Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mary Meeker: Internet Trends 2012

Mary Meeker spoke at D10 outlining Internet Trends 2012 yesterday.  I must have received her slide deck from dozen Twitter accounts that I follow.  If you have not taken a look at it yet, you should.

Main point that she highlighted on her presentation was what she's calling 're-imagination of nearly everything'.  This is what Marc Andreessen calls 'software will eat the world'.  Just about everything that you have known is about to get disrupted by highly connected mobile devices and low startup costs for entrepreneurs to start a new venture.  Mary Meeker has done fantastic job laying out dozens of examples of how she's seeing this play out now.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Facebook Phone: why are investors nervous?

There are lots of chatters around Facebook mobile phone project.  Facebook has recently picked up several engineers from Apple who worked on iPhone and iPad, and this is feeding rumor mill to get everyone talk about possibility of Facebook launching its own mobile phone.  It seems like most opinions are clustered around it being a bad idea, primarily because of Facebook has no experience dealing with building hardware.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Salesforce += BuddyMedia

Even before ink is dry on Oracle acquisition of Vitrue last Wednesday, there is another report of social media marketing company getting acquired by bigger fish.  Salesforce looks to be in its final stage of acquiring Buddy Media for over $800 million.  All Things D reported that Salesforce was a winner in competitive bidding war with Google.

Out of major social media marketing platform providers, Vitrue (Oracle), Context Optional (Adobe), and Buddy Media (Salesforce) have been picked up in the past 12 months.  This would leaves Involver, Wildfire, Syncapse and Shoutlet.  I would think that Google and other big email marketing players are looking to pick up social media marketing platform in the near future.

Given heightened awareness around Facebook, all these activities confirms that big companies are seeing opportunities to go after social media marketing as yet another marketing channel.  This is great news for everyone in social media space, as I blogged earlier.

I think we are still in early stage of social media marketing maturity cycle.  There is still a room for social media marketing solution that goes beyond traditional marketing team and letting everyone become their own marketers, just like how Google Adwords created a market place for search display ads.

And of course new social networks like Pinterest, Path and Tumblr will keep all of social media marketing tools  on their toes to constantly catch up and respond.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Microsoft search meets social

Since I found out about MSFT last week, I've been on starting Wednesday.  It had two options for login, either connecting with Facebook or Hotmail account.  I used my Hotmail account to log in and took a tour.

In a nutshell, is Bing search meeting social.  It is primarily search experience sharing tool, and it's fairly good at that.  As soon as you start searching for something on top search text area, your search keywords and the result you clicked on will be automatically posted publicly for everyone else to see.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What do you really want to do?

When you come to a fork in the road, you have to ask yourself a hard question.
What do you really want to do?
It is a very difficult question to answer because it asks you to think about what you care the most about.  Inevitably it brings up a question about why you care about what you do, and it forces you to focus on what you value the most.  The question can be turned into 'what gives you the meaning of work?'

It's a hard question.  I don't think I figured it out completely.  But it's something that is definitely worth thinking about.  Because as you all know, time flies awfully fast when you are busy with daily grind of routines and it does not stop to wait for you to figure out the important question.

But once you know what it is, it's impossible to erase and undo.  Even if you cannot articulate what gives you the meaning of work, having an idea about what you stand for and what you won't compromise is a good start to this process.

Find out what you value the most.  And look for those people who have the similar values and find life's meanings in them.  Building a team around those values is where I believe the culture comes from.

Having such a team with shared values is a must-have for all startups.  I believe this culture is what keeps the team together through trials and tribulations of searching for the right business model.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Product Management: add 'juice' to your product

Web is full of things that you can learn from.  'Juice it or loose it' was one of those learning opportunity for me.  Although example that Martin Jonasson and Petri Purho used was a simple block buster game, ideas can be applied to any user interaction.

You can try the game yourself at

Friday, May 25, 2012

Product Management: make your tool obvious to users

Language is important.  It gives meaning to a product.  It helps user understand how to use the product.  It creates mental map of what product is supposed to do.  Once a mental map is created, product has a chance to either affirm that map with by behaving per description, or not.

Perhaps the most important is label.  You have to keep a couple of things in mind when you label features in the product.  First is figuring out key user stories that you are solving and attaching clear action verb labels to those features.  Second is labeling it to give the right semantic meaning to the action.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mobile: the new frontier

Today Facebook launched its Facebook Camera app for iPhone.  It's a photo sharing app much like Instagram except that it allows you to share photo on Facebook only.  It is an app that was built to share, view and comment on photos shared by friends around you.  As its name suggests, it does nothing but making photo sharing easy.

Facebook Camera app:
it definitely made it easier to share photos on Facebook
with its laser focus on photo sharing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Oracle += Vitrue

Once again social media marketing companies are on the move.  The latest company to get on the list is Vitrue.  TechCrunch reported that Vitrue got acquired by Oracle for $300 million.  This follows earlier acquisition of  Efficient Frontier by Adobe for around $400 million back in November of last year.  Efficient Frontier acquired Context Optional in May of last year for $50 million.

As big companies choose acquisition route to get into their social media marketing business, social media marketing industry is getting consolidated.  Already social media company list below has lot of acquired former players shown in red dotted rectangle.  Vitrue will be the latest one to be added.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fabulis to Fab

I was following Fabulis early last year.  Fabulis was a gay social networking site that combines Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook.  Its mission was to provide social network site for gay people or people who want to hang out with gay friends.  It did not do so well.

After reaching 150K users, user base plateaued.  And as a site without clear revenue model running on investor's money, it needed a fresh idea to change the course.  Two founders, Jason Goldberg and Bradford Shellhammer, made a decision.  They sat down for a dinner one night and decided to leverage their design and product background to create social commerce site.  Fabulis was no more.  Fab was born.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Microsoft Fuse Labs:

Microsoft is one of the Facebook investors.  It has about $1.36 billion equity in Facebook (after today's disappointing trading, it should be less than that).  Learning from Facebook's success, it looks like Microsoft is also quietly announced that they are expanding public beta program of (it reads 'social'), their education-focused social network.  It has been doing closed beta since last year, and it's ready to test out its research project with larger audience.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Product Management: two articles about creativity

I wanted to share two articles on harnessing creativity and using them to improve your product.

Jonah Lehrer, author of the book "Imagine", and
visual rendering of his main points.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Windows 8 UI design

It was quite amusing to look through past Windows UI from MSDN blog.  Here's an abbreviated tour through Windows UI history.

1985 - Windows 1:

I don't remember seeing this;
I think I was still using Apple II in 1985.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Facebook, Twitter and DNT

It should be no news to anyone that Facebook went IPO today.  In spite of much anticipated IPO debut, Facebook hardly budged from original price of $38.  It will be interesting to see how Facebook can maintain its market cap once underwriting banks stop propping the stock price.

Out of many analysts' reporting, one of the Facebook news was class action lawsuit brought by Facebook users seeking $15 billion.  It alleges that Facebook has been tracking user behavior even after user leaves Facebook site.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Product Management: it's hard to cater to multiple personas

In reading many articles about Facebook's upcoming IPO, I get more convinced of this.  It's hard to solve problems for multiple users.  Even if there is one problem, depending on what role user plays the problem will be completely different.  In spite of this difficulty many internet start-ups are faced with this exact challenge.  Provide a value to one set of users and generate revenues from another set of users.

Last Feb, Facebook started to cater more to marketers;
Facebook has not cracked marketing code yet, however.
Facebook is a classic example.  It started out as a dorm-room project.  Without clear model of how to make the business work, Facebook went after building a big user base.  Thinking goes that once you have big user base and people spending time on your site, there are many ways to monetize the traffic.  Freemium to premium, selling advertisements, charging partners to connect with your site, and sharing the revenue with third party developers who build applications on top of your platform, these are ways that Facebook was exploring as it grew bigger.

But with a few exceptions most of these require solving a different problem for yet another set of users.  For example, let's look at providing ads to freemium users.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Story of @theoldcfo

We all have been warned.  Social media is a public media platform.  Whatever we share will be seen by many thousands of people, and some of them may be corporate compliance officers from your company.  Be careful what you post because what you post is public record.

Here's a story of Gene Morphis, savvy social media user who has 700+ tweets on his timeline and runs his own blog site.  He also used to be CFO of Francesca's Holdings Corp.  Note the past tense.  He received a pink slip the other day for tweeting snarky comments about board meeting, preparing for earnings call, etc.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Facebook without user trust (and cash flow) won't last

It has been a talk of the town.  Facebook is doing IPO this Friday.  I cannot even remember where I read that news.  It's probably because Facebook IPO news has been on the headline of Google News on Technology section for a few days.  It seems everyone is talking about future of the 900-million-user-strong social network.

Over the last couple of days I noticed increasing chatter about how user's perception of Facebook is less favorable than other tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Apple.  Associated Press-CNBC poll of 1,000 Americans show a majority, 59 percent, says that they either don't trust Facebook at all or trust them "only a little" with their privacy.  People are leery of how their data will be used once they share it on social network.

Mark Zuckerberg has his work cut out for him;
turn around negative company perception and
cater to two core users, end users and marketers.
This is understandable.  Everyone knows that Facebook is a company built on user sharing data, and it's been a very aggressive one at that.  It has been challenging the way we have been sharing data with people around us. Profile wall, news feed, Facebook Beacon, friend suggestion, messaging, fan page, business pages, photo tagging, subscription, Timeline and interest, all of these are features designed to make it easier to share more with our friends and with Facebook.  It's still fairly fresh in people's mind that Facebook is known for default sharing privacy settings and its third party applications leaking user data.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Social media: new media for younger generation

It's remarkable to see how younger generation adopts new technology.  They adopt new tools faster than any other and thrive on the new media.  Teenagers today have more information than any other times, and they are communicating with friends more than any other age group.  18 to 24 year olds send 110 text messages a day on average.  Assuming they have 6 hours of sleep, they are sending about one text message every 10 minutes through out the day.

To these younger generation social media is just another tool that they grew up with.  Just like how Gen X grew up with Internet browser and video games, these teenagers started their online life with MySpace, Friendster and Facebook.  It's a part of how they interact with friends.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Steve Blank: startup is about searching for business model

Steve Blank recently did an interview with Gigaom discussing startups and how our understanding of building successful startup has changed over the years.  It used to be that startups are funded by VCs for creating a great business plan, but Blank now sees startup as being in search of the right product market fit.  Finding the right product market fit takes trial and error, and startups must reduce this risk by testing the market theories and how product is received by customers by adopting lean startup methodology (at least the high tech startups).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Facebook: data use policy and App Center

As Facebook is wrapping up the IPO roadshow, it is making changes to get more aggressive in maximizing shareholder's values.  Some of these changes are updated privacy policy (now called data use policy by Facebook), App Center announcement and experimenting with paid news update.  All these changes are designed to explore and expand Facebook's advertising reach and effectiveness.

Mark Zuckerberg sporting his signature hoodie
during IPO roadshow;
will Facebook IPO pop or bust?
Updated privacy policy, aka data use policy, opens the door for Facebook to share their user data with other advertisers to better target the ads to Facebook users even when users are surfing sites other than Facebook.

App Center announcement creates social app store that can be accessed from any device that can harnesses all social elements from Facebook.  Think of Apple App Store, but instead it's any app that uses Facebook API, whether it be iPhone app, Android app or browser app.  All applications will be quality controlled by Facebook, and rated by Facebook users.  Facebook also plans to support application developers to generate revenue by either charging for apps or creating in-app purchase similar to how Apple created third party developer community by creating revenue model.

Experiments with paid news update is limited release to measure user reaction to the idea of paying to "highlight" post to increase the likelihood of your friends seeing the post.  It is meant to demonstrate Facebook is serious about maximizing the revenue sources from 900 million Facebook users.

Will these changes be enough to justify close to $100 billion market cap that Facebook is looking to demand?  We'll soon have the early answer to this question by next week.  What happens after that will depend on how quickly Facebook can execute on these upcoming changes.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Creative process: loosen up a bit and be open to surprises

Creative process involves right brain.  You need to be able to approach the problem holistically.  You cannot look at the problem right in front of your nose.  You have to be somewhat distracted with other elements in the picture to see the entire picture.  You have to let new idea come to you.  And you have to be open to it.

I want to share some quotes that I found today regarding this creative process:

Our brain's incredible inertia to move toward the common. [While] Efficient for everyday life, this automatic neural response is the enemy of innovation.
Tony McCaffrey discussing Obscure Features Hypothesis

Simply put, people’s ability to think about information in new and unusual ways can actually be hampered when they wield too much brain power. What Dr. Jennifer Wiley and her teamhave found is that one way to get around this is to have a couple of drinks.

Care for a drink anyone?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Product Management: fight the status quo

I want to share a story that I heard on Fresh Air by Terry Gross.  Terry had two guests on her show today.  They were New York Times writers Joe Drape and Walt Bogdanich.  They reported on American horse racing industry's inhumane treatment of race horses.  Because of lax regulation and oversight, race horses are routinely injected with excessive amount of pain killers which endangers not only horses but also jockeys as well.  They were reporting that it's not uncommon for race horses to break their legs during the race tossing jockeys off to the ground.

Understand your different customer sets and
fight the status quo to get your solution adopted.
It's a sad story to listen to.  It's sadder because we all recognize the problem but refuses to fix it.  Drape and Bogdanich reported that while racing horse industry recognizes the problem they are not willing to fix it because they are a part of the system.  Their incentives are not aligned with fixing and improving the system.  They are simply playing by the rule as written, and everyone in the system is letting the status quo continue because it's something they know how to work with.

Drape explains this to Terry Gross:

"The economic ecosystem of horse racing is very much out of whack. Everybody has their own agenda and their own set of interests. Racetracks want full fields so they will attract betting money, and they take a percentage of that. Breeders want sounder horses, because they are taking them to auction, and they want to get the highest price. 
Horsemen, trainers, owners, they want to run for high purses. So that's why they increasingly turn to the casino model. So what happens is you have four or five groups at odds with each other, and the only thing they can agree on is: Let's kind of keep it the same, because it's been working."
I see lot of parallels in Drape's description of horse racing industry with customers that we target.  As product managers, we have to understand that a problem has multiple facets.  Just like racetrack owners, breeders, horsemen, trainers have different agenda and interests, so do our customers come with different agenda and interests.  Employees want to have sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose; managers want to ensure they get the maximum values out of employees while delivering on business goals; executive staffs need to make sure they grow the business according to the plan; and CEO needs to make sure the company can deliver value to shareholders and board members.

They could be seen as one goal, but if you look closely each group is looking to maximize their own interest and agenda.  Same is true with most of customers.  They are dealing with internal politics, hidden agenda and more often than not interested in maintaining the status quo.  It's because dealing with known evil is perceived as a better option than preparing for the unknown good.  People are fearful of how the rules may change for the worse from their point of view.

One of the most important thing for product manager to do is understanding this dynamics.  Part of delivering value to customers is making sure the solution gets adopted by users.  Even if you have the most brilliant product, unless you know how to address the internal resistance to your product, your product will not go far.

That is why thinking about the user is so important.  And it is why you want to become your own customer.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Product Management: think about your user

Each time I listen to users, there is one thing that I get reminded of.  Users are not interested in your product because of the latest features.  Users are interested in solving their problem.  Product is a tool that should help user solve their problem.

Build a tool made for user problem
This sounds obvious.  But when you have your heads down in trenches it is difficult to realize that your product is not at the center of universe.  Users don't buy product for simple upgrade path or great sales team.  They buy to get things done.

This means two things for product managers:

1. Figure out whose problem you are solving.

Depending on perspective a problem can look very different.  For example, think of expense reporting system.  For employees, they want easy way to create and submit new report.  For managers, they need a quick way to review key information and approve.  For accounting team, they look for ways to integrate with existing accounting software and ensure there is no missing data or error from employee and manager.

Spell out whose problem that you are solving.  Solving it for one user, but not the others will lead to incomplete solution, and force users to workaround the product deficiency.

2. Find out everything about the problem that user needs to solve.

Often product manager's understanding of problem is incomplete.  That's okay.  User problem evolves even for users themselves.  Research and find out all you can about the problem user has today.  More you know, better you'll be prepared to come up with a tool that works for them.

Users are looking for a tool that they can understand and use.  Build a product that is made for the problem that user needs to solve.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two things that keep compliance team awake at night

"What is the thing that keeps you awake at night?"

That was the question posed to panel of compliance team members from regulated industries at Symantec eDiscovery User Conference 2012.

"Social media and BYOD."

That was a response from one of the panelists.  It sums up the challenges with dealing with rapidly changing communication environment.

Mobile phone + social media;
they are feeding each other's growth.
Mobile and social media combination is creating perfect storm scenario for all enterprise IT department and compliance team.  Traditional IT policy and management are no longer applicable to today's environment where people buys their own mobile devices, signs up for their own services and blends work and personal life on their social media accounts.

And all these changes are accelerating.  850,000 Android devices are getting activated each day (and probably just as many iPhones), and we are fast approaching the point where mobile devices will be considered as default choice of computing platform.

They are enough to keep any IT and compliance team awake at night.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Social business: first define social media policy

Jeremiah Owyang gave a presentation at the Dachis Group's Social Business Summit 2012.  It was titled Build A Scalable Program Through Social Readiness.

For those of you following social media market and how companies are adopting social strategies, Jeremiah is a source that you should add to your list.

One thing that stuck with me was a stat that Jeremiah presented.  Out of 140 enterprise companies with more than 1000 employees, each company estimated about 178 social media accounts that are owned by enterprise.  Coordinating all these social media accounts is not an easy task.  Once you add regulating all social activities that happen on these accounts, it quickly becomes unmanageable.

Embracing social does not stop there.  Most of employees are already on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Gooble+, or combination of them, making posts on their personal devices.  Most of these updates are personal in nature, but there are updates related to business at times.  Challenge is to find out when employees are using social network for their personal use and when they are using it to represent company.

It's important to establish where the line is between personal and public with every employee.  It's no longer a problem that companies can ignore.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Facebook privacy: still too complicated to use

Consumer Reports released interesting stats last week about Facebook users.  During the past 12 months, they were able to make following projections from the Consumer Reports State of the Net survey:
  • 39.3 million identified a family member in their profile
  • 20.4 million included their date of birth in their profile
  • 13 million said they had never set, or did not know about, Facebook privacy tools
  • 28% shared all, or almost all, posts with an audience wider than their friends
  • 4.6 million discussed their love life on their wall
To help Facebook users get better control of Facebook privacy, Consumer Reports created the following video:

After reading the stats and watching the video, two thoughts come to my mind.

1. Privacy is becoming more important to people.

Privacy discussion is on the rise.  CISPA is educating people about kinds of data that can be shared with government.  Upcoming Facebook's IPO is not just increasing the hype about social network, but it's also creating much needed awareness about the data that you share on Facebook.  As Facebook needs to rapidly increase the revenue by analyzing the user data more closely, there will be more in-your-face advertisements and online shopping capabilities in your Facebook pages.  This will only increase the awareness of user privacy.

2. Facebook privacy setting is still complicated.

Updates on your wall, photos, photo tagging and profile information sharing are all controlled separately.  It feels like Facebook has not realized that providing the easy-to-use privacy setting will encourage more sharing.  Getting any setting control is hard, and it can quickly become a task in itself from user's perspective.  Facebook has lots of rooms to improve.

I think these two factors create an opportunity for challengers to come in and address the privacy problem better.

Allowing people to control their messages is critical.  Being able to control who can see the message will become even more important in future.  Unless Facebook provides easy solution for masses, it risks becoming public only social network, and that will create a huge opportunity for other social networks to fill that need.

In worst case Facebook users may follow Consumer Reports recommendation:

"When all else fails, deactivate.   
When you deactivate your account, Facebook retains your profile data, but the account is made temporarily inaccessible."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Product Management: a couple of jokes to ponder

Last Wednesday I went to SVPMA monthly meeting for the second time.  Brian Lawley from 280 Group spoke about Product Management LifeCycle.  It had lively audience who interacted with Brian.

Brian Lawley shared this diagram at SVPMA May meeting;
his advice was to think about each phase, including Retire phase.

If you are a product manager looking to get connected with fellow product manager, SVPMA is an excellent place to start.  There is monthly meeting on every first Wednesday of each month, and it's usually held at TechMart near Great America in Santa Clara.

Today I wanted to share a couple of jokes about product managers that I heard at the meeting.  I thought they caricatured an aspect of product management.

First one was shared by someone in the audience:
With great power comes great responsibility, said Spiderman.
With great responsibility comes no great power, said a product manager.

Second was shared by Brian Lawley himself:
Once upon a time an old man decided to sell his donkey in the village market.  He started out to the market with donkey and his little boy. 
When a passerby saw they were walking the donkey, he yelled out "old man, why aren't you riding the donkey?  Doesn't it make sense to ride the donkey so that you don't get tired as much?"  Old man heard this and pondered a bit.  "Yes, that makes sense.  I shall ride the donkey."
When another passerby saw the old man riding the donkey and young boy walking, he yelled out "old man, why would you ride the donkey when you have young boy walking on his own?  Doesn't it make sense to let young boy ride instead?"  Old man heard this and pondered a bit.  "Yes, that makes sense.  I shall let my little boy ride the donkey." 
When yet another passer by saw the young boy riding the donkey and old man walking, he yelled out "old man, why would you walk the donkey when you can both ride it?"  Old man heard this and pondered a bit.  "Yes, that makes sense.  We both shall ride the donkey." 
Soon they arrived at a stream.  When a passerby saw them, he yelled out "old man, let me give you a piece of advice.  If you both ride the donkey into the stream, the donkey will lose its footing and tip over.  Why not both of you get off, and carry the donkey across the stream?" 
Old man heard this and pondered a bit.  "Yes, I suppose that makes sense.  We shall carry the donkey across the stream."  So they both got off and started carrying the donkey over their head.  As they waded into the middle of stream, an unexpected torrent swept the old man and little boy's feet.  They lost their balance and the donkey fell into the stream.  Before they realized the donkey was swept up by a torrent, and it disappeared from the sight. 
Now the moral of this story?  Don't take everyone's advice.  It's the quickest way to kiss your ass good bye.

Usually a product manager is not in the position of power by org chart.  He has to earn his respect and authority by demonstrating his commitment, domain expertise and willingness to take responsibility for making decision.  One way to do this is to make decisions.  Listen and take inputs, but final decision rests on you because you must become responsible.

Don't yield your decision making power to someone else.  Unless you exercise that power and become responsible, you are not doing your job.

Friday, May 4, 2012

PostSecret: People need a safe place to share

I believe in social relationship.  Everyone needs someone else to share feelings for emotional support. Some of us seek to share stories while some of us want to listen to those stories.  Although each of us play different roles, we all participate in social relationship.  We cannot have sharer without reader, or reader without sharer.  Both need to co-exist.  That's a basic dynamics of any active community.

It so happens that I found a good example of this from my news feed.  It's called

Postsecret is a site launched by Frank Warren.  It's a place where people share their secrets that they could not tell anyone before.  Site started when Frank Warren started to pass out blank postcards to people in Washington D.C. with simple instruction to share their secret anonymously.  When postcards started to come in, Frank launched the website to share some of secrets that he received.

If you listen to how Frank started collecting secrets from people, it's difficult to imagine whether anyone would openly share secrets with total stranger, let alone mail it on a postcard to be archived somewhere.  But as Frank tells the story at TEDTalks, he started receiving thousands of postcards.


I think it's because of people's innate need to share and to listen to someone else's story.  In the age of social network, there are many platforms available to share your stories.  But when it comes to sharing the most intimate and private thoughts, it has become more difficult to find a place to share them.  At the price of openness and real identity we have lost the intimate privacy in our social networks.

The fact that Postsecret is attracting so many contributors and viewers is a testament to the fact that there is unserved need in today's social network.

People need a safe place to share their intimate stories.  And people want to listen to real stories.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Danger of banking on fast growing user base

The sensation of mobile gaming industry, Draw Something, has been losing its steam.  Its daily active users has been steadily trending down since 4/3.  Coincidentally it was shortly after OMGPOP got acquired by Zynga.  What was supposed to be the next Angry Bird franchise is showing a sign of slowing down, or even contracting significantly.  What might be causing this downward trend?

OMG, it popped, but now it's falling;
time to innovate before it turns into a pumpkin
There are lot of speculations out there.  Some say it is Zynga's acquisition that turned off most of early users to stop playing.  Some speculate that it could have been OMGPOP losing their own creative independence to innovate the product fast enough to sustain the level of growth.  Whatever it might have been, it is very strange that the drop started to happen right after Zynga's acquisition.

I don't think anyone knows the answer for sure.  But what is clear is that keeping users engaged does not happen on its own.  It takes constant tweaking of product, enhancements, bugfixes to keep users engaged and come back the next day for more.  Just as fast as users started using a product, users can  just as easily move on to the next new thing once they get bored with the old.  The half life of product is getting shorter.

Social media can be so effective it could create appearance of mass adoption literally over night.  But having a dedicated fan base and serving them to build a greater adoption are different from just getting bigger faster.

When we look at unbelievably successful launch of Kony 2012, we see the similar story.  After unprecedented viewership and interest within its first week of YouTube video launch, its Cover the Night protest turned out to be a whimper at best.

Number of times 'kony' was searched on Google

Perhaps getting big too fast is not such a good thing.  If we learned anything from two economic bubbles in the past decade, we should have healthy dose of skepticism on anything that's too good to be true.  After all what goes up fast must slow down and fall.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Teens on social media: what should parents do?

There are many positive changes brought by social network and empowering everyone to have a voice.  But there are also unintended consequences to misusing social media.  Just like any other tools, social media (I'm calling it media because I want to emphasize the public aspect of social networking) gives us many chances to cause more harm than good.

What novice Facebook and Twitter users often don't understand is that everything that you post can be seen by anyone by default.  It's a media, albeit with "social" qualifier.  Even though not many may pay attention to what you post today, everything that you post will be stored, duplicated (Facebook duplicates all posts so that they have at least 3 copies of your post) and remain viewable to anyone in future.  It's akin to writing down what's on your mind with permanent marker and sending them to your favorite newspaper to be discovered at any time.  By the way, remember this newspaper gets delivered to all your friends and whoever requests a subscription.

That's a lot of responsibility.  It takes time and practice to master this new form of media.  It is not uncommon for public figures to hire media trainer to improve their media skills.  Social media is no different.

Autumn Miller, a 10-year-old girl, with nearly 6,000 fans;
now I should take a lesson or two from her on
how to build a Facebook Fan page.
This poses particular challenges to parents.  WSJ ran an article today talking about how teenagers and even preteens are getting on social network.  The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reported in summer of 2011 that 16% of kids between 12 and 17 with online access used Twitter.  What's interesting, and somewhat expected, is that these kids are very technology savvy and often find alternate social networks to communicate with their peers if Facebook or Twitter is banned by parents.

Like everything in life, teenagers should have their private space to explore the medium that they'll have to work with.  While providing that space, parents should help them understand the permanence and public nature of social network.

Social network is free to use, both economical and voluntary sense.  But free access and freedom come with catch and responsibility.  The catch is that what you share on social network is what social network will use to make money.  The responsibility is for you to understand your post will stay on the record.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Web 2.0 to Mobile

Just as Facebook is about to go IPO, there are already talks about how Facebook's over $100 billion valuation might not last too long.  Eric Jackson wrote an article yesterday on Forbes yesterday about how he sees Facebook and Google might not be around in next 5 years.

Eric makes an argument that large companies are slow to adapt to fast changing environment, and this will likely lead to big companies like Facebook and Google to miss the fundamental shift in the technology that's already happening.  That shift he talks about is moving from Web 2.0 to Mobile.

Guess there are more smartphones than iPhone and Samsung;
let's see whether we'll have room for Windows phone.

It is no surprise to anyone that mobile is literally changing how we live our lives.  Things that we would only read about from a science fiction are common occurrences.  We take pictures of things and instantly share them with friends.  Within a few minutes we can talk about what we posted online with friends from all over the world.  We don't talk about dial tone or presence anymore.  We just post, and people respond.  We look up product information instantly and compare prices while standing in a checkout line.

When I look around, all signs point to huge disruption.  With all computing powers and instant access to information, we are entering extremely volatile time in technology.  And all of them converge on single point, which is people are carrying mobile devices.

It is what allows Big Data companies to collect massive amount of location data, it is what we use to access information and connect with one another, and it is what we carry to augment our reality with virtual network.  It's all mobile.

And it's happening fast.

Reading through Eric's article and his comments, no one disputed the fact that mobile is creating a big change in the current technology landscape.  It will take about 4-5 years until number of mobile devices exceed the number of population.

We all know these changes are coming.  It's just that we don't know what they look like yet.  It's time to start making some bets.