A Side Effect of the Cryptocurrency Ad Ban

This site gets hacked. A lot. Don’t worry, it’s not the kind of hack where your browser is hijacked to mine Monero or spread malware. It’s more innocuous; the kind of hack where someone sneaks into the content database and fills it with spam links.

I run a weekly script to clean out spam, but if you catch a post at an inopportune time, you might find an unsubtle plug for some sketchy third-party site. For example, this post recently contained a link to prescription-free anabolic steroids. That wasn’t me, I swear.

The link injections typically occur in batches, and feature some assortment of penis pills, porn sites, and other internet dreck. The bane of my web existence. I’m pretty sure I know how they’re getting in; the part I can’t figure out is why.

WHY are sketchy internet services hiring spammers to inject links into my low-rent web blog? How much visibility do they expect to get? Did Noonan Brown personal injury attorney really think that this would be a good way to reach new clients?

Over the weekend, I was scrubbing a recent batch of site spam when I noticed, in between the loan sharks and debt-forgiveness services, recurring links to Abra.com.

Wait a minute — I used to work at Abra! Abra is a good company run by good people, certainly not ones who would engage the services of sketchy link spammers. And really, if Abra wanted a shameless plug on my website, I’d give it to them for free.

So I messaged a former coworker to find out what was up. They had been exploring new advertisers, he said. Now that Google and Facebook have instated a blanket ban on crypto ads, Bitcoin businesses are left with limited options to reach their customers.

For those banned from ad networks, search engine optimization is perhaps the last bastion of low-cost digital promotion. Even if you can’t pay Google to display your ads, you can still push your way to the top of search results through SEO.

And while Google’s search rank algorithm is an industry secret, it is based in part on the number of websites that link back to your page – also known as backlinks. Google was originally called Backrub because its search results were ranked according to backlinks.

The original Google

Backlinks are commonly accrued by getting news, blog, and social media mentions, but that can be a lot of work. Fortunately, there are handy backlink services for hire — These are the guys who crawl through forums and comment sections and leave link droppings all over the place. Some will pay bloggers for mentions, others will inject their way in. In any case, backlink outreach is a huge industry.

An example of successful link injection.

I was happy to see Google and Facebook ban crypto ads; there was some really vile stuff going on over there. But censorship doesn’t differentiate between fraud and not-fraud; everyone’s treated like a criminal just the same. And banning something doesn’t ever make it disappear; it just pushes the activity into scuzzier corners of the internet.

We can’t expect the ad networks to exert editorial oversight, because that would ruin their massively scalable business model. So we’re left with this suboptimal state of affairs where upstanding companies are forced act like spammers, and it’s that much harder for people to discern scams from legitimate services.

Google banned crypto ads, but is still okay with backlink ads.

Calico. Because Rich People are too Important to Die.

The company-formerly-known-as-Google no longer needs to justify the cash burn of its unprofitable moonshots to shareholders. As Alphabet, it can give more airtime to cost centers like the death-defying longevity project, Calico.

google-solve-death

Calico was announced two years ago as a project with a mission to “cure death”. It seems that only rich people suffer from this peculiar ailment. Most of the world accepts the existence of death.

Are Google execs so bad at life that 70 years isn’t enough time for them? Is Calico seeking “life extensions” the same way that I request deadline extensions at work because I sometimes show up too stoned to remember my server password?

Life is special only because it is temporary. Just like Taco Bell is good because my family saved it for special occasions. Impermanence is what makes something an experience.

The absence of death is not life. It’s the equivalent of eating Taco Bell all the time forever. It’s purgatory.

Given the option of eternal life, few would decline, especially not with our loved ones watching. I don’t want that to even be an option.

Google, you’ve already ruined privacy for me. Please don’t ruin life as well.

How to Hire Insecure Overachievers

mckinsey

“Our ideal candidate is an insecure overachiever.”

That’s what the McKinsey partner told me during my interview. Yeah, once upon a time I wanted to work at McKinsey & Co. They didn’t make me an offer. I was certainly insecure enough, but maybe not overachieving enough.

Not a secret: The people who go to work in management consulting and banking are insecure overachievers.

Insecure overachievers make great employees because they work long hours to win approval from authority figures. However, they are a very tricky species. They love prestige. They don’t like risk. They need social acceptance. Banking and consulting are not considered socially admirable professions these days, but remember – insecure overachievers don’t care what the 99% think. They need social acceptance from the 1% who matter.

They love structure and a clear path for advancement, but want to keep their options open. That’s the most important thing to an insecure overachiever: lots of options. It can never appear as though they have reached their final destination, because that would imply that they have exposed their maximum potential. As long as they appear to be in transition, they can claim to be holding out for something better.

The “up or out” policy instituted in law, consulting, and banking is perfect for insecure overachievers. Maybe McKinsey is just a springboard to an executive position at a Fortune 500 company, and Goldman is just a stop before partnership at a $50B hedge fund.

oce-tout-img

As Wall Street bankers migrate to Silicon Valley, they bring their hiring practices with them. Insecure overachievers could never admit that their final station in life is a shared desk at Facebook. That’s why Google recruiters often tout this selling point: The best part about working at Google is the job you can get after you leave Google.

Because insecure overachievers need Google on their resumes before they are ready to start the next billion-dollar company.

Google gives new hires teddy bears and security blankets.
Google gives new hires teddy bears and security blankets.

See Also:
How Wall Street recruits so many insecure Ivy League grads –Vox

Silicon Valley is the New Wall Street

Once upon a time, Silicon Valley was a safe haven for socially subpar tech people. They lived in humble garages in the South Bay and built cool things for the sake of building cool things. The transistor. Apple I. Netscape.

Google HQ, 1998
Google HQ, 1998

The world loved the cool things they built. The geeky kids of Silicon Valley made money, lots of it.

Then the beautiful people showed up. MBAs and smashmouth capitalists. They wanted to build cool things too. Not for the sake of building, but to make money. They didn’t live in garages, because beautiful people don’t hide in garages. They live in high-visibility metropolises at the top of the peninsula.

More than 1,200 of Google’s 47,500 current employees formerly worked for one of the top 10 global investment banks, according to LinkedIn. The top banks also incubated at least 750 current Apple employees, 175 Facebook employees, and 260 Yahoo employees. Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of the ferociously expanding Uber, has said that between 10 and 15 percent of his hires come from the financial services industry, with a full 5 percent coming from Goldman Sachs alone.

The new businesses don’t make users fall in love with their products. They churn out slick consumables that evoke the emotional connection of a quick handjob in a truck stop bathroom stall.

The Valley really is not so different from Wall Street. The core business model involves gambling with rich people’s money under the guise of wealth management. The startup founders, they’re just junior traders. They work 14-hour days and spend $2000 a month to carve out some sleeping space in a shared building.

Occupy Twitter
Occupy Twitter

And sooner or later, something will pop and the money will vaporize, because that’s what happens when everyone gets greedy. The Wall Street immigrants will return home, the San Francisco natives will get their rent-controlled apartments back, and it’ll only be a matter of time before the next hot spot emerges.

busillo

See Also:
Go West, Young Bank Bro –SanFrancisco

Don’t Rush the Cash Flow

TWTR crashed 20% last week after Twitter’s earnings report indicated a slowdown of user growth.

twitter-fail-whale.top

The income statement, at first glance, would appear to be a winner – TWTR beat analysts’ revenue expectations by 12%, with reported earnings of 2 cents per share as opposed to the 2 cent loss that was expected.

Silly Twitter. You’re an internet stock, which means shareholders care about user growth, not cash flow. Every last cent should go towards making the fire burn hotter.

Remember, Facebook was founded in 2004 and did not become cash-flow positive until the end of 2009. Google was founded in 1998 and turned profitable in 2001, with the invention of Adwords. LinkedIn was founded in 2003 and probably didn’t become profitable until 2010.

Check out these gross margins:

Quarterly Gross Profit Margins, Dec 2013. Source: ycharts.com
Quarterly Gross Profit Margins, Dec 2013. Source: ycharts.com

Twitter, you have lower profit margins than Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn. If you are coming back with positive net income, you’re doing something wrong. Your cash flow is too strong. Get back out there and lose more money for your shareholders!

But only in the name of user growth, of course.

See Also:
Which Internet Stock is the Most Overvalued? –New Yorker