As someone fluent in both English and French, I’ve always been fascinated at how each treats foreign words.

On one hand, English welcomes new words. On the other, French merely tolerates them.

It recently dawned upon me that this was reflected in the difference between the Oxford University Press and the Académie française. The former surveys the language and tells us how it is being used. The latter surveys the language and tells us how it should be used.

Food for thought.

I use the following framework to determine whether some improvement or functionality should be added to Scalr after a request.

  • Why is this feature requested? What is the requester trying to accomplish?
  • Is there a better way of accomplishing this?
  • Is this applicable to enough users?
  • Is this a problem that causes despair?
Only then is the feature considered for addition.

A couple of months ago, I set my mind on getting lean, or dare I say athletic.

I tried calorie counting, but after 2 months I didn’t really see any improvement (I didn’t measure though, so perhaps it was so gradual that I didn’t notice). Now I have a personal coach at the local gym to try something different. I found his advice to be insightful:

  • Decrease calorie density – vegetables are great for this. Be careful not to let yourself be hungry though.
  • Stop salting foods – salt makes the body greedy and tricks it into eating more of the salted food.
  • Don’t vary foods – not sure how reliable this is, but the hypothesis is that less variety leads to less consumption.
  • Eat raw – the pot is a second stomach, by eating raw you spend more energy digesting and take longer to grow hunger again.
  • Mind food sequence – components of a meal should be a sorted list, sorted by increasing calorie density.

Great article from the Economist:

For small brands fighting for recognition in crowded markets, almost any publicity is beneficial, he reckons. One reason is that, for lesser-known brands, negative perceptions fade more quickly in consumers’ minds than their general awareness of the product. When coming across a brand whose boss is, say, a philanderer, they recognise it but don’t remember why. With established brands, on the other hand, the whiff of bad publicity lingers longer.

If the product you sell is based on saving the customer money, then the amount you can charge is capped at the savings you pass on. And in reality, you can only gain a tenth of that, to make it worthwhile for the customer to engage with you.

If it is based on headaches you relieve, or opportunities you make possible, then there’s almost no limit to what you can charge.

For my company Scalr, this means that we talk about the performance degradation from having higher traffic than capacity, and the resulting loss in user experience, rather than the cost savings from always having the right capacity for the traffic.

I’ve been practicing SPIN selling for a while, and it works pretty well.

Here’s an article from’s blog that illustrates this well:

From the blog post:

Situation Questions
  • How many carpets or rugs do you have in your house?
Problem Questions
  • What problems do you have with your vacuum cleaner?
  • How old is it?
  • How often does your vacuum cleaner’s belt break often?
  • How heavy is it?
  • Where do you store it?
Implication Questions
  • Is your vacuum cleaner so heavy that it aches your back to lift it from the closet or even to vacuum?
  • Is you vacuum so large and heavy that it’s hard to store away?
Need/Payoff Questions
  • How much happier would you be if you had a new vacuum cleaner that was half the height and weight, and could easily be stored and NEVER needed a new belt again?

Commitment to a cause is measured by the loss you incur from supporting it.

Changing your profile color on twitter is not much of a commitment, because you don’t lose much. Donating money, spending time are much bigger losses, so they show more commitment. Opportunity costs present a grey area: if you decide not to have an iPhone because you don’t want to support AT&T, then you have lost out on something.

You meet someone in a hotel elevator.

You realize that he’s a partner at Sequoia Capital, the world’s most renowned Venture Capital firm. You have less than 30 seconds in the elevator to pitch your company to him, and get enough interest to schedule a meeting.

Take too long, lack coherence, get lost in details, and the opportunity is gone: you missed your chance. Worse, you might make a bad impression, setting you back!

SCIPA is a framework I learned from a friend, a framework for engaging then persuading prospects, minus all verbosity. With it, you can boil your pitch down to under 30 seconds, keep your prospect’s attention, and persuade him.

How does SCIPA work? SCIPA is short for Situation, Complication, Implication, Position, the Asks. Each letter takes the prospect and you closer to your goal, with a funnel approach.

You start out by describing the context, or Situation. This is a general, obvious statement like “this table cloth is nice”. You then refine the situation with a Complication: “this table cloth gets used a lot, and is frequently spilled over”. See what we’ve done here? We’ve introduced the matter, and presented a problem with it. Then, you show that the problem is an important one, and detail the Implications of it: “it takes a lot of time and money to clean the cloth after every meal, and if you don’t do a good job at it, clients won’t come back!” (adapting the implication to the audience can help). Then, and only then, do you Position your product or service, by describing both What and Why: “We make tablecloth specially designed to be impervious to stains and food odors (=What), so you eliminate the risk of bringing non-immaculate tablecloth to your customers (=Why)”. You then end with the Asks, in which you bring up what you want from the conversation: “We have reached product/market fit, and are seeking growth capital to accelerate market dominance.”

Oh, and by the way, did you see what I did here? I used SCIPA for the blog post :-)

Here’s the one I made for Scalr:

Situation: A website requires a web server, right?

Complication: But as traffic grows, it will overload that single server; you’ll need several, and network, configure, and manage them all.

Implication*: If you don’t do this right, your site will be down, slow, and you’ll lose potential customers because of poor user experience.

Position: We write software that scales your app (=What), so you don’t have to go through trial and error learning to do yourself, or spend the money hiring scaling experts (=Why).

The Ask: If you know someone who faces or might face fast growth, let me know and we’ll help him out.

*Implication should be tailored to the listener’s sensibilities.

I heard some people, incl. Google CFO Patrick Pichette, claim that Old Spice is the future of marketing.

Not so.

Viral marketing does not equate to increase in sales.

The same was said of Budweiser and their “Whassup?” campaign. In fact, sales of Budweiser declined while the ad / meme was running full swing. Increasing awareness does not increase sales unless there is a clear value proposition, of which there was none. Eventually Budweiser went back to traditional advertising with horses and cowboys, and sales resumed.

If you’re anything like me, you have a whole collection of books you want to read, but the opportunity cost of spending 4-5 hours reading a book is too high. If you could drop that time down to 1h30, then suddenly it would become worthwhile.

Why do some people read faster than others? My father and best friend Alexandre Iglesias read much faster than I do. And until now, I never understood how come.

It turns out that slow readers like myself voice the text they read. The written word is captured by the eye, sent to the larynx to transform the signal into audio, and then sent to the audio-processing section of your brain. This is sub-optimal.

This video shows how to rewire your brain to read faster.

By orally repeating 1234, 1234 when reading, you use up all your larynx’s processing capability, and the brain must adapt by sending the written words to the visual-processing section of your brain. As a result, the signal does not go through any intermediary steps, and allows you to read faster with no decrease in retention.