Web usability / marketing intern wanted

Posted on April 23rd, 2013 by John Nicholson

We are seeking a web usability and marketing intern for the summer or longer to help with client projects and business development.

Roles will likely include:

  • Usability Testing: Analyze web/mobile usability test videos and capture highlights and findings
  • Social Media: Post on clients’ Twitter, Google+ and Facebook pages, and engage with followers
  • User Research: Analyze and summarize customer surveys, phone calls and emails
  • Business Development: Identify good client prospects by reviewing tech publications and company websites/apps

See the full job description and application.


SEO/SEM consultant position

Posted on January 6th, 2012 by John Nicholson

We’ve begun recruiting for an experienced SEO/SEM consultant to help us with the new client projects.  Proximity to DC is a plus but not a requirement. 

Here’s the full description and application form.  Please help us spread the word.

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Increase your self-control: a review of Willpower

Posted on September 27th, 2011 by John Nicholson

For our latest newsletter I’ve written a review of Willpower, the new book from NY Times science columnist John Tierney and FSU psychologist Roy Baumeister.  It’s the best book I’ve read in a while and I encourage you to buy it and then share your reactions below.

If you want to read another review the book, check out Steven Pinker’s review in the NY Times.  Pinker’s a tough critic, but he describes it as an “immensely rewarding book, filled with ingenious research, wise advice and insightful reflections on the human condition.”


Teresa Amabile on employee engagement in NY Times

Posted on September 15th, 2011 by John Nicholson

Ever since reading Drive by Dan Pink, I’ve enjoyed running across anything written by or referencing Harvard’s Teresa Amabile — since Pink is a big fan of her work on worker engagement.  So I was excited to see her NY Times op-ed a couple weeks back titled “Do Happier People Work Harder?“  Here’s the good news:

Our research shows that inner work life has a profound impact on workers’ creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality. Employees are far more likely to have new ideas on days when they feel happier. Conventional wisdom suggests that pressure enhances performance; our real-time data, however, shows that workers perform better when they are happily engaged in what they do.

Managers can help ensure that people are happily engaged at work. Doing so isn’t expensive. Workers’ well-being depends, in large part, on managers’ ability and willingness to facilitate workers’ accomplishments — by removing obstacles, providing help and acknowledging strong effort. A clear pattern emerged when we analyzed the 64,000 specific workday events reported in the diaries: of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important — by far — is simply making progress in meaningful work.

The bad news is that very few managers take the steps necessary to support employee progress or other types of engagement.  The most striking finding in the article for me was this:

When we asked 669 managers from companies around the world to rank five employee motivators in terms of importance, they ranked “supporting progress” dead last. Fully 95 percent of these managers failed to recognize that progress in meaningful work is the primary motivator, well ahead of traditional incentives like raises and bonuses.

Does this sound like your manager?  Find a way to share Amabile’s piece with him or her.


John Tierney on decision fatigue

Posted on August 30th, 2011 by John Nicholson

Last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine has a great piece on “decision fatigue” and willpower, by my favorite Times columnist John Tierney.  It’s adapted from his forthcoming book on the topic with FSU social psychologist Roy Baumeister — the leading proponent of the idea that willpower is a like a muscle that can be worn out over the course of a day, and built up through practice.  He and his colleagues have conducted fascinating experiments in this area over the last decade, including some related to glucose levels that Tierney highlights here.  I’m fired up for the book and will try to review it next month when it comes out; in the meantime be sure to check out the Times article.

UPDATE: I’ve posted a review of Willpower. (10/29/11)


Wanted: social media intern

Posted on August 11th, 2011 by John Nicholson

Know any college students interested in marketing or social media?  Please send them the job description below!


Marketade, an internet marketing and web development consultancy based in DC, is seeking 1-2 social media interns eager to gain real-world experience marketing companies through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

For each client we assign you to, you will play a key role in their social media efforts. Some of the things you’ll do are:

- Find informative articles and other content on the web and post about it on Twitter and Facebook
- Create Facebook pages from scratch
- Use Twitter search tools and techniques to find potential customers and engage in relevant conversations
- Think up ways to increase fans and followers
- Use social media tools to manage activities
- Use analytics tools to measure and report results

Some of the companies you might help:

- Home remodeler
- Regional gym chain
- Health care web app
- Food and beverage startup
- IT services company

We’re looking for someone who:

. . . can work remotely. We do have office space in the U Street corridor and we’d meet with you in person once in a while, but most of the time you’ll be telecommuting.
. . . likes working independently. This is a very hands-off role. We’ll give you guidance and goals, but for the most part we’re going to rely on you to make things happen.
. . . writes well and is not afraid of numbers.
. . . is passionate about social media marketing.
. . . is eager to gain real-world marketing experience and make a measurable impact.

The internship is unpaid, but the skills and experience you’ll pick up will be very valuable. Hours are flexible.

Interested? Please send your resume and a few sentences about why you’re interested to


How to use a checklist

Posted on July 25th, 2011 by John Nicholson

For our newsletter’s latest book review, I take a look at The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  Read my article first and then share your thoughts below.

I’ve created or rewritten a number of checklists since reading the book.  Here are 2 that I use often when working with new clients:

What do you use checklists for at work?  What tips do you have on creating them?


Review of Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

Posted on March 21st, 2011 by John Nicholson

In our latest newsletter we’re trying out a new “practical book review” feature that focuses on work-related takeaways from something we’ve recently read and enjoyed.  First up is a book called Rapt and you can read my takeaways here.Rapt

I originally included a longer summary and critique section in the article, but I decided to strip it out after realizing how bored I get when reading book reviews by amateurs.  You can read that section below if you’re interested:

Rapt is a survey of recent scientific research on the topic of attention, by pop science writer Winifred Gallagher. Here’s the book in a nutshell:

  • Your life is the sum of what you focus on.
  • Recent science shows how finite a resource attention is.
  • Minimize involuntary, bottom up attention, which focuses on the novel and flashy; this served us well when tigers were a threat but not in a world of constant alerts and distractions from smart phones and the Internet.
  • Maximize deliberate, top down attention by choosing activities where you can achieve a flow-like state of intense focus – whether it’s writing a report, talking to a friend, or playing tennis.
  • With practice, you can achieve this state of “rapt” attention regularly, leading to a more productive, fulfilling life.

If you’ve done meditation or yoga, Gallagher’s emphasis on being present or in the moment will sound familiar.  So too if you’ve read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on “flow” or any of a growing number of happiness and performance researchers.  What’s unique about Gallagher’s treatment is her diversity of sources (mostly contemporary scientists but also classical philosophers, psychologists, and novelists), her narrow focus on the subject of attention, and her ability to weave this topic through a wide range of applications: work, relationships, creativity, disorders, motivation, health, and religion.  I enjoyed the book overall.  Gallagher clearly did a ton of work reading and talking to experts in each of these areas, and drawing out their work’s relevance to attention.

That said, I found the writing to be, well, not the most attention-grabbing at times.   She spends too much time summarizing and quoting her sources, and not enough time synthesizing the research, presenting her views, and developing a unique voice of her own.  It sometimes feels too much like a series of interviews or book reports.  I also wanted to hear more of her practical suggestions for living a focused life.  Or maybe, as an attention-challenged person myself, I just wanted them presented in a more digestible way.

While I didn’t love the book, I still am very grateful to Gallagher because her findings and framework have helped me in some key ways, as I describe in my takeways article.  And I have yet to seriously what she presents as the most promising long-term tool to improve your ability to focus: regular meditation.  That’s on deck.

Do you have tips for improving concentration at work or elsewhere?  Please share them below.

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Fixed-schedule productivity

Posted on December 30th, 2009 by John Nicholson

You know those half-days of work before you’re about to go on vacation? You show up to work, have to leave by noon, and have a lot of things to get done before you go — some of which you’ve been working on for weeks. It’s always amazed me how, in that 3-hour span, you finish what might have taken 2 days if there weren’t a pressing deadline, and often with higher quality results. You find a way to reach elusive people, get final answers to lingering questions, and cross off for good non-essential tasks.

Like most people, I generally consider myself to focused and disciplined when I work. But after I have one of these super-focused half-days, I realize how unproductive I am the rest of the time. Which is why Tim Ferriss’s time management ideas (chapter 5) in the 4-Hour Workweek resonated with me and so many other people. Here’s Ferriss’s core argument in his words:

There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of each other:

1. Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20).
2. Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law).

The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.

Ferriss recently tweeted about similar case for setting strict deadlines and focusing on what really matters: “fixed-schedule productivity” from Cal Newport. Newport, a post-doc at MIT, has a short version of his argument on his blog, but the longer, example-backed version from this guest blog post is better.

Here’s Newport’s one-sentence summary of the approach:

Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way.

And here’s his more detailed summary:

The steps to adopting fixed-schedule productivity are straightforward:

  1. Choose a work schedule that you think provides the ideal balance of effort and relaxation.
  2. Do whatever it takes to avoid violating this schedule.

This sounds simple. But of course it’s not. Satisfying rule 2 is non-trivial. If you took your current projects, obligations, and work habits, you’d probably fall well short of satisfying your ideal schedule.

Here’s a simple truth that you must confront when considering fixed-schedule productivity: sticking to your ideal schedule will require drastic actions. For example, you may have to:

  • Dramatically cut back on the number of projects you are working on.
  • Ruthlessly cull inefficient habits from your daily schedule.
  • Risk mildly annoying or upsetting some people in exchange for large gains in time freedom.
  • Stop procrastinating.

In the abstract, these are all hard goals to accomplish. But when you’re focused on a specific goal — “I refuse to work past 5:30 on weekdays!” — you’d be surprised by how much easier it becomes to deploy these strategies in your daily life.

Even though they’re very similar (and I think 4-Hour Workweek was the inspiration for fixed-schedule productivity), I find Newport’s case more palatable than Ferriss’s — because the steps to follow it are more concrete and his examples are of people who work a normal workday. That’s not to say it’s easy to stick to, but I’m trying …


Virtual interns

Posted on November 23rd, 2009 by John Nicholson

As we start recruiting for our first Marketade interns, this recent WSJ article on virtual internships caught my eye, and makes me wonder: for most internet-based small businesses, is it better to have an A-talent intern working remotely, or a B-talent intern working with you face-to-face? The article mentions the site Urban Interns, which I’m going to try out.