TNG/Earthling: NYC Is Where We Want To Be

By Tony Haskel 4/20/2021

We wish to give credit to TNG/Earthling, Inc. - the company responsible for the technical work required to create this archive and the extraordinary high ranks it achieved in Google, which is very likely the reason you were able to find it.

TNG/Earthling is headquartered on the Upper West Side, a block from Central Park, in one of Manhattan's family friendly residential neighborhoods. CEO Bob Sakayama lives a short 5 block walking commute away in the same neighborhood.

It's April 2021 and New York City is just starting to feel like it might begin to emerge from the COVID pandemic. Lots of folks on the Upper West Side have been or are about to be vaccinated. The weather has turned away from the winter's cold and people are once again eager to go outdoors. The avenues have been ostensibly narrowed by temporary shelters housing outdoor seating for the restaurants that have been unable to serve customers indoors until just recently, but they're starting to become very busy. Practically everyone you see outside, even in the parks, is wearing at least one mask.

I sat down on a bench, appropriately distanced from Bob Sakayama, CEO of TNG/Earthling, Inc. to find out how his premier search consultancy is weathering the pandemic. He is very upbeat about both NYC and business in general. "Those who predict the death of NYC are going to be proven so wrong! Some things have been lost, and some will take a while to come back, but this is a place that is only going to change for the better over time. A true center of art and culture with a spiritual heart of the world unlike any other place. Our work is online, so we can be anywhere, but we choose to be here - we draw on its energy and vibe to motivate and inspire us. Some of our clients have had to cut back, but they anticipate a resurgence. Some are actually doing better because the pandemic actually advantaged them. For us, revenue is a bit down from our record year, but overall we're thriving and intend to stay and enjoy the life that only New York City can offer. The opportunities are here and this is where we want to be."

When I asked him what opportunities are here he admitted that he wasn't speaking about potential clients. "None of our clients are currently based in NYC. That may change, but we're not here to be closer to clients. In fact, before the pandemic kept everyone home, we worked for 3 months of the year from other locations, usually remote and beautiful settings in the Caribbean, near national parks, or just places with great views and a good internet connection. Because our work is internet based, proximity to clients is meaningless. So by "opportunities" I mean the ability to have a home base in a culturally rich, artistically influenced environment where the chance of finding inspiration is very high. I sometimes get energized just walking down the street. I know there are other places that meet these requirements, but New York City is definitely a special place and my roots are here - raised my kids here, started multiple businesses here, learned about the world from what I consider one of the most interesting centers of civilization."

"COVID really put a damper on all the great things we enjoy doing - from simple things like finding great restaurants and attending events, museums to being able to travel and explore the beauty of our planet. I don't have a plan for post pandemic business - will probably just be a continuation of what we're doing now, which is serving clients and having fun learning, developing capabilities, experimenting with new tactics."

I was very curious about something I heard from spokesperson Rev Sale - that TNG does not even have a corporate website and does no marketing. I asked Bob to speak to this. He at first declined, saying it was not something he even thought about, but when pressed he said it was very unimportant. "We're just very lucky that we don't have to pursue business. In that regard we live a charmed life. But not having website is not the way it always has been. We've had many. is probably the most robust of our legacy sites - and I stopped posting there in 2014 when I realized that the biggest readership was probably our competitors. We also had where we posted for many years during a time when Google was actively penalizing sites for over-optimization triggered by Google's own lack of attention to what kind of links they permitted to advance ranks. And we generated a lot of business from these websites, so it's not entirely accurate to say we never had any online presence."

I reminded him that there was not or any other branded platform. "True, but there was and is, the development website for Protocol, our search enabled content management system. We don't even attempt to sell that - we give it away to clients if they want it, so it's hardly a business. The whole branding thing is something that we no longer need - our client base grows completely via word of mouth, and we're not trying to grow a giant enterprise. The one thing we focus on is not marketing, but sharpening our competitive edge, and we do that by running rank experiments. We have a number of them running all the time and they provide us with information you cannot get by reading the blogs. Since we no longer post the results on a "corporate website" all that information remains proprietary. TNG/E funds these experiments at significant cost to us but the payback in terms of knowledge and experience is so worth that investment."

What are some of those experiments? The most well known one is the "Nothing" experiment, where his team is attempting to rank for that word. Google shows about 2 billion documents in that search, so it's not going to be a walk in the park. Instead of answering the question, Bob is clearly excited to be learning more about machine learning, and using artificial intelligence to improve search search performance and developmental processes for his clients. He's excited to be on the waiting list to get the api for GPT-3 (generative pre-trained transformer, version3), which is a language based AI module - it generates English language responses to prompts. That could be useful in creating content, email messages, or written q&a, etc. "There's definitely a place for this technology in what we do, and some of our experiments will hopefully help us determine what that role will be. It's exciting to even be considering this and definitely going to be lot of fun to incorporate into the routine!"

It's pretty obvious that fun is one of the critical motivators at this unusual tech oriented consultancy.


tony at