Creatively Speaking: GoodSearch's Ken Ramberg

In 1988, before the Internet was widely available to college students, Ken Ramberg and his mother Connie, founded a service called JobTRAK. Employers would submit job openings to JobTRAK, who would then fax them to college career offices.

They grew profitable through the '90s, using the Web, of course, and were bought out in 2000 by Monster. This was ultimately bad news for JobTRAK (which became MonsterTRAK and then eventually died earlier this year), but good news for the non profit world. Why? Because Ken suddenly had a lot of time on his hands, which he used to found GoodSearch with his sister JJ (host of MSNBC's Your Business).

If you're not yet using GoodSearch to make money for your favorite charity, it's high time you started. The concept is easy: every time you do a search online through their search engine (which is Yahoo's search engine repackaged), or using their toolbar (you don't even have to be on their site), GoodSearch donates 50% of the add revenue they get from the search to the charity of your choice.

Those pennies really ad up if you get a lot of people naming your organization as the beneficiary. And now they've gone and added GoodShop. Whenever you shop online at stores like Target or Amazon (the Apple Store, 1-800-Flowers, the list is endless), a percentage of your total bill goes to said charity. What percentage? That's up to the store. But some retailers will donate up to 30%!

For some more details, plus an insider's look at the amazing search company, check out our interview with founder Ken Ramberg below.

DI: After you sold JOBTRAK to Monster, I can picture you sitting around going: okay, now what am I going to do with my time. Were there other, competing ideas? Or did you know it was going to be Goodsearch from the get go?

KR: After founding and then operating an Internet company for 14 years, I wasn't intending on starting a new business. JOBTRAK was a great success story, but it was a lot of hard work to say the least. However, after reading about the billions of dollars that the major search engines were generating in advertising revenue, I thought, "What if part of that money could be distributed to worthy causes? And more specifically, what if it went to the nonprofits chosen by the users?" It was such an exciting concept that I felt compelled to jump back in.

We launched GoodSearch, our Yahoo-powered search engine, in late 2005 with the promise that 50% of our revenue (which has turned out thus far to be about a penny per search) would be shared with the charities or schools designated by our users. The site has grown quickly and has struck a chord with people who care about making a difference in the world. In fact, 81,000 nonprofits and schools have now signed on and 100 new causes join us each day!

In this economy, especially, when people want to give but may not have the extra funds to do so, we've created a way to "give without giving." As more and more people spread the word, together we have the ability to make a meaningful impact in our communities.

DI: When Goodsearch went live, how much did it differ from what you'd imagined when you first hit on the idea?

KR: Other than adding the GoodShop shopping mall, which we were not contemplating at the time, GoodSearch is pretty much how I imagined it. What continues to inspire me however is the groundswell of support that has developed around the site. From regular people trying to do good in their communities, to celebrities such as Jessica Biel, Jeff Bridges, Rob Thomas, and Montel Williams who volunteered to make promotional videos for us, the site has taken on a life of its own.

DI: You've now added an exciting new feature, so people can raise money for their favorite charities by shopping online. How does it work, exactly?

KR: In 2007 we expanded our concept by creating GoodShop, an online shopping mall which donates a percentage of each sale to the shopper's cause. More than 1,300 of the very best merchants have joined our effort including Amazon, Nike, Staples, Dell and Best Buy to name a few.

To use GoodShop, you simply select your favorite charity and then click on the logo of any of our partner stores. Each merchant not only makes a substantial donation to your cause, but they've also provided us with thousands of money saving coupons and special offers.

DI: So if I pick up some books at Amazon, and the total comes to $40, what percentage of that is going to my designated charity?

KR: 1.5% of your Amazon purchase will go to your designated charity. To give you a few other examples, 7% from each order at 1-800-Flowers, 4% from Nike and 2% from Dell is donated. Other stores and services are donating 30% or more!

DI: What are a couple of the real big success stories?

KR: The successes are spread across the board. The ASPCA has earned more than $27,000, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation more than $11,000 and Save Darfur more than $11,000.

What's equally exciting is when a smaller organization such as the Blind Cat Rescue in North Carolina, which has earned $3,500, wrote to us saying how vital the money was to continuing their day-to-day operations. Another cause, the Bubel/Aiken Foundation which helps children with disabilities, used part of the $12,000 they've earned to send a group of kids to camp this summer.

DI: Talk a little bit about this cool, new downloadable tool bar. What's the idea behind it?

KR: Thanks for asking. Our new toolbar makes it so that you don't even have to come to our site to earn a donation for your cause. This is a real game changer! You can search the Internet directly from the toolbar and when you shop at any of our partner stores, the donation is automatically generated. It really doesn't get any easier than this.

Our hope is that millions of people will download the GoodSearch/GoodShop toolbar. Don't let your friends or relatives shop without it!!

DI: Does it work on all browsers?

KR: Right now, the toolbar works on IE and Firefox.

DI: What's the hardest part about getting people to switch from their favorite search engine to Goodsearch?

KR: Once people see our sites, they're generally hooked. Everyone has a cause they care about and there's no easier way to lend their support. Our biggest challenge is getting the word out. We've been very fortunate to have been featured in The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Good Morning America, CNN and other press outlets, however our biggest traffic driver still comes from friends telling friends about us.

DI: What's next for you guys?

KR: Right now we're working hard on spreading the word about our toolbar. We're asking everyone to get their friends, family and workmates to download the toolbar, pick a favorite charity and then do some good when they search or shop online.

Just think of the potential if office managers around the country downloaded the toolbar. When they then purchased their company's office supplies online at Staples, OfficeDepot, OfficeMax, etc. the donations would quickly add up!

DI: Planing a vacation from all this?

KR: I'd love to say that we'll be getting some rest soon, but the work that we're doing is just too important. We'll keep working hard until the question "Who do you GoodSearch for?" is part of the vernacular.

Creatively Speaking: MeetingBoy

Read on to win a new Meeting Boy wall calendar!

We have a nice interview/contest today with someone you need to know about if you don't already. PC World named him one of the 10 Funniest People On Twitter. Like Racer X, no one really knows who MeetingBoy is, but whoever is behind this madness is one hilarious, talented fella. Tweeting out quips and one-liners, he's amassed close to 80,000 followers on Twitter as @MeetingBoy. I first got to know him (well, as much as you can know a masked-man) after he re-tweeted a Twaggie (illustrated tweet) we did off one of his tweets over on my start-up,

Then one day, MeetingBoy asked me if I'd like to give away one of his new MeetingBoy wall calendars in a contest. I said sure, under one condition: he do the following interview. So read the interview and follow the contest rules at the bottom of this post. We'll pick one tweet/comment at random and send you the calendar in time for Christmas! Good luck!

DI: First of all, where do you take your meetings? Tell us about your day job.

MB: I work in a glass & steel high rise in New York with lots of lazy idiots. The managers spout buzzwords to impress each other, and my boss is a clueless, bullying hypocrite more concerned with covering his own ass than getting things done. Does that narrow it down?

I am stuck in 3-5 meetings a day, so if there’s a way to waste someone’s time, I’ve seen it. And I’m sick of it. I must have really bad karma to deserve this. I must have been something truly awful in a former life, like maybe a manager or CEO.

@MeetingBoy: 125 PowerPoint slides? Well, I hope you're not presenting a case for how efficient our department is.

@MeetingBoy: Definition of insanity: holding the same meeting with the same people every week and expecting different results.

@MeetingBoy: Four meetings today. And then later, no doubt, a meeting with my boss about how I'm not getting anything done.

@MeetingBoy: I'm confused by this article about Bernie Madoff. I thought "white collar prison" was just a euphemism for my office.

@MeetingBoy: 7 hour conference call, though my lawyer says I'll be paroled in 6 with good behavior.

DI: How’d all this Meeting Boy stuff get started? Walk us through the early days.

MB: Since my biggest pet peeve in meetings is people who ramble on and on, Twitter was the right place for me to vent. The forced brevity was just right. If only I could force the people who write PowerPoint presentations to stick to 140 characters instead of 140 slides!

I’d been on Twitter before, but mentions of work had become a problem once people knew I was tweeting and started following me in the office. After I got a new boss last year, I created the MeetingBoy account so I would stop hearing about it. Since then I only tweet under my own name after hours.

@MeetingBoy: I'm married to my job. I don't love it. It was a shotgun wedding; I had knocked up my credit cards with all sorts of debt.

Early on as MeetingBoy, I was getting positive responses. People identified with my complaints-- in fact the most common response to MeetingBoy is “do you work at my company?”

Of course I hate buzzwords, and so many of my rants result from sitting through an hour of them. The word I hate the most is “robust”:

@MeetingBoy: At the end of the day I think we can all agree how tired the phrase "at the end of the day" is.

@MeetingBoy: When the revolution comes, I'm shooting everyone who says "robust". Well, except the coffee roasters.

DI: When did your first little break happen?

MB: Last October, PC World named me as one of the 10 Funniest People On Twitter. My following increased dramatically as a result. This was a huge surprise to me. I had no idea I had broken out of the Favstar community of internet jokers. After that my friends who weren’t on Twitter insisted I start cross-posting my material to Facebook and so they could follow along too.

DI: And then your big break?

MB: Earlier this year someone at Twitter added me to their Suggested Users - Funny list. I was pretty excited; after all, as my friend said, “It sure beats being on the Suggested Users - Not Funny list.”

Though some people would say my “big break” was when I got a boss that didn’t get my sense of humor, forcing me to put more of it on the internet. Speaking of my boss:

@MeetingBoy: We have high expectations for him - he got his MBA in business jargon from Wharton.

@MeetingBoy: You're right. It was wrong of me to question how another layer of paperwork would speed up the process. I apologize.

@MeetingBoy: Hey, everybody! My boss is running a special on poorly thought out, unworkable ideas today. The discount code is YESSIR.

@MeetingBoy: "Dumb it down. Remember, you're presenting it to management."

@MeetingBoy: "I didn't read the executive summary you sent. Can you just put the idea in a few quick sentences and send it to me? Thanks."

@MeetingBoy: New line on my job description: "maintain high morale". Told HR I could do it, but not if my boss keeps trying to motivate me.

@MeetingBoy: My boss is very susceptible to food poisoning. Apparently this occurs when he stays out late drinking.

@MeetingBoy: The boss sent an email at 11:30 "reminding" everyone that he's working from home today. He sent it from his Blackberry.

DI: Did you set out to achieve Internet fame or did the idea sort of take over by itself?

MB: I set out to vent about work in an amusing way, in part because I was so annoyed at how people in the office reacted to my being on Twitter. I certainly had no idea how to get people to write about me or who at Twitter to sweet-talk to get them to recommend me.

Being famous and anonymous is a little odd though. None of the benefits of fame have come my way. I’m not getting a better table at Sparks or celebrity gift bags at the Oscars. And no matter how many followers I have, I’m still stuck in the same meetings every day.

I would like to see a MeetingBoy calendar make an appearance on The Office. Seems like something Jim Halpert would have (though since he gave up his office, I’m not sure where he’d put it). Or maybe Michael Scott because he’s a “cool boss” and none of it applies to him..

DI: Talk about the tweets themselves. Mostly they are things you think up in these meetings every day?

MB: They are responses to things that happen in meetings. Or things I wish I could say. In a few cases I’ve actually said these things. Of course the names have been removed to protect the boring, the rude, the jargon-spewing types, the lazy, the bullies, and the people with “bad grammer”.

@MeetingBoy: I know, I know, but if your idea is so good, why hasn't some VP passed it off as their own yet?

@MeetingBoy: Sorry, I have to leave your meeting. I have something I need to do. I need to not be bored to death.

@MeetingBoy: This PowerPoint needs an art director? Wow! I never thought I'd say this to you, lady, but you're overthinking this.

@MeetingBoy: That email you claim I never sent you? Here it is. Along with your REPLY TO IT.

@MeetingBoy: No, I wasn't playing Devil's Advocate. I really think your idea is stupid.

@MeetingBoy: You are mean, incompetent, and ignorant. Life did not hand you lemons; life handed you CONSEQUENCES.

DI: But other times I see you attributing the tweets to other authors/publishers. How does that work?

MB: Sometimes I see a tweet that I wish I wrote. Other times my followers send me one I missed. Either way, if it’s something I think my audience would appreciate, I share it. After all, I don’t want to be like that guy in my office who thinks the only good ideas are the ones he thinks of.

For example, some of my favorite tweets that someone else wrote are:

@swimparallel: I've recovered from my death sickness. Now I'm back in the office. It feels like a lateral move.

@summersumz: Evaluating data, making conclusions. LIVING THE DREAM!

@kerissmithJA: Your cc list doesn’t scare me. I still refuse to respond to your email.

DI: So now you have this cool wall calendar. How’d that come about?

MB: A friend makes up a calendar with photos of his family, which I dutifully hang in my cube. I thought it would be cool to have a MeetingBoy calendar. I’d hoped to make a 365-page-a-day calendar, which I think would really work for my short quips, but I couldn’t find a way to publish it. So I went with a wall calendar, and asked for illustrators among my followers.

Of course once I had printed the calendar, I realized I couldn’t possibly put the calendar on my desk. I can’t have my boss or coworkers know that I’m MeetingBoy, and it’s probably better if they don’t even know he exists. Clearly I hadn’t thought this through.

I think the calendar makes a great Secret Santa gift. I think coworkers across the English-speaking world would love to get one.

Calendar available for sale online at

DI: Have you learned any profound lessons going through the self-publishing process?

MB: I’ve learned that self-publishing isn’t very profitable. I’ve been very happy with all the illustrations I got, though paying for them before I sell the calendar has made money tight.

I was going to try to sell them directly myself over the internet, but I couldn’t be sure that my secret identity would be safe. Luckily one of the illustrators owns a comic shop and they agreed to carry it for internet sales.

And I’d still like to make a 365-page-a-day calendar if anyone knows how to go about that.

DI: What’s next for you and what’s your ultimate goal?

MB: Next up I’m starting to do regular illustrated tweets on Of course I can’t draw, so I’m using some of the same illustrators from the calendar, and any new ones I pick up along the way.

My ultimate goal is to be the boss on The Office after Steve Carrell leaves at the end of this season. Though I would also accept President Obama declaring my birthday, June 23rd, to be a national holiday, maybe National Out-of-the-Office Day. Write your congressman to make it happen.

DI: Will you always hide your true identity Meeting Boy? Or will we one day find out you’re actually Racer X’s older brother?

MB: I can’t reveal my identity without losing my job and potentially risking never working again. After all, who would hire MeetingBoy? A surly, sarcastic person who will mock your every shortcoming on the internet to tens of thousands of people. Even I might balk at hiring that guy. He kind of sounds like a loose cannon.

Okay, contest time! Of all the tweets mentioned in this post, by MeetingBoy or someone else, which would you like to see illustrated on RT it with the hashtag #twaggies and we'll pick one of you at random to get the calender. If you're not on Twitter, leave your vote in the comments below. The tweet with the most RTs will also get twagged on twaggies, too!

For my interviews with Jason Alexander, Monty Hall, Mitch Albom, xkcd and more, browse through past Creatively Speaking archives here >>

A chat with Jeff Garlin

Jeff Garlin co-stars and executive produces the HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. The unique comedy, which is one of the rare television shows to become part of the national zeitgeist, stars Seinfeld creator Larry David, with Garlin portraying his loyal manager. Born and raised in Chicago and then South Florida, Garlin studied filmmaking and began performing stand-up comedy while at the University of Miami. He has toured the country as a stand-up comedian, is an alumnus of Chicago's Second City Theatre, and has written and starred in three critically acclaimed solo shows. I was fortunate enough to get this interview with him when he spoke at an event a charity I work with produced.

DI: Which do you prefer: writing, directing, or producing?

JG: I prefer to direct what I write.

DI: If you were to retire, what would you do with your time?

JG: Nap and eat puddin'.

DI: What's your favorite food?

JG: Puddin'.

DI: Of all the comedians and actors you've worked with over the years, who has been the most enjoyable.

JG: Larry David.

DI: Is Larry David as obnoxious in real life as he is on the show?

JG: See my answer above.

DI: What's the biggest difference between Chicago and L.A.?

JG: Human contact. In Chicago you get it on a regular basis.

DI: What's one of your favorite films?

JG: Sullivan's Travels by Preston Sturges.

DI: If you could have lunch with anyone deceased, who would it be?

JG: My grandfather Harold.

DI: Who's your idol?

JG: My wife.

DI: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

JG: A comedian.

DI: Where do you like to go to unwind when you're not working?

JG: Wherever my wife tells me.

DI: If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would it be?

JG: The street names.

DI: Shakespeare wrote: "Brevity is the soul of wit." What do you think the essence of comedy is?

JG: A plate of fresh cornbread.

DI: I heard you studied law in college and almost graduated before deciding to pursue a career in comedy. Do you think you would have been a good lawyer?

JG: That's on and it's not true. I studied film.

DI: What's more difficult: performing stand-up comedy before a live audience or performing on camera?

JG: Actually, my personal life is harder.

DI: Do you own an iPod? If so, what's the most unusual music you've got on it?

JG: Chin Ho soundbites from Hawaii Five-0.

DI: Who is the funniest comedian of all-time?

JG: Jack Benny.


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