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A Week After Google Changes Algo, Mahalo Fires 10% of Staff (centernetworks.com)
217 points by moses1400 on March 2, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 117 comments

1. We're working with the folks impacted to place them at whatever company they would like to join. I'm personally reaching out to folks who might want these fine people. They will all wind up on their feet and be great additions to the vibrant startup scene in Los Angeles.

2. Mahalo is doing amazing videos with experts, but our (text) articles were created by passionate writers who are not necessarily experts. Google want's experts, so we're doubling down and getting experts to help build curriculums and lesson plans for our videos. I'm 100% certain that will solve the problem.

3. You can think of us as a free version of Lynda.com for everything. Or a version of Kahn Academy for everything.

Imagine tens of thousands of these type of pages and videos being made a year: http://www.mahalo.com/learn-adobe-photoshop-adjustments-pane...

We're going to teach folks every major piece of software, every recipe of note, how to change their oil and how to play any song on guitar or piano. http://www.youtube.com/howtoplayguitar2

Video is the future, and we're going to be the largest creator of educational videos this year.

It sucks that we got hit so hard, but we will come back stronger. The 95 members of the team that are still with us are more committed than ever to the mission.

Yes, it really sucked to get off stage after 47 amazing LAUNCH companies had such amazing launches on stage. I got told on my way to the after party. We struggled over these decisions all weekend with the leadership team.

At the end of the day entrepreneurship is about kicking ass and getting your ass kicked. I've been through this many times, but I would be lying if I said it didn't impact me. It does.

This is the first time I had such a big high followed by such a low, low.

OK, time to change a diaper and give a bottle. No rest for the weary.

Back to work.

  > Video is the future, and we're going to be the largest
  > creator of educational videos this year.
Oh no. I cannot wait for the video be the past. It may be the best way to teach some things (mainly involving physical activities or physical manipulation of some sort), but for programming topics it most often just waste of time and bandwidth. Why would I want to spend a minute watching someone to type a line of code with all mistypes and corrections, when I can glance it in a second? Why would I want to fiddle with video controls to get replay of particular section when I can reread it much faster whenever I want?

Seriously, I am starting to see this tendency to do anything in video as some sort of DRM scheme for content sites. I recently unsubscribed from thinkvitamin.com because they started to push everything to video (with annoying intro at the start of each video).

I did check your guitar lessons… Sorry guys, but with "amazing videos" you have you will never ever beat this guy: http://justinguitar.com/ (check out his beginners course or intermediate method; http://www.youtube.com/user/JustinSandercoe ) — take a look if just to see how expert teaching looks like.

I will chose the best over the largest every time.

>Why would I want to spend a minute watching someone to type a line of code with all mistypes and corrections, when I can glance it in a second?

A lot of people do want this. A good screencast shows not only the code, but the thought process that goes into writing the code.

People have different cognitive styles and learn in very different ways. I thought this was common knowledge by now.

Yes I don't doubt that, but for example, I am not one of those people and I don't think I'm alone. Just give me written instructions, please.

I guess that's probably the same reason why I was always incredibly bored during lectures at university and preferred learning from books instead.

It's common knowledge, but its essentially a myth.


While the specific claims made by this article are true, they do not change the fact that most educated, especially self educated people have experienced situations where they have repeatedly gained much more knowledge much faster from one particular type of learning experience than they have from others, and that there is widely differing opinion on which type is best.

Now, while this obviously does not vindicate the claims of the people who assert that learning styles must be embodied in the neurology of the learner, it does show that something is going on, and it would be to the benefit of both learners and teachers to find out more about it.

A good writeup can do this too. I think some like video because of the pacing — you just have time for the information so sink in.

Everyone learns in different ways, there are lots of people who are "viewers", who learn by watching others do something and there are also those who learn by reading about a topic. Both are perfectly acceptable forms of learning, and the drop in bandwidth and hosting costs is enabling those who teach/learn in that way to come to the fore.

I for one wouldn't know anything about Rails without Ryan Bates' Railscasts series or Patrick Lenz's Simply Rails book. Quality videos watching Ryan work through the code, and show notes with the code written is great for some things, and a book is great for others.

As for Jason, sorry to hear about being forced into such a hard decision - I like the direction Mahalo is taking and wish you all the success.

Every time I'm searching for an answer to something and I hit a video without a transcript, I bounce.

SpeakerText seems to be a solution to address that problem. I know Matt is a user here. I'm sure he can speak to how it could solve that problem better than I can.


I disagree. For me, I would like to see a world where you could press a button and get a transcript of any video for the times when I don't have the time to dedicate but I would also like the video for those times that I do.

The problem with just reading programming things is you're seeing the final product. If you watch the video there is a better chance that you'll see how the person got to that point.

The thing that always annoyed me about Haskell tutorials, for example, was people would put in all this beautiful code but I couldn't ever make it run. In a video they would probably ran it themselves and I would have been able to see the import statements they were using but not putting in the tutorial (this isn't a problem with Haskell literate programming afaik).

You're right - the only times I've used video tutorials is when performing actions in space (video game guides for hidden objects, where pictures aren't enough, and home repair guides where showing how something works in real-time is paramount).

Trying to teach somebody something like programming over video is taking the lazy way out. In my university days some large first-year classes were delivered by video - I never took any, but I'd wager that student transcripts of the talks would have been worth real money.

You like brutal honesty and you put yourself out there, so I think it's fair to ask you. Why don't you leave your role at Mahalo and do what you're the absolute best at? (TWiST, LAUNCH Conf, TC competitor)? Plenty of people can do a video eHow, but almost no one else could rival TC.

It seems like a pride/ego/money thing from the outside. Is it something else?

Well, I really believe in the mission to build a site that helps people learn anything... and I believed in human-powered search before that (and still do to be honest).

I've got the education bug, and I want to take the promise we all see in things like Lynda.com and Kahn Academy and scale it into a brand as big as Google or Wikipedia.

LAUNCH, Angel investing and This Week in Startups are all fun, but they are not as challenging as MAHALO.

Also, keep in mind that Mahalo is a top 200/300 site with millions in revenue even with this hit. It's the most successful thing I've done.... despite the hits we've taken.

Jason...some constructive feedback:

Perhaps you shouldn't try to be 'everything to everybody'. I might not be your demographic, but whenever I think of learning I never think of Mahalo.

I would say choose one vertical that you can conquer - from an education play - and conquer it. Then branch out horizontally.

You can't beat Lynda.com, Khan Academy and every other learning site at the same time. Take it one vertical at a time and come up with a unique value proposition.

Lynda.com was the first mainstream internet video portal to make programming/technical tutorial videos and charge for them.

People don't go to Khan for the quality of the videos (i.e. fancy production and cameras), it is because he has an interesting way of explaining complex topics - and he focuses on the content (not himself).

Those are not very easy to beat, because they have already achieved Product/Market fit.

Unfortunately, you guys are still struggling to find yours.

Jason, you might consider doing a non profit with a more narrow focused education project rather then a for profit catch all product. Im personally involved with 2 projects that are being directed at kids and teens and are using game mechanics to try to get them excited about learning.

There is a DESPARATE need within this market for passionate knowledgeable and skilled people who are willing to invest their time energy and certainly money to help build these projects and get the word out. Personally knowing that the work that im doing will help kids and teens and maybe even young adults get excited about learning is more exciting then the idea of having everybody use my product and then being able to sell it and make alot of money. Ok almost as exciting. :-).

So please consider it. Thank you.

I think he's busy.

For someone so obsessed with education sites......

s/Kahn/Khan from both your posts.

I wasn't going to say anything... but I find the straight-up 4th grade grammatical issues (eg. "Google want's") to be far more annoying than the proper name misspellings.

Point taken about it being the most successful, but is it profitable? It would seem like the conferences could be bigger and more profitable immediately if you focused entirely on that and expanded on it.

Plus, you've already carved out a massive amount of market share and goodwill with the conferences related products.

Jason I think the stats, pre-pivot, pivot, and after pivot bear this out that Wales may be right that a profit site cannot be execute properly..

I even saw the stats pattern when the Quantcast stats were not hidden..and I had to look up how to do stats again just to analyze it..as I had not touched stats math in years..

It's his company. I guess he wants to keep it going himself.

>more committed than ever to the mission.

Oh my God, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. What mission would that be? Spamming the web with contrived content related to high-value keywords, for the money?

Hehehe ... with a close second perhaps being "using deceptive public relations non-sense to get ink any way possible"

Good things happen to good people.

The opposite is also true.

Congrats Jason! :D

Jesus guys, take it elsewhere.

He's being lionized on HN for making money, while he's polluting the written heritage of the human race. Not a chance I will take it elsewhere. He needs to be called out, to his face, as does anybody who thinks he deserves HN's respect.

Mostly I see people expressing sympathy for a guy who had a really bad day (and a newsworthy one.) And if you think mahalo is polluting the written history of the human race, then boy do I ever have some spam to show you. Mahalo may not be the best, but it certainly isn't the worst.

"And if you think mahalo is polluting the written history of the human race, then boy do I ever have some spam to show you."

GP's point: X are spammers and get undeserved respect on HN. Your response: there are worse spammers. Do the spammers also get undeserved respect?

Borderline stuff may actually be worse than blatant crap, because the borderline stuff is harder to classify as crap.

Borderline stuff might be useful to some extent, to a minority of people. Blatant crap is - well - blatant crap with no use to anyone.

I accept your point about it being harder to classify, but I don't see how the SE's job being harder can equate to slightly useful content being worse than outright spam.

How many of those sites had the sustained level of traffic that Mahalo had for years?

Also note that Mahalo enjoyed that level of traffic based on auto-generating pages through shagging third party content (without requesting permission and without any way to opt out of getting your content scraped, since they were pulling in the scrapes from Google's search API & you couldn't block Mahalo doing that without blocking GoogleBot).

In the past when Matt Cutts wrote of such MFA scraper sites he described them as "shoot on sight" http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/im-on-webmasterradiofm/#commen...

"In the chat room, I said hello to teeceo, but I know the stuff that he was doing and it’s shoot-on-sight. I think anyone who is blackhat knows (or should know) that I’m happy to talk to anyone, but that we’ll still take action on the spam we find."

And yet you have sympathy for Jason? Shows how powerful his public relations skills are! :D

I honestly couldn't care less what happened to Mahalo and I pretty much agreed with all your points when you first revealed their ways of creating tens of thousands of useless pages, but nevertheless I also have simpathy for Jason.

I think not many people on HN realize (or probably are willing to admit) that This Week In Startups is the most interesting resource to learn from real experiences of fellow entrepreneurs, developers, etc. Mixergy is another interesting one, but the format of TWIST provides its viewers lots of insights and info that you simply can't get anywhere else on the web.

So not all Jason does is evil.

Just my two cents.

How is posting on an anonymous internet forum with an account you just created hours ago telling him 'to his face'?

Jason, we're currently looking to add a third engineer here at VOKLE in Santa Monica, the work's mostly Ruby / Rails, and we've been looking for someone experienced in that area, but given the quality of the Mahalo engineers I have met, I'm sure they'd have no problem getting up to speed.

I can be emailed at andrew@vokle.com for details.

I took a look at that page you linked as an example of quality content, and I just don't see it. The video was incredible superficial and a better medium would have been screenshots that identified all the UI controls and their function since that is all the video did.

Khan Academy has quality content which are dense with information. Your video wasted four minutes and told me nothing I couldn't find out by playing around with Photoshop.

"Free advice for entitled Gen Y trophy kids: if you spend 12 months at a company over and over you look like a flake."


Or maybe it makes you look like someone who thinks they have better opportunities elsewhere.

Free Advice for opinionated Entrepreneurs - when you have the right to fire anyone at any time; evaluate the person you are hiring on merit and "fit" for the role. Not based on number of past stints or time spent at each company; but mostly do not come off looking like huge hypocrites.

I think this glosses over an important point. Hiring or firing is expensive in opportunity cost (e.g. project delays, disruption to the work environment, morale) and so it makes sense to internalize that cost in a hiring decision. Suppose Person A will provide value Y per year, cost X per year, and turn over in one year costing Z. Person B produces value Y - K, costs X, but will stay for 3. If K < (Z - Z/3) all else equal you'd choose person B. Building a brand that you jump ship for better jobs ought to cost you something, even if that something is much less than the salary you gain not being a gold-watch girl.

Regardless of the source, this is actually very good advice.

I guess I'm a flake - hey, what can I say; I get bored easily and feel the need to switch projects often, especially when the project enters maintenance mode.

I also have a free advice to entrepreneurs - since I'm working remotely as I don't live in the US, I have to be much better / work much harder than US developers, just so I can take home barely the minimum U.S. salary in this industry. I also don't get any equity. When that attitude changes, maybe I'll start giving a shit.

>I get bored easily and feel the need to switch projects often, especially when the project enters maintenance mode.

Points for honesty, but I'm wary of any dev who says that. How do you know what maintainable code is if you never stick around for the maintenance?

I have heard that issue raised by colleagues during the hiring process. At the time I was suspicious about this kind of generalization, but had not been particularly sure how to evaluate the impact.

Subsequently my experience is that developers who have been in the same job for a very long time, have a higher chance of being totally clueless. And also generally not confident with new ideas, not aware of alternative ways of doing things, not exposed to the culture of the broader profession etc.

I am wary of any dev. You could go through this during the hiring process. Most programmers end up doing some maintenance even in new jobs.

But bottom line I suspect this hiring principal is essentially backwards.

In my experience, if you switch projects regularly you become increasingly dependent on your network of previous bosses and colleagues for future gigs. It's stands to reason that you will want to do the best job you can, produce the best code you can so that you have a better chance that you when you leave, you depart from colleagues that will be eager to work with you again in future.

Getting bored easily and professionalism are not mutually exclusive.

Edit: Grammar

True; but you can recognize maintainable code when working in a larger team and ownership of modules changes a lot, which it should for any healthy project.

There are several universal things you can do to ensure maintainability, which are a no-brainer, but don't happen because of various compromises that have to do with time and money - like code-reviews, having no module with a single owner, automatic tests, up to date documents / stories, etc...

If you don't do any of that, it's a no-brainer again that the project will not be maintainable; but it can still be beaten into shape later if the original devs weren't totally insane :)

Could someone tell me more about this Jason Calacanis fellow. He seems to be a very polarizing figure on this site. Really all I know is that he seemed to have a falling out with Michael Arrington and alot of articles seem to mention him in a slightly negative light.

Is there some reason for this, and no I'm not trying to troll.

I don't know Jason Calacanis, but I get a couple of things out of this. (and yea, I know my two main points are contradictive)

1. Mahalo is blowing in the wind. I have no idea what Mahalo is or what Calacanis wants it to be. SEOing the hell out of near-worthless content is not a long-term strategy. If you want to win - solve a problem!

2. Jason Calacanis is an excellent executive. This Google algo change took place on Fri/Sat. By Tuesday this guy made the huge, painful, most difficult call in the world and laid off 10% of his company. If you have ever had to lay people off - you know what I mean. It is hard, it is painful, it is life changing. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I understand that the employee takes the blunt of the blow - but believe me, being on the other side of the table is not a desirable place to be.

I know this is not a popular stance on HN, but I have a lot of respect for Calacanis. The guy has done so much for the start up community. TWiST is some of the most valuable content I have found on the web and The Launch Conference - if it hasn't already - will change the startup conference scene forever. Not to mention his home brewed angel network that tilts the table in favor of entrepreneurs.

Calacanis is a hell of a self-promoter - but even if he rubs you the wrong way - you should respect what he has been able to do. If you have been (or were) on 60 minutes talking about internet startups...in your 20's...feel free to rip him apart. If not, show a little respect for what he has done and little empathy for what the guy just had to do.


1) Jason and Mahalo are over. Their new strategy is very expensive and a multi-year road before it's a real business. It's a total rewrite, not a pivot by any means, if they do it well. No way Calacanis lasts a few more years at Mahalo (even if the board doesn't push him out).

2) Calacanis isn't really in charge at Mahalo AFAIK. The employees all report to Jason Rapp. Rapp and the board probably made the decision to layoff, though Calacanis was probably involved. He's being allowed to save face and ego. His role is more of a spokesperson than a CEO.

I think Calacanis simply can't force himself to do what it takes to make Mahalo successful because he's already rich. He's referred to Mahalo as "freeroll" meaning that even if it fails he's still rich. That kind of attitude is fine for getting things you love done, but it doesn't work when you're trying to do something you're not innately passionate about. He doesn't have the hunger (nor would almost anyone) to make Mahalo the kind of success it needs to be to justify its investment.

Paul Graham has said many times that he wouldn't start another startup because it's just too painful and he knows he couldn't stomach it now that he doesn't have the incentive he did before (to get rich).

I don't think there's anything wrong with this. It's natural human behavior to respond to incentives. I think when Calacanis finally realizes (or admits) this he'll be a much happier (if ego-bruised) guy.


Calacanis is unbelievably awesome when he's doing things he's passion about. TWiST and LAUNCH are flawless. He's the target demographic for the content himself and it shows.

He should turn LAUNCH newsletter into a head-to-head blog competitor to TechCrunch. Combined with TWiST and LAUNCH conference it really could become as influential and big as TC is.

He's got a ton of talent and energy, but I think Mahalo really drags him down. If he removed that burden he'd be able to do something truly amazing and big.

tl;dr: If you're already rich don't try to do things that you aren't genuinely passionate about, your subconscious will prevent you from doing what it takes to succeed that way. Stick to things you don't have to force yourself to do and are naturally good at.

This entire comment is predicated on the assumption that getting rich is the underlying reason entrepreneurs build businesses. I disagree with this assumption.

I believe the major assumption is actually that getting rich is the underlying reason entrepreneurs build businesses that they are not passionate about. Of course, "getting rich" could be something to be passionate about, but I don't think that precludes other sources of motivation.

He was an early Web 1.0 entrepreneur who founded Silicon Alley Reporter (which failed) and Weblogs, Inc (which got bought out by AOL). He's sort of a "startup celebrity" in the sense that he's (a) opinionated and (b) good at getting those opinions into people's faces. He's involved in a wide range of stuff in the startup-support ecosystem, and he's also the founder of Mahalo. He describes Mahalo as "people-powered search", as in you search for something on Mahalo and you get a professionally written page, but detractors think he's about one step removed from a content farm.

Not sure where you get the "one step removed" bit. It is a content farm, at least in the places where it isn't simply copies of Wikipedia or autogenerated text.

These detractors seem to be on to something since Mahalo just laid off 10% of its workforce right after Google acted against content farmers.

That does say something about the content that Mahalo produces, doesn't it?

Mahalo is equated with spam in the eyes of many HNers (including me), and JC is seen as the promoter of said spam.

EDIT: Why the hell is this getting so many upvotes? Because it's easier to read? Upvote, instead, some of the comments with actual fucking content.

EDIT2: Also, while I think (much of) Mahalo is spam, I respect Jason and his business, and wish him the best of luck.

>Why the hell is this getting so many upvotes?

Concision is valuable.

You made me look this up. *Is it "concision" or "conciseness" - http://raymondpward.typepad.com/rainman2/2005/11/is_it_conci...

I prefer the relative concision of "concision" (9 chars vs. 11).

Eh, that's my cute answer. I really just think "conciseness" sounds awkward.

You should check out some of his shows on http://thisweekin.com/thisweekin-startups/ - you can get a sense of who he is from watching a few.

The general consensus on HN is that he doesn't treat people well or is somehow not very "honest".

Personally, I'm a big fan. I watch every episode and I generally agree with most of what he says.

I agree. He just seems brutally honest, and that gets him in trouble. But hate him or love him, the guy does a great job with TWIST. I do not use Mahalo, so I cannot speak for it.

Same here. I don't even remember ending up on a Mahalo search results page, come to think of it.

Like you, I know Mahalo mostly from knowing about it and skipping past their entries in Google results, but I wouldn't doubt that these kinds of sites enjoy a lot of clicks from people who just don't know English or the Internet very well. Understandable words are understandable words.

The problems people have with Mahalo and their ilk are unimportant to 90% of the people on the Internet. Many are perfectly comfortable typing "how to cross street?" into google or their isp homepage and clicking the top link. Boom: business model.

If your're new to startups, the early Thisweekin Startups shows have really useful tips on pitching etc.

Judging by the positive sentiment in these comments for TWIST and Launch - and AOL's acquisition of TechCrunch (Read: Once MA jumps, they won't be able to sustain content and traffic) - there may be a lot of good opportunities ahead for JC.

Agreed. I found him annoying when I first encountered him on TWIT (wouldn't shut up about Twitter), but after viewing a few dozen episodes of TWIST would welcome him into my home like a brother.

I don't think it's possible to assess a 'general consensus' on almost anything here. There are themes, they recur disproportionately on certain threads, but do most commenters (much less readers) agree on a position, even if it is oft/loudly expressed? Hard to say anything more than 'many' or 'loud' people have an opinion.

He seems to be doing a lot of good stuff: http://thisweekin.com , the launch conference http://launch.is , http://openangelforum.com/

"... Could someone tell me more about this Jason Calacanis fellow. ..."

If you listen to others explain who Calcanis is you'll get what people think he is. Instead listen to this interview (and read the show notes), on Stack Overflow podcast, "Podcast #56 Jeff Atwood" ~ http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/06/podcast-56/

He came across as smart, funny and determined. It's his determination that struck me the most.

The guy is just controversial. He pretty much says what people think and do not say. Jason sounds rude lots of time, and I think people here have a problem with that and his Mahalo which they refer to as a content farm.

Now with all this being said, you have to respect the guy. He has built and sold businesses (so he actually knows something). He tells it to you like he sees it. That gets my vote all the time. I watch all his shows at TWIST and he does a neat job at giving constructive feedback to entrepreneurs. I frankly think that he likes to act tougher than he really is. This is just his defense mechanism.

Just a guy who knows a lot about startups and entrepreneurship but is sometimes too blunt and on the face. People who know this nature of his, have grown immune to his antics and direct remarks and keep in touch because of his genuine wit. Who else would be crazy yet believable enough to fool the world he was actually testing the iPad before launch. That's Jason for you.

First impressions count for a lot. A lot of people may have seen the name of Jason Calacanis prior to his falling out with Michael Arrington but the name did not stick.

When there is malicious gossip people pay attention to the name. First impressions count.

Disclaimer: I couldn't care less about Arrington or Calacanis.

No one kicks a dead dog.

Odd this was modded down. I think there are no Dale Carnegie fans around that understand the reference.

If only there wasn't some sort of machine that indexed a vast electronic knowledge base...

And no I'm not trying to troll.

OK, you got me.

I find this interesting because I have never done a Google search that led me to a Mahalo site. I don't even recall seeing them come up in a search result for anything honestly.

Having heard about Mahalo through Podcasts and such, I have been to the site a few times to find some things, but usually ended up back at Google.

However, now learning of the How-To style videos coming to the site in droves, I'm definitely interested again.

So, this bad press and their bad fortune may lead to new visitors, such as myself. Probably not in the waves that Google brought, but it's "press" none-the-less.

I personally have never found any useful content at Mahalo, sure the site looks a bit better now but the previous version was trash. Imagine how many investing in high quality content lost traffic to the older spam filled, next to no content Mahalo.

For all the press Mahalo gets I've never seen a Mahalo page show up in the first page or two of Google results. Maybe I'm not looking for the right stuff, but ehow, wikihow etc. all would show up before adding them to Personal Blocklist.

I feel for the cut staff and Mahalo has plenty of dough in the bank but reminds me of Jason's article "What to do if your startup is about fail (or "Don't Stop Believing")"


Applicable lesson I learned the hard way - better to make cuts early in the face of a serious shift vs. burn cash, see morale dip, etc.

Any time you go through a round of layoffs the morale is going to dip amongst the survivors for a little while. This is particularly acute when the company is small, and those being let go are perceived to have added value (usually culturally more than direct ROI). It can slowly chip away at the soul of a place.

Crunchbase shows Mahalo at 40 employees pre-cut.

The messed up thing about this is, that 10% of the staff have 'slaved' for however long they have been there.

All for naught.

Maybe they can still get a referral from Jason, but given that I don't think that pays the bills...hopefully it can help them land on their feet.

"slaved".. were they not compensated?

Perhaps, but as far as I understand it...they are compensated at a pittance with the hope that after 3 - 5 years they can leave with a nice payout and move on to 'bigger' and better.

I guess my point is, this is why you should be careful who you commit to slave for (e.g. a boss that expressly says that they expect you to work like a slave) because at the end of the day - if the business ever turns down you are just a number.

It's unfair to ask salaried employees to give the same as the founder, because the founders won't be first in line to be cut when revenues turn down.

What do you suggest then? They carry the employees even though it is no longer economically viable?

Not in the least. I think Jason did the fiscally prudent thing. He has a fiduciary responsibility to his shareholders to respond in the way he did. Very tough call, but no doubt the necessary call to make, if he wants to turn Mahalo into a going concern.

I suggest that he doesn't go around bragging about how he only wants 'winners' and he expects everybody to give 80 hour weeks and all that non-sense. Giving someone free food, and a 'free chef', doesn't make up for demanding 80-hour weeks no matter what they tell you.

I think he should just shut up, and set an example through deeds - because at the end of the day, 10% of the staff can (and should) get cut when revenue tanks. Acting like it won't happen and they will have a big payday if the company gets bought or goes public is disingenuous at best, and deceitful/fraudulent at worst.

That being said, I don't think he should discourage people from working that long - on the occasion when they have a deadline to hit or something.

But just be more responsible with the rhetoric, is all I am saying. These are people with families that are likely depending on their livelihood.

And a lot of them are probably Gen Y people who, had this been a different company, upon applying to Mahalo would be discriminated against. Left their job in a year? Oh they were laid off? Well, in Calacanis' book they were the laziest, most selfish 10% of employees - they deserved it!

Hopefully too many other businesses don't buy into that nonsense.

Didn't they recently pivot and switch over from a lot of written articles to videos?

It would make sense to get rid of some writers and get some video folks quick. With their 40 employees, 4 being let go seems hardly a news-worthy event. It seems even more of a stretch positioning this as google algorithm driven.

Read the article, which is about that shift. They are going to focus on how-to video.

They have 95 remaining employees, please read the article.

I like Jason Calacanis. He's done a wonderful job with TWIST, the This Week In network, the Open Angel Forum and the Launch conference. I find him to be very funny and entertaining, passionate about entrepreneurship, tough-minded and determined to succeed, forthright and honest about his opinions, and someone who isn't afraid to make hard decisions. I do wonder about the future of Mahalo, though. Unlike some of Jason's other ventures, it seems as if Mahalo - now version 4.0 - has struggled to obtain a unique and strong identity, let alone sufficient market traction, so far. If it can be the best how-to video site on the Internet, great, but given Google's recent stance on how-to content sites (i.e. the 'farmer' algorithmic change), not to mention all the other companies vying to be the best how-to video site on the Internet, the company certainly has its work cut out for it. On the other hand, these are precisely the circumstances that sort out the real entrepreneurs from the wannabes and from Jason's comments above... I wouldn't count him or the Mahalo team out.

Jason said in the closing remarks of LAUNCH something to the effect of "I am so happy, let's go to the W and get drunk." After arriving at the W, I checked my phone and saw the article on Google's blog - some timing! I feel for him and all of the people that lost their jobs.

I've know Jason since the web 1.0 era in silicon alley — he's always give to his larger community (and still does with his podcast) and the one thing that Jason really taught me: If you fail, dust yourself off and startup again. Mark my words that Jason will come back. I think this is a lesson that everyone in business should learn...

"What’s really interesting to me is that I remember when Mahalo first launched, Jason told me numerous times he didn’t care about Google because he was going to build loyal users who would just come directly to Mahalo"


Now, mind you, this is the same Calcanis who publicly bitched about how employees lack loyalty and job-hop. I wonder why?

Mmmmm, savor the delicious irony.

I think this only the beginning of the bad news due to this algo change. There are many legitimate businesses that have been seriously impacted by traffic drops and we'll probably see many more layoffs and budget cuts.

I think this is only the beginning of good news due to this algo change. There are many legitimate businesses that have been positively impacted by traffic gains and we'll probably see more hiring and raises.

Absolutely. SEO really is a zero-sum game.

That isn't true. For any particular search, yes, if one site goes down another site will necessarily go up. However, in aggregate, SEO creates value. Think of StackOverflow, for example: the primary mechanism for success isn't taking traffic from ExpertsExchange -- that is just a much-remarked side effect. The primary mechanism for success is successfully incentivizing the creation and distribution of answers for a broad universe of expert questions to which no responsive answers have ever appeared in the SERPS before.

Similarly, an algorithmic change in Google which cleans up the long tail can help businesses in a variety of fashions. I mean, I'm not actually seeing major changes yet, but if my rankings for five thousand variations of "how do I make X bingo cards" over the universe of ten Xs which content farms deem valuable to target, that gives me additional resources to develop value-producing things elsewhere (like, e.g., subsidizing the development of AR, or ramping up my publication efforts from my current speed of ~250 to year to a higher number on progressively more obscure topics which real teachers really do want to teach lessons on tomorrow).

Similarly, improving the value of the SERPs for any field of endeavor or user community results in an increase in the aggregate number of searches as user behavior changes. That is a change that lifts all boats.

…except for the boats it sinks. Namely, the long tail that they cleaned up. I'm not sure I understand when you say "SEO creates value" if you mean the so-called good/relevant SEO or the low quality/sketchy SEO. I assume you mean the former.

SEO can mean "help make my site easy for google to honestly evaluate and judge the quality of my content" or it can mean "game google into thinking my content is what people want to see even though they probably don't".

I can see how having a better index creates value but I'm not sure how SEO contributes to a better index. It seems like google changed the rules, some companies are doing worse, some are better (zero sum) but hopefully the index is better and people can find what they want (unlocking value). Is that what you're getting at?

I'm not sure how SEO contributes to a better index

Alright, by analogy: you understand how a properly functioning economy has positive effects for participants in the stock market, right? Economic growth means investors win. Do you understand that a properly functioning stock market also helps the broader economy, even if we assume that each participant in the market is just trying to manipulate the market into serving their own selfish interests? The market converges on more efficient allocation of capital than other sorts of non-market capital allocation schemes we have tried.

Google's tremendous expertise with algorithms is one reason why the experience of searching the Internet generally does not suck. The input people create to rank on Google is another reason. Good, descriptive titles are the single easiest on-page way to influence rankings on leaf pages -- they're also the single easiest way for an engine to tell what a page is about without linking signals. Thus, the practice of putting titles on pages improves the index. What's the first thing your SEO consultant is going to do? Look at your title tags. Systemwide, this converges on an Internet where most pages that people actually end up seeing have good, descriptive titles.

Somewhat but not totally, if the wrong sites win the SEO game there are going to be more users either driven to the wrong site or giving up on their search. The more users being sent to the highest quality place they can go for that query the bigger the potential pool is for profiting from search position.

Out of curiosity, can you name some of the legitimate businesses that were affected? I thought the algo only targeted content farms and sites that regurgitated other peoples content.

Mine is one. Google traffic is down 30%, and that significantly affects my revenue.


You need to increase the # of links you have from the homepage - I would suggest getting to the 100 internal link point by finding more ways to tag your jobs you have under "See All 1206 Entry Level Employers", which I imagine is driving most of your search traffic.

Divide that by category types and link from the sidebar - this will pass linkjuice more efficiently and improve your traffic.

That's a really good suggestion. I mostly use the tag pages to flow linkjuice throughout the site, and it seems to work pretty well. I'll think more about how I can improve my site architecture. But I was doing pretty well until Thursday.

The really interesting thing is that http://www.onedayoneinternship.com/ has seen no change in traffic. Its architecture is nearly identical, and much of the content is shared across both sites (because I built the sites for humans, not search engines). There's a decent chance that this is causing the problem, but I can't understand why ODOJ would get hit instead of ODOI. Even content that isn't partially duplicated on ODOI is getting hit, so it's either a domain level filter/penalty based on duplicate content, or it's not the issue.

Right now I'm thinking a lot about how to fix whatever Google doesn't like, but it's really hard when you can't be sure. I can't really afford to do significant testing (and you can't actually run a good experiment with a real site). For now I'm going to keep investigating, and work on building links. That's always a good time investment.

> but I can't understand why ODOJ would get hit instead of ODOI.

Wild guess: "job" is a highly competitive keyword subject to lots of scammy black hats ("work from home for $$$!!!"), while "internship" is much more clear of the scum?

One property my company holds, http://www.dentalcompare.com has been affected. It's a classic product comparison site (with a lot of problems) but there is not "farming" of content. Every company provides their products and every article is original or at most, a small abstract.

Ironically, I was watching this video recently when Calacanis was talking about "How to kill Google".


Maybe this was the excuse for Mahalo to fire the 10% of its workers that were the least productive. The bottom 10% may have even been hurting the company.

Maybe, but I get the sense that the company's problems aren't primarily about productivity.

JC never has bought into the Welch fire 10% least productive plan..otherwise it would happen every year..[sarcasm] wait that in fact has happen thus far!

Someone get this cat a dictionary so he can look up "decimate", a better word for what happened than removing "a handful" of staff.

This is "Algorithm Age". Damn! They are powerful!

Well you can't fault them for dithering, can you?

Am I the only one who doesn't understand this at all?

As far as I can tell, Mahalo.com is a video site. Why on earth would google going after content farms affect a video site in any way?

To me, this headline makes about as much sense as "Microsoft changes Windows 7 pricing, pork belly futures skyrocket." Am I missing something?

After weeks of criticism on Google's results being spam'ed, it was clear that Google would react on this. The algorithm change was foreseeable.

On the other side this shows the monopolistic power of Google and how they can hurt individual companies like they want.

For us as search engine users, it is time to support other search engines, for instance DuckDuckGo.

this shows the monopolistic power of Google and how they can hurt individual companies

Changes like this hurt most if you depend on spam-like SEO.

For example, Stack Overflow hasn't lost anything from this recent algorithm change - they actually gained from it.

If we were to all support another search engine instead, then they'd have the same power. And I'd hope they would do the same thing Google is doing right now.

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