Friday, November 30, 2012

Blogging: How do you find the user/reader?

Most games are straight forward.  They are easy to play because it lets you know whether you are doing well or not.  It has scoreboard and tells you whether you are on track to make it on the top leader board.  It has short feedback loop.  Therefore it's rewarding to play.

Unfortunately most things in life are not as straight forward.  Learning programming language, mastering art of coding to write an easy-to-understand program, and figuring out how to build your user base are all hard problems.  Out of them, it's especially hard to build user base on a new product.

It's very important to let people know of your product.  If no one knows of the product or no one can find it,  no one will use the product.  It's a classic problem: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Bloggers need that sales guy with the magic system...

Webmail Privacy: Is true anonymity possible?

EFF ran a blog post describing how-to on sending and receiving Webmails anonymously.  With the CIA director David Petraeus resigning over leaked personal Webmail, I read through the how-to steps thinking that I might consider keeping personal data, such as correspondence with my wife and my medical doctor.  But after a half way into it I realized that it was just way too restrictive for me.

Alas, price of leaking secret communication can be high.
The deal breaker for me was the fact that I had to use Tor Browser Bundle all the time.  Even if I made a mistake of logging on to the anonymous Webmail account, Webmail provider could have logged my IP, identify my access point and locate me using ISP record down to my home address.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

KQED: Facebook and Online Privacy

KQED Forum had a discussion around Facebook and Online Privacy this morning with Kara Swisher, Laura Sydell, and Marc Rotenberg.  The main question was whether Facebook's changing the user privacy policy to share user data with third party sites was going too far.  Although Facebook has been asking users to vote, but it's effectively abolishing the voting process while Facebook is looking to sell user data to its ad network affiliates.

You can listen to the full program.

It is interesting to listen to panelists raising all kinds of privacy questions:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Social content access control

After reading about Lindsey Stone's story about losing her job and getting her life ruined over mischievous photo posted on her personal Facebook page, it took me a while to register what had really happened.  Granted that she took and uploaded a bad-taste photo, it's clear that she did not intend to release the photo to the world.  She posted it on her personal page, and when negative reactions piled on she followed up with a comment explaining her bad judgement.

But it did not matter.  The photo got leaked outside her private circle of friends.  Someone got a hold of the copy without her approval and posted back on public Facebook page "Fire Lindsey Stone."  It took a life of its own, and many people who just heard the one side of story got piled on by even larger number.  They demanded her getting fired from her job, and it actually happened.  I heard that She has been let go.

We need to stop this nonsense.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marketers: Go after iPad users, not Twitter and Facebook

IBM released their 2012 Black Friday online shopping results.  There are a few notable findings from the reports.  I wanted to highlight two points:

- The iPad Factor: The iPad generated more traffic than any other tablet or smart phone, reaching nearly 10 percent of online shopping. This was followed by iPhone at 8.7 percent and Android 5.5 percent. The iPad dominated tablet traffic at 88.3 percent followed by the Barnes and Noble Nook at 3.1 percent, Amazon Kindle at 2.4 percent and the Samsung Galaxy at 1.8 percent.

- Social Sales: Shoppers referred from Social Networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube generated .34 percent of all online sales on Black Friday, a decrease of more than 35 percent from 2011.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mobile app user retention is hard. Why?

With Fred Wilson's post titled What Has Changed today there have been lot of discussions around shifting landscape of VC funds to enterprise from consumer space.  Wilson's points were 1) that consumer space has matured over last several years with well established platforms, such as Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Apple, etc., therefore it's difficult to find a service that is not provided by the platforms and 2) that it is very challenging to have active user base who continue to use the service on the mobile environment.  These two points are causing VC funds to shift to enterprise.

After reading the post, I saw Cristina Cordova's post highlighting the difficulties in building and sustaining monthly active users (MAU) on mobile.  She sited SocialCam, Viddy, Draw Something and Path as the examples of difficulties for startups to sustain the growth while maintaining the active user base.

Mobile app user retention seems really hard.  Why?

It's because of two reasons in my view: 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong

"The miracle of your mind is not that you can see the world as it is.  [It is] so that you can see the world as it isn't."
- Kathryn Schulz

Here is a truth that no one likes talking about.  Everyone is fallible.  We all make mistakes and make wrong decisions.  We do that more often than we care to admit.  The challenge is to balance our fallibility with our uniqueness and create something great while working with others.

This challenge is especially true for entrepreneurs.  Founders are the most self assured ones in the group.  It is very difficult for founders to admit there are things that they got wrong and examine how to fix the problem.  But this introspection of asking whether we are right on big questions is absolutely required for those who are in the top positions.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Art of learning by doing it

I believe in learning-by-doing principle.  It is about doing things with my own hands and understanding what is involved to do things right.  I found that it is very time consuming and difficult to do this.  But I feel that it is absolutely necessary to have greater ownership of what I do.


This blog is a good example.  I am learning a lot about running a website, and what it takes to generate traffic to a site.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

One new blogger each week

One thing that I notice each day is that there are many interesting bloggers out there.  There are some famous ones, such as Coding Horror by Jeff Atwood, Daring Fireball by John Gruber, Joel on Software by Joel Spolsky, and by Fred Wilson to name a few.  But there are many other bloggers who are sharing their perspectives on line.

These are just a few bloggers that I found interesting in the last couple of weeks.  I know I missed a whole bunch, and I'm thinking that there must be many more who are starting out their own blogs.

So it got me thinking.  Why not share these interesting bloggers as I find them from the web?

More than anything, I want to be able to keep track of these interesting bloggers for my own benefit.  I'm hoping that others may be able to consult my list to find new and interesting bloggers to follow.

If you find any interesting blogger, please let me know as well.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Collaboration does not happen with deploying a tool

I believe that we gain more by sharing more.  By actively sharing insights and perspectives we can collectively create greater values than sum of its parts.  Collaboration is not a zero sum game.  It is one of the reasons why I decided to update my blog every day.

More than ever we need people who can collaborate with each other.  Collaboration takes experience and skills.  It's not a process that rewards single star player.  In order for collaboration to work smoothly, participants must have experiences working with others and putting collective goals ahead of individual agenda.  To operate effectively in that environment it takes skills to navigate around politics and foster constructive communications.

Often it is enough to have a couple of experienced individuals out of team of several to make the collaboration work effectively.  The leader must be the person who believes in the collaborative process and has experiences managing the collaborative discussion.  Without the committed and experienced leader I've seen many collaboration fizzling out without synthesizing a new idea and how-to steps.  Collaboration is an obstacle course where individual team member can either become hindrance or aid.  It's the lead and experienced team member's job to spot these signs early on and navigate around them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fragmented enterprise collaboration tools

A: “What collaboration tools do you use?"

B: “We have Sharepoint for corporate policies and HR; Connections for product team; Jive for product marketing team; Github for engineering team; and some teams are using Yammer.  Oh, we also have Salesforce Chatter for sales team, and our marketing team is active on Facebook Page, Twitter, LinkedIn and Wordpress blog.”

I have been asking people who work at enterprise to name their collaboration tools.  The answer is almost always not one tool, but multiple collaboration tools.  I then ask if they have a plan to unify and agree on single collaboration tool.  Again the answer is almost always no.

Clearly it's counter-intuitive to have separate islands of collaboration tools.  Collaboration tool, by definition, is meant to make communication and working together easier among team members.  Instead of using multiple tools segregating users, it makes much more sense for an organization to choose one tool where everyone can be available.  More users will create network effect, and collaboration tool will be that much more valuable.

But that's not the reality.  Why is this the case?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Product Management: Is it good enough?

Having worked software development as product manager and having been a software user, I came to appreciate how many things can go wrong with releasing a product.  Also I have seen how products fail because of obvious issues.  These tend to happen more often for a brand new product launch.

There are a million things that could go wrong when making a product.  Release target may slip because of the last minute showstopper bug, documentation may not be ready in time, product may not be solving the right problem for the user and market may not materialize as anticipated.  Out of all these possible pitfalls, perhaps the most fatal mistake that product manager can make is not setting the right standard for the product quality.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nicholas Negroponte: Teach kids how to learn with OLPC

Nicholas Negroponte is the founder of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC).  He has been working on OLPC project for the past 7 years.  Just as the name suggest the idea of OLPC is to give one laptop to each child.  His audacious goal is to get the child to learn from the PC who does not get to school.

Negroponte described his vision at Solve for X forum last February 2012.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Facebook to marketers: We'll show your ROI

Q: Which one of the following is not a communication tool?

  1. Email
  2. Facebook
  3. Skype
  4. Google Search
Answer is obvious.  Anyone who used the tools would identify Google Search.  And that has been the biggest challenge that Facebook has been dealing with.  Most users think of Facebook as communication tool, much like email and instant messaging.  Facebook users visit to stay in touch with friends and keep up with what their friends are up to.

Hence advertising on Facebook did not work as well as Google Search.  People are looking for something when they visit  It's the perfect opportunity to pitch related products that might solve the people's problem.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gain cosmic perspective

I wanted to share this Chrome experiment with you.  It lets you see how small our solar system is compared to the Universe.  Earth barely shows up in the beginning of the sequence, and disappears really fast to a dot.

Click on the play button on upper left corner.

I get to put my life in perspective.  All the trial and tribulation of life is really nothing but a momentary blip from cosmic perspective.  It's time to re-examine my priorities and pay attention to what is meaningful to my life.

I hope you get to spend that time tonight.

Who knows what to do with too much data?

Continuing the thought from yesterday.  I wrote about how too-much-data (TMD) problem is creating a new challenges for social network users of filtering out signals from the noises.  Although it's a partly self-inflicted problem, because of difficulties with not knowing what to filter out ahead of time, there are opportunities for creating solutions around solving the TMD problem.

There are three user stories that I see:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Give it up. You can't keep up with everything.

Internet is vast.  We all knew that.  Although we realized that there are always information out there that we don't know about, we took a comfort of knowing that we can google anything and find the information that we needed.  Information existed in their own world.  We existed in our own world.  When we needed things, we retrieved them from the Internet.

With social media, things changed.  No longer information waits for us to retrieve them.  They are constantly thrown at us.  By Twitter Timeline, Facebook News Feed, and LinkedIn Network Updates, content are pushed out to us whether we are ready to consume them.

At the same time, social media lowered the economic barrier to publish content.  Everyone who has email address and has a social network account can post updates for all subscribers.  Even some monkeys seem to jump on this bandwagon and start their digital life as content creator.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When push notification becomes spam

Push notification is a useful tool.  It allows user to find out about a quick update in real-time without unlocking iPhone.  Because of its invasive nature, it can be really annoying to the recipients.  It's especially true when the user receives an alert that he finds no value.  That's when push notification becomes spam.

Check out following examples of spammy push notification tactic.

Since Obama is in your town, it's your opportunity to join our spamming campaign.

Surely the list of features will excite the users...

Complete with two call to actions!

Problem with these push notifications is that there is no easy way for user to opt out.  When was the last time you saw a spammy message from your own software without a clear option to opt out at the bottom of the email?

Apple has two choices.  Either they have to clean up abusive tactic to send spammy push notifications, or allow user to opt out and report the spam generators.

There is a lesson for product managers as well.  Don't make the app annoying to users.  Remember that life went on fine without the app.  Given enough annoyance users will replace it with another app or uninstall it all together.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Decentralized social network

I find many content from the web.  Some I get from well known hi-tech news sites like TechCrunch, All Things D, Business Insider, etc.  Others I discover directly from the source, that is, individual bloggers.

Reading blogger's writing is like peeking into their personal journals.  They all come in different styles, unique perspectives and a lot of passion about the subject.  That's what makes reading blog entry so much more intimate and engaging.  You can almost hear the writer's breathing as you read through the text.

As I read more and more of these, I started running into a problem.  The trouble is that there is no easy way to keep track of these interesting bloggers.  There are a few interesting blogs that I keep coming back to, which I tend to remember by the Google auto-complete feature.  But there are equally many blogs that I visit that I wish I had a time and energy to thread in a meaningful way.  Random inspiration tends to happen when you are least expecting.  It would be nice to keep them in an organized manner.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Product Management: Prototyping is your job

One of the key responsibilities of product manager is to make sure that product is usable by the customers.  This is a difficult task for a novice product manager.  That's because it is easy to jump right into designing product without understanding what the problem is to be solved and how the product should help the user solve the problem.

Often this understanding the problem and testing the solution step receive cursory review.  This shows up later in the product training and deployment phase, and by the time it is recognized it's often expensive to change the product behavior or user interface.

That's why all product managers should thinking about building a prototype.  This is especially true for a Version 1.0 product because the risk of missing the key value to customer is far greater because of initial engineering investment cost is higher hence product managers have to make lots of trade-offs.  It's easy to trade off something critical and only to release a product that is not good enough for anyone.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Making sense out of election data

The other day I wrote about NYTimes visual reports on Presidential election result.  I wanted to share a couple of examples of how each perspective can create different reports.

Raw data is like an uncut diamond.  Once you process the data to answer a question, only then you get a story that makes sense.  Data is only as good as what you pick out from them.

1. Nate Silver's Preliminary 2012 Election results by state

Among election analysts, there has been a clear winner: Nate Silver.  He correctly projected 50 state's presidential electoral votes.  Here's one of the famous reports that Nate Silver created.  It ranks all states by GOP and Democratic Party's winning margins.  The report shows how Democrats would have still won the election even if they lost Virginia, Ohio, and Florida.


2. NPR Campaign Money Map

NPR highlights a different question from the raw data.  They are looking at purple states, so-called swing states, where GOP and Democratic Party support are neck and neck.  These are states where majority of campaign moneys are spent.  If you look at Nate Silver's election results, these are states that are squarely in the middle.  When it comes to presidential election, it is all about these 12 state contests.

Imagine doing this kind of analysis on your raw data.  We are already collecting lots of data through our mobile phone, web browsers, and cloud service providers.  I can see the day when we will be able to visualize our own behavioral patterns.

Friday, November 9, 2012

That will never work

How many times have you heard "that will never work" or variation of that theme?  There are many variations:

  • We tried that before.
  • Your idea is interesting, but it is not practical.
  • It's not our priority.
  • No one will buy it.
  • Experts agree that it's not a good idea.

It comes in many forms.  But it has one thing in common: a bunch of assumptions.

Trouble with assumptions is that they may be correct, or may not be correct.  And there are countless examples where people's assumptions have been proven wrong, even the expert's opinions.

As an entrepreneur, our job is to see opportunities in these crazy ideas.  Often good ideas are a pivot away from the bad ones.

Don't get discouraged by the theme and variations of "that will never work."  Many have succeeded in spite of pessimistic reviews of their time.  Take a look at the examples of incorrect assumptions dismissing brilliant ideas.

There is no such thing as too crazy idea.  Capture the ideas, share them, develop them, and apply them to your problem.  That's how new brilliant ideas are born.  That's how a new startup begins.

Product Management: 5 Product Management Tips

The other day I saw this Warren Buffet's 5 tips for life.

Warren Buffet’s 5 Life Tips:

  • On Earning: “Never depend on a single income. Make Investments to create a second source.”
  • On Spending: “If you buy things you do not need, soon you will have to sell things you need.”
  • On Savings: “Do not save what is left after spending, spend what is left after saving.”
  • On Taking Risks: ”Never test the depths of the river with both of your feet.”
  • On Expectations: “Honesty is a very expensive gift. Do not expect it from cheap people.” 

These tips resonated with me.  It's concise yet communicates the lesson from Buffet's personal experience.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Great are not the happy ones

On Hacker's news I came across a blog article written by Jess Lee.  It was titled Why Startup Founders are Always Unhappy.  Her theory was that even though the startup may be growing because of constant bumps along the way founders often feel stressed.  I could see how that may be the case.  It is easy to miss how far you came when you are looking ahead and thinking about that one thing that you need to do to help your startup do better.

Actually I don't think it's just startup founders who feel stress at their work.  Any good knowledge worker will feel stress at the work.  Why?  Because good ones are always looking for an opportunity to get ahead and have committed themselves to get better at their craft.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Visualizing Presidential election

Even before polling places closing reporters and pundits have been projecting the winner through out the night.  It is 11:10 PM Pacific time, and we already know how the American people voted.

Although there is one winner in any election, there are many ways to look at how people voted.  By state, by religious belief, married or single, education background and by income level, to name a few.  This incredibly rich way of dissecting data is what makes Big Data analysts excited.  As analysts gain more insights about the data set and as they explore the relationships among different factors, there continues to be new reports that the analysts can create.

NYTimes has done another excellent work in presenting the Presidential election result.


A good report tells a story.  A good visual report tells a story without using words and numbers.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Product Management: Approximate and change course

A key to agile development is frequent feedback loop.  Based on the feedback product manager can determine whether to make a course correction or continue on its course.  Without feedback, PM won't be able to find out whether they have a right product market fit until product has been implemented and launched.

One implicit assumption about frequent course corrections is that as product owner PM will be able to steer the product development ship to the right orientation to get to the goal the fastest.  Without PM's ability to keep their eyes on their original goal, all the feedback and subsequent changing tack will matter a little to shorten the product development cycle.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Do we have privacy in public space?

You wake up.  You reach for your Google Glass.  Although you weren't used to wearing glasses, now you cannot imagine a day without your glasses.  Thanks to new Google Glass application called Daily Journal Recorder you can always rely on your augmented reality glasses to take continuous videos of your entire day and store key moments as a daily highlight.  It's like having your personal journal written for you while you live your life.

What about privacy?  Most people have accepted the fact that they are getting recorded all the time in any public space.  Privacy only exists in your home, and even then your location can be tracked thanks to GPS embedded on all devices starting with your mobile phone to your car key.  People no longer rely on their memory to remember whom they need to meet and what they need to do.  Personal scheduler running in the cloud reminds your next task through your wearable devices.

If you are not on the network, you don't have anyone to interact with.  Your identity is no longer about your physical self.  Without terabytes of data in the cloud your identity is incomplete because all your memory and profile are stored out in the cloud.  Without them, people won't be able to tell whether it's real you...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Many Agent Smiths on social media

Do you remember agent Smith from the Matrix?  In the movie, Agent Smith has a special power to hack the Matrix and turn anyone into a carbon copy of himself.  In effect, he is present wherever any one is present, and can monitor people at will.


As improbable as it may have sounded in 1999 when the movie Matrix was released, we are effectively surrounded Agent Smith when we walk down any city street.  Thanks to cellphone cameras and Facebook, we are now living in an era where anything that you do in presence of others can be recorded and posted on social media site.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Choose your path: Get big fast or grow organically

From Fred Wilson's blog, I found the talk by Joel Spolsky, the founder and CEO of Stack Exchange.  Spolsky talked about how FogCreek and Stack Exchange, two companies that he founded, were different in terms of their growth trajectory.  FogCreek was founded on their own funding with organic growth strategy on existing market.  Its strategy was to conserve cash, stay in business and release products that can find paying customers right away.  Stack Exchange, although it was founded without outside money, went the other direction.  It chose to get big fast using VC.  Generating revenue was not the first priority.  Instead it was going for land grab of building user base fast.

Highly recommend watching Joel Spolsky's talk.
His main point begins at 13 mins into the talk.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Blogging: How do you pick what to write?

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to do lunch with my ex-colleague.  It's been a while we had gotten together and there were lot of things to catch up.  After going through news from our family, topic changed to what we were working on.  I mentioned to him that I still blog every day, and have been doing so since January 1st this year.

Friend: Wow.  How much time do you spend to write a blog?
Me: About an hour to an hour and half.

I answered the question with what I thought the average was.  It's true that once you pick a topic and start writing, I can write an article in about an hour.  But the big if is the picking a right topic to write about.  It's really hard to pick a topic every day and write my perspective on it.