Racing from NYC to DC…Planes, trains and automobiles

Recently inspired by an old Top Gear episode where the hosts, Clarkson, Hammond, May, and The Stig race across London in various modes of transportation, I faced a similar opportunity going to and from NYC.  For the past 4 years I have had to travel regularly to NYC from DC for work and I go back and forth on how to travel between the two cities.

Last week I decided the time had come, it was time to see which mode of transportation was fastest home from NYC to DC.  While we were not as scientific as the Top Gear crew, we definitely discovered whether flying is faster than the train.

We left midtown at 445PM, I was headed to LaGuardia for a Delta Shuttle flight at 630PM, my competitor left for Penn State trying to make the 5PM Acela train, but knew he would most likely take the 6PM Acela train.

It took me 45 minutes to get to the airport, just missing the 530PM shuttle, but enough time to grab a drink at the bar.  It turned out that my racing companion made the 5PM train which meant that he would be south of Philly before I even left the ground.  I was doubting my choice.

Finally it was time to board, and get under way.  We took off on time and the pilot announced a flight time of 33 minutes.  When we flew over downtown Baltimore 20 minutes later at 650PM, I knew I had taken a lead.  We touched down and were at the gate by 710PM, the train well that was still 40 minutes from DC.

While I had to go through security at LaGuardia, had no Wi-Fi and had to sit in an airport for 45 minutes, I still got to DC 40 minutes faster than the train.  Now the train has benefits, it was slightly cheaper than my plane ticket, I can get work done (a pro tip, sit close to the food car because that is where the wi-fi connection is strongest).

The uncontrollable factors in the race include the cab ride between the city and the airport and weather. I find that the cab ride out to the airport is always easier than into the city, so it may be the case where the train is faster when going to NYC.  When the weather is bad (thunderstorms in the summer, snow in the winter) the train is a better bet than the plane.  In this race, I had little traffic and perfect weather.


Joe Paterno, Penn State and Morals

I waited a few days before writing about what has gone on at Penn State University because the first 2 attempts to write this post came across too angry.  I am angry at Jerry Sandusky who has been accused of harming so many young children, I am angry at the former Penn State quarterback, and at the time a grad assistant who witnessed one of the alleged assaults but only went to Joe Paterno, I am angry at Joe Paterno for not reporting the assaults to the police, and finally the leadership, or lack there of, at Penn State to take these statements seriously.

What happened at Penn State is that they forgot that as leaders they should have done more than the bare minimum.  Mike McQueary, was a quarterback at Penn State.  He led 10 other men into battle each week in the Big Ten Conference, and when the games ended, he became a grad assistant coach.  Why only tell Joe Paterno?  If someone was robbing the PSU Bookstore would you tell coach or campus police?  The athletic director and finance guy just sat on the news.  And then there is Joe Pa, he did nothing.  Sure he told the AD, but as the leader of 80+ student athletes, and dozens of coaches, he essentially did nothing.  If Joe Paterno saw a person injured on the street, would he try to help?  He has no morals, and was more interested in protecting his image, his university and his friend, Jerry Sandusky.

This pattern of protecting Penn State and the semi-pro status that the football team has is well documented.  I encourage you to read an article by Chris Korman, a PSU grad, who talked about all the cover ups that have occurred at Penn State under Joe Pa.

My heart aches for the victims and how their lives have been impacted by this.  In a community as small as Happy Valley, PA, I initially was shocked that no one had discovered this sooner, however, after reading Chris Korman’s article it became clearer.  At Penn State University the only morals that leadership had when it came to their football program was money.

Big East and West Virginia Sue Each Other, Who Else is Enjoying this $hit $how

The Big East Conference is on the brink of extinction.  The reek of desperation coming from the Providence, RI headquarters is overwhelming at this point.  The same week the conference, which was started by schools located in the Eastern Timezone, went and invited Boise State in Idaho to join the conference.  By Friday morning, the conference filed a lawsuit against West Virginia University to prevent them from leaving the conference at the end of the school year.

Let’s quickly rewind.  The Big East has been under attack since 2003 when the ACC came after two of the key football members in Virginia Tech and Miami to leave the Big East.  This upheaval caused the conference to add inferior teams and put in place rules that said if any other team were to leave the conference they would have to pay $5M to exit the conference and wait 27 months before departing.

Fast forward to 8 weeks ago, and Syracuse and Pitt decided they wanted out because they were concerned they would be left without a seat at the table of big conference football.  I said at the time this was a brilliant move, and 4 weeks later I still think it was an awesome move.  The league said Syracuse and Pitt had to wait 27 months to leave, which they made no comment on, and they did so purposely I am sure.  Now West Virginia wants out to move to the Big 12, again great move by West Virginia, but this time, both West Virginia and the Big 12 say WVU starts play in the league next year.  WVU immediately sues the Big East to get out of the 27 month waiting period, and that brings us to today.

Here is what Mountaineers do.  As soon as they can, work with the Big 12 to put together the football schedule for 2012 and release it publicly.  West Virginia sets the dates, announces ticket sales, start scheduling TV coverage.  I can see it now, next September, lowly UConn shows up in Morgantown and finds their locker room occupied by Iowa State.

Syracuse, Pitt and fans of each team are just sitting back with a bowl full of popcorn watching how all of this is going to play out.  Talking with a friend who is in the know at Syracuse believes that there is a 50/50 chance that they will be in the ACC starting in 2012, thanks to West Virginia though he believes the odds have dropped.  The league is going to get injunctions and prevent all 3 from leaving until 2013.  The Big East should just move on, they are starting to look like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction.  Give up!

WordPress or Tumblr, Which Is the Right Blog Platform To Get Visitors?

A few friends recently have asked which platform they should use to start a blog.  Invariably the decision comes down to WordPress or Tumblr.  Currently I am using WordPress that I have hosted at Dreamhost.  I have used both blogging platforms extensively and have observed some really big differences in each platform’s ability to help you get visitors.  Here are some observations I have made using my own blogs’ data and from data we have internally at AddThis.

  • According to Google Analytics, my Tumblr blog has no Search Engine Optimization (SEO) juice.  I have almost zero referrers from a search engine.  This means the only way Tumblr gets me new visitors is from social traffic or people manually typing in my address.  WordPress does a great job with SEO, and with the All in One SEO Pack making sure my posts are crawl-able is very easy.
  • Visitors are more likely to share from WordPress blogs than they are from Tumblr.  WordPress’s platform is easier to customize where the sharing buttons appear on each post increasing the likelihood to share.  Shameless Plug:  AddThis supports both WordPress and Tumblr and we give you tips on how to get the most out of sharing with each platform.
  • When sharing from Tumblr does occur, it delivers social traffic, and in one specific case it delivers a knockout.  When I see someone share my Tumblr blog post to StumbleUpon, it is amazing to see how much traffic that arrives on my site from StumbleUpon.  A single share drives on average, 500 views, which is amazing.  On WordPress a single share to StumbleUpon drives 3 views on average.  I have asked people at StumbleUpon and Tumblr why that may be and neither company could explain it.
Tumblr’s popularity continues to grow, and if they can get me more SEO juice the platform would be attractive.  In the meantime, WordPress does a better job at delivering all three types of traffic (direct, social and search).  If your audience skews younger, and if you don’t care about SEO juice, Tumblr is your platform.
If you want to move your blog from one platform to another here are two tools I recommend:

Entrepreneurial Success Happens in Places Other than Silicon Valley

I was struck by an interview that Mark Zuckerberg gave at a Y Combinator event this weekend in which he said that if he were starting Facebook today he would have stayed in Boston.  Zuck talked about how Silicon Valley is “a little short-term focused” and that there’s “a culture in the Valley where people don’t commit to things.”  He brought up an example where in Seattle employees stay at the same company twice as long as the Valley.

Zuck makes some good points, though the stat he quotes from Jeff Bezos about Seattle workers is a misleading number.  Seattle has strong companies that treat their employees well with Amazon and Microsoft.  When companies like Google and Facebook opened up Seattle offices, they were able to recruit top talent from Microsoft and Amazon to those new offices as easily as they did in the Valley.

I do agree with the comments about the Valley being short-term focused.  The company I work for today, Clearspring, which is based in Washington, DC, is a perfect example Valley focus versus non-Valley focus.  Clearspring has had a couple of different acts in its life as a company.  If Clearspring were based in Silicon Valley, odds are the company would have been sold once we shut down our widget business.  Instead our investors remained patient and management focused on the long term, we actually MADE an acquisition, and now are the largest sharing platform on the Internet.

When Zuck talked about Boston it made me nostalgic for the days of AIM and AOL.  Before I started at AOL in 1999, we bought a company based in Boston called Booklink.  Booklink was a browser that eventually became the foundation for the way we would compose and display instant messages in AIM for many years.  The best part of that acquisition were the guys that came with the technology.  A few of them were the original authors of the Windows AIM client.

The point Zuckerberg makes, and the thing I am trying to reinforce is that talent and technology can succeed at any time and any place.  Silicon Valley may be the heart of consumer technologies but life does exist outside that bubble.  Whether Mark really meant what he said about not moving the Valley does not matter, companies like Foursquare, TripAdvisor and Clearspring we thrive no matter where we are.  Success comes down to ideas, people and execution, it does not matter where you are located, and I think that was Mark’s point and I know it is how I feel.