Category Archives: ICHC

Camera Phones Killed the Polaroid

Photo of Ben Huh, by Randy Stewart

Thanks for all the Cheezburger fans for coming out for our new ICHC book party!

(Photo by one of the Cheezburger Product Managers, Randy Stewart)

Condé Nast, I’m publicly offering to buy Reddit.

This was an email I sent to one of our sites, The Daily What:

Hi TDWers, I’m Ben Huh, and I run the Cheezburger Network (which includes The Daily What, if you were too Prop 19’d to notice). I have made this offer privately to a few people associated with Reddit, and I’ll say it publicly now:

I believe that Reddit is one of the best communities I have seen on the Internet. I also believe that Reddit would benefit from more resources and less corporate interference. We can offer all of the above. And we’d love to buy Reddit and all those pesky troublesome users that we love so much.

Condé, we’ll be waiting for a call.

Cheers,

Ben Huh.

I change jobs every 3 months

As soon as I took on the job of CEO for the world’s weirdest cat site in 2007, the focus hasn’t been about growth — in fact, I’d go as far as saying focusing on growth can have the opposite effect of what’s desired. The focus of my job has been on reinvention.

Let’s take a look at my “career” at the Cheezburger Network:

  1. Sep. 2007: That idiot who quit his job to run a cat picture site. (Staff count: Approx. 1)
  2. Jan. 2008: That idiot who quit his job to run some photo sites. (Staff count: Approx. 3)
  3. Jan. 2009: That idiot who quit his job to run a time-waster network. (Staff count: Approx. 15)
  4. Jan. 2010: That idiot who quit his job to run a… what the hell are they trying to do over there? (Staff count: Approx. 35)

Every quarter, we embark on a project or come across an opportunity that would fundamentally alter who we are. If you would have told me in 2008 that we’d be running 40+ sites and be one of the largest networks on the Web, I would have not believed you. In fact, I am on the record saying that we could never really see ourselves beyond the 25-sites mark at Gnomedex 2008.

Yet, here we are. WTF?

I believe our ability to grow has to do with two things:
1) Having no false expectations about who we are (we’re here to make you happy for a few minutes, nothing more) and,
2) Having no holy 3-year plan. (Few thought we’d be anything, so it was easy to be something).

That meant we could relentlessly chase what our users wanted each and every month — our own visions be damned. Every year, we look back on the last, and we’ve reinvented ourselves as a different company. Perhaps to the outside world, we haven’t changed much (which I see as a huge positive), after all, we still post the same number of lolcats to I Can Has Cheezburger? each day, but the dramatic internal change is easy to recognize in the office.

That constant drive to reinvent means it starts with me. Every quarter, I look back at the last and my “job” has totally changed. Last quarter, I was hell-bent on finding the Cheezburger way to do recruiting and hiring. This quarter, I want to create a lasting Cheezburger culture within the company. The only thing that’s common from quarter to quarter, from “job” to “job” is that I’ve never done it before. It’s scary as hell. But I really don’t have anything to lose. I can always get a new job.

Suing Failbook.com (Documenting my very first lawsuit)

UPDATE:
We settled without going to court. Both we and Cristian are happy. Here’s to creative deal-making and calm nerves.

OP:
Last month, I filed a lawsuit for the very first time in my life against someone who was trying to mislead our community and profit from it. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the first time I had seen such brazen attempt of trademark fraud.

The problem wasn’t the domain name, but that he was trying to confuse and defraud our users by marketing the content and site as his own and profit from it.

The facts:
– The Cheezburger Network launched Failbooking.com on January 5, 2010 (The idea was based on Facebook fails posted on Failblog.org as early as 2008).
– A few days later, the owner of Failbook.com iframed Failbooking.com and attempted to auction off the domain for more than $50,000. (Failbook.com was registered in 2006, but it was a parked page until he iframed our site.)
Screenshot: Note that nowhere does he mention that he’s not related to our site, Failbooking.com, but the title of the page makes it look like Failbook is in fact Failbooking.com (click image to enlarge)

– The owner of Failbook.com tried to market our content and site as his own by promoting on social news and networking sites as Failbook.com
Screenshot: Here is the owner of Failbook.com, trying to promote his domain as if he were us. (click image to enlarge)

– The owner of Failbook.com, who runs an Internet marketing agency in Mexico also even bragged about the “easy traffic” he was getting due to Failbooking.com on Twitter. (Which appears to be missing now.)

- As soon as we were able get his attention, we sent him a settlement asking him to reimburse us for our legal expenses (approximately $9,000) and to agree in writing that he would not violate our trademark or promote others to violate our trademark. He refused and tried to rewrite history and is now levying personal threats.

When we first learned about this, we had a few choices:
1) Go after the domain via the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy.
2) Send a Cease and Desist.
3) Take the case to court.

Our logic?
1) We had no problems with someone else owning a similar domain, especially since he had registered the domain well before us and our problem was NOT with the domain name itself, but the fact that he was trying to confuse our users into thinking he was operating our site at Failbook.com. So we didn’t pursue going after the domain name.
2) Sending a C&D would not stop the domain auction in progress. He would still benefit from the fraudulent activities he committed.
3) Suing was the last choice, and the most costly one for us, but it would mean that we would stop him from profiting from the fraud. So after some serious thoughts, we felt this was the right choice to make. Iframing an entire site and marketing it as your own is not the same as linking to another site, and doesn’t even fall anywhere near fair use. Traffic is nice, but if our users were becoming confused about the ownership of the site and we had no idea what Failbook.com’s owner planned to do with the site once he did amass our users’ goodwill.

I know from a PR and legal perspective, I probably shouldn’t be writing about this, but I realize that I am a public person and that the Cheezburger Network is company based on the goodwill of our users. Suing someone doesn’t feel like being a good Netizen, but I feel that the owner of Failbook.com got caught red-handed while trying to commit fraud and is trying to rewrite history.

I hope this helps people understand why we decided to sue and hear both sides of the issue. We are continuing to reach out to settle the suit that would ensure that he will not try to mislead our users again. We are not looking to profit from the case, but if he continues to apologize to us in private and then threaten us in the next breath, we’ll have no choice but to continue with the suit.

Are you what you earn?

We posted 2 jobs recently: 1 for an office Admin, and 1 for a Jr. Designer. Both are contract positions (no benefits and short-term) at 40 hours per week. The candidate must send in a resume and fill out a detailed questionnaire to be considered.

To top it off, the postings clearly lists $8.55 to $10 per hour for these jobs. So far, I’ve received more than 4 applications, out of more than 180, suggesting that I kiss the candidate’s derriere. One applicant wrote: “I don’t even wipe my ass for $10 an hour” and then wrote about how great he’d be for the job.

We advertise lower wages for entry-level positions because the worst candidates focus on money the most. Believe it or not, advertising lower-than-market wages actually helped us yield better candidates. Higher advertised wages resulted in much higher level of noise from candidates who really didn’t care about the job. (FYI: Advertised pay and actual pay are two different things.)

It’s become clear to me that bad candidates focus on money like that’s the only thing they’ll get out of the job. The best candidates just want to do the job that’ll make them happy. In fact, for our entry-level positions, I believe that our biggest selling points as a company are our shared vision of making our users happy for 5 minutes a day and the huge opportunity for growth.

Every manager and CEO has a story about the lazy-ass, unqualified pisser who demanded a top salary and a raise every 3 months. But those same mangers and CEOs will also tell you about the butt-busting, entry-level employee who never complained and eventually rose to become the team lead or an executive. Guess which of the two they recruited away to their next company? And the next…

If you’re a hiring manager or CEO and you’re reading this, I encourage you to summarily reject a candidate if they bring up compensation (unless you prompt the topic) in the first interview. To me, it’s an indication of the following:

  1. The candidate’s inability to control their personal expenses, which inevitably leads to drama and demands at work.
  2. The candidate’s lack of belief in his or her ability to succeed and grow within the ranks.
  3. The candidate’s inability control the diarrhea of the mouth, the leading symptom of the disease called poor judgment.

So what should a job seeker do?

If the economy has dealt you a bad hand, I am truly sorry to hear that. I know what it’s like because I’ve been there. If you have high financial requirements in order to absolutely survive, I don’t really know what to say than go get a job at a bank (you know what I mean). But if you really want to have a great career, don’t worry about how much you’ll be paid now. Instead, focus on finding a company you’d love to work for and a job you’ll enjoy doing, then find a way to live within your means. That’s the recipe for growth both financially and personally.

This is the advice I took when I shut down my first start-up at the age of 23 and found myself $40,000 in debt. I went from being a CEO to minimum wage “consultant” working for another start-up. It was less than a year before I found myself back on my feet.

I am not what I earn. I am not the balance in my bank account. I am not even my title. I am what I accomplish and that makes me happy.

If this makes you want to work with the like-minded, talented and passionate people at the Cheezburger Network, our jobs can be found at http://jobs.cheezburger.com

The Zappos Tour and Us

Ben Huh at the Zappos Tour

One of the fundamental changes that technology brings us is a change in the way we do business. One of the least-understood impact of such change is a change in culture.

When I went down to Las Vegas for CES, I was invited on a tour of Zappos by two Vegas social media starlets Bill Cody and Chris Rauschnot. I started the Zappos tour with a healthy dose of skepticism: “they can’t really love working there that much, could they?”

I’ll cut to the chase: I walked out a believer with a handful of business books from their free library and an appreciation for the blank slate technology has given entrepreneurs like us.

The most important thing I learned is that Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, had an opportunity to reinvent the way shoes are sold as a result of the Internet revolution. But rather than using technology to define the business, he used the technology to enable a new culture in customer service — by re-examining every little detail. (If you want to read more about the Zappos culture, I would recommend that you Google it. There’s been enough written about it to fill several books. Then go take a tour and see for yourself.)

The most direct reaction from my revelations at Zappos would have been to run to the airport, draft a long email on the flight and implement the practice by edict. Wouldn’t that have been easy and effective? But most importantly, it would have been a waste of time. Cultural changes don’t work that way.

Coincidentally, for weeks before visiting Zappos, I have been obsessed with finding The Cheezburger Way to do recruiting and hiring. It’s been priority #1 for me for weeks.

So, on the way home from Vegas, I took a deep breath and decided that culture was best built by the people who work here — so I started asking our team questions about what kind of a company we wanted Cheezburger to be and we started experimenting on our recruiting process, because that’s where it all starts.

It may be subtle and hard to notice, but this job listing for a “Supercharger” is the result of 6 weeks of interviews, research and soul-searching. Can you spot the difference?

How to get tossed from a job application

Last night, I posted an ad for the Managing Editor of Cute position at the Cheezburger Network in the SF Craigslist:

The Cheezburger Network (bringers of I Can Has Cheezburger?, FAIL Blog, There I Fixed it and like 30 more) are looking for a superstar editor to manage their new cute-oriented blogs:

Are you a content professional? Have you managed editorial teams and freelance writers? Have you grown consumer-focused communities? Negotiated content exchange and traffic development deals on the Web? ARE YOU AWESOME?

More info and application is here: Apply at http://cheezburger.simplicant.com/job/detail/4040-managing-editor-of-cute

The job DOES require relocation to Seattle.

I received several good candidates via our online job application management system. But I also received this webgem of a reply. While the email contained more professional information about this candidate, this was the very first line in the email:

From your ad copy, you sound like you have no money, and are goofy to work with…if you are (hopefully) a little more together than your copy would indicate, than maybe we should talk.

Let me count the wrongs…

1) No greeting. Hello. Hola, OHAI, or even YO! MTV RAPS would have been acceptable.
2) “you sound like you have no money” LOLWUT? Assuming makes an ass out of U. Not me. Maybe you’re saying that we’re poor as a compliment, but as a communicator you should know better than to lob ambiguous compliments.
3) “if you are (hopefully) a little more together” I assure you Mr. Jobseeking Professional Communicator, that this is potentially an explosive accusation. We are VERY much together and the use of a search engine would probably help. Also, RTFMing.
4) “than maybe we should talk”. Than? No Mr. Accomplished Communications Professional. The correct word to use in this case is “then” not “than”. Even, I, the runner of massibly misspellinged web network of kittens linguistics knows this.
5) You sent me an email. I provided a link to an online application site. As much as I enjoy a rule breaker now and “than”, but being a lazy jackass doesn’t win you any points.

Thanks for the consideration,
Ben Huh

Resumes. Here. Please.

The Cheezburger Network has 7 open positions:

  • 4 Moderators
  • Managing Editor of Cute
  • Sr. Developer
  • Automated Test Developer

Two of these positions can be applied for on-line: Moderator and Managing Editor. Both positions are based in Seattle.

MSNBC interview about "A Day Without Cats"

1 sentence summary = probably not going to make any impact (thank goodness)

This is Timeaaaahhhhh!!!!!

Wow. Thanks to MaggieCake

Me. Time Cover. Shopped.

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