A blog about social, economic and spiritual networking

Thursday, June 30, 2005

VCs That Get It! - The Entrepreneur's Magic Number

Christian Mayaud, in his excellent post, Know Your Entrepreneur's Magic Number, says,
"If you look at the professional life of a typical successful entrepreneur, their ability to tolerate personal risk varies over time. If one assumes a linear increase in net worth over time (rarely the case) then this curve also roughly correlates to three distinct phases.

Phase I — The entrepreneur has essentially no personal net worth [and is able to absorb substantial risk]
Phase II — The entrepreneur is building personal net worth [becomes more risk-averse as personal net worth grows up to his "personal magic number"]
Phase III — The entrepreneur feels relatively secure financially [risk tolerance grows in proportion to their personal net worth]

Young recent college graduates behave differently from middle-aged first time entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs behave differently from first-time entrepreneurs, senior managers behave differently than founders, etc., etc. — in part, due to the existence of their Personal Risk Tolerance Curves and where they are along them."

David Beisel comments in his post, that the entrepreneurs magic number may also change over time based on other factros:
"The question I would raise is if an entrepreneur’s (or anyone’s for that matter) magic net worth number shifts over time. I agree that an inexperienced entrepreneur may see things differently than one who has a few successes under his or her belt, but don’t those successes broaden the view of what is in fact potentially achievable? Moreover, I would also maintain that entrepreneurs specifically are not just driven by extrinsic motivations, but also by intrinsic ones as well. There are often deeper reasons than financial ones why an entrepreneur – especially a serial entrepreneur – is willing to take significant risks with both his/her private wealth and career."

In my recent post, New Breed of CEO: Beyond the Bootstraps, I mention this situational predicament from the entrepreneurial/start-up CEO perspective. Many VCs and angel investors still seem to expect that the entrepreneur is either at:
  • Phase I: able to accept significant personal risk, or at

  • Phase III: able to accept significant personal risk

The reality is that many of us who have started and successfully built companies are at Phase II, balancing risk and personal net worth.

I am grateful that at least two VCs, Christian and David, have recognized that entrepreneurs also have their "magic numbers". If some really smart VCs could figure out a way to harness the energy and creativity of all those Phase II entrepreneurs with a more balanced risk profile, perhaps the rare MOTU might actually be bagged!

If you are looking for an awesome Phase II entrepreneur/CEO to go bag the MOTU, check this out!

LinkedIn: Adding Connections by Fishing In A Bucket

I decided to take a day or two and improve my "connection ranking" by a couple hundred in LinkedIn. Every now and then I do this because, well, its fun to do. The essential by-product of this, other than a higher position in search results and a fitter profile, is that I get to meet new people in the process, which is why I do all of this relationship stuff anyway. For info on what makes a "fit" profile, read my free 22-page report on LinkedIn, called "How to Double Your Income in 6 Months Using LinkedIn". To get a copy, send me a LinkedIn connection invitation to LinkToJoe@gmail.com and request a copy of the report. (Don't send me email to that address, I *never* read it. It is only for LinkedIn invitations!)

The strategy I am using today is what I would call the "fishing in a bucket" strategy. I simply go to the profiles of people with a lot of connections who are connected to me, browse their connections, and find people who might be easy to find, and then summarily invite them to "share networks". Some may have their email address right in their profile, or a website or a blog URL listed.

This approach would likely be considered a LinkedIn "cheat". See the Cheaters Guide to LinkedIn by Christian Mayaud.

It's a lot easier to invite people who want to be found by others, almost in a "HELLO, my name is Scott" kind of way. Scott Ginsberg has been wearing a nametag in public every day since 2000. He calls it his "Front Porch Philosophy", signaling to others (strangers) that he is "approachable". Thanks to Joe McCarthy for the link.

Putting your email address,and even a connection plea, such as "Please invite me to your network?" is a LinkedIn "Front Porch Approach". It's not for everyone. Some people don't want to be connected to people that they don't know well. I believe that the fact that two people who are in LinkedIn and both want to connect to each other, provides enough social context to provide a "weak tie", one sufficient enough to produce effective multiplication of network effectivenss, a la Granovetter.

Some people use LinkedIn to manage their "Dunbar" group of 150 people. I use Microsoft Outlook and Plaxo for that. The very purpose of LinkedIn is to manage the "extension" of your network through a chain of weak ties.

The LinkedIn "official" recommendation on the "received invitations" page is, "We recommend that you only accept invitations if you know the sender and believe they would make a good connection." From a business point of view, LinkedIn must keep the value of unique connection pairs up, otherwise the network is a free-for-all, like Ryze or Ecademy. Restricting connections to those you know well for everyone limits the effectiveness of the aggregated network and greatly constrains its reach. Superconnectors know a lot of people a "a little", enough for an introduction, or at least a pass-through. Restricting connections also reduces the chance for serendipitous first-degree encounters, which can happen as easily and as frequently on LinkedIn as it does in on an airline flight, a cocktail party, or a grocery checkout line.

So I have a 100+ "new friends" today, that I didn't have yesterday, and everyone within three degrees of me now has the benefit of that additional reach. Without even lifting a finger...

Monday, June 27, 2005


I just wanted to take time out of my usual blogging schedule to take a moment and just tell God how MAGNIFICENT He is, and how much I thank Him for saving me by His Son, Jesus Christ, 22 years ago.

I see Him in action in my life daily, in my family, and in the seemingly "normal" encounters of life. This past week has been especially blessed and I thank Him for it.

He is my Glorious King, my Lord, my Savior, and the essence of my life and being. The very breath that I breathe He gave, and I am grateful. His mercy and love is everlasting, yet brand new every morning!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Talking the walk

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I needed to work on improving my face time and talk time with my associated business people, especially those in my LinkedIn network. It's been a busy two weeks.

I met Tony Mayo, Chairman of TEC International, for coffee at Starbucks at 15th and K in DC. He turned me on to an acquisition advisor who consults companies who are wanting to work with AOL.

Mark Peden, of Rulespace.com, had flown into town and ended up at 16th and L in DC, and we met up for coffee at the Caribou Coffee at 17th and L. Mark's work at Rulespace is somewhat related to my work with the Fairfax County School Board.

Marc Freedman, CEO of Razorpop,was in town as a panelist for the Digital Media Conference. Thanks to his generosity, he awarded me a free ticket to the conference (a $350 value!). Thanks, Marc. We were able to catch a F2F for an hour or so before his session. Mark is using his P2P technology to help the FBI track down and catch people who traffic in unmentional photos of children. Thanks again, Marc.

Over the past two weeks, I've spoken on the phone with a number of young entrepreneurs, offering *free* advice in the areas of marketing, financing, sales/market capture strategy, and presentations and formats for business plans, executive summaries, and why NDAs are stupid.

Some of the guys are in stealth mode, so I won't talk about them. But some of the ones who are in the marketplace are making some good headway. These guys, which include Pete Caputa of Whizspark, Andy Doan of Medrounds, and Greg Gershman of Blogdigger, are all well on their way to, well, the next phase, whatever that might be. Both Blogdigger and Pete Caputa have gotten some ink in the past two weeks, a sign of more good things to come.

I'm reminded of a phone call I received from a young entrepreneur named Shawn Fanning in June of 1998 1999. He had gotten my number from Draper Atlantic VC Managing Partner Jim Lynch. Shawn was trying to find out if "in application" banner ads would help him in generating some revenue for his fledging file-sharing service, Napster. He seemed to think that the ad revenue from Napster would help his brother uncle John out with Chess.Net.

Well that, as they say, is history now, and we all now know, in retrospect, that selling ad space on Napster was not the most important thing facing his young idea. Popular culture embraced his idea and the impact of his innovation has invigorated millions of music lovers, many who now carry around IPODs and XM and Sirius satellite devices, to the delight of the Consumer Electronics Organization and the vitriol of the RIAA.

An entrepreneur's idea can change the world and the very culture we live in. Sometimes we forget that when we're hacking up some Java code that what we do might actually MEAN SOMETHING SOMEDAY.

I know a lot of these entrepreneurs don't believe me when I just tell them I want to help out with some advice. It's hard to trust anybody when you're just getting started, and maybe have taken money from family and friends, who insist on stupid NDAs. But in the end, if you don't get advice, and the right advice, you will fail anyway. So, put away your pride and ask for help. You really don't know it all. And neither do I.

Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed. (Proverbs 15.22)

Prepare plans by consultation and make war by wise guidance. (Proverbs 20:18)

Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in the abundance of counselors, there is victory. (Proverbs 11:14)

By wise guidance you will wage war, and in the abundance of counselors, there is victory. (Proverbs 24:6)

Enough said. I'm here to help.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Online Ad Marketplace: Another "New" is "Old"? Puleeze...

Pete Caputa brings up YABI (Yet Another Big Idea, my new acronym), pointing to a new ad marketplace at Ad-Bay, and, "Yes, Grasshopper, this has been done before."

A number of companies were in this ad marketplace space back in 1998 and 1999 including mine, ADSDAQ, which was acquired by Amazing Media. The big player in the space was AdAuction which became OneMediaPlace, which became a part of MediaPassage.Com. All attempts to access any of these websites now go unanswered (after probably about $50 million in venture money, $25M here).

What's amazing to me, is that many people are still trying to come up with YABI, which are just regurgitations of "old" ideas with the same, and sometimes *inferior* technology.

I look at MySpace.com (new market) and think Homestead.com (old market). What's different now for MySpace is that the market and its future have changed, due to daily self publishing (aka blogging) and social networking amongst self publishers, IOW "building online relationships", not "putting up websites". This could have been predicted as a change in *culture*, not a change in available application technology (a better mousetrap). Homestead.com is still trying to sell static web space and they have been left in the dust, proving that their market hypothesis was dead wrong.

This leads me to *why* its more important now more than ever for entrepreneurs to get beyond the bootstraps with the right strategy.

Now, repurposing or bricolaging proven technologies (like LAMP) with a newly anticipated burgeoning market, that's something worth talking about. We could build something huge with that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

New Breed of CEO: Beyond the Bootstraps

So, last week I posted in My Blue Flame: CEO Position for an Early Stage Company:

"In retrospect, I am actually a lot better at building businesses than starting them. I have a finance and accounting background, direct sales experience, and technical expertise honed on some of the world's most interesting, important and ambitious projects.

I've been really blessed by being able to make "accurate market hypotheses" time after time. I think much more like a venture capitalist than an entrepreneur, perhaps because of my finance and economics background."

Since then, I've been finding a number of interesting posts by both serial entrepreneurs and VCs alike about an interesting trend:

Entrepreneur Marc Pincus says this in his post Views From the Front Lines:

"Where's the leverage? --- So the big dilemma facing most seasoned entrepreneurs today is about leverage. The VC's and other investors get plenty by making multiple bets within large funds. they can be reasonably confident that over their fund's life they can deliver good returns and make good and sometimes obscene money. Entrepreneurs have to make totally concentrated bets and wait several years to see if they pay off at all."

In another post Marc says this:

"I wonder whether the best entrepreneurs will also evolve to this merchant banking approach where they create much more leveraged investment opportunities to pursue new markets with far greater capital from the outset rather than bootstrapping. in this new world, we may see a complete blurring and mashing of entrepreneur, VC and hedge fund."

Tom O'Neill comments on Marc's posts calling this Closing the Gap between Capital & Innovation:
"Mark Pincus has an interesting post about the possibility of a blurring of the lines between entrepreneurship and venture capital. If this is a trend, it's certainly one that I would encourage--the idea of co-creating vs. waiting is one that makes a great deal of sense. I believe there is a huge opportunity to create a new VC model that combines the best attributes of VC, EIRs and incubators."

As an experienced CEO [see my LinkedIn profile] and blog post about my availability, I've already bootstrapped dozens of companies. To be honest, I'm out of boots and out of straps. I've traded them for stock, options, warrants and a bit of cash. I've already proven I can make gold out of straw. The last thing my wife wants to hear is that I have another one of my "kooky" ideas that will change the world that I want to run out my, er I mean *our*, family dining room. I've had way too many computer racks in the basement and too many T-1 lines run to the house.

Marc and others are picking up on a trend. Some of the best early stage CEO/entrepreneurs, like me, are not necessarily motivated by starting "YABI" - "Yet Another Big Idea" (I just coined that myself - like it?) to pitch to investors. Been there, done that! Many of us want to apply our skills, talents and experience at the point where *our* entrepreneurial instincts and leverage is maximized, and for me, that is between the 'A' and 'B' rounds.

The world is waiting, not for the next YABI, but the next company to execute a successful strategy under the direction of an experienced early-stage CEO to capitalize on an accurate market hypothesis.

Based on that accurate market hypothesis, experienced and successful entrepreneurs/CEOs can sense a multiplication of value (represented by the expansion of the net present value of discounted future cash flows) ahead of time and craft a strategy and lead a team to capitalize on that market movement.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Re: LinkedIn article in Business W**k

From my post on MyLinkedInPowerForum.

People have a right to express their opinion. I respect that.

The blog post mentioned in the article is from 18 months ago and is from a person who obviously has no current or past interest in LinkedIn. He has 7 connections and no LinkedIn profile, even 18 months later. Perhaps he only has 7 friends "worthy" of a LinkedIn connection? If he had a profile and actually used the system, I would consider his point, but its obviously he has an axe to grind for one reason or another.

I checked the blogosphere and the guy hasn't posted any additional articles or posts about LinkedIn or "the problem", so this seemed to be a random rant by a guy obsessed with controlling his inbox.

What is more curious to me is how Business W**k "Tech Beat" mentions this 18 month old post. What kind of "tech beat" is that? To me, a "beat" is something that regularly occurs, like a heart beat, or a nightly crime blotter. This article is like somebody going to the cemetery to get a listing of who's who... Maybe it should be called Business "Early Last Year" instead of Business W**k.

I purposely didn't link to the article or the blog. I don't want to give the posts any more credibility than they deserve, which IMHO is *zero*.

Joe Bartling
Invitation-only email: LinkToJoe[at]gmail.com
{Note this is not my "regular" email account - I *never* check it. It
works for LinkedIn invitations ONLY.)

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Is Less Really More? Is Small Really Big? - Sorry, No...

Ok, so I like for Pete Caputa to find cool posts for me to read. He's my "newsreader"! It saves me time :-)

Here's one he found on Fred Wilson's blog, called Less Is More going into the whole "small is the new big" thing.

He (Fred) says:
"Our dream at Union Square Ventures is to one day fund a company that gets to a billion dollars of revenues with less than 10 employees and does it legally. We may never do it, but someone will. Because less is more."

I don't know about that. Economics and free-market activities will tend to bring an equilibrium to the productivity of the *people* involved, especially if there is some arbitrary constraint to a "specific number of people", such as 10.

Ok, so NewLittleBigFirm.Com hires me to come in and do a SWOT analysis:

Here we go:
Strengths: You have 10 people - that's good; costs are low, productivity is really high
Weaknesses: You have 10 people - that's bad; we really count on everybody to put in 24/7 at 110%
Opportunities: We could do X,Y, and Z, but everybody is working pretty hard already, and Jane is going out on maternity leave, and Bill is going out on vacation...
Threats: Oh my, we only have 10 people, what if one leaves?; OMG, what if all 10 leave???

And then there is the issue of actually *collecting* the $1 billion in revenue. If clients know that you don't have anyone keeping up with your A/R, your DSO numbers will skyrocket, sending the collectability of *all* your revenue spiralling downward, which sends your valuation plummeting, and the phone calls from your board multiplying, and before long, you got nothing...

Actually "small is small" and "big is big". A lemonade stand will remain small; it can never become big without a stimulus. No matter how cheap you buy lemons for or how many hours you stay open, you will be limited to *small* without "expanding to capitalize on a huge burgeoning market", thought out and skillfully executed with an accurate market hypothesis. And the whole point of attracting "capital" is to "capitalize" on the unrecognized market opportunity, before someone else who *does* have capital identifies your vulnerability, due to your lack of capital, and beats you over the chasm.

A billion dollars in revenue with 10 employees is actually a pretty easy thing to do. Find a big company with a billion dollars+ in revenue (say like GM or United Airlines), and then fire everybody except 10 people. [Hmmm, wait a minute, that's what GM and United Airlines *are* doing...]

Oh, but you say you want to *build* a company form scratch with a billion dollars in revenue and ten employees. I'm as positive a leader as anyone else is, starting and building a business is hard, even if you are an experienced CEO. Building a profitable, growing, sustainable, healthy business into a growing marketplace is even tougher, I don't care who your ten employees are. It's just not gonna happen.

Do these "small is big" marketing types *sleep* through their required accounting, economics and finance classes when they are going for their MBAs???

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Auren Hoffman in DC...

Just last week I blogged, Do You Know Auren Hoffman? - Not Yet! You remember Auren, he's the guy that gets paid handsomely for introductions.

After my blog post, I sent Auren a quick email pointing out my blog post at Spiderware.Com. He responded with a polite email thanking me for the nice blog. The next day Auren surprised me with an email Evite to a gathering in DC, just a short distance from my office in downtown Washington, DC. Seems that Auren was flying in from the West Coast. I checked the guest list and found that I actually already knew some of Auren's friends in DC. It was great to meet Auren in person, but I learned some very important and valuable lessons about "networking", and about "friendship".

So, last night, there were probably 25 of "Auren's friends" at the Russia House, an elegant and comfortable venue with couches and coffee tables just off Dupont Circle, and just perfect for impromptu conversations. Everyone I met already knew Auren, and most of them knew each other, so I could tell that these guys must make an effort to do this often. That made me feel *very* appreciative of Auren's personal invitation to me. There were lots of hugs and neck grabs and barrel squeezes, much like a fraternity. I don't see much of this type of camaraderie between the entrepreneurial CEO techgeeks, venture capitalists and government contractor "suits" I hang with (not at the same time!). The fellowship here was quite comfortable. I found that a simple "How do you know Auren?" was the perfect icebreaker and that each guest had a different story to tell. One I talked to met him at Renaissance Weekend, some through some of Auren's political activities, and one (the [only] liberal?) from some of Auren's work with high school kids.

Of course, a few of the guests asked me, "And how do you know Auren?". I answered, "Well I blogged about "not knowing Auren last week" and that he was polite enough to invite me tonight." Most thought that that was just totally cool, and "just like Auren".

I shared a few words with Auren and he seemed pleased that I already knew a few of his "friends". I stayed for a couple of hours and felt totally comfortable discussing all of the things Auren's friends talk about, things like what's going on on Capitol Hill, the White House, Foreign Policy, Immigration, the economic explosion of freedom in the former Soviet Union, and the firing of the blogging Washingtonienne, and her new book deal...

I appreciate Auren for revealing his life to me through the gathering of some of his closest friends in Washington (I guess "43" couldn't come). The thing that struck me most was that Auren knew these people face-to-face, knew them well, even though most of them live in DC, 2500 miles from where he lives in San Francisco. I thought to myself, that if I went to San Francisco and invited people who knew me there to join me for conversation at a club, NO ONE WOULD COME! I wonder what would happen if I gave the same invitation HERE in Metro DC, where I live, would anyone come?

So, Auren, although we only spoke for a minute, I have learned a lot from you. I learned that I need to reach out and touch my acquaintances more, call them, go visit with them, but most of all, spend TIME with them, face-to-face, engaged. I need to invest in my relationships even more, deepen them, so that I might be blessed with people who might just call me "friend".

So, cheers to you, Auren, my new friend. And thanks, I owe you a lot already... If there is *anything* I can do for you, you've got it.

The Best Reason to Join LinkedIn...

...is that your wildest dreams will come true.

Nobody over 20 gets that...

But seriously, someone asked me why there weren't too many young people on LinkedIn. Perhaps its that they don't see a need to network "for business purposes" yet. But more likely, they are networking in their own environment, probably on Xanga.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

My Blue Flame: CEO Position for an Early Stage Company

[Added 6/9/05: Credit to Keith Ferrazzi and his book Never Eat Alone (page 26) for the "blue flame" metaphor: the place where "passion" and "ability" intersect]

I've been quite reflective lately about what it is that *I* do best. Sure, I know how to turn ideas into businesses, and have started at least 30 businesses of varying sizes over the past 30 years, with a pretty good track record. I've had a couple of nice exits. I haven't hit the home run yet by selling up to AOL, yet, but there is still time!

In retrospect, I am actually a lot better at building businesses than starting them. I have a finance and accounting background, direct sales experience, and technical expertise honed on some of the world's most interesting, important and ambitious projects.

I've been really blessed by being able to make "accurate market hypotheses" time after time. I think much more like a venture capitalist than an entrepreneur, perhaps because of my finance and economics background.

  • I started a PC retail and mailorder business in 1982 (selling Commodores and CPM machines) arround the same time as IBM announced the first MS-DOS PC and rode that wave into the "clone market"

  • I started my first software business in 1983, called Space Shuttle Software (Shuttle was *big* news back then.)

  • I started a dial-in online service (with 300 baud modems) in 1983 called "CompuNet". At the same time, CompuServe was providing service to business customers only

  • I became interested in "relational databases" in 1985 with Advanced Revelation on a Honeywell mainframe using a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pick_operating_system, moving into using new-fangled Oracle database software on DEC VMS in 1986 and XENIX

  • I went to work for Oracle in 1988 when it was a little $250M company on Davis Drive in Belmont California. I carried (and met) a sales quota of 1% of Oracle's entire annual revenue! [Oracle now books $11 BILLION in revenue each year]

  • I was one of the first persons to identify the trend of client-server applications

  • I had one of the first commercial domain names (SQLWARE.COM) in March 1983

  • I started providing email service to dial-in customers in 1993

  • I provided access to Usenet newsgroups in 1993, including those on WWW,an interesting project yet to be announced outside of geekdom

  • My database consulting company, SQLWare, had its first website in 1994, and was marketed as "The Internet Database Solutions" company, in 1996, as we were tying in back-office application systems to front-end browsers, long before most people even thought of doing it

  • I pioneered mass-appeal Internet network advertising on "mom and pop" independent websites, and built a network (ADSDAQ) of 8,000 websites displaying targeted, rich-media ads (and a lot of banner ads too). My basis, which is still true today, is that advertisers are looking for a particular audience (eyeballs) for their advertising, which just happens to be site independent

  • I developed network inventory (ad capacity) in 1998 by using "viral marketing", though I'm not sure the term was really in use yet, which meant that our site acquisition budget was, er, *zero*. Cool!

  • I started getting involved with social networking software like LinkedIn, Spoke and Ryze, late in 2003, and started blogging in the second wave, in early 2004

  • I have been a pioneer in personal independent publishing (read:blogging), localization opportunities and wireless communities.

I've developed partnerships with big companies to market my (little) companies' products and services. I've sold lots of "million dollar deals". I've had to do it. I had no choice. I had to eat. And I got to be really *good* at it.

So rather than come up with the "next big idea" and bootstrap it out of my basement, I want to make myself available, as CEO, to build a company which just *might* be the next big thing. I'm looking for a company with some backing, perhaps an "A" round, who needs to get to the "B" round. This is "old hat" to me. I know what to do. And I know how to focus outward into the marketplace and get the "buzz" going, and get the *sales* going, and get the *team* going*, and get the *business* going.

That's what I do best. If you know of such an opportunity, please let me know: joe.bartling@spiderware.com.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

LinkedIn: The New Online Video Game for Businesspeople???

I've been reading Steven Johnson's new book, Everything Bad Is Good For You, and I must admit, I'm very impressed. The back cover says, "...Johnson argues that the pop culture we soak in every day [including video games, and television shows, such as '24' and Desperate Housewives], has been growing more sophisticated with each passing year, posing new cognitive challenges that are actually making our minds measurably sharper".

In Part I of his book, he goes into "Games", online games such as Everquest, Ultima, SimCity and the like and for 30 pages describes the very things I do on LinkedIn every day. Johnson's last book, an excellent expose of the brain and its functions called Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life, certainly qualifies him as more of an expert on grey matter than anyone *I* know.

He says in "Everything Bad",

"Where our brain wiring is concerned, the craving instinct triggers a desire to explore. The [brain's dopamine] system says, in effect: "Can't find the reward you were promised? Perhaps if you just look a little harder you'll be in luck---it's got to be around here somewhere." He says, "Most of the crucial work in game interface design revolves around keeping players notified of potential rewards available to them, and how much those rewards are currently needed." "Seeking" is the perfect word for the drive these designs instill in their players. "When you are hooked on a game, what draws you in is an elemental form of desire: the desire to see the next thing".

"In the video game world, you learn by playing. This is one reason video games can be frustrating to the non-initiated. You sit down at the computer and say, "What am I supposed to do?" The regular gamers in the room have to explain, "You're supposed to figure out what you're supposed to do." You have to probe the depths of the game's logic to make sense of it, and like most probing expeditions, you get results by trial and error, by stumbling across things, by following hunches."

"Early PacMan players found that the monsters roamed the maze in predictable ways, and if you followed a certain course---literally called a "pattern"---you'd complete the level without losing a man every time you played. Patterns weren't built into the official rules of the game; they were a legacy effect of the limited computational power of the arcade machine. To detect those limitation, you had to probe the PacMan game by playing it hundreds of times, experimenting with different strategies until one sequence revealed itself. Video games force you to speculate about what's going on under the hood. You have to probe [the physics of the game] to progress."

Okay, so I admit it, I am hooked on LinkedIn, it is *my* video game. I probe the physics of it at every turn. I really do want to know what LinkedIn's forwarding algorithm is! I want to connect directly with others to shorten the distance between me and others who might be able to help me (my "guild" or "clan", oh no, I'm starting to sound like my teenager!). My connections and I chat on Yahoo IM just like my teenage son does with his "guildmates". And in the end, this is a bona fide business activity, one in which many deep and valuable relationships are being developed every day.

Because the dynamics of my network is different than anyone else's it actually exhibits properties of emergence, which Johnson has also written about. Although my LinkedIn world is a different world than yours, as we probe the physics of this together and share our experiences, [MLPF is a great resource for that], we can discover the world together, and hopefully, change it for the better.

In search of a dopamine reward, perhaps, I check my LinkedIn home page a few times every day looking for new "Invitations to Connect" or "Requests to Forward". I search (probe) all different ways to find out who is who in my industry, my city, or my position.

And in the end, I still have people ask me, "So what do you get out of this, is it worth the time you put into it?".

I don't know, let me go and see how many people I can reach now!

Do You Know Auren Hoffman? - Not Yet!

Peter Caputa and Greg Narain, had been chatting about knowing, er... actually "not" knowing, Auren Hoffman, who gets paid handsomely for introductions, a "for-hire" social networker. What a cool job!

I'd seen Auren's "name" lots of times from being a LinkedIn Oldtimer . I quickly searched my computer using X1 and found that I had sent him an invitation to join me on LinkedIn back in May of 2004.

At the time, I found his profile interesting as we both had initiatives to help youth reach their potential, and we shared some mutual acquaintances, so I reached out to him for a direct connection.

Auren politely responded to me via email, saying, "Joe – I’m sorry, I cannot remember how we know one another." I admire him for taking the time to respond without blatantly declining my invitation, or just ignoring it, as some do. Unfortunately for me, I didn't continue the email dialogue at the time, but will do so again soon. We are only two connections apart from each other and share a number of very interesting mutual connections, so not being "directly" connected on LinkedIn isn't really a big issue. And I do have his email address!

On the other hand, perhaps he should know me! I could open up some doors in Washington, DC for him and I'd be happy to do it. And my introductions are usually over a Venti Drip and don't come with an invoice, though I do think that is totally cool!