Saturday, March 31, 2012

Girls Around Me: following in real life is called stalking

A new app Girls Around Me does one thing.  It alerts you women who are near you by combining Facebook and Foursquare check-in data and lay them on top of Google Maps.  It lets you know their name, photos and you can send them messages according to The Daily Mail.  Fortunately folks at Foursquare and Apple took a notice, and pulled the Foursquare API access and took the app down from iTunes.

Girls Around Me is a socially awkward Google Latitude
with Foursquare and Facebook integration
It's interesting to see how people have been reacting to this socially awkward app.  The app is not much different from recent SXSW darling Highlight.  Just like Highlight, you get to discover people around you.  One difference is that Highlight alerts you of people you might share something in common while Girls Around Me alerts any woman who might be around you.  Technically both provide similar functions.  But most people will agree that one sounds interesting and the other creepy. Why?

It's because of privacy.  Idea of revealing information about where you are to strangers without your knowing is a very unsettling one.  It is especially true when subscriber to my information is someone who intends to follow me in real life.  Subscriber knows who I am, but I do not.  This is uneven playing field sure to create some fear on part of being followed.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Smartphone is the new majority

Yesterday Nielsenwire released an article about surging smartphones in U.S.  Close to half of all mobile phones in U.S. are smartphones.  Since that was February data, there could be more smartphones than feature phones now.  Trend is clear.  Smartphones will be the new majority as number of feature phones dwindles down.
We are at singularity point; feature phone is new VHS cassette

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Online data privacy

Whenever we get online, we can be tracked.  Each time you visit a webpage, the website can map our registration information to all pages on the website that we visited .  If we get referred to the website through search engine, the website can also find out what search keywords were used.  When we consider most of websites require cookie, we are leaving lots of information for websites to capture and analyze.

FTC is urging companies to develop support for 'do not track' option;
I welcome that initiative

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How do you discover your news?

There are many sources of information.  Yet not all sources are created equal.  Some sources give you breaking news, while others don't.  Some sources have better coverage than others in certain topics.  Some are created by media companies, while others are authored and curated by crowd.  Because there are so much richness in available sources, we have to rely on our sources and curators to filter out signals from noises.

These days I find myself getting my news from three different types.

1. Online news outlet i.e. Google News

2. News media such as NPR, WSJ, NYTimes, Times, Newsweek, Forbes, Fast Company

3. Social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn News, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Interest

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

KQED Forum: Gearing Up on Innovation

This morning KQED Forum had Vijay Vaitheeswaran discussing how to gear up for innovation in 21st century.  Vijay is a global correspondent for The Economist.  He has been serving that post for 20 years covering environment and energy to innovation and health issues.

Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran;
he recently released a new book
"Need, Speed, and Greed"
Michael Krasny, the host of Forum, and Vijay covered a range of topics.  Vijay's key message was how we should prepare ourselves for coming innovation-driven era.  Future industries will be more about innovation regardless of the industry, and working on problems to which answers are unknown.  Thinking outside the box, collaborating creatively and innovative thought process are more important than staying within lines and following directions.  To prepare future generation, we must educate our children with new challenges ahead.

If you missed the broadcast, you can listen to streaming below.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Product Management: Data-driven PM on Prezi

One of the sessions that I missed at SVPCamp last Saturday was a session called Data-Driven Product Management by Ritu Narayan, Group Product Manager at eBay.  I got to see the presentation today.  It was interesting in two aspects.

First was her material.  Many product managers tend to be not as methodical about metrics as sales and marketing.  I think it's partly because of most PMs grow into the job and don't have necessary background to start data-driven process.  It could also be in part because of PMs are already overloaded with doing market research, defining a product, coordinating with engineering, releasing the product and enabling internal/external members on the product.  Whatever the case may be establishing these metrics will be a good thing to have especially as organization starts to scale.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Business Insider: Future of Mobile

Business Insider released slides regarding Future of Mobile last Thursday.  Everyone knows that mobile is changing the personal computing landscape.  Yet it's eye-opening to see all data presented in a single slide deck.  Kudos to Business Insider for putting it together in the context.

Some key takeaways for me were following:

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Product Management: Minimum Viable Product

I was at 5th annual SVPCamp today.  There were several hundreds of product managers, entrepreneurs, programmers and designers to share ideas and network.  It was my second time at the event.  It felt great to connect with fellow product managers in Silicon Valley.  For those of you who missed SVPCamp 2012, I highly recommend that you attend the next year event.  I found that SVPCamp is the single best event for product managers to network and exchange ideas about product management challenges.

Your job as product manager is to strike the balance
between bare-bone minimum and
what will be acceptable in the market
This year there were several sessions around minimum viable product (MVP).  Discussions ranged from what MVP is, how to use it to reduce risk of launching a new product and what best practice looks like.  It looked like most of product managers and entrepreneurs were learning how to put together MVP on the job.

After listening to a couple of sessions and having some time to digest, I wanted to share my view on MVP.  As for slides from MVP-related sessions, I'll share the link once they come up.  For now, these are what I found to be key points of MVP through listening and mapping them to my own experience about MVP.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Note to employers: access public data, not password

Earlier today Facebook has released an official statement against employers asking for employee's and candidate's Facebook password.  Erin Egan, Facebook Chief Privacy Officer, has outlined their objection to user's revealing passwords to their employers.  Erin made it clear that Facebook will take action to protect their users through multiple means if necessary, such as engaging with policymakers and/or bringing legal action.

This is in reaction to recent report that some employers have requested job candidates to share their passwords as part of background check.  Other employers have also asked employees to provide passwords to ensure social media policy compliance.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hacking Chinese censorship

People are natural improvisers.  When people see the need not being met by existing system, they apply creativity to solve the problem with existing means.  Some might call it wisdom of the crowd.  I call it improvising or hacking.

All of us are resourceful by nature.  We are wired that way.  If you look at all inventions, product designs, processes and so forth, all are created by people because they saw the need.  But our creativity does not stop at product design phase.  When users pick up something to apply to their problem, they again use their creativity to solve the problem by stretching intended use of the tool.  I wrote about this effect earlier.

This creativity does not know boundary.  It's happening in China as well.  When internet is censored to prohibit Chinese people from searching specific keywords, they are using their creativity to solve the censorship problem.  They are creating new urban dictionary terms to create new keywords to get around blacklisted keywords.

People will hack up a solution if there is a need.  Whenever you see one, there is an opportunity to improve the current design.
Bo Xilai is ousted Chinese official which triggered Chinese political instability;
find out more details from Wall Street Journal

Social marketing: it's about building a relationship

"All this massive information is going to be filtered through your friends... the era of push marketing is over, or it's ending."- Paul Adams, Global Brand Experience Manager at Facebook

Paul Adams took the stage at Federated Media Publishing Signal San Francisco earlier today.  He talked about how marketers often misunderstand how social media marketing campaigns should be designed.  As he wrote in his recently published book Grouped, he emphasized that social media campaign is about building a relationship with customers, not flashing a sales sign in front of as many of your target audience as you can possibly afford.  Bigger and flashier is not what social marketing is about.  It's about building an emotional connection with customers and their friends.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Google Analytics: social ROI update

Earlier this morning Phil Mui, Google Product Manager for Google Analytics, posted a blog announcing social media support.  In addition to tracking number of website visitors, page views, conversions, visitor location and time spent, Google Analytics will soon track social media metrics that marketers and publishers have been looking for.

Here are social media metrics that Google Analytics will track starting in next few weeks:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Facebook and Twitter as mobile news curation platform

Pew Research Center has released an article outlining what Facebook and Twitter mean for news.  They conducted telephone surveys with a nationally representative sample of 3,016 adults in U.S. back in January 12 through 29.

We all know Facebook has much more active and larger user base.  When reading the below stats, you should keep in mind that Facebook has about 425 million monthly active users on mobile as of Dec 2011 while Twitter has about 100 million monthly active users as of Oct 2011.  Given the difference in user base, it's natural to expect that makeup of Facebook and Twitter users are different.  The article talks a bit about that, and it's not surprising.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Big Data example: predictive policing

I want to share an example of Big Data.  It's called predictive policing.  Idea is a simple one.  Instead of asking how to solve existing crimes, the system is created to answer a different question.  Crimes are going to happen.  Given that crimes are happening, what is the pattern in crime statistics?  How can we predict where and what kinds of crimes are to happen?

We may not be relying on "precogs",
but predictive policing may come close;
thanks to Big Data
It's not quite predictive as "precogs" in Minority Report.  But the idea is powerful one.  If all crime statistics are collected and plotted, there are patterns.  Shifting crime-prone area can be foreseen by someone looking at all data points.  Police department can then use the data to allocate resources at right places to handle anticipated crimes.

The next step can be seeing how policy presence affects the crime pattern.  Effectively this predictive policing system will allow policy department to track how well they are doing and how criminals react to policy officer's response.  Imagine iterating on this idea on matter of days.  That could have profound implication to improving the crime statistics.

One key thing that must happen to realize the benefit of Big Data is collecting data.  It must be easy for police officers to share data among multiple departments.  Once this sharing of data is in place, the next thing is navigating through data.  System must allow user to answer his/her questions.  System should also suggest questions for user to ask.

Although this example is about predictive policing, it can be applied anywhere Big Data modeling can be useful.  It could be used in employee turnover, grocery shopping habit and traffic accidents just to name a few.  This Big Data will be a tremendous area of growth as more and more data become available online and easier to aggregate.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Company culture is what keeps people together

We are hearing lot of stories of people switching jobs. Kevin Rose and his Milk team joined Google, Gowalla team joined Facebook, and James Whittaker switched from Google to Microsoft. In San Francisco Bay Area, it is difficult to hire good people with experience. It's even more difficult to hang on to them. Given that startups are powered by people, losing the key people is devastating. It can set back months of progress. Not only does it cost the company financially but also it can dampen spirit for the remaining team.

That is especially true when the person jumping the ship publishes his reason for switching as losing faith in the company culture. That's what happened with James Whittaker, ex-Googler who decided to join Microsoft last week.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Bret Victor: Inventing on principle

Bret Victor gave a talk to CUSEC 2012 (Canadian University Software Engineering Conference) back in January, and I stumbled upon it on Facebook Interest today.

Bret Victor's website (
 is also worth visiting
Bret talks about how his personal principle drives his innovation and the way he approach his work on a Vimeo clip below.  He starts his talk by presenting how he approaches the problems by applying his core principle.  His core principle is providing immediate feedback to user of any tool.  He demonstrates how current software development and animation tool can be dramatically improved by allowing the user to get the immediate feedback, and allow the user to explore possible alternate scenarios.

He then describes how software developers should learn from Larry Tesler.  Larry recognized the problem with modes from text editor such as vi.  He saw this mode-based editing as impediment to making computer more accessible, and created modeless editor called Gypsy.  He invented click and type interface where you can insert texts by using mouse pointer to select text and type.  Now, his idea is so ubiquitous we no longer see any novelty.  But back in Larry's time, he recognized the problem which a few people recognized and has made it his personal mission (in Bret's term, principal) to fix the problem.

Bret's idea is directly applicable to organization as well.  Company needs principle or actionable mission statement.  With clear mission all team members can focus their energy on solving the right problem.  In addition it allows the team to gel together and helps them make it through 'trough of sorrow' of Paul Graham's Startup Curve.

I highly recommend Bret's Vimeo clip for anyone who's looking for personal principle or company mission statement.

Bret Victor - Inventing on Principle from CUSEC on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Startup is not for faint of heart

Since my brief stint at Microsoft, I have been working at startups.  I guess there is something in me that draws me to startup culture.  I think there are many facets of startups that appeal to me.  Among many, the most appealing aspect is building.  When working for a startup, a very little is defined and handed down.  There is no proven path that will work.  I have to figure things out and get it working.  But that's not all.  Just like any other challenging game, you are given a limited time and resources to get it right.

I find this startup process very satisfying.  I think it's the number one reason why I've been staying away from tech giants.  Although it's not the rule, bigger companies tend to move slower and have all kinds of help and fail-safe mechanisms to catch you if you are falling behind.  Startup is not like that.  If you run out of money before creating positive cash flow, either you fold or get out to raise more money.  It has brutal yet simple logic to its success.  To get to the next level, you must survive this round.

Paul Graham's Startup Curve;
Thanks to Fred Wilson for the reminder.
Luckily I don't manage runways or worry about burn rate, but I vividly recall the days where all team members were worrying about where the next paycheck is going to come from.  When you get that close to the brink of folding, it's only natural that emotions run very high.  Compare that feeling of despair with first setting sail after closing initial funding, you get the proverbial emotional rollercoaster ride.

When I saw Paul Graham's so-called Startup Curve, I think I was still recovering from the still fresh memory of our failed attempt at our earlier startup.  Now that several years have gone by, I think I can look at the curve little more objectively.

Startup is not for faint of heart.  Not only it requires you to focus and work crazy hours to get things done, but it demands you to be emotionally prepared for daily ups and downs and self-doubts.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pinterest is not a Napster; it's curator-powered Google Images

One of the tenets of social media is sharing.  You post something for people to see.  You are not entirely sure who might see the post, but whoever is interested can visit your page and see the post.  While visitors are on your page, they can comment on the post.  They might even decide to share the post with their friends, if they find it interesting enough.  That's what makes social media really powerful.  Without visitors commenting and sharing the post, Joseph Kony becoming public enemy #1 in matter of a week would not have been possible.

If you don't want to share things with public, there is one-to-one communication channels.  Email, IM, group chat, internal collaboration tool like Jive and Yammer can be used to share messages with a limited set of recipients.  You know exactly who are receiving the message that you are sending, and their is tacit social contract between sender and recipient(s) that the message is intended for people included in To and CC list.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Facebook Messenger: mini-Facebook desktop client

Facebook has quietly rolled out a stand-alone Facebook Messenger client for Windows last week.  Idea is a simple one. Take Facebook chat and make it run as Windows desktop application.  Just like Google has stand-alone Windows application of Google Talk and integrated chat client on Gmail site, Facebook is following suit.  Now you don't have dedicate a browser tab to have Facebook page open at all time.  Simply log on to Facebook Messenger, and it will keep you posted with all real time updates from your friends.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Yahoo!: a sad day for all innovators

Today Yahoo! filed a suit against Facebook for patent infringement.  As you might know Yahoo! has a new CEO, Scott Thompson, and along with a rumor of impending big layoffs there has been increasing talks within Yahoo! about suing Facebook.  In a patent infringement suit that was filed in San Francisco, Yahoo! alleges that Facebook stole privacy, advertising, customization, messaging, and social networking technology to create its social networking site.

Yahoo! sues Facebook;
a sad day for everyone in Silicon Valley
This looks like Yahoo! is committing itself back in to the race.  The problem is that it's the race to the bottom.  Just when you thought Yahoo! might be getting ready to bounce back from series of failures, this is yet another downer for Yahoo!.

People in software industry acknowledge that current software patent system is broken.  Core idea of patent is not to stifle the innovation.  It is to encourage sharing of ideas and building on someone else's idea.  However, software patents are used to stifle innovation by allowing patent trolls to trade idea-only patents and to go after companies that are actually innovating.

It's really sad to see Yahoo! choosing the path to become a patent troll.  It's especially sadder to see it happen with new CEO who is supposed to turn Yahoo! around for the better.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kony 2012: Social Media to Global Media

Chances are that you have already watched Kony 2012 YouTube video.  As I just watched it, it had 72,433,716 view counts on YouTube.  And it was released on Monday March 5.  It shows social media addresses global audience.  Given a compelling cause people will react and content will go viral.

Whether the tactic that Invisible Children, the maker of the video, is the right one or not, some are bringing up some questions.  But what is clear is that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have turned all of us into global villagers.  Collectively we have power to change the dialogue, and this may be yet another example that drives this point in everyone's mind.

In case you haven't seen the video yet, here's the clip:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Product Management: Hacker's Way

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
- Henry Ford

I want to share a video that I discovered through Facebook Interest.  This was a talk by Andrew 'Boz' Bosworth, Director of Engineering at Facebook, at fMC 2012.  He started out his career at Microsoft but after a year got recruited by Facebook.  During the talk, he shared how Facebook built the culture of continuous innovation through fostering hacker's way.

He gave 5 points about creating innovative product development culture.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Social game in action

When you are stuck on a plane and have already gone through newspaper and emails, there are limited options available to you.  Browsing airline catalog and looking at the flight information can entertain you only for short while.  I had to realize these all over again yesterday when I flew.  But thankfully there was another option: social gaming.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Facebook Interest: why it is important to Facebook, Twitter and marketeers

It is astonishing to see how fast Facebook can move and introduce new things considering their scale.  They have 500+ million daily active users, yet at the speed they can churn out new features and roll them out to all user base is truly remarkable.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blurring line between private and public data

In case you haven't noticed, the line between private and public data is really blurring.  Traditional notion of privacy is breaking down due to pervasiveness of social media.  New internet users, especially teenagers, who grew up with Facebook use the network as primary mode of communication.  These next wave of internet users communicate via SMS messages, Facebook posts, share photos on Instagram and watch YouTube videos from their iPhones, and they feel natural communicating with their friends this way.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Search your way to social readership

As I continue my daily blogging, I am getting insights to how world of blogging works by trying it myself.  By setting up a blog site and posting daily I get interesting stats from blog owner perspective.  Now I see why newspaper owners can be obsessed with getting the rating up.  Not only it's easiest number to track, but in their case it's directly tied to their bottom line.

Thinking about this for a while and looking at my monthly stats got me started on this question.  What would be the next logical thing for a guy like me, a part-time blogger, can do to increase the readership?  What can I think of to increase the incoming traffic?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Product Management: fast wins in internet company

Yesterday I talked about how YouTube is becoming discovery engine for video content.  I thought I would share what I discovered on Product Management topic with you.

Keval Desai gave a talk to UC Berkeley business students last December.  Among other positions he has had product management position at Google and Digg for several years.  It was interesting to hear him talk about his lessons learned from product management experience at successful internet companies.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

YouTube: a new way to discover what to watch

In our living room we have a TV, but it's rarely on.  Part of it is because of my wife's no TV policy for my two and half year old boy.  Yet I don't feel as I'm missing much by not having a cable TV.  One big reason why I don't feel the need is that I get most of my video content from YouTube.  Facebook news feed shows me YouTube links that my friends are sharing, and I click to watch the video clip.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Product Management: build a product to be counted

You have an awesome idea.  You saw a problem.  You have been thinking about a new way of solving it.  You have been perfecting it to get it just right, i.e. simple and highly usable.  Now you are ready to build it.  You go find an angel investor.  You go out and get coders who can implement your idea into an actual product.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Zynga's own social platform

Yesterday Zynga announced that they will start offering games on  Announcement included that Zynga will provide popular games, such as Cityvill, Farmville and Words with Friends on their website with social elements.  You'll be able to play with no only your friends but also other social gamers who are looking for quick and easy social game play. will let people play with other gamers
From Zynga's perspective this is an important step to gain an independent platform that they control.  Zynga has built their fortune on top of Facebook social platform, and Facebook has also enormously benefited from Zynga's huge success.  Now that Zynga is getting traded publicly and needs to control its own destiny, creating a social gaming platform of its own makes good sense.

Interesting thing is to see how will be received by current and future gamers.  Because most of users are on Facebook, it makes little sense for Zynga to launch exclusive games for platform.  At the same time, Zynga must think of a way to draw people into their platform and make it sticky for those gamers to come back to play at their site if this launch were to be meaningful.

From Facebook we've seen that personal relationship and social graph were the main drivers for explosive growth.  Without personal relationship aspect, Zynga may have difficult time to build the user base on  But then you can also argue Zynga has fueled the initial ramp up at Facebook by attracting users to play simple and easy social games.  Whatever happens, it's clear that Facebook and Zynga are trying to become more independent of each other.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Windows 8: Smartphone UI for your laptop

Windows 8 consumer preview debuted yesterday at MWC Barcelona.  It's difficult to predict how users will receive the new Windows 8 UI/UX without playing around with it, but from the video clip demo it looks interesting.  One thing interesting is that Microsoft is now fully embracing gesture navigation, but doing it in such a way that it unifies smartphone, tablet and PC user experience.  This may sound familiar if you were paying attention to OS X Mountain Lion announcement a couple of weeks ago.

Touch gesture interaction is the new graphical interface.  Combined with simplified UI layout, smartphone-like interface is setting the standard for how users are expecting to interact with devices.  As a result, if you look at Windows 8, you might think that it might have come straight out of your smartphone.

It will be interesting to see how Windows 8 actually performs on laptops.  Whether it's easy to navigate and get things done, whether it's actually stable enough for business users to upgrade, and other than cool new UI what other features are available that can connect with other mobile devices running Windows 8, would be some things that I will be interested in.

At any rate, on the first glance, it certainly looks like a step in the right direction.