Do web celebrities suck at email?


“i encourage you to spend less time reading my auto-responder, and more time reading a good book or playing Angry Birds” - Dave McClure

Have you ever tried sending an email to one of the “web celebrities”. Some of them would have autoresponders like “Sorry, I’m really bad at my email currently, I get a lot of them. I might not respond to yours” or something similar. For a while I thought that those guys are just a bit lazy. I get over 1000 emails every week and somehow I manage. I use Sanebox, try to do a proper filtering, Inbox zero, etc. I’m sure they get 10x that but still - if only they wanted to put some more effort…

But then it struck me - what if email is not the most efficient way of communicating with strangers. It sure works well with people you know and trust, but strangers (especially when you are a celebrity) tend to ask the same questions over and over again. That’s why companies create FAQs and make customer service scripts.

And then I thought about the recent GOAP twitter battle that seems to have been started by this tweet and resulted in the president of Croatia personally inviting Dave. This would never happen if I just sent Dave an email and he responded.A friend of minehas a rule that if someone emails him a question, for which he thinks the answer could be beneficial to more than one person, he posts an answer on his blog and sends back a link.

Do you think it’s smart or just rude “not to do email”?

The culture of connectedness

At my not-so-recent-anymore trip to Silicon Valley I’ve noticed something that is discussed a lot in different places but never really got to me until I saw it with my own eyes. There is a certain culture and a set of skills and customs that seems to be existing in this kind of density only in the Bay Area.

The first couple of people I’ve met appeared to me to be very skilled networkers - immediately after we’ve met they came up with names of people I should meet and shortly afterwards actually followed up with a warm email or linkedin introduction. Only after a while I realized they were not exceptionally good at this game - it’s just a way to talk to people and provide value during the casual conversations around there. I was just not prepared for this initially.

My experience from Europe (Poland and Ireland in particular) is that the usual topic of conference / casual conversation focuses around current projects and problems - there are usually only two ways of getting value out of those interactions - either you have common problems and can share thoughts about solutions or one of the parties manages to sell something to the other. Very rarely can you hear that someone knows someone else who should be a valuable contact for the other person. A bit more so in Ireland which seems to be influenced by SV culture - rightly called sometimes “a gateway to US” for Europe. In Poland I can point to a handful of people who seem to understand the power of proper introductions and who do not play the “zero-sum game” of “I know a guy so how about I introduce you and you give me 5% commision of anything that comes out of it”.

I don’t think I need to explain why strong social network ties are important for the whole ecosystem. We all know the “The value of the network grows exponentially with the size” cliche. The most underestimated part in my opinion is the value of (good not random) introduction for the introducer:

  • by being an introducer you gain a special status in the community
  • don’t be afraid to introduce a vaguely potential client to a vaguely potential customer - if they are smart they will figure out that you are not the only one on the market anyway
  • by making a successful introduction you can expect the favor to be paid back at some stage in the future - the power of reciprocity is very big
  • there is no way you can lose by making a good introduction - again - it’s not a zero-sum game - if somebody else gains a contact you are NOT losing it - you are making your network stronger

I think the only way to build “the Silicon Valley in X” is to build those networks and start thinking how we can help each other before we start thinking about how others can help us.

Here is a challenge for you now. Open your Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter friend list and think about connecting people that don’t know each other but in your opinion will benefit from it - and make an intro. Aim at making at least five new connections among your friends. Seriously. Do it now. And then let me know how it turned out.


Thanks to @anbanaszek, @juliaszopa, @kolinko, @kkowalcz and @kubafilipowski for reading drafts of this and feedback.

Why did you move to Dublin?

It’s been two weeks since we packed all our stuff, cleared the old apartment in Poznan, Poland and moved to Dublin. I was pretty sure I did my share of explaining all the reasons to my family, friends and coworkers. Unfortunately it seems to be the question I need to answer every other day. So I figured - why not just write about it?Immediately after this question there is usually the other one coming up: “What about your job? Did you get a new gig there?”. So let me explain this first.

No, I did not get any new job in Dublin. I’m staying involved with the things I’ve done in Poland. I continue to work on my previous projects, which include Netguru (a Ruby on Rails outsourcing and consulting company), Humanway (web-based applicant tracking system) and TwojProjekt (e-commerce website with home designs) and more :) It’s just that now instead of communicating over Skype while sitting by the desk 2 meters from my coworkers we can do the very same thing while I’m sitting in a coworking office in Dublin.I do realize it’s not really the same thing and I’m sure it’ll take much work to have it all function properly but I know people that have already done if quite successfully: Kuba lives in Warsaw for a while now and Michał moved to Spain where he continues to work on Nozbe. I got some useful advice from them and so far I’m very happy with the setup.

So if we have this part behind us lets get to the reasons why we decided to move. It’s pretty simple: We have 2 kids; one was supposed to go to school a year from now. We figured that now would be the best chance for her to go somewhere where she could learn English without making her leave her school friends. We hope within a year among English speaking peers she would be much more fluent than after 10 years of our education system.I feel that helping your child learn English effortlessly is one of the best gifts one can give it. If my parents would have had such an opportunity and wouldn’t have taken it, I’d be pretty disappointed at them. Well - we have :)

And that’s all to it really. So if you are a friend, a client or just someone I know - don’t worry - nothing changes, maybe just my phone number and that we would need to see each other more over Skype and less face to face…