Posts in “Logos”

March 13, 2013

“What if Michael Bay did our developer recruiting video?!”

The action-packed, explosive-laden trailer faded from the screen, and the developer next to me joked “That’s what our developer recruiting video should look like!”

It seemed like a great idea, so we brought it up with the filmmaking-types in the design department. “We need something awesome! Explosions! Police cars, ambulances!”

I guess they didn’t have the budget for all that. But I’m pretty happy with what they did come up with.

October 3, 2012

The four-word employee handbook

Everything I want from myself and others at work (and in life!) can be summed up in four words:

Honor God. Love others.

When we started Logos Bible Software twenty years ago, I used a software program to generate a boilerplate “attorney approved” employee handbook. When employees asked “What’s our policy on…?” I might refer them to the handbook, since I couldn’t always remember what it said. But more often I would just approve their special request, or tell them to use their best judgment.

Then I took the Zappos tour, and read the Netflix culture slides. And I realized that we already employed awesome, smart people who trust each other. What did we need a butt-covering book of legalese for?

So that’s it: Honor God. Love others. Our new employee handbook in a nutshell, and the primary measure we weigh decisions against.

To complement the nutshell-handbook we developed a set of slides that expound on the theme, meet the letter of the law, introduce our corporate values, and explain the culture. We even decided on two actual rules: no smoking, and no open flames.

It can be scary to work with so few guidelines. Managers wonder if employees will abuse the un-tracked vacation time; employees wonder if they’re embracing too much or too little freedom. It requires trust and openness and conversation. But after 18 months it is working well.

January 28, 2010

On failing our customers

I try to stay accessible, publishing my email address, answering my own phone, participating in our forums, etc. In normal days this means I get occasional complaints from customers, and I’m able to make that customer happy and hear about weak spots in our product or systems.

But now I’m hearing from upset customers every day. And I don’t blame them: wait times to talk to customer service or technical support can be over half-an-hour. (It hurts me to type that!)

We released Logos 4 on November 2nd. Knowing that upgrades always create extra customer service, we planned appropriately. We scheduled overtime, extended our hours, opened on Saturday, and even catered lunch for the team the first few days.

It’s not been enough. Within a couple weeks our reps were burning out, and we had to cut back the extended hours. We started hiring, but too slowly. We kept thinking “the rush is almost over.” But it’s still not; Logos 4 upgrade sales were more than double my expectations, and in the first eight weeks of our release we had as many users move to our new platform as move to our platform in an entire “normal” year.

And now we’re facing limits we didn’t even consider. We need to recruit, interview and train more service agents. We need to shuffle departments to make more space for desks and chairs. We’re out of phone lines; we’ve hit capacity on our telephone trunk line. (The one I thought would last us forever!) And our six-year-old phone system that was supposed to grow with us? It was discontinued the year after we bought it, and we’re having problems expanding it to support a second receptionist.

Our goal for customer service is every email answered in 24 business hours, every phone call answered — by a person – in a few rings, and no more than two minutes, if any, on hold.

These are ambitious goals, and we’re not meeting them today. I’m sorry. But we’re working hard to get back there as fast as possible.

December 10, 2009

The future is now

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, wrote about The End of Book Publishing As We Know It. His post includes a video of Sports Illustrated’s tablet prototype.

It’s very cool, and looks like the obvious next step in publishing: the freshness of a web page, the editorial attention of a magazine, and the depth of a book, in the form factor of a Kindle.

It even looks comfortable and familiar to me… I feel like I’ve seen it before…

Separated at birth?

SITablet

Logos4HomePage

We’ve been building the future for a few years, and we’re shipping it now. (Minus the dedicated device with touch screen; but put Logos 4 on a tablet PC and you’re just about there.)

So here’s my experience-based take on Hyatt’s six conclusions about the future of book publishing:

1. The line between newspapers, magazines, and books is about to become blurred.

Boy, howdy. We contracted with professional news artists from major newspapers to build a whole new set of infographics, like Solomon’s Temple shown above. We consulted The Society for News Design’s annual awards book for Home Page layout ideas. The page incorporates hand-chosen excerpts from books and will integrate with Bible Study Magazine in the future.

And let me add databases to the blurry mix. A single table or piece of data in isolation won’t satisfy users of an interactive tool. SI will need to have their stats linked into massive back-end databases, just like a Bible map now needs to be backed up with all kinds of metadata.

2. Publishers will need to envision multimedia content from the beginning.

And in many cases this means starting over. We have dozens of books with graphic representations of Solomon’s Temple, but we had to start over to ensure we’d have not only a great image, but the high-resolution vector art and 3D model. (Look for that same temple model to be animated and explorable in the future.)

Publishers also need to secure the rights to re-mix and re-use data. You don’t want a timeline graphic, you want a database of events you can repurpose many ways.

3. Consumer expectations are going to skyrocket.

Paper is the true what-you-see-is-what-you-get medium. Our expectations for what we can do with it don’t go beyond scissors and tape. In the digital world, consumers expect the production values of a major motion picture with the data crunching of a spreadsheet and the flexibility of a scrapbook.

There are many issues for publishers to worry about here:

  • Production Quality – There will need to be a bigger investment in art and design. And, in interactive media, a significant investment in the design of the user interface. Design will need to anticipate usage scenarios, too. The picture bleeds off the page for artistic effect? Great – but can I copy it uncropped to put into my report?
  • Flexibility – We already had high-production-value multimedia content. The 1990’s saw a plethora of multimedia products; Microsoft’s Multimedia Beethoven: The Ninth Symphony was an excellent example of using every media type to produce something that wasn’t a book, a magazine, or a movie. But production of each product was insanely expensive, and each product was a closed box, tied tightly to a technological moment in time. These products are unusable today. Future-proof publishing needs to have flexibility designed-in.
  • IllustrationRights – The entire publishing industry is built on a rights-model designed for physical distribution. Any significant property (books with text, multiple contributors, and licensed images, or video with music, images, and other content) is tied down like Gulliver was by the Lilliputians. We are creating new media and new content not only to use it flexibly, but to be able to grant consumers the right to use it in the ways they’re demanding.

4. The cost of producing digital books will get more expensive.

In addition to audio, video, and design costs, publishers will need to invest more in markup and tagging. It’s not enough to cite an article in a footnote, it needs to be linked to the source. Are cross references links? Are people disambiguated? Are places tagged with latitude and longitude? Are events tagged for timelines? Are images annotated so that you can search for a picture as easily as for a word?

Indexing and abstracting will become much more important. Stand-alone back-of-the-book indexes will need to be replaced with rich tagging that works across multiple properties.

5. Digital content creation and distribution will become our primary focus.

We’re still distributing on DVD-ROM’s, to my amazement. (Broadband Internet just isn’t everywhere yet.) But a few months ago we shut down the last of our physical distribution network. The good news is, we didn’t own a warehouse, and serving that distribution network was just a small part of our business, and never our focus.

Physical products will remain an important part of the traditional publisher’s business, but they’ll need to decide if their focus will remain on physical-goods logistics or move to digital competencies. This is different than the move to sell off printing-presses a decade ago. It is more than asking “Do we outsource the warehouse?” It’s asking “Who are we?”

6. People will be reading more than ever.

The good news! We see this all the time. Freedom from the bonds of paper weight means we can give the user a great deal on more content than their shelves could hold. An easy interface and automated research tools help engage users with their content. Each innovation – especially our move to a newspaper-style Home Page – helps users get more out of their digital library. And when they get more value from it, they purchase more content.

Publishers, are you ready?

Take this simple quiz:

  • [ ] Graphic design is a core competency in-house, not an outsourced project.
  • [ ] I have unrestricted global rights to the content I publish.
  • [ ] I employ an Information Architect.
  • [ ] My content is always designed for use in multiple media or formats.
  • [ ] Everything we own or license is thoroughly indexed and stored in a database.
  • [ ] I employ an Interaction Designer.
  • [ ] Software development is a core competency in-house.
  • [ ] I have an experienced digital publishing partner, not a project-based contractor.

Do you need a perfect score? Nope. (I don’t have one either
.) But these are things to think about as we prepare for the new normal in publishing.

April 14, 2009

How to get hired

Now that you know how to not get hired, let’s move on to getting the job.

1. Want the job.

Employers want to be loved, too. Tell me why you want this job. If you don’t really want it (like the applicant who recently answered “honestly, there’s not a lot out there”) then don’t apply. It’ll save us both time.

I’ve heard people complain that they sent out 500 resumes and got nothing. I’m not surprised. Try sending out five, for jobs you’d like to have.

2. Show interest.

Okay, so maybe you don’t want this job, or any job. Maybe plucking chickens at my nugget factory isn’t exciting, but you really need a paycheck and there aren’t any better options. Find something positive – and specific – to say. Show that you are mature, responsible, and willing to play this important role in the quick-frozen-poultry-finger-food-industry, which does so much to serve the busy moms of America.

3. Be polite.

Be on time for the interview. Bring a copy of your resume. Bring a few questions about the company and the job. Don’t ask me for detailed driving directions to the interview. (Get them online, or call back and ask the receptionist. It’s not that I mind telling you, but when you handle the trivia yourself you show both respect for my time and that you are sensible and competent to handle details on your own.)

4. Dress up.

Does what you’re wearing matter? No. What matters is that you show you cared enough to make an effort. Dress at least one level above the norm for the workplace you’re applying at. You may know that everybody wears jeans and t-shirts at this office, and you can, too. Starting on your second day at work. Dress up for the interview (and the first day on the job).

5. Research.

I wish I could make this a minimum requirement, but only 1 in 50 applicants does it.

Research the company, the job, and even the person you are interviewing with. This should be part of picking the five jobs you are applying for; at the very least it should be part of your interview preparation.

The wealth of data on the Internet makes this insanely easy. I am amazed at the number of people who come in for an interview and haven’t even read the About Us page on our web site. (Be assured, if I’ve called you in for an interview, you’ve been Googled.)

Beyond showing good sense, this shows interest in the job and respect for the interviewer. It keeps you from asking me a question clearly answered on the front page of our web site.

For positions like marketing, where research skills are a key job competency, I often start the interview by asking the applicant to tell me what our company does. If they pass that test, I ask “Who am I?”

Because if they haven’t read the very-easy-to-find bio of the person whose signature they want to see on a paycheck every two weeks, how can I expect them to find journalists, bloggers, competitors, customers and partners?

April 13, 2009

How to not get hired

OfficeDesk1. “I’m looking for indoor work.” I believe you are telling the truth. I do not believe this is the best answer to “Why are you interested in this job?”

2. “I have extinctive computer skills.” This poor applicant provided much-needed comic relief during a tedious process; this applicant was not interviewed. Do I expect that every document you create will be error-free? No. Do I expect that your resume and cover letter — the documents you rely on to find the job that will secure your livelihood — will be? Yes.

3. “Are you still excepting applications?” Yes, except yours. Even correctly written, this question just creates more work for the hiring manager. “Can I ask you a question?” “You just did.”

4. “So, what does the company do?” You found a job listing online. You sent us an email at jobs@logos.com. You were interviewed by phone, invited to a follow-up onsite, and you didn’t take two minutes to look at our web site before showing up?

5. “You may be ‘the boss’ [air quotes with his fingers], but…” I don’t remember what he said after the air quotes. He wanted a management position, but couldn’t believe I (then much younger) was really the boss. I spared him from having to deal with the fact on a daily basis.

6. “I may not be the most ideal candidate…” If that’s your opening line, how likely am I to disagree?

Practical wisdom on growing your business that you can start using today.

Get it now