There are two types of people in the digital measurement space. Those that have had the pleasure of meeting Jason Thompson, and those who have not. I count myself lucky to be in the first group! I met Jason last year, first via twitter and then in person at Omniture Summit and then again at XChange 2010. He is as he seems. A genuine, honest, and all around great guy. A few months back Jason started a great interview series on his blog. I was fortunate enough to get to participate in one of these interviews. And I had such a great experience I asked Jason about turning the tables and giving him 10 questions to answer. He was more than willing to do it. So, no matter which of the two types of digital measurement folk you might be, I hope you will enjoy the interview below and learn a little bit more about someone who I proudly count among my friends.
1) What is it about the digital measurement industry that gets your blood going, and helps power you through the day?
JT: Everyday presents a new challenge. Our industry is so young and fluid that many of us find ourselves, to steal a term coined by Pittsburgh Steelers broadcaster Myron Cope, taking on the role of “slash”. The term “slash” in football is used to describe players who have the unique ability to play Quarterback/Running Back/Wide Receiver/Punt Returner/Punter/Safety. I know when I get up in the morning, that I can be called on to play many different roles throughout the day such as Marketer/Analyst/Developer/Digital Strategist/Implementer/Statistician. How can the thought of that NOT get you pumped up for the day?
2) In a span of a few months you moved from questioning the value of the Web Analytics Association to serving as a committee chair on the brand new Advocacy committee. Can describe this journey?
JT: There is a quote that I first heard in college by Dr. Timothy Leary that really touched me and has had a profound impact on the way I live my life. He said, “To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself.”
Just because the Web Analytics Association (WAA) was actively setting the rules and regulations for our industry didn’t mean that I was going to blindly accept their view of reality. I had to question, poke, and prod. I still to this day question the value of the WAA however I came to a crossroads in my journey where I would either become an active participant in an effort to help shape things based on my view of reality or to completely write off the WAA as having no impact on the digital measure industry. At that point it was simple, I wanted my voice to be heard.
3) What keeps you awake at night?
JT: It seems that when my body is ready to calm down and rest for the night, my mind gets set to ludicrous speed, which makes for a wonderful state of insomnia. I think my mom recognized this at an early age, as she would put me to sleep listening to old time radio shows like ‘Tales of the Texas Rangers’, ‘The Shadow’, and ‘Sergeant Preston of the Yukon’, in an attempt to keep my mind occupied.
Typically I lay awake at night thinking about possible solutions to the day’s problems. There have been many nights in a state of not really being awake but not really being asleep where an elegant solution has been worked out in my mind, and that is why a notebook and pen, albeit not an astronaut pen, is always at my bedside.
4) I know you want to retire to the cabin in the woods, but let’s say you decide to keep working a few more years. Where do you you see yourself in 5 years?
JT: If the past is any predictor of the future, I will be working in digital technology at an extremely small company. My first job out of college I was at Novell, which at the time was well over 5,000 employees. I then ended up at Omniture where there were under 300 employees when I left. Spark Networks came in right around 100 employees and Numeric Analytics around 30. So it looks like in 5 years, I will be working in a 2-3 person company, which would be a dream come true for me.
As far as what I’ll be doing then? I’ll probably still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up but I feel myself leaning more and more in the direction of digital brand strategy. Ever since I got turned onto The Thunder Show, I have been fascinated with the art of developing both personal and business related brands.
5) You win a business lottery, but there is a catch. The money must be spent to create a new business within the digital measurement space. What area would you focus on, and what kind of team would you assemble?
JT: The once clearly defined line between the online world and the offline world is quickly fading as the majority of our online time is spent on mobile devices. I lay awake at night, excited about the possibility of optimizing the offline shopping experience through lessons we have learned measuring and optimizing eCommerce sites. Brick and mortar, turns into click and mortar, which turns back into brick and mortar, on a large enough scale everything is cyclical. I have a lot of crazy ideas about how the shopping cart of the future, with the one wobbly wheel, looks and operates.
I would assemble a very small and agile team that consists of a strategist, someone that consistently executes, and someone who can keep up organized and focused.
6) What is you favorite passage from any book?
JT: Tao Te Ching, Chapter 44
Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive?
If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
7) One of your favorite, well one of your frequent comments on twitter is “It’s not about you, it’s about the community” What drives you to post that?
JT: As you probably know by now, I can be very opinionated and I have no problem getting in your face if you say something that I vehemently disagree with. It seems that more often than not, those disagreements come up when I see individuals going out of their way to shine their own light. Not a single one of us is more important than the community, it’s not about me or you, it’s about us. However, I’ll be the first to admit that the ‘in your face aggression’ approach isn’t always the best way to handle things. So now when I find myself getting upset about something someone has tweeted about, rather than getting up in their grill, I’ll simply tweet “it’s not about you, it’s about the community” and then let it go.
8 ) What is the terminal velocity of an unladen swallow?
JT: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?
I don’t know if I should admit this but in high school I was a thespian and there was a group of us that would frequently get together to watch Monty Python films — ‘The Holy Grail’, ‘The Meaning of Life’, and my all time favorite ‘The Life of Brian.’ And the answer to you question is yes, we would also get together to reenact and film using an over-sized VHS camcorder, our favorite scenes. That probably helps to partially explain why my mind is so warped and demented.
9) Photography and cooking are two of your other passions in life. How did you become interested in those areas?
JT: Both my mom and my grandfather are amazing artists, I remember being a very young boy accompanying my mom to the studio to watch her paint. Somehow that talent skipped my generation but I still had a burning desire to express myself visually so photography just seemed a natural fit. I would experiment with my mom’s SLR but found it very limiting and then everything changed when I purchased my first digital camera, you know the one that took a 3.5” floppy disk. With digital photography I was free to experiment without the fear of every photo I took having to be developed. I learned as much as I could through practice and then one day I was fortunate enough to run into Kevin Winzeler while we were both working at Omniture. He is one of the most amazing photographers I know and he shared his knowledge freely, he took my photography to a whole other level. If you go back through my Flickr stream, you can clearly identify my photos as Before Kevin and After Kevin.
Cooking is my real passion. If you hadn’t hamstrung me in question 5, the answer immediately would have been to open a small restaurant. It’s hard not to become interested in cooking when you grow up in an Italian family. Wait, since when is Thompson Italian? Well, Italians are very strong willed people and so my mom’s side of the family, the Buffo’s, have had the greatest influence on me. Every major life event is celebrated with food. I would spend hours in the kitchen watching my mom and grandmother prepare meals. I just instantly took to it, although looking back those first few meals I cooked were probably choked down lovingly by my family and friends. As I already confessed, I can’t paint so the plate become my canvas.
10) Top 5 most important things to you? And why?
JT: 1) My family. Without my family, nothing else really matters.
2) My friends. True friends are so hard to find but when you find them you know. They pull you down when you start thinking you are more important than you are and they are they are the first to answer the call when you are in need.
3) Food. It is the one thing that I have found that binds us regardless of where we are from or what we believe.
4) Being content. When I am able to let go of desire, all things are at peace.
5) Charity. I have found that the more I give, the wealthier I become — and we aren’t talking about money here 🙂
Want to learn more about Jason? Check out his blog or find him on twitter.