Israel’s Pillar of Defense – An example of Israel’s Antifragile strength

Israel’s recent conflict lasting 8 days ended about as quickly as it began.

From my perspective as an Israeli, I felt we came out stronger for having had the conflict.

The IDF achieved the main goals of the mission – which was to stop the firing of missiles at civilians.
Iron dome was tested and perfected in ways that lab tests could never have done.

Our politicians worked their way through flash visits from Hillary Clinton and Ban ki-Moon and came out in pretty good shape.

But the biggest gain may have been to the millions of people who experienced many unexpected situations.

  • Kids who had to learn about bomb shelters,
  • families who suddenly needed to take roll to make sure everyone was safe when the siren went off,
  • soldiers who hadn’t been under missile threat – learning to work under this new condition

It all made me think of Nassim Taleb’s new book Antifragile – where he describes systems, organizations, and people who benefit from stresses – coming out stronger and more versatile for the wear.

Israelis are Antifragile – Low to mid-level conflict has made us stronger – more resilient and able to handle bigger challenges.
This means that the bet that our enemies have made on ongoing terror has become a stressor that has actually made Israel and Israelis stronger.

Though I certainly don’t wish for conflict – knowing that it makes us stronger is a consolation.




Google knows I am from Five Blocks

I recently gave a presentation to a company in New York who has been a client for several months.
The topic of the presentation was what businesses are doing on Google+ and what then should they consider doing. I use Google+ a bit, but preparing for a presentation to a very educated group of Digital brand Management experts at a leading company in NY requires serious preparation. Incidentally if anyone wants a copy of the presentation contact me via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google+.

The presentation looked something like this:

In order to explain the importance of Google+ I thought it was worthwhile looking at how important it is to Google.
The short answer is – VERY!

Google can use Google+ to create even better connections. And they want as many connections as possible.
I will write more about this on the Five Blocks blog.

In any case, I just opened my browser and saw another example of Google asking to connect my social media to my Google account.
See below:

Note the grey section in which Google asks me – on the search page if I am @sammichelson on Twitter and if so do I want to connect!

Collecting candies at shul – business behavior parallels

At synagogue (shul) yesterday there were two Bar Mitzvahs – and after each of the boys had their “aliyah” the boys were showered (pelted?) with candies. Fun stuff!
From my vantage point off to the side I noticed that different kids prepared themselves and conducted themselves in different ways and I took some mental notes.
After which it occurred to me that these kids were exhibiting the same types of behaviors that I see in the business world. See my notes below:

1) Some kids got to the center area of the shul several minutes early (non-procrastinators)
– of these, some seemed to have chosen a strategic spot (planners)
– others just plopped themselves down anywhere (followers)
2) Playing the odds
– most kids went for the prime area where there is maximum candy and maximum competition. (Competing for the #5 spot)
– some stayed on the periphery, probably figuring there would be less competition (Choosing a market Segment to dominate)
3) Some kids had a plan of how to maximize their take (businessmen)
– Partnerships with other kids (corporate types)
– Using other objects to catch the toffees (inventors)
4) When the candies started to fall
– some waited for the candies to fall into their hands (9-5 job getter)
– some got down on the floor and searched for the sweets after they were already on the ground (eyes open for better opportunities)
– some tried to track the trajectories of specific clusters of falling treats and plan accordingly (entrepreneurs)
5) When all candies had fallen..
– Some kids actually threw some of theirs – (conspicuous consumption)
– Some kids shared their candies with people who didn’t get as many (philanthropy)
– Some kids horded their candy but kept quiet about it (The millionaire next door)
– Some kids flaunted their candy but didn’t share (not my kid, I hope…)

Interestingly it doesn’t end there…

6) Spending
– Some kids ate all of their candies within a few minutes (instant gratifiers)
– Some rationed them out slowly (rationers)
– Some went outside to compete in a game of throwing candies closest to a set point (gamblers)

Not sure of the pedagogical or scientific ramifications of any of this – but I did spot one or two kids who I may want as summer interns in a couple of years…..

Want to Game Google +1?

We are seeing very interesting behavior in our testing of Google +1.

As I mentioned on Rand Fishkin ‘s post a few days ago, we started doing some testing of Google +1.

We tested buying packages of 30, 50, 70 +1’s using Fiverr.
We also tested a system on in which you +1 a bunch of sites (in rapid fire from their site) and other people return the favor. We used this to add tens of +1’s to several webpages.
We also tested getting REAL +1’s from a modest group of people who actually like a page.
We did our tests on pages we wanted to move up as well as ones we wanted to move down.

Conclusions so far –
– Google figured out that the rapid fire +1’s and the bought ones were fake and, they actually removed them from the count.
So we saw he numbers go up to say 60, and then the next day they were down to 10 again.
They could be seeing a large group of users with common +1’s and ruling them out. They could also be looking for rapid fire +1’s.
In any case, our conclusion is that Google has at least a basic system for identifying fake +1’s – which is good to know.

We did not see any evidence of fake +1’s causing a page to move in either direction in the SERPs.

We did see a possible connection between the real +1’s and a ~15% bump in traffic for a site receiving 2,500 visitors/day.

That’s it so far – we will keep you posted!

Yonatan’s Bar Mitzvah

Very exciting!
My son Yonatan (Jonathan in English) has just reached the age of 13 – so he’s a Bar Mitzvah!
While in Jewish law he is now responsible for his own actions and has basically all the responsibilities of an adult, I am feeling like my job is just beginning.

Now is when he is starting to make decisions about what type of person he wants to be.
Which friends will he choose? Which of his talents will he decide to utilize? How will he get past the inertia that keeps him from achieving more?
While these are his decisions I feel it is my responsibility to guide him and help him understand the options.
[Translation: If you mess around in 7th grade and get lower grades, you will have a hard time getting into the high school that you want to go to in 9th grade]

I don’t think telling him what I think he needs to do will ultimately be the best plan – so here is my thinking at this stage:

  • Try to get him to come to his own conclusions – people usually like conclusions better when they arrive at them on their own
  • Try to be an example for him – knowing that he watches me
  • Letting him in on the types of decisions and issues that I have – and letting him know what factors I use to address them
  • Finding the areas in which our interests overlap and finding ways to interact in that common ground
  • And if all of that fails I am planning to use bribery. (Is that so bad?)

    Sphinncon Jerusalem, Israel – 2011

    Sphinconn SMX 2011 - Inbal Hotel Jerusalem
    Yesterday we attended Sphinncon 2011 at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. I spoke on a panel about Reputation Management.

    This was the best SEO/Internet Marketing event I had been to in Israel. Thanks Barry Schwartz and your team of organizers (RankAbove, TENS, etc)! While I have enjoyed the various other conferences in Israel, I have a feeling that there is now a critical mass of people doing SEO, PPC etc. here in Israel. The level of the discussions was similar to what I have heard at SES shows in the US. Unlike previous conferences, I took at least some notes during several of the lectures and panels.

    A few notes I made for myself:

    1) Think about utilizing various methods (caching plugins? W3 Total Cache?) to speed up page loads for sites running on Homegrown PHP CMS’s and WordPress.
    2) Learn more about Microformats and how these could help us define metadata that could be helpful for identifying our posts, sites, etc. with our clients, their geolocation etc. Especially look into how we can do this for our cell phone websites – tagging pictures of phones, prices, etc.
    3) Consider optimizing the intermediate terms in Instant Search – this can be a value add for Rep Management clients
    4) There is a way to tag our pages so that when shared on Facebook the right blurb etc. will be pulled.
    5) Optimizing and tagging video on our own sites (microformats again) could be a shortcut to better rankings – especially where there is already a video result and we can be the second in a double result.

    And now for the important parts…

    It was great seeing friends, clients, and colleagues – we should see each other more often!

    The food was good! Note for next event: would be a very good idea to serve fruits and vegetables in the afternoon. The cakes and cookies, while tasty caused many to be tired in the late afternoon.
    Oh, and while I brought my own wireless router and charged people to use it, it would be good to have Wifi working next time.

    Just got a letter from the FBI! (How did they know my email! Amazing…)

    From: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Dept: Anti-Terrorist & Monetary Crimes Division
    Office: Washington, D.C. Headquarters
    Address: J. Edgar Hoover Building 93 Pennsylvania Avenue, Nw Washington, D.C. 20535-0001

    Attention: BENEFICIARY,

    This is to officially inform you that a Citibank of London have transferred funds worth $4.6 Millions of United States Dollars with your name as the beneficiary.
    This Citibank knows that they do not have enough facilities to effect this payment from their location to your account and therefore they used what is known as
    Secret Transit Diplomatic Payment (S.T.D.P) to do this transfer and they are currently awaiting a confirmation from you for final crediting to your account.
    Secret Transit Diplomatic Payments are not made unless the funds are related to terrorist activities, so if you are not intending to finance terrorism and your
    transaction is legitimate, why then did you agree to receive these funds through this means that was used instead of a direct transfer to your account?

    Our findings shows that this method of transfer was used in the past to finance terrorist acts, so there is need to correct this problem now to avoid you getting
    into trouble when the funds reflects in your account. Under the United Nations monetary rules it is our duty as a worldwide commission to correct this little
    problem before this fund will be credited into your personal account. Due to the increased difficulty and security measures set up by the United States for the
    transfer of funds from foreign banks, the FBI foreign bank commission have stopped the transfer on its way to debit your reserve account and pay you through
    a secured diplomatic transit account (S.D.T.T) we govern and oversee funds transfer for the World Bank and the rest of the world.

    We have decided to contact you directly to acquire the proper reifications and prove from you in order to ensure that the money you are about to receive is
    clean and legal. The funds are right here in United State in your name, but the bank has been instructed not to release the funds to anybody until we have
    finalized our investigations. Note that the funds will not be credited into your personal account until the needed document is provided.

    Your duty is to prove to us that the funds you are about to receive is a clean and the only way to prove that is by sending us this Diplomatic Immunity Seal Of Transfer
    (DIST). You are to forward this document to us immediately if you have it in your possession, if you don’t have it let us know so that we will direct you where
    you will obtain it so that your funds can be released. This document is to be issued to you from INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUNDS UNIT.

    The Diplomatic Immunity Seal of Transfer (DIST) often referred to as a Criminal History Record or Rap Sheet, is a listing of certain information taken from
    fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service.
    This Condition is Valid until 5 days after which the funds shall be confiscated and legal action will be taken against you.

    Guarantee: Funds will be released upon confirmation of the DIST document.

    Final Instruction;

    1. Credit payment instruction: irrevocable credit guarantee.

    2. Beneficiary has full power when validation is cleared.

    3. Beneficiaries bank in can only release funds.

    4. Upon confirmation from the world bank / united nations.

    5. Bearers must clear bank protocol and validation request.

    We have confirmed that the amount required to procure your document which is called the Diplomatic Immunity Seal of Transfer (DIST) will cost you a
    total of $550 USD only and the fee should be paid directly to the PAYMENT OFFICE IN UNITED STATE via Western Union Money transfer.
    Once you have sent the required information to I.M.F Unit, they will contact you with instructions on how to make the payment of $550 USD only for the procurement
    of your (DIST) DOCUMENT, to enable her expedite action on the processing and release of your payment without any further delay.

    You have hereby been authorized /guaranteed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to commence towards completing this transaction, as there shall be
    NO delay once payment for the (DIST) DOCUMENT has been made to the authorized agent.

    NOTE: We have requested for the DIST document to make available the most complete and update records possible for the enhancement of public safety, welfare
    and security of Society while recognizing the importance of individual privacy rights. If you fail to provide the Document to us, we will charge you with the
    financial crimes. The United Nations Department of Justice Order 556-73 establishes rules and regulations for the subject of an FBI Identification Record to
    obtain a copy of his or her own Record for review. The FBI Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) Division processes these requests to check illegal
    activities and once you have completed payment of $550 to the agent in charge of this transaction, you’re advised to keep us posted to enable us follow up

    with the release of your payment and Act fast.




    China has 280,000 people working on their online reputation, but they can still use some help.

    I was reading yesterday about how China apparently has 280,000 people who work full-time on China’s online reputation – including lots of social media.
    It’s what is often called astroturfing – making everything look nice even when the way you are doing it is fake. (Incidentally in our reputation management we don’t get involved in commenting or creating fake strings of conversations – we think there are better ways to work on your reputation.

    This is an article about online Chinese Astroturfing.
    Incredible! More than 1/4 of a million people doing Reputation Management! We have just 14 people and we manage to do a lot of nice things for clients…. Not sure what I would do with that many people, but probably I’d be making more money doing it than they are…

    Anyway, so I decide to see how good a job they are doing for China.

    I Google ‘China’ and I see this:

    China defaced to chinkville?

    A bigger view:

    Needless to say, I was shocked! Someone defaced their Wikipedia page (they changed the word China with ‘Chinkville’ and then Google cached the defaced version!

    So I checked the Wikipedia page and found that it had actually been defaced for only a minute (they must have people with fingers on the trigger 24/7!) by a guy called Canoftuna (who has been banned from Wikipedia for vandalizing webpages) and then someone with the handle “S h i v a (Visnu)” changed it back.

    Wow! it was only there for less than a minute, but Google cached it during those few seconds?! How likely is that?

    Actually it makes perfect sense. Google gets pinged by Wikipedia (or blogger or wordpress, etc.) when changes are made. When it’s a popular page on Wikipedia it gets cached right away. Changing it back also sends Google a Ping but how seriously will Google take 2 notifications within the same minute – not very.

    So if I had 280,000 people working on this I would have, say 1, or maybe 1,000 of them do the following. When someone attacks your Wikipedia page, revert it back to how it was, then come back after an hour or more and make an additional but more significant change – like adding a paragraph etc. Google would then be more likely to return and re-cache it correctly.

    Actually if you have 280,000 people working for you, you could have them test various scenarios and find the ideal amount of time to wait.

    So my dear Chinese army of Rep Management workers… let me know if you need any help. I noticed that you have the New York Times result for China pretty high up. They tend to criticize your country a lot. That can be lowered, you know…. (wink, wink)

    Healthy Office Food

    I was recently speaking with a colleague who also runs a small office and we were talking about what food we provide for our staff.
    He said his staff had been buying doughnuts and had now branched out into breakfast tacos!

    Five Blocks provides a light lunch – or rather we have a fridge with various ingredients from which one can make their own lunch.

    Over the past few weeks I am trying an experiment, purchasing somewhat healthier food to see how people like it.

    We are now buying: Fruits, Vegetables, whole grain bread, tuna fish, frozen fish, low-fat yogurt, peanut butter, humus…
    We have long been avoiding: Sugary drinks, Sugar-free drinks (we have a water cooler – so people can make their own tea, lemonade, etc.), pizza, hamburgers, doughnuts

    Our Nespresso machine is still pumping out great coffee in various varieties including decaf…

    Jury is still out on pretzels, tea biscuits, crackers…

    Having an influence over what people eat ever day means the company could actually be a good influence on people’s health – we’ll see about that.
    The changes we are trying are actually also being influenced by several people in the office who are making a serious effort to eat healthier foods, some avoiding meat, etc.
    So far people seem to be happy. I will keep you posted….