To scrape or not to scrape: In this week’s episode of Track Changes, Paul and Rich sit down to discuss the recent verdict in the hiQ v LinkedIn lawsuit. We chat about the importance of this case and how it helped solidify a basic aspect of the web: public information access. But first, in this week’s Hello Postlight segment we hear from Thomas Rudczynski, our Director of Product Management, who shares advice on how to be a good product manager and how to get into the field.
Paul Ford You go to the bar and you order a Manhattan and the cherry is a Lincoln tracking beacon. I mean what do you—what are you gonna do?!?
Rich Ziade If you’re John Ross, there’s nothing more depressing than [Paul laughing] LinkedIn coming back and saying, “I found 18 of you.”
PF “I found 18.” Oh my God, it’s so bad [Rich guffaws. Music plays alone for 18 seconds, ramps down].
RZ Paul, our guest today is very intimidating because he has about 211 consonants in his last name.
PF Oh no I’ve been practicing. I—
RZ Do you have it right?
PF Tom Rudczynski.
Tom Rudczynski That’s perfect.
RZ Is it a duh? Rud?
TR It’s like a ruz. Ruz-inski.
RZ But there’s a punch to it [music fades out].
TR Hey man, it’s spelled the way it’s spelled.
RZ It’s all [Tom chuckles] good. We have Tom Rudczynski, a Director of Product Management here at Postlight. Welcome, Tom.
TR Thanks for having me on.
RZ Tell us your path to how you got here.
TR Sure, it was a little bit winding, probably different than most people. I spent seven years after college getting a PhD in American History.
RZ Mmm! Woah.
PF What was your concentration?
TR I was studying US history in the twentieth century. I was writing a dissertation on retirement migration.
PF Wait, wait, you were studying migration?
TR Migration. So like when old people move from the northeast to Florida, I tried to figure out why they decide to do it to Florida and what they did after they got there.
TR It was pretty interesting, yeah.
PF So like statistical and historical studies of snowbirds.
TR [Over Paul] Statistical, historical—of snowbirds! Exactly. The tentative title was, “God’s Waiting Room.”
TR I got a lot of retiree jokes.
PF Did you talk to lots of retirees? Did you go down to Florida?
TR I went down to Florida. I was there for almost a year probably on and off doing research.
RZ Do you know how many butter cookies [starts laughing] Tom ate during [Tom laughs] that time?!
PF Do you know you can measure that migration is by where the Ponderosa restaurants are [others laughing]. When you can get ranch dressing from a bucket at 11am [Tom laughs]. You know—
RZ You’re hitting the epicentre. Alright! Now get me from there to here.
TR Oh yeah so around 2008 there was a financial crisis and I took a look at the job market for academia and what—it was really collapsing at the time.
PF Comes to us all, I nearly went and got a grad degree, and I saw this too, yeah.
TR There’s a lot of adjunct professor jobs but not in a place where I could decide that I wanted to live. So I went networking and my future wife’s sister’s boyfriend ran a tech company. So I introduced myself to him and told him that I’m ready to do tech. I was studying some macroeconomics and finance as part of the broader retiree milieu. So I knew a little bit more about financial accounting than most. So this was a software company that built lease finance accounting software. And they didn’t know anybody who knew both tech and accounting and they needed people who could learn really quickly and were gonna ask good questions. So I got a job as a Business Analyst which is sometimes what they called Product Managers back in the day.
PF We don’t talk about BAs enough but it really is like a good starting point.
PF Cuz the job is go talk to people and figure out what the hell they do [yup] and—
RZ And distill it down.
PF To requirements.
PF Right? And then use their stories and use cases and all that stuff and it doesn’t come up a lot because it’s kind of the role of the Product Manager here but yeah, BA is a serious job. It’s a good one.
TR Absolutely but because it was a small company, I was running the client management; doing the timelines; doing what a Product Manager does.
RZ So you got the exposure.
RZ At that early time.
PF It was a startup experience at some level.
TR Yeah, yeah.
PF I don’t know if the company had been around for awhile but like that’s what it’s like at a startup.
TR Essentially [yeah]. And then through another friend from growing up actually I got a job at Razorfish in New York as a Project Manager which their agency Product Management wasn’t a thing. So you kinda had Technical Project Managers. And so I went in there and did Technical Project Management for some really big web dev builds and then Huge gave me a call and said, “We wanna bring you on as Product Manager—”
PF So people don’t know: Razorfish probably a lot of people have heard of but a big web agency, Huge, is another big web agency.
TR I thought you were gonna make a Huge pun.
PF No. No. I don’t make puns, Tom.
RZ I don’t think they’re anywhere near as big as Razorfish if I’m not mistaken.
PF I don’t know cuz they’re all owned by giant thingamajigs [yeah, fine]. But Razorfish is huge, right?
TR Razorfish was huge. It doesn’t exist anymore, unfortunately. RIP. It merged with Sapian and then Sapian retired that brand.
RZ So Huge were you Product Manager?
TR Yes, I was a Product Manager and the first year there I answered a lot of questions about what an agency Product Manager was but I didn’t actually know. I was kinda making it up as I went along. But, you know, I figured out there’s a little bit of client stewardship; there’s a little bit of product strategy; there’s a little bit of just getting things shipped; and drew upon all of my background experiences except for the American history part.
PF I’m sure that comes up, that sort of analytical requirement of it.
TR It’s more the storytelling part [oh interesting]. So when you’re presenting work or kind of framing context for a question or a decision, that’s where the humanities training that I got really comes into play.
RZ Product Management is funny in that it’s sort of has wedged its way in and now—I mean were always hiring Product Managers. It’s worth noting. Cuz it’s so hard to write the job description; and it’s so hard to put out the job req; and the title that you’re seeking out cuz there are great Product Managers out there who are not calling themselves Product Managers today. That is—
PF Also, to be clear—
PF Agency Product Management is a special kind of challenge.
RZ It is and Tom just touched on it: oftentimes a Product Manager doesn’t include sort of the client relations part of it, it’s often inside of a big product company—
RZ—where you’re just driving point releases or whatever but—
PF Well you’re an unusual hire for us cuz you have the agency background. Most people we were just like, “Please come in [correct] and we’ll help you get acclimated.” And they’re like, “I want this experience of multiple clients and I want that challenge.” And we’re like, “Great, let’s make it work.” With you, I remember the interview and we were just like, “Yup. Ok. [Tom laughs] Alright!” Cuz it’s unusual. You have to have a particular temperament where the lack of ownership and the soft power of the Product Manager is an engaging problem unto itself.
TR Absolutely. And if you wanna nerd out for a second: one of the core requirements of a Product Manager is being able to prioritize well. The way in which you go about prioritization typically would involve metrics or dates but with a client you have to balance those things of being a good product steward and getting good results from the products that you’re shipping, and their needs, right?
PF Yup! Here’s what I find sometimes really challenging but also really rewarding: you get parachuted in and then you have to interpret and understand a culture with a set of rules and dynamics . . . that are completely important to everyone on the ground that you have never heard of before. They’re like, “Oh my God! If we don’t deal with QRX immediately!” And they’re like, “What are you gonna do about QRX, TOM?!?”
TR Well, we’ve got a plan. First we’re gonna take it back to a few of the stakeholders [all laugh].
PF That’s the thing: it’s not—it’s funny, right? Cuz you do have this background of someone who has literally, you know, spent years trying to get a PhD and kind of interpreting the culture.
PF Like you had to go figure out how the world works; where the people were; and like you’re using that DNA very much here, right?
TR It’s interesting. It’s a mix of both. So it’s an adjustment where in academics, you’ve read the books, so when the question comes up you have an approach or you have a specific thought in mind of where you wanna go in the conversation but in Product Management although you’ve read the books and you know the process like you were mentioning, the client might have their own process. So there’s a lot of improvisation; a lot of just restating the question and buying yourself some time.
PF Well it’s not even ‘might’, they have a very clear sense of exactly how this must go; where their money’s gonna get spent; and what the end result is, and it probably has nothing to do with the reality of building software [yeah]. And so you actually have to let them work all that out and come to those conclusions themselves—
RZ Or help them get there.
PF No, I mean, the way you help is you let them sort of figure it out and you show them what—
PF—the facts are and give them a minute to process.
TR That’s a great point. Recitation probably then was the best training.
PF What was recitation?
TR Where after a lecture you sit with 20 or so students and you have them work through what the lecture was about and answer a bunch of questions. You know, in smaller classroom teaching.
RZ I’m liking how we bring up the question of advice cuz it’s something that’s valuable to the listeners out there. A lot of people pivot towards Product Management. We have people in Postlight who are not Product Managers who would be great Product Managers. Advice for that person who’s decided, “Hmm, there’s a lot of Product Management jobs out there, I wanna go in that direction.” What’s the one piece of advice you’d give that person?
TR That’s a good question. It depends on what kind of Product Management they wanna do. I think a lot of people think they’re gonna go out and become a Product Manager and build a million user consumer web app. That’s not the bulk of the jobs and that’s actually a really hard job to get. You have to have domain expertise; you have to know a lot about growing a product; and, you know, from the marketing side of things—
PF To your point: if you don’t know how to get that job, you’re not gonna [Tom and Rich laugh]—Like you literally—No, like I can’t—You know, I’ve been at this for awhile and doing—I can’t walk into Apple and say, “Give me something to do.”
TR And I think that learning tech is probably the first step, like truly understanding at least how web technology works.
TR Knowing what a server is; what a browser does; how it gets information on the page; I think that’s the most invaluable skill and you can cut through a lot of unnecessary conversation and confusion by being able to articulate that clearly.
RZ You will get eaten alive in the world of technology Product Manager if you don’t know just enough to understand the concepts.
PF What are the different kinds of Product Managers? Because you’re like, “It depends on—” So there’s consumer, right?
TR Mm hmm.
PF Which is very specialized. Like it feels like you’re going to be the most general case but it’s actually a really small part of the market. “I gotta make a thing; it’s gotta be translated; it’s got millions of users; there’s specific kinds of testing.” That’s a whole world. What else is there?
RZ Well, I mean there’s the technical Product Manager, right?
PF Right, which is someone who would be more likely to build you a big API and—
RZ Or my job is to build the bridge between Oracle and our customer platform.
TR Learning the enterprise side of Product Management isn’t a particular kind of Product Manager but there is a patience and a need to build robust solutions, often with accounting. So, I think about that like Enterprise Product Management being completely separate from a consumer B to C kind of Product Management.
PF There is a way that business works and the popular narrative around product tends to ignore it [yeah], it tends to be like, “Look at Google’s search bar or the Facebook app,” or a media website. But then there’s all the work which is—
RZ Which is most of the work.
RZ To Tom’s point, it is most of the work.
PF Exactly. Like literally like Quickbooks, Salesforce [Tom chuckles]. Like these are the things—
PF—that power not just like midsize businesses—
RZ You just named popular ones too. There’s some little shitty ones [mm hmm] that are just about like, you know, the garment industry.
PF Right, but Quickbooks is powering like 500 person companies or a thousand person companies.
TR And they all have budgets and they need, you know, APIs and they need to have Sarbanes-Oxley compliant accounting [all of that] ledger entries and—
PF No! And it’s—and they’re shipping their products, you know, to Europe and now that’s getting really complicated with Brexit and you know just sort of like seriously, those are hard, hard product problems that take awhile to—the nice things about those, as opposed to the more consumer focused stuff, every time I’ve come close to it and talked to people about it, it’s just hard. Like everyone’s coming at you all the time and it’s very competitive and everybody wants your job. You can take a minute and learn when you’re trying to interface with—nobody’s going like, “Get me my Quicken results [Tom chuckling] in two hours or you’re outta here!!”
TR Right. A lot of times the complexity there is cuz you’re dealing with legacy platforms: old tech, people want it to work a certain way, it doesn’t work that way. They say, “How hard could it be?” Right? [All laugh] “Can’t you just move that?”
PF I feel like you have a good last name for yelling. Rudczynski!!
TR Rudczynski? [Chuckles]
TR At the other end? [Laughing]
RZ On the factory floor kind of thing?
PF Yeah. Exactly. I feel we need to start doing that more and more as time goes on.
RZ Tom! Thank you so much. This was—
TR Thank you.
RZ—really cool. Good insights, good advice for would be PMs out there [music fades in].
PF Appreciate it as always.
TR Thank you very much, guys [music plays alone for four seconds, ramps down].
PF Richard, LinkedIn [music fades out] comes in for a lot of heat on this show.
RZ Well, it’s a silly place. Also, we advertise on LinkedIn and I hope it works cuz it’s really expensive.
PF We’ve given them thousands of dollars.
RZ I don’t know how it entirely works yet, I think if someone clicks on one of our articles on LinkedIn it’s like 20 dollars.
PF Yeah, it’s like—
RZ So please, if you see the article—
PF [Through clenched teeth] Don’t click.
RZ Don’t click. If you’re listening to the podcast, you know who we are, you want something from us, we’d love to work with you, email@example.com. Don’t click on the link in LinkedIn.
PF [Whispering] Yeah, God, it’s just—
RZ It’s very expensive. Do you continue to accept connections?
PF I mean I just—there’s so many people.
RZ It’s a lot of people—
PF And people go shopping, like you’re just like—
RZ That’s the thing.
PF I can’t accept connections from like Info Tech Estonia 297.
RZ Nothing wrong with Estonia.
PF No, but just sort of like—I don’t wanna have an outsourcer DMing all the time.
RZ Lemme ask you a question.
PF Please, God.
RZ When you post content on the internet, do you think it’s yours? When you write an essay for Medium—let’s do this by example—do you feel like it’s your content or is it theirs? What do you feel like here?
PF Well, I have a complicated with Medium, right? Like they’ve paid me in the past.
RZ Ok, that’s different, right? They’re buying your content.
PF But this really specific, right? So I wrote a cover article for Wired Magazine. Good for me, right?
RZ Very good for you.
PF How long does Wired own that?
RZ I think it depends on—
PF 90 days exclusive.
RZ 90 days exclusive meaning they own it solely for 90 days—
PF For 90 days only Wired can really do anything they want with it. They also have rights to—
RZ Print, publish—
PF They have rights to publish it in perpetuity on their website and many other things like that.
RZ Ok, so if you published it on your own personal site, you’d get in trouble. You’d be violating an agreement with them.
PF In those 90 days.
RZ Within those 90 days. And then what happens after 90 days?
PF It’s mine. It’s theirs. And it’s mine. So I can put it in a book; I can make a pamphlet; I can—
RZ Ok, that’s interesting.
PF Now, there is—
RZ Is that standard practice?
PF It’s tricky because there was a lot going on in the late nineties, early 2000s there was a case Tasani versus New York Times which is where all of a sudden archives got really tricky cuz magazines were going, “Oh, we’ll put all of our stuff online.”
PF And also actually what Tasini was, if I remember correctly, it was that New York Times articles were going into Lexisnexis, the big legal search tool.
PF The Times was putting all their stuff directly into Lexisnexis and the contracts didn’t specify that they could do that.
PF So, writers weren’t getting paid.
RZ Did like a class action or something?
PF So after that . . . what became common understanding is that you can put the archive up like in a PDF form where the visuals of the pages are there. The magazine or the publication owns the full representation of itself [yeah]. Like The New York Times—a whole issue of The New York Times on Sunday [yeah] that’s The New York Times. Not an individual article. They can’t slice and dice. Until—and then after that happened, all the contracts through all of publishing [changed]—everybody owns the ability to reproduce and distribute stuff throughout the known universe. Like it is—
RZ Everybody meaning the publisher.
RZ So, they closed that hole.
PF But the norm has always been, “We’ll give it back to you.”
RZ Ok, so do you own your LinkedIn profile? Who owns your LinkedIn profile?
PF I mean I’d have to read a 900 page terms of service to truly understand. My presumption is because I can change it, alter it, or erase it . . . that I own my LinkedIn profile.
RZ Ok, do you consider your LinkedIn profile private?
PF No, it is something I publish to the web [ok] via LinkedIn, they provide a service to me.
PF And I put my picture in and my data that they ask for [mm hmm] and they use that to like fill out their database and make lots of money, they monetize my content, and I get to track my links to other people; see what people are up to; and have a profile for myself online that anyone can go look at. So it’s a resume.
RZ I can cut and paste your profile off of LinkedIn, I can send it to somebody.
PF You do. You send the link. You know?
RZ Forget the link. I’m gonna take it. I’m gonna copy it, I’m gonna just take a screen grab [sure] and send it to a friend. Ok, I can do that. And people do it. I mean it’s weird.
PF For your account you can usually download a PDF of your LinkedIn and send that along as a resume.
RZ Send that along and whatnot. Ok. What about if I wrote a script that essentially spidered LinkedIn? Essentially just kept going and going—
PF Follow the links, like, “Here’s all of Paul’s connection, let’s go download all their data.”
RZ That’s not a complicated script. All I have to do is start with a person that has a hundred people and then off you go.
PF And you can get their title and you can get all this information about them, that’s right.
RZ We’re all 20 degrees of connection, probably the whole world is—
RZ Is it six? Is that like a play? I think that’s a play.
PF No, no, the play is named after that.
RZ But wait is that true like mathematically?
PF That’s the idea.
RZ So, ok, so that’s not a very complicated script then.
RZ I’m just gonna start with . . . Paul Ford and off we go and I’m gonna—
PF Yeah, within six degrees you should get to everyone on LinkedIn.
RZ Ok, so that’s huge! And that’s awesome because what I wanna do is create a website called “StinkedIn”. Wait. No [laughs].
PF No, can’t do that. That’s a very different site. [Rich laughing] That’s more of a late nineties kind of site. Don’t—just don’t do that. Let’s��
RZ No, no, I wanna make a copy! I think LinkedIn’s great but I hate the way they display their information.
PF A copy of LinkedIn is tricky, right? Cuz then, again, we’re almost back to that place where you’re talking about like you can’t copy their design.
RZ Fine. But I wanna make a better design! It’s LinkedIn—I’m gonna call Richie’s Better Resume Repository.
PF Nah! I can sue you for that. Here’s—that is just tricky, right?
RZ Fine, fine. Alright then so you know what? I’m gonna create a search engine for LinkedIn.
PF Oh no, this is tricky.
RZ Can I do that?
PF Well this is tricky cuz you have pages that are on the public internet, right?
RZ They are. Otherwise I couldn’t index ‘em.
PF And there are things like robots.txt meaning that you can put little rules on your site saying, “Hey Google, don’t index this; archive.org, don’t index this.” But that’s not law.
RZ That’s like, “Please don’t.”
PF That’s like, “Just behave.”
PF And then if somebody misbehaves, you can say, “If you see anything that looks like this asking for pages, tell it to go away.” Ok? So you can do that too. But in theory, right? If I wanted to find out all of the titles that are being used in the tech industry?
PF Like Chief . . . Thoughtfulness Officer.
RZ Yeah. Yeah.
PF Also Skateboard Programmer!
RZ Yeah, you could probably hit all of LinkedIn’s—is LinkedIn cool with this?
RZ Can you spider their content and then do all kinds of smart things with that content?
PF I’m gonna bet that they’re chill with Google bringing up a LinkedIn page [hmm] so if Google goes and spiders LinkedIn, and I type in somebody’s name and that LinkedIn profile shows up—
RZ Oh, ok, so they’re pickin’ and choosin’ here.
PF Well that’s cool, right? Cuz then I’m gonna go click on that and read their LinkedIn profile.
RZ If it’s beneficial to LinkedIn [yup], they’re gonna let it happen.
PF Well, if it drives people towards LinkedIn and LinkedIn services.
PF Ok, so that’s a no brainer, right? And Google and LinkedIn are—
RZ Driving traffic back; driving usage back.
PF Mm hmm. It’s a perfect partnership, right? Like Google tried to do it with Google Plus and have people’s profiles. It didn’t work out . . . but LinkedIn is a professional profile. I go and type somebody’s name into Google—
RZ It’s just how you’re gonna see.
PF It shows up and I’m like, “Oh! Ok. There’s the LinkedIn profile, I should go ahead and check that out.” [Ok] So, everybody just won: Google got to show me and ad or track what I’m interested in.
PF So their ecosystem is enhanced and LinkedIn’s ecosystem is enhanced.
RZ It makes sense. Let’s get right into it, actually. This is a real conflict [yeah] that occurred. The company’s called HighQ.
RZ It’s one of those infuriating websites where you go there and it just says really abstract things. I’m gonna read you their—
PF [In deep voice] “Changing the paradigm.”
RZ “HighQ Labs is a data science company informed by public data sources applied to human capital.”
PF Alright, let’s see if we can understand what the hell that means. It is, wait, HighQ—
RZ It’s people data.
PF It’s an applied data sciences company, you said?
RZ It’s one of those phrases—
PF “Human capital” is rough. It’s really—I don’t like human capital.
RZ You don’t like human capital?
PF Cuz it sounds like human cattle.
RZ It’s close to cattle.
PF Also, capital—money is a meaningless substance that flows through the world, like goo that your kids like to play with. Like slime. That’s not people.
RZ Ok. So you don’t like the phrase at all.
PF I just don’t believe that people—
RZ Is that out there? Are people not happy with human capital?
PF Yeah, I mean, I’m sure—who could be? Right?
RZ Right. So let me go ahead, this is their subhead: “There is more information about your employees outside the walls of your organization than inside it. HighQ curates and leverages this public data to drive employee positive actions.” Whatever that means.
PF Oh my God, so you—so it will spy on your employees.
RZ “Our machine learning based SASS platform provides flight risks and skill footprints of enterprise organizations allowing HR teams to make better, more reliable people decisions.” That is a little like I bet it’s doing stuff like this, “Diane updated her LinkedIn recently.”
PF Yeah. That’s bad.
RZ Or, “Diane made 28 new connections in the last week and she’s only made 12 in the last year.”
PF “Diane’s a flight risk.”
RZ “Diane is a—” I think it’s stuff like that. But I don’t jump to that conclusion.
PF “We need to put her in the executive brig.”
RZ Alright so HighQ one of the ways they do this is through spidering LinkedIn.
RZ And LinkedIn said, “Stop it. You put the robot in.”
PF “We see you. We see you helping yourself.”
PF And I think LinkedIn probably blocked them too, right?
RZ They tried to block them.
PF Send ‘em a cease and desist and—
RZ Yeah! And you know for a HighQ whose essentially entire pitch is based on [laughing] spidering LinkedIn, they were gonna fight this, so they did. And HighQ, they went to court.
PF Which is unusual, often when the big internet giant says, “Hey, you gotta stop it.” You go, “Well, I have—this guy over here is my lawyer and he’s wearing a suit that’s 14 sizes too big, and he lives in a house with his mother,” and LinkedIn has over 500,000 lawyers.
RZ Well, David Boies shows up.
PF Yeah, exactly, and you’re like, “Well, alright [defeated]. Ok. I guess our business is over.”
RZ That’s usually where it goes, right?
PF But HighQ said, “To hell with it!”
RZ Well they’ve raised 12 million bucks . . . So they’re pretty well funded.
PF That’s a lot of human capital.
RZ Also, they’re touching on—I don’t know why they did this but it sounded existential. So if [yeah] you’re gonna need to spend a million dollars on lawyers and you’ve raised 12, unfortunately you’ll have to. The other thing is this is touching on a very, very fundamental aspect of the internet and of what information is on the internet and who has the right to access it—
PF And what can you do with it. Yeah, that’s right.
RZ And what can you do with it.
PF Well see, and it’s—this is unique, right? Because you’re looking at a situation—like TV . . . You can go buy a VCR and you can record a TV program. And that’s ok for personal use but you can’t—you’re not supposed to really share it with your friends.
PF Again, there’s a lot of wink and nod—
RZ Of course, I mean you have to kind of protect the interests of the people that have made the investment in the content, right?
PF And it’s clear who owns the copyright—
RZ It’s clear who owns the copyright and whatnot but if you’re looking to—
PF User generated content . . . that’s on the web, there is a precedent and understanding . . . and there’s actually been quite a bit of legal precedent, right? That you can download that for analytic and search purposes . . .
PF That’s Google. Like if you say that that’s not allowed, you threaten Google’s business model.
RZ I think that’s why they—I don’t know why they sued. I’m speculating and I love a good conspiracy theory. My guess is they knew they had the wind at their backs on this one.
PF Right cuz it really—If you say, “You’re not allowed to spider and reuse public data on the internet for your search service,” you’re going to the absolute heart of that whole economy.
RZ Yes and it touches on fair use. Fair use is, essentially, kind of is born out of excerpts that the idea that you can take a snippet of something and you can’t go suing the person that quoted your article is the thinking. But fair use in the digital context is actually much broader, right? Which is, “Can I use it and mine the data and look for patterns and aggregate—I’m not republishing your stuff.” I mean we talked a few minutes ago about me taking and making a cooler looking LinkedIn, you can’t do that. You can’t take the content as it stands today and make a replica of the content.
PF Clones are—you can’t clone.
RZ You can’t clone, right? And what HighQ is saying is—
PF Though you can clone the idea of LinkedIn, you can say, “I’m gonna make my own resume linker thingy.”
PF And you can—but you can’t just go and try to copy it wholesale.
PF There was a lot of that, early days.
RZ Alright, so this ends up in court. Ends up in Federal Appeals Court, so this is actually a meaningful case.
PF That’s the one before Supreme, right?
RZ That’s correct.
PF Ok. So unless this goes to the Supreme Court somehow there’s really no—
RZ It’s over.
PF Yeah, it’s over.
RZ Correct. If I’m not mistaken, it was the—I don’t know which—
PF The Ninth Circuit?
RZ Is it the Ninth?
PF Yeah. Which is California.
PF Which makes sense, I mean that’s LinkedIn.
RZ And they held that—First off, I wanna talk about LinkedIn’s defence. Or not defence. They weren’t defending themselves. Legal assertions are pretty slippery.
PF Well cuz they don’t have to be grounded in what a normal civilian would think is reality, right?
RZ Well listen to how disingenuous this is, right?!? Essentially it was, “You’re impacting the privacy of the people.”
PF Oh so you’re LinkedIn, that’s what you’re saying?
RZ [Both laughing] That’s their defence, right? They’re just like, “We have to protect the privacy [Paul laughing] of the users on LinkedIn.” Meanwhile, I think if my browser is a little stressed out and I’ve been using it all day, it just throws me a LinkedIn page [laughs wheezily].
PF There is a LinkedIn cookie like in your toilet. Like [Rich laughing] you can’t get away, there is no—
RZ So the idea of privacy as the legal argument to sort of block this company from doing this is insane, right?
PF Well, they said that like a certain number of their people have said, “I don’t wanna be published to the world,” or something like that. Right?
RZ Yeah! I mean they have to piece that part together—
PF LinkedIn is arguing that like some—not everybody but a large number of people have said, “Don’t make me indexable more widely.”
RZ Right, right.
PF And so you can only really find them by directly spidering LinkedIn and ignoring some of that.
RZ And Google.
PF And Google [chuckles]. I know [laughs].
RZ So this is where it gets really messy, right? And slippery because what happens is lawyers are great when it’s misaligned with the business interests.
RZ When the lawyers are brought in, they’re great at constructing rationale that has [mm] nothing to do with a) being a decent human being [chuckles] [mm hmm] or b) reality. It just [right] when you get to really big fancy cases it gets really convoluted and—
PF This is a circuit court so it’s just sort of like we’re talking about really abstract law where everyone has a good ivy league degree [correct], where you’re just going like, “Well, under, you know, Smithson versus Beaconwood the privacy, you know—the legistla—bah bah bah bah,” then the judge is just like processing abstractions.
RZ And frankly though I mean you’ve got also I mean this is new territory I mean spidering information for a start—I mean ten years ago, 20 years ago there—spiders were just spiders.
PF Yeah, the judge’s job, right? Is to like figure out what is legally permissible but because it’s new they have to also then, I guess, act in the best interests of the nation? And the populace? Like what—
RZ They look for precedent because they look for parallels in the past and a lot of that has come out of content and copyright [sure] and such and it breaks down after awhile but you do the best you can.
PF Well we’ve also now got 25 years of copyright being grafted onto digital stuff.
RZ Yes, yes.
PF And—so there’s actual sort of precedence with the internet not just [correct] in other media.
RZ What the judges concluded was this was an existential threat to the startup. That the startup will cease to exist if we allow them to block this. You know, this is the kind of thing that I think let’s put aside HighQ’s interests and LinkedIn’s interests, I think if your stuff’s on the internet and you don’t outright copy it, I think it is a flavor of fair use which is if I wanna create interesting visualizations or find patterns in data and whatnot, this is an open internet question, fundamentally.
PF Well, here’s what’s up, right? That’s very—to lock that down is very, very dangerous cuz all this innovation in the past has come from, “I’m gonna take this large public corpus, I’m gonna analyze, I’m going to break it down into an index, and then I’m gonna make it explorable for a new group of people in a new way.” That’s Google. And what’s changed is now LinkedIn says, “Here, fill out this box.” K, so Google didn’t say, “Fill out the box.” They said, “We’re gonna go to the web.”
RZ Yes. What is interesting about this is that I think ultimately, hopefully, HighQ—you know, LinkedIn could’ve concluded, “You know? This is actually good for us.”
PF Mm hmm.
RZ “HighQ using our stuff and essentially the way Google is good for us, right?”
RZ But sometimes you start to get a little aggressive there and decide that you wanna exert your influence and actually limit the internet.
PF I wonder if they thought, “Maybe we should buy HighQ.”
RZ Oh, that’s interesting.
PF They must’ve, right?
RZ Must’ve. I mean it’s probably—
PF Cuz they buy a lot of things.
RZ Anyway, going back to this. I think it’s a good outcome. I think it’s the right outcome.
PF I do too. I think that you need—This is public content on the web.
PF And yes, LinkedIn gets some credit and some authority because it was the organization that brought it all together and they are able to monetize it more efficiently and they have a lot of control. But when you’re talking about people who put their stuff online, they’re fine when Google indexes it.
RZ Of course, of course.
PF And so if you stamp this down and say, “You can’t have access to the data we’re putting publically online,” you’re actually kinda—you’re kicking the whole thing that makes the web. That doesn’t mean that like you have to allow every spider to maliciously smash your site.
RZ I think it comes down to, again, if you’re starting to infringe on how LinkedIn delivers value . . . these guys are trying to do something a little more creative which is like, “We’re gonna kinda keep an eye on your employees,” which is [Paul chuckling] a little gross but, I mean, this stuff’s on the internet!
PF That’s not how law works here, right? It doesn’t matter who’s—which side we’re even on here.
PF Like as far as I can tell I don’t particularly care for either business model [Rich laughs], right? But what we’re saying is like—the reality—and there’s this thing . . . you know, I don’t talk about it cuz it’s one of my little nerd obsessions, it’s this called Common Crawl. Have I ever told you about it?
RZ No, it sounds like we’ve got a pitch. I like it when we pitch on the podcast.
PF People should check out Common—So Common Crawl is this kind of like low key project that is a complete—it’s a relatively huge spidering of the web saved in a giant Amazon file system, meaning that like you can download billions of URLs.
RZ It’s the web.
PF It’s like what Google would use to make a search index.
RZ It’s a copy of the web.
PF It’s a copy of the web. And different than archive.org cuz this is designed for like, “I’m gonna pull it down and start messing with it.”
RZ How big is it?
PF It’s like probably a petabyte now. Like it’s huge.
PF Not as big—Google has everything, right? It’s a fraction of that but nonetheless like—
RZ It’s huge.
PF If you were going to start and do this you’re looking at years of computer time.
PF To make it work and have a good index and so—
RZ And what’s beautiful is today, I mean, it’s 70 dollars worth of Western Digital external hard drives [no, I know] and you could put the whole web on it.
PF You can get the whole thing. It’s not tractable. It’s hard to work with, it’s not like a database you can be like, “Get me all the URLs and start with blah blah blah,” it’s like it is a chore.
RZ I see.
PF Nonetheless, here you have like I could download millions and millions of web pages and create my own spider on top of them: LinkedIn, stuff like that. Right?
RZ Mm hmm.
PF I don’t even know if they have LinkedIn, I’m assuming they do cuz they crawl.
PF And so I could hit LinkedIn’s pages but I could also just go ahead and get Common Crawl or go spider LinkedIn as a spider and then release that data somewhere and so on. This is how you build things on top of an open web. You can’t take that away from me.
RZ I think that’s the crux of it.
PF If you want an innovative tech economy that’s built on open platforms and standards which worked real good the first time, actually.
RZ Boy, did it. I mean trillions in value was created, right?
PF You know what I realized? You and I went down yesterday, we had a big meeting at a skyscraper and we looked out the window. You know how much all the real estate is worth in New York City?
RZ How much?
PF It’s like 1.8 trillion dollars.
RZ Ok, that’s a lot.
PF Yeah. You know how much Google’s worth?
RZ More than that.
PF No, it’s about 800 billion.
PF Ok, so think about . . . Like that’s the market cap today. And the real estate is from 2014. So, you know, we’re jugg—but everything south of Canal Street in Manhattan, like the most expensive real estate in the world, some of it, right?
PF That’s like search or Android. Like that’s what that’s equivalent to.
RZ It’s like Google Docs.
RZ The Upper East Side is Google Sheets.
PF Google Docs is definitely Park Slope.
PF Yeah, you gotta go out to Brooklyn for Google Docs [chuckling, Rich laughing]. That’s not an earner. Not compared to like search advertising.
RZ Wait, the Upper East Side is Google Keep.
PF Ooh! Ooh! God! Yorkville.
RZ No offence to either the Upper East Side or Google Keep.
PF So it’s just sort of like—
RZ No, I hear ya. It’s massive value was created on this open platform.
PF That’s right, we’re trundling around in New York City, which is its own kind of liquid and closed platform. This is the scale we’re talking about. We’re talking about a global mega city.
RZ Businesses love to close the doors behind them.
PF Oh boy, God, do they! This is the heart—
RZ They love doin’ it.
PF I will say that that is the true heartbreak of really loving this stuff over the last 20-some years.
RZ Right, it was the Wild West and little by little—
PF No, I live in the modern world and I use it and I am empowered in lots of ways but if you give my druthers, I’m gonna say Wikipedia [yup] before I’m gonna say any—you know? Something closed.
RZ I mean, look, Paul, Google—I mean Chrome’s incognito mode is filling a void in my life I didn’t know I was able to fill.
PF [Laughs] Well now it’s Firefox [Rich laughing]. Alright so, you know—
RZ Good outcome.
PF Congratulations to HighQ.
RZ Yes. Please don’t look at my profile [chuckling] if you don’t mind.
PF No, I know. Ah, help yourself. Help yourself.
PF And you know actually a little bit of an assertion of the old values of the web [mm hmm]: being something for everybody, an innovation platform that is open to all showing up in the Ninth Circuit court, that’s a good thing.
RZ Yes. I wanna end it with a pro tip.
PF Ok, go.
RZ I think some people know this, many don’t, that when someone looks at your LinkedIn profile, LinkedIn tells the resume person that they did but there is a way to turn that off. As a user, I look at a lot of LinkedIn profiles, as someone that’s hiring a lot of people, I’ve turned it off. You can go in and turn it off so that people don’t know that you went and looked at their profile.
PF Yeah, I’ve done that too.
RZ It’s annoying and it’s a little—
PF Well you have to give up knowing who looked at yours.
RZ And I’m ok with that.
PF Me too.
RZ I don’t care.
PF I—go to town. If you wanna look at my LinkedIn profile, just [yes] go ahead. And connect with me.
RZ But I mean people don’t know it, and sometimes people are trying to be discreet about looking someone up and it’s not discreet.
PF It’s such a creeper of a site.
RZ It’s just greasy.
PF Yeah, it’s not good.
RZ It’s a . . . You’re not supposed to want to wash your hands after using an application.
PF No, of all the sites, the one that’s most likely to like lick your face when you’re asleep—
RZ [Chuckles] Is LinkedIn.
PF Is LinkedIn, yeah. Alright, well, Rich, you know what? We build platforms. If you wanted us to build a new social network to allow people to connect over their jobs—
RZ We’re good at spidering too. We’ll spider whatever you want!
PF We’re actually outstanding at spidering. It’s something people don’t know about us.
PF We have all sorts of parsing and toolkits that we—
RZ What are we, Paul?
PF Oh, I’m really glad you asked [music fades in]. We are a digital products studio and we’re your long term product partner. You come to us and you say, “I need to build a thing.” And, look software never launches. Not really. You can get stuff into an app store and have people using it and their excited about it and then . . . you know what happens? Somebody gives you that three stars.
PF And they go, “This is pretty good but you knoowwww—”
RZ Uh, even success, dude, breeds more software.
PF That’s it!
RZ Success breeds software.
PF You know one of my mottos?
PF You know the only reward for good work?
PF More work.
RZ There you go!
PF That’s software.
RZ That’s some work ethic right there.
PF If you need us to build something for you, we’ll get you there, and then if you need us to stick around and help you, we’ll—you’ll have a team that will build the product with you.
RZ Reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
PF That’s right. If you ever wanna talk to us, like audio wise, we have a phone number for an advice line. So you can just call in . . . ask your question, we will play it on the show and respond to it. That phone number is 904 414 2934. That’s right, that’s the Track Changes Help Line. 904 414 2934. Can’t wait to hear your voice. Alright, Rich, let’s get back to work.
RZ Have a great week.
PF Bye [music ramps up, plays alone for three seconds, fades out to end].