The reason the war wouldn’t settle even after a week is because the site had no official rules. So at some point both sides – us and them – called for the owners to declare what is right and what is wrong. We didn’t even ask for them to enforce it, just for the community to know. But despite all of us knowing the owners personally, they ignored us, completely. Not even a peep. Both of us – independently – repeatedly asked for intervention, and got no response.

At this point one of the “bad guys” started threatening me and the other guy in real life. I won’t elaborate how, but these were threats that only a psychopath would make. Which he was. By this point I actually got a lot of “fan mail” telling me of his various deeds – and he is most definitely a psychopath by clinical standards (I’m not a psychiatrist, but it’s so obvious). Maybe that’s why the site owners didn’t take a stand – fear – but in my opinion, this is no excuse. Taking a stand was their duty to the community they created.

This went way too far. Therefore, since I was going to leave anyway, the war wasn’t going to end anytime soon, and most importantly I was shocked by the behavior of the owners, I publicly said my goodbyes, exchanged emails with friends, and left. I only came to visit once 2 years later after one of the site members – a good friend of mine – died of cancer and everyone left a comment as a tribute.

I later moved to another site which was based on the same blogging system. That site, however, was actively and aggressively moderated. Even too much. For example, they had a policy that people must use human photos as avatars or no avatars at all. Until this point I never used my real photo (always used pictures), but since this was the standard, I started then – and never stopped.

They claimed that this makes the site much more personal – a claim I actually agree with since it did make things more personal. What I think went to far is that they started banning users who even slightly deviated from this policy, i.e. one person had a blurred picture and was banned. Another had a photo of himself upside down – and was banned. And worst, one had a near-realistic drawing of himself (which was the image he used in a real newspaper – the guy was a journalist!) – and he was banned too. They all refused to change their photos and chose instead to leave.

Interestingly, the “bad guy” I early mentioned made his appearance here at some point. I was following him from afar, quite certain he’ll make trouble in no time. Which he did. Very quickly he started 3 separate very vocal and rude flame wars with prominent users of the site. Unlike the other site, he was warned by the administrator, warned again, and then banned. It was so nice to see how easy it was to control such a psychopath when there’s the proper system for dealing with it. He threatened these users too, but was mainly treated as a joke by the visitors and not as the “scary person” everyone were afraid of at the other site.

What’s the moral of the above stories? I didn’t really intend to create one, except to emphasize a point we all know: law and order need to be maintained.

However, I did learned a few valuable lessons:

  1. A social media site has to have a clear set of rules and acceptable behaviors, and these have to be actively enforced. If that’s not the case, the site becomes the wild west – anarchy quickly takes over, and people leave.


  2. Too strict rules can also be problematic. They too will make people leave. So at times there’s a fine balance that needs to be handled.


  3. Many people are cowards: I got so many emails privately cheering and encouraging me for my above war, but not only these people did not actively share their feelings with the rest of the site, some even denied that it even bothered them – publicly! Of course, there were plenty of people who weren’t like that, but I was shocked – and disgusted – with the number who did behave this way.


  4. Sometimes being the hero is really stupid. I honestly thought everyone would see that what I wrote had pure motivations, but considering the conspiracy theories some users made about me (that I mentioned above), I really learned a valuable lesson here.


  5. Most important: if a site has no rules & no moderation (something I have not seen in any of the popular social media sites), stay away from it – it’s not worth it.


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