Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Google += Wildfire

Google announced today that they are acquiring Wildfire for about $250 million.  This is hardly a surprise.  Wildfire is forth social media marketing companies to be snapped up this year following Vitrue, Buddy Media and Involver.  Rumor has been circulating about Google in bidding war with Salesforce to buy Buddy Media earlier.

Where there is smoke, there is fire.  Series of social media marketing startup acquisitions confirms that there is demand from marketers.  Google is responding to increasing social media marketing budgets from their customers.

There are lot of social media marketing skeptics out there.  Just yesterday there was a post from Limited Pressing claiming that 80% of their Facebook ads were clicked by bots instead of actual users.  It started to go viral on Hacker News and Slashdot, and many discussions ensued about effectiveness of Facebook Ads.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Flip side of idea discovery engine: Discover people

Since my earlier blog post about discovering new things, I have been thinking about how discovery works for me.

When I discover new things, I am looking for idea.  New idea that can give fresh perspective to things that I did not think of.  Or new story that inspires me to take the next step.  It's not the latest news.  It's certainly not commentaries on latest events, although it can be.  What I look for is unique perspective and narrative.  What I'm after is new ideas.

But you can flip this to think about it from different perspective.  As talked about yesterday's post, idea is propagated from person to person.  Some people copy and echo idea, some people amplify or mutate idea, and some comes up with idea.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Are we making meme or is meme making us?

There are multiple side to each story.  One story from subject actor's perspective, another from object's perspective, and yet another from third party's perspective.  Each perspective provides one view into the truth.  It's useful to understand how these perspectives interact to clearly grasp what is happening.  It is also helpful to see the totality of what is going to happen and where the focus should be.

First, actor's perspective.

I started to see Queen Elizabeth's photo from London Olympics ceremony with witty subtitle.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Not too distant future of Augmented Reality

Do you recognize what movie this scene is from?

It's from Terminator 2 Judgement Day.  It was released in 1991.  If you look at graphics, it looks a bit dated with monochromatic rendering and bunch of texts.  But the idea of Augmented Reality is very much current.  With much anticipated Google Glass launch and other vendors working on wearable AR device, this can be in consumers' hands in a next couple of years.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Twitter-like service from existing techs

Today I came across a blog entry by Dave Winer.  (BTW, I wanted to mention that it was a serendipitous discovery to see his blog via Hacker News.  I am still in search for a tool that can provide articles like this systematically.)  In his entry, An Open Twitter-like Ecosystem, he laid out his vision of putting together open social news feed based on existing publicly available technologies.  Key idea that he advocates is using RSS and DNS entries to create easy subscription experience for all users.

Winer's blog sparked a couple of questions in my head:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Discovery engine for interesting articles

I have been looking around to see if I could quickly hack some APIs to suggest interesting news to read.  My idea was to receive daily journal of news on our family Kindle Touch.  It should contain two types of articles.  Articles that I should know (i.e. current events that everyone is talking about) and articles that I might be interested in knowing.

First one is easy.  I can get Google News RSS feed or WSJ feed to figure out what news are breaking today.  If I wanted real-time news, I can filter Twitter or Facebook posts.  But second one is not so straight forward.

How can I figure out what I might be interested in before me looking at it?

How do you find out what you don't know?
That's what I mean by discovery engine.
It seems an intractable question to answer.  But I think we can get close to it.

Newspaper delivery service on Kindle

Since my 3-year-old boy has been spotted buying a few ebooks on my wife's Kindle, I have disconnected her Amazon account from it.  Other than putting a password lock on Kindle landing screen, I could not find a way to make ebook buying experience child-proof.  Since then, it has been taking up space on our nightstand.

A few weeks ago, I started look for a way to utilize the Kindle for the second time.  This time I had a clear idea of what I wanted.  I wanted to use it as news reader.  Instead of picking up newspaper each morning, I thought, it would be nice to power up Kindle to get my news from different sources.  Not just news from Facebook Interests or Twitter, but from all sources like Google News, Google+, LinkedIn News and other blog sites.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Twitter followers for sale: Not good for building trust

It is no secret that you can buy Twitter followers.  There are several services that offer thousands of quick Twitter followers for a nominal charge.  On the surface it looks like harmless things to allow.  After all, Twitter follower count is built on top of game mechanics.  Everyone is invited to increase their follower base as if those who have signed up for frequent flyer miles.  Since airlines allow miles to be purchased, what is wrong with allowing Twitter users to buy followers?

Nothing.  As long as it's clear to everyone that followers are status that can be bought.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

app.net: Will it fly?

There is an interesting project getting started.  It's called app.net.  It's about creating public-owned Twitter-like service without advertiser support, but with user subscription.  Its mission is to build third party application ecosystem and promote its success.  It's headed by Dalton Caldwell who ran Imeem earlier.  

Caldwell is betting that there will be 10,000 people who are willing to fork off $50 per year to fund app.net service.  And he's promising that he won't ever turn his back on third party application developers, unlike Twitter has done in recent years.

Dalton Caldwell makes app.net pitch.
You can find more information here.

It's an interesting idea.  I'm sure anyone who has been frustrated with the way Twitter has been treating third party developers will be happy with what Caldwell is promising.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It all starts with customers

Only if we didn't have students interrupting us, university will be a so much better place to work.

It seems a totally backward statement.  School without students will be without its purpose.  Rev. Christoper Renz used this example to highlight how we may have things backward during homily today.  Sometimes we are so into day-to-day grind, we forget why we are there to begin with.  It is not uncommon to come across these types of backward thinking in our lives.   

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My lessons on hiring

To grow company, you have to hire fast and hire right people.  You cannot look for the perfect candidate to come around to make an offer.  Yet you cannot hire someone who is not a right fit for the job and your company culture.  How can you strike the balance?  How can you hire right people fast while maintaining the culture?

List three qualities that you are looking for from a perfect match.  
Now drop one, and you'll find your candidates.

That was an advice that someone gave me about finding a perfect soul mate.  I think it equally applies to finding a perfect match for your job opening.  You will never get all the qualities that you'll look for.  In other words, you'll have to prioritize what is really important to you as hiring manager.

As hiring managers I look for three qualities from all applicants:

0. Personal integrity (trustworthiness)
1. Intelligence (problem solving skills)
2. Motivation
3. Relevant experience (past achievements)

(I know I've listed 4.  I consider the very first one as table stake.)

Out of these three, guess which one I am willing to go easy.  It's the experience.

I wouldn't think this is how Ikea screens its candidates.
I guess putting together Ikea chair can measure
some intelligence and motivation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lesson from Nokia: CEO sets the tone

One thing that I learned working in startups with 5 different CEOs is this:

CEO sets the tone.  

Every little things that CEO says or does have enormous impact on everyone in the company.  Reason is really simpile.  It's because CEO is the top boss.  Everyone looks for type of decisions that he or she makes and tries to emulate.  Everyone takes cues from CEO as to what behavior will be awarded and what won't be.

Therefore it is critically important role for company's success.  Depending on how CEO interacts with executive staffs and makes decisions, it will empower executive team, directors and every managers in the company or stifle them.

When I read accounts of what happened at Nokia, I got reminded how important CEO's role really is.  WSJ ran an article about how Nokia created smartphone way earlier than Apple and spent much more resources on R&D than Apple, yet it was not able to lead smartphone market.  Even worse it could not even recognize the threat that iPhone posed to Nokia's business when iPhone launched.

Guess when this Nokia smartphone was released.
It was launched back in 1996.
That's 8 years earlier than PalmOne Treo 650.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sharing value to create greater value

Product is only valuable when there is a market.  If there is no market, there is no value to product.  This means a couple of things.  First, product does not have its intrinsic value.  Instead it derives its value from being put to use by customers.  If there is no customer to use it, product does not have any value.  This leads to the second observation, that is, product must be shared and used to realize its value.  A brilliant product locked inside someone's safe deposit box has no value.  It only realizes its value when people put it to use.

That is the core idea of shared economy.  In order to create greater value, you must share value that you create.  By feeding the market with your idea and product, market will return value to everyone far greater than what you originally created.

Social network works the similar ways.  People participate and spend their energy to create content for people to see.  These content get shared among many members through connected social network.  More it gets shared, overall value generated by content increases just as much.  It inspires people, engages with people, plants idea in people in a way that original content creator did not even imagine at the beginning.  Social network is a perfect example of sharing-based economy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hidden economies of Internet

In market economy, we measure dollars exchanged for goods sold.  Higher the value to the buyer (consumer), higher the price will be paid to seller (producer).  In this traditional economy, it is straight forward to calculate the amount of value created and exchanged by following dollars.

When you look at Internet today, it is not so clear.  We customers often get our value from producers without paying directly for that value.  There are lots of examples like this.  One example will be this Blogger, Google's blogging platform.  I am getting value out of by using blog hosting service provided by Google.  But I don't directly pay for it myself.  Service is offered to me free of charge by Google.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Video sharing platforms making news

I'm seeing uptick on video sharing platforms making news recently.  Autodesk announced today that they are finalizing the agreement to acquire Socialcam for $60 million.  Tout, video social status update platform, raised $13.4 million series B financing last week.

I remember writing about upcoming video sharing and consumption on mobile devices back in January 2011.    We are finally starting to see much more activities around mobile video sharing and consumption.

I wanted to highlight three companies in mobile video sharing space:

Monday, July 16, 2012

Who's taking bigger risk, Yahoo or Marissa Mayer?

In a gutsy move, Yahoo! today appointed Marissa Mayer from Google as its next CEO.  Choosing a product-centric person with engineering background to lead Yahoo! was a big surprise.  It is a bigger surprise that Marissa took the job after 13 years of tenure at Google.

It was just about 4 months ago when Yahoo! filed a lawsuit against Facebook in its desperate attempt to generate cash from its stock pile of patents.  Now with Marissa Mayer at the helm, the image of Yahoo! cannot be any more different than what it used to be.  Mayer, a well respected engineer-turned product person, will bring a new energy to ailing Yahoo!

I hope that Mayer will be successful in her new role.  I am quite a bit biased in that regard.  Because she has engineering background and has been playing product management role with her own perspective on aesthetics, I feel like I can relate to her approach.  Definitely compared to past Yahoo! CEOs, I think she is the CEO that I want to see to succeed the most.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dark side of social network

Social network has brought many positive changes.  But it also brought new challenges.  As more and more people use smartphone to access social networks (some even carry their phones to their beds), keeping up with all the news and updates from friends around you is turning out to be more harm than good in some instances.

July 16th edition of Newsweek had an interesting article on how connection addiction is rewiring our brains.  The article described how many of us are getting addicted to immediate reactions and constantly staying connected.  Because we are rewarded by receiving quick comments or likes and chatting on virtual social network, our plastic brain is changing to adopt to the new environment.  We are training ourselves to be constantly distracted and incapable to think deeply on one subject.

It's especially worrisome that our kids are getting exposed to social network and smartphones at such a young age.  They are more vulnerable to internet addiction including social network.  As first generation who are growing up on these technologies, no one really knows how the social network is shaping their brain development.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Let's encourage creativity

A friend of mine shared the following post on Facebook.  When I saw it, it put a smile on my face.  

I salute the teacher who gave 'A+ for creativity'.
We need to encourage these out of the box thinking.

Kids sometimes say unexpected things and share their ingenious perspectives.  These new perspectives to look at things are what gets translated to creativity and innovation.  Future economy will be fueled by someone who can bring a new idea to the table and collaborate with others to create a new solution.

Let's encourage creativity.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Product Management: How to find a right problem

Last time I talked about importance of defining a problem before starting a project.  Today I want to talk about how to find a worthy problem that is right for you.

There are million problems - hence million opportunities - in this world.  World hunger, global warming, Middle East peace, voters' apathy toward politics, health care, ...  the list goes on.  These are all worthy problems.  But they are too big and abstract for most people.

When you look at successful startups in the last couple of decades, there are common patterns in how founders found their problems.  The common pattern is that many started small with solving a problem they had themselves.

Pick a problem that exists in your life.

Another way of saying this is to be your own product's number one customer.  If you are looking to solve a problem for someone else, you are more likely to fail.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Digg got sold for $500K

Digg just got sold for $500K.  It is a disappointing exit for once a rising star of social news sites.  Digg has raised $45 million from who's-who among VC investors, including Reid Hoffman and Marc Andreessen.

Natural question is why.

Circa 2006.  Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg.
Rumor has it that Google once offered $200 for Digg.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Product Management: Define a right problem to solve

One of the most important skills that I've found as product manager is coming up with a right problem to solve.  Problem must be a real problem.  It must be something worth solving.  Something that has real impact to people.  It cannot be too big to solve, but at the same time it cannot be too trivial that no one cares about.

Start with problem definition;
continue to sharpen the focus.
When I look back at my college years, I completely got it backward.  My college buddies and I would get together and start talking about what would be cool to build with the latest technology.  I remember in 1998 working on dating website without really understanding what problem that we were solving.  We had tools to build a site, we knew how, we had servers, so we went ahead and built a site.  Because we knew how, we started building.  And that's how many engineers think about, myself included

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Oracle += Involver += Collective Intellect

Involver made an announcement today that they are getting snapped up by Oracle.  This is Oracle's third social acquisition following Vitrue in May and Collective Intellect in June.  Considering there are quite a bit of overlap between Involver and Vitrue and rumors that Involver was on the market looking for buyer, it does not look like it was a great exit for folks at Involver.

Oracle is on an acquisition roll;
who will it be next?
What is certain, however, is that there is a definite pickup in level of acquisitions in social media marketing and analytics space.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Guy Kawasaki: 12 Lessons from Steve Jobs

Guy Kawasaki spoke at Silicon Valley Bank's CEO Summit on October 6, 2011.  It was shortly after the passing of Steve Jobs.  Guy got on the stage to talk about 12 lessons that he learned from working for Steve Jobs.

1. Experts are clueless.
2. Customers can't tell you what they need.
3. Biggest challenges beget the best work.
4. Design Counts.
5. Big graphics, big fonts.
6. Jump curves, not better sameness.
7. "It works" or "doesn't work", that's all that matters.
8. Value is different from price.
9. A Players hire A Players.
10. Real CEOs can demo.
11. Real entrepreneurs ship.
12. Some things need to be believed to be seen.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Manager should be an inspiring coach

It's hard to transition from individual contributor to manager role.  Becoming a manager is equivalent to applying for a brand new job.  As individual contributor, the person is measured by how much work he completed.  When he becomes a manager, he is no longer measured by how much he got done.  He will be measured by how much his direct reports were able to accomplish.

There is a world of difference in doing what you do very well vs. motivating someone else to do very well.  It is entirely different kind of art.  Understanding how to be successful as individual contributor helps.  But that's just one of ingredients to become a successful manager.  Manager has to inspire, motivate and coach his direct reports to get better at what they do.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Do your homework on social media

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
-Sun Tzu
Full of instructions on ancient military strategy how-to's;
many are still applicable to today's enterprise sales
Above is a quote from Sun Tzu.  It's underlining the importance understanding not only about your enemy but about yourself.  We all tend to think that we know ourselves well and become overly confident with our capability.  Sun Tzu is pointing out this common pitfall of not knowing oneself well enough.  Even though you may know everything about your enemy, if you don't have brutally honest understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, you are likely to fail because of not knowing yourself.

This quote is equally applicable to sales as well.  If you know your customer, competitors and yourself, you need not fear the next hundred quarterly targets.

Friday, July 6, 2012

What can we do to fight trolling?

Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes-vs-Women in Video Games project;
It had been a target of rampant trolling as you can see here.

After catching up with Anita Sarkeesian's Kickstarter project and what happened last month, I could not help but feeling surprised how far trolls went to sabotage her image on the net.  It shows how much destructive power each of us possesses.  Just as much we can help each others, we can hurt each other lot worse.

From my experience of dealing with internet trolls, I find trolls to thrive when there is complete anonymity or instant pseudonymity without established identity.  When trolls make ad hominem attacks, they almost always hide behind cloak of anonymity.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Product Management: allocate your time

I remember feeling that having 8 hr day was plenty of time to write useful piece of code.  When I could concentrate on coding without interruption, I often was surprised how much I was able to get done in a day. When I was writing code full time, I had to master how to write and test incrementally.  Writing small easy to understand code was the skill that I practiced every day.

It's been just about 2 years that I've been wearing product manager hat.  What would be the number one skill that I need to practice and get better at?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Albert Wenger: Threats & Opportunities to Open Web

July 4th is the day when we celebrate our Founding Fathers' principles of freedom, equality and religious tolerance.  These principles are fundamentals of what made our country so successful.  Much of these principles are reflected on World Wide Web as we know it today.

Internet is fundamentally open platform that evens the playing field for all who want to participate.  It's does not discriminate whether you are publicly traded company with millions of dollars or one man shop operating on shoestring budget.  Everyone's digital bits are delivered equally to anyone requesting for those bits.

It's not just net neutrality.  With rise of social networks and blogs, everyone has platform to publish their own ideas and engage with anyone around the world.  Traditional media platform has been disrupted by this free sharing of information, and its full impact is yet to be seen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

YouTube: create an ecosystem for content

One genius creation by Steve Jobs for iPhone is to create its developer ecosystem.  By recognizing that wealth of applications can be developed on iPhone platform, Apple executed fantastically to create App Store and developer ecosystem.  I see the similar pattern developing with YouTube.  YouTube is becoming 24/7 American Idol platform for anyone who wants to create content, and it's leveling the playing field for vlog amateurs.

YouTube is a broadcasting network.  It's only as good as content that runs on it.  More interesting original content YouTube can attract, more valuable YouTube will become.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dan Tapscott: Networked Intelligence

Dan Tapscott took the stage at TEDGlobal 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland last week.  He talked about how openness is changing the way we collaborate, learn, and create value for everyone.  He gave interesting examples of how sharing more information and open communication with transparency leads to greater goods for everyone.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How do you keep up with news?

One problem that I deal with every day is discovering interesting content.  I need to read interesting content to keep me up to date with what's happening in high tech startups and social networks.  Also I want to discover new content that expands my perspectives.  Something that I don't even know that I'm missing is what I want to find.

Despite many social readers and discovery tools, I have not found a good solution to solve my problem yet.

Google+ API: why not now?

Earlier I've written about Google+ becoming a good social news source for me.  With introduction of Explore tab, I could find interesting things getting shared on Google+.  That is enough for me to spend time on Google+, although the curated content are not custom-tailored for my interest graph.  I guess I fit the user persona that Google+ is targeting, geeky young male adults (I had to hesitate a few seconds before I used 'young' to describe my persona...).

For me Google+ is social news source.

All the arrows are pointing to Google+ platform;
then why not more open API to point content sources to it?