Tour a Start-up's Office: The Gawker edition. Gawker Media, the parent company behind blogs like Valleywag and io9, has been experiencing a growth spurt of 40 percent year-over-year. Now Silicon Alley Insider takes us inside CEO Nick Denton's "steampunk" headquarters in downtown New York as part of its new tour a startup photo feature. What should you expect from inside the belly of the blogging beast?: A couch straight out of the Matrix, a roof deck for courting advertisers, the requisite glass-walled conference room, and a "comfortingly familiar" library-like atmosphere to soothe recent college grads.

The myth of Cyber Monday. Online advertising company Permuto offers up an interesting infographic on the history of Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving which is the online equivalent of Black Friday. Also known as every e-retailers' favorite day. The term, which has now become part of our cultural lexicon, was reportedly first mentioned in a press release from Shop.org on November 21, 2005. Contrary to popular belief, Cyber Monday is not the biggest online shopping or spending day of the year. In fact, that day typically occurs sometime between December 5 and 15th. However, Permuto theorizes that the ever-growing hype over Cyber Monday may lead to a self-fulfilling prophesy in which this year's day may actually become the biggest online shopping day of the holiday season. (Hat tip to Digg.)

E-commerce health is either thriving or diving. About those e-retailers: two reports released this week are painting vastly different pictures of the online retail landscape, with one estimating that e-commerce saw a 2 percent drop in Q3 and the other charting expected 8 percent growth in November and December compared to last year. So who to believe? There's no easy answer according to the Wall Street Journal. comScore and Forrester Research, who respectively churned out the conflicting numbers use dramatically different approaches to evaluate online shopping. comScore measures the behavior of a large body of volunteers while Forrester surveys consumers and retailers as well as pooling data on things like Google ads to flesh out the picture. Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru pointed to Amazon, which is predicting Q4 growth between 21 and 35 percent, to bolster the group's findings. "The entire rest of the industry would have to be really negative" to lead to a down quarter, she said.

Boston vs. Seattle vs. Boulder: how does the climate for tech startups measure up? peHUB points to a thoughtful post from Seattle business blog Xconomy which has the highlights from a VC panel comparing startup culture in different cities. Boulder has the nation's highest per capita of computer scientists and PhDs--not to mention a wealth of executive leadership imported in during the dotcom boom--but around 2003 the "endless cocktail party circuit" got stale, says the Foundry Group's Brad Feld. He launched Tech Stars, a seed fund and mentorship program, to make first-time entrepreneurs the new core of the ecosystem--partnering them with experienced founders and energizing the community in the process. Chris Sheehan from CommonAngels said Boston has a deep bench of entrepreneurs, and the wealth created from startups is being reinvested via VCs. But "the dispersed ecosystem" makes things difficult, which is why clusters are forming in the city around mobile, gaming, Web, e-commerce, tech, and marketing. In Seattle it looks like the next wave of angels and entrepreneurs will likely come out of Amazon, but Steve Hall of Vulcan Capital was frank about the city's perceived shortcomings. "People outside Seattle, particularly fund investors, believe that Seattle is a little too nice. We enjoy our lifestyle too much. Boulder may have a little of this as well. That doesn't build the most competitive companies when you've got people in the Valley who live and breathe this for sport."

Calling all NYC entrepreneurs. The New York Public Library's Science, Industry, and Business wing has announced their first annual New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition for any aspiring Big Apple entrepreneurs. The winner will receive $15,000 to help start their business, while other cash awards totaling $28,000 are also available to runners-up. In addition to the money, entrants will also receive orientations and business mentoring. Full details and due dates can be found here.

Chairs that Tweet. The hip furniture maker Blu Dot picked a novel marketing campaign to celebrate the first anniversary of its New York City store. The company placed 25 blue chairs, which retail for $129 each, in New York City and let people grab the free samples. The catch? Each chair has a cell phone with a GPS chip attached to the bottom. When someone picks one up and takes it home, the chair sends a Twitter message with its location. The second catch? If you grab a chair, you get followed by a video crew and interviewed for a promotional video. But you get to keep the chair! Fast Company has some nice pictures of the campaign and asks, justifiably, "But is it marketing?" We're not sure either, but the promotion is working well as a PR stunt.

Unemployment hits 26 year high. The unemployment rate hit 10 percent last month, for the first time since 1983. The Wall Street Journal has the historic (and depressing) news, but notes that it could be worse. Only 190,000 jobs were lost last month, compared to 741,000 jobs lost in January. Welcome to your jobless recovery.

Employers who are hiring consider their options. Despite those abysmal unemployment numbers, some small companies are actually switching to hiring mode. But should that new employee be hired full-time, temporarily, or as a contracted position? The AP reports that despite the onerous responsibilities that come with hiring someone on staff--from federal and state labor laws, workers compensation insurance, and employment taxes like Social Security and medicare--hiring full-time employees is the often best way to build the business for the long-term. Said Arlene Vernon, president of the Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based HR consulting firm, HRx Inc., "If you know you're growing, then find someone who's really committed. They're going to think for the benefit of the organization."

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