Inspired by the energy in Kenna’s “Say Goodbye to Love” single, I put together an interesting mix of selections from different genres - rock, latin jazz, hip hop, and neo-soul. Take a listen and you’ll find some new artists you’ve likely never heard of, some soulful vibes, and the latest single from Lauryn Hill who recently got out of prison!
As always, I’ve mixed it together into one cohesive playlist you can enjoy from start to finish:
I argued that computer keyboards are useful - but desperately ripe for innovation, and that the proliferation of tablets has proven that consumers desire simple, intuitive interaction paradigms.
Overnight it went viral on Hacker News and received 100+ comments.
Seeing such a strong response to my writing was truly remarkable, and inspired me to doodle and capture some of my ideas. But eventually these doodles were forgotten in the depths of my sketchbook…
Peripheral touch surface. A gesture on the surface initiates a simple on-screen keyboard. Typing on the trackpad provides visual imitation “button” feedback on screen and haptic feedback on trackpad.
Peripheral touch trackpad with dynamic touch surface. Transitions between flat surface, and raised “keys.”
What did you think?
While I doubt the viability of these ideas, I want to reflect on the feedback and comments I received on my post.
There were a few key takeaways:
keyboards are very useful for activities that require intensive data input/manipulation (programming, design, writing, etc.) and aren’t dying out immediately for their efficiency and flexibility.
voice-input technologies are potentially viable solutions, although the “environmental” sound pollution would make our world much louder, meaning this approach is impractical on a large scale.
predictive technologies (like auto-complete) could reduce the need for lots of data input, they can also be overly aggressive and distracting. Very annoying when they are incorrect, but useful when correct. What if they were correct 99.99% of the time?
gestures, if done intuitively, provides interesting opportunities for HCI. However, gestures can take more work for the user, and may not be scalable to account for many different types of inputs. Haptic feedback (vibrations) may increase usefulness.
I hope you found this interesting. If you did, please let me know in the comments below!
In this playlist, The Textures of Nuance, I take you on a textural whirlwind - with cultural nuances from Japan, France, Senegal, India, Native America and more! All mixed together into one cohesive playlist you can enjoy from start to finish.
If you’ve been wanting to expand your musical taste, here is your chance.
If you have any musical requests, you can ask me here, or subscribe to my newsletter to get updates here!
There are actually quite a bit of good posts out there about this topic. However, if you aren’t well versed on startup culture, it’s likely that you don’t know where to find them. And since I’ve recently realized that many people in my circle are interested in entering the startup space, I thought I would share quick thoughts on the first piece of the puzzle…
1. Do your homework. Just like any other industry, “startups” has a language and culture. Get up to speed on current tech trends. There are tons of resources out there, but you should start absorbing as much as you can - this will help you to navigate which companies you’re interested in joining. Or if you plan to start your own company, you will need to learn from others’ successes and failures.
Check out these links, which provide further advice & context on startups / entrepreneurship:
Startup Digest. This newsletter will send you a curated list of startup articles every week. Highly recommended!
If you are looking to transition into the startup space, you should first get a solid understanding of what startups & entrepreneurship are all about. After that, you have to get hustling - and that’s an entirely separate discussion.
I hope you find this quick advice helpful. If you have more specific questions, feel free to reach out and I will do what I can to help you!
PS. If there is enough interest, I can discuss further tactics on how to actually get a job at a startup. But this is the first step.
How has your work changed since your first day at YouNow?
Overall, there are a few key themes I’ve seen emerge over time:
I’m much more disciplined, and I can accomplish more on my own - with my own will. Because I have much more responsibility than I used to, I have no choice but to step up to the plate and deliver. The team is depending on it.
Over time I’ve developed a good system to make sure that a) I stay on top of all the things I have to do, and b) I get stuff done.
2. Better Organization & Execution
I like to write out what needs to be done each day on a single piece of paper. This helps me to be able to focus and prioritize my work. However, I also maintain a HUGE master to do list that lives in Evernote, so nothing slips through the cracks. (Evernote is a life saver!)
I get work done by giving myself deadlines, or planning around a period of time. If I know that I will go to lunch at 1pm, and it’s currently 11:30, I might try to focus on something that I can finish before heading to lunch - that way the inefficiency of switching contexts is minimized. It’s great to set goals (even small ones) and then accomplish them.
The next day I create a to do list on a new sheet of paper, transfer over any items that didn’t make it from the previous day, and then throw out yesterday’s list.
Lastly it helps me to have a simple list of high-level priorities in Evernote to keep my mind focused on what is really most important. That keeps me grounded and looking at the bigger picture, and I can remind myself how I need to perform in order to really help the team be at its best.
3. Scope of Work
These days, a large part of my job is making sure that other people are being productive, while still knocking out my own “to-dos.” I prioritize what I have to do often by the workload that other teammates have. For example, if an engineer is finishing up a task soon, they will need a specification from me to start the next thing. Or perhaps I need to get wireframes to our designer so he can start to design for our next feature. When I make sure that other people are being productive, then I can focus on the work that I really need to work on. And everyone wins.
So I have to be much more “entrepreneurial” and foresee what must be done. It’s not just reactionary work, it’s proactive.
Here’s a comparison of my work when I first started as an intern in 2011 to the work I do now, in 2013:
Back in 2011, as an intern:
- email marketing - executing our KPIs - managing social media - writing blog posts - running contests & YouNow shows (hip hop shows, karaoke contest, singer songwriter competition) - getting musicians & on YouNow & helping them broadcast - keeping people live on YouNow and chatting to make them feel excited
Now, as a Product Manager:
- meetings with Adi (our CEO) a few times a week to discuss product strategy and execution - writing product specifications - managing our analytics team - cohort analyses - making hypotheses, then proving/disproving them with experiments - writing SQL queries to extract data from our DB for analysis - sharing learnings with the team - making wireframes - design iterations with our designer - working with engineers to determine our technical limitations, to help guide product development - working with our community team to manage the YouNow brand & messaging - management of 3rd party SAAS providers (email, push messaging, analytics)
Thanks for asking this question, John! It was fun to look back and reflect on how far YouNow has come, and how I’ve progressed personally.
If you’re reading this and you’d like to ask me a question, you can submit one here, and I’ll answer it!
A week ago I asked you guys if you were interested in a curated list of music from me, and I got an overwhelmingly positive response.
You want new music!
So I’m releasing my first Spotify playlist to you guys, it’s called “Atmospheric Art & Grits.” Open your mind (and ears), take a listen, and let me know what you think!
ATMOSPHERIC ART & GRITS
I vibe to lots of stuff, so if there’s a particular sound that resonated with you, let me know! There’s more where that came from. Next I’ll be putting together some jazz tunes and experimental stuff for you guys to listen to.
"The movie chronicles the history of man’s ancient desire of bird-like flight and explains the how and why of arguably the world’s most dangerous sport today."
Besides drooling over awesome visuals of watching humans flying through the air and maneuvering through mountains, I was fascinated by the history behind man pursuing bird-like flight.
I was also inspired by the many pioneers throughout history who were determined to fly, even if it meant their death. Otto Lilienthal, a German aviation innovator who broke his neck from a glider crash, said on his deathbed that “small sacrifices must be made.”
It’s really interesting to consider the psychology behind people who are driven to do attempt these kinds of feats - to continue to push the bounds of human flight, when most people are too afraid.
They are enamored by the idea of flying - something mankind has always desired to do. They are aware of the risk. In fact, the possibility of dying makes them feel more alive - and thus, wing suit base jumping becomes their only way to “live.”
I couldn’t help but think about parallels between these flight pioneers and innovative entrepreneurs. Those who leap out into the unknown and create entirely new industries. Aware of the risk of failure, but driven by their desire to build and succeed.
Why did you decide to join a startup after college? Instead of still with a huge company?
Originally, my plan was to stay 1 extra year at MIT after graduating to get my MCP in International Development.
But that didn’t end up happening.
During my senior year of college (2011) I became really interested in tech entrepreneurship. I had a few ideas for companies that I wanted to start, and was increasingly passionate about consumer web and mobile products. But I had already secured an internship with McKinsey and figured I would enter the startup scene after further “building my analytical skill set” and learning about the space.
Well, McKinsey happened, and at the end of it all things didn’t work out. It was a great learning experience, and fun at times, but after 2 summer internships in corporate america (banking at MS & consulting at McK), I had had enough. So I decided I would NOT go back to school…
I didn’t want to work at a big company. Instead, I wanted to delve into the startup scene and get some experience helping to build a business. I wanted to be judged for my good work and ideas, rather than my attire and schmoozing abilities. I wanted to make something innovative and revolutionary that I believed in.
So I moved to New York City, crashed on a few couches and living room floors and started to hustle to find a startup job. My girlfriend Camille (now wife!) was really helpful and supportive during this time of uncertainty - and she eventually let me stay with her.
At the time I was really interested in getting a position at foursquare - as Associate Product Marketing Manager. But my boy John Exley was well connected in the NYC tech space, and told me about this opportunity at an early stage startup that hadn’t even launched yet - called “YouNow.” It was an internship with a potential for full-time down the road if things took off - no guarantees.
I was intrigued, and met with Adi, the CEO. He took a chance on me, and after much hard work & hustle I later would become YouNow’s 1st employee (non-founding team member).
Now, nearly 2 years later, I’m still at YouNow, as product manager. And we’re building a product that is changing lives.
I’ve learned 10x what I would have working for a big company.
I’ve learned how to be a doer and get things done - period. I know the challenges of starting a business from literally nothing, and now have experience leading a team in the face of uncertainty. I’ve gained technical skills and expertise in building complex consumer-facing software that serves 1.5 million users.
And in this whole process I’ve stayed true to myself - which is really the most important part.
Feel free to reach out if there’s anything I can add to that answer, or help to advise you on.
I say if you want to join a startup, just do it. :)
Props for making it to the end of this post. If you liked reading this, you can ask me questions like this and I’ll answer them. Ask me anything here.
This weekend I dedicated 6 hours to painting a mural on my friend John Exley's apartment wall.
I wanted to make something that captured John’s earnest energy and personal inspirations. It was also an opportunity for me to be imaginative and do the largest piece I’ve ever done.
Here it is:
Dream Like a Kidwith John Exley acrylic, oil stick, mixed media on dry wall —2013—
When you are a child, you are the purest form of your true self. As you grow older, you begin to let go of many of the simple pleasures and fantasies that inspired you during childhood. You also become jaded and pessimistic as the world says that you can’t do things.
For me, Dream Like a Kid is a reminder of the importance of approaching life with vigor, following your dreams and not limiting yourself. Telling yourself you can do anything, and then doing it.
Sometimes I wish I could stop dealing with BS and do exclusively what I want to do. Get my tattoo. Build an art studio. Start a revolution.
I need the power to reject all other forces trying to control me and capture my attention. I need the singular, uncompromising, charismatic composure of the artist that I am. I need to be true to myself. Emotion is my friend, not my enemy. And anything less than perfect is not acceptable!
I need focus like riding a subway train. Like an owl on a field mouse.
I need to never stop fighting for what I believe in. And fight until I win, never lose.
Historically, one of my biggest struggles has been that sometimes I get so excited about new ideas and possibilities that my mind jumps from one thing to the next. What ends up happening is that I’m “doing too much” and don’t give my projects/ideas the love and attention they deserve.
I’ve seen this manifest itself in my art as well. When I’m inspired, I love starting new pieces. But I don’t always feel like finishing what I’ve started - it’s just not as exciting.
One way I’ve tried to deal with this is by actively imagining new ideas, but with the understanding that they are just that - ideas, not projects. This would allow me to still engage in the excitement of generating new ideas, yet keep me from spreading myself too thin. But that’s not always enough.
Sometimes I need to resist the urge to let my mind wander and just focus on one thing.
Recently I have been putting the majority of my creative energy into YouNow. While it is still important for me to keep my creative juices fresh, I realize that making YouNow the best it can be means giving it my all.
And so I’ve learned that doing anything meaningful (and doing it excellently) requires great focus.
Has staying focused ever been a challenge for you?
It’s pretty much human nature to procrastinate. Given the complexities and constraints of real life challenges, it’s virtually impossible to do what needs to be done immediately, every single time.
But I’ve learned over time that there is a way to overcome the setback caused by typical procrastination: embrace “good” procrastination and eliminate the bad.
Here’s what I mean:
1. Prepare yourself to be successful later.
When you employ “good” procrastination, you are preparing yourself now, for future success later. If you come out of a meeting or class with action items, at the very least you want to set yourself up for success later. Perhaps this means making an outline of the paper you need to write, or summarizing the 3 main to dos, with your thoughts on how to accomplish them.
The entire point is that you are acknowledging “i am going to do this later”… but you are preparing yourself to be ready when “later” comes.
2. Only procrastinate once.
In the Calvin & Hobbes comic above, Calvin is “waiting for inspiration” before he starts his big project, because he needs the feeling of pressure that will get his creative juices flowing. This is often why we procrastinate - we just don’t feel motivated to do what needs to get done at the moment. So “last minute panic” provides the sense of urgency needed to make things happen.
But you can create this sense of urgency yourself! A great practical way is to abide by this rule: only procrastinate on a particular item once. And when you do, prepare yourself for future success by setting a deadline of when you will complete the task. Then, when your deadline comes around, buckle down and GIT R DONE. You procrastinated once to get it out of your system - now is the time to make things happen.
At the end of the day, productivity is about discipline. But these are two actionable ways to build the right habits and overcome procrastination!
Have you ever noticed that great ideas & aspirations are everywhere? Yet, despite this, many viably good ideas don’t become reality and most of us do not accomplish what we want to achieve.
Because there are 2 types of people in this world: “dreamers” and “doers.”
Dreamers think of countless ideas of how to make the world a better place. They see opportunity, but do not seize it - because they are preoccupied with working out all the details first. They are afraid to share their brilliant ideas with others because they think someone might steal it, or they are afraid of failure. As a result they are not very productive.
Doers are dreamers who realize that the future actually has to be created - it does not build itself. Doers understand that not everyone is able to “do,” so while dreamers are worrying, doers are working. Doers prioritize & move quickly, and are not afraid to get their hands dirty. At the end of the day, they get stuff done.
Doers make dreams into realities.
NOTE: If you are a dreamer who wants to become a doer, it’s not too late! I would recommend reading Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky. It gives great insight into what it takes to be extremely productive as a creative person.
It isn’t enough to make a product that has cool features or start a business that solves hard problems. Developing a strong brand requires establishing a unique voice and building an emotional connection with your target audience.
How do you build this type of connection?
1. Don’t be boring. Be unforgettable.
Mailchimp does a great job of making email (typically boring) feel magical. Their monkey mascot delights me every time I login with quips & random links to funny videos.
2. Have a personality that resonates with your target audience’s values.
At YouNow, we have started to really let our personality shine through in our communication with our users. Our twitter stream is full of internet culture, humor and youthfulness. And it appeals to our audience.
See a few of our tweets and our users’ replies below:
This messaging has been very successful in helping us to define our brand and connect with our users. The tone we use reflects our values and tells our users that we understand them!
3. Be consistent.
The final piece to establishing brand identity is to consistently portray the same voice. Just like in relationships, people want to feel like they know you intimately, and can trust you to be you.
Developing your own unique personality takes time - but when you find it stick with it. Your audience will love you for it!
Each day I try to teach myself how to operate on a world class level to be in the top 0.1% to be excellent beyond measure 10x more productive than the next great person but with that comes both the good and the bad… the awesome, exciting visionary work but also the boring dumb stuff so i find unique ways to motivate myself and get the mundane done as quickly and effectively as possible so i can get on to the awesome stuff.
How does one know if he is operating excellently? if i examine myself and see room for improvement… I know i’m not there yet and it gives me motivation (if nothing else does) to be even more excellent than I was the day before and 10x more excellent than everyone else.
Excellence is not a destination - it’s the journey.
Have you ever wondered how you could become “more innovative?”
I strongly believe that self-improvement starts with building the right habits. In this case, “building the right habits” means training yourself to innovate. There’s no other way around it.
What does this look like in practice?
First, place yourself at the intersection of something “cutting edge” that excites you, and be disciplined about pursuing deeper knowledge in it. Having strong knowledge of the domain will allow you to identify opportunities for innovation.
If your job or school allows you to engage with something new and exciting, you should jump on it. If you aren’t so fortunate as to have something innovative as your daily focus, seek out innovation on the side. Find a field/topic that excites you, envelop yourself in it, and get involved. Go to meetups, hold informational interviews with nascent experts in the field, read books, blogs - whatever it takes.
Once you begin to establish domain knowledge, constantly ask yourself how can this be improved? What markets aren’t being properly catered to? What is deficient in this technology / product / system?
Think of it this way: you want to live in the future, and discover what is missing in the present.
Giving yourself allotted time to think without distractions is essential for your own productivity and personal well being. This could take the form of sitting down with a pen and paper, or taking a long walk, or swimming - it should be a planned time when your mind is not occupied with any complex task.
For me, I get this daily, for about an hour on the train going to and from work. And on Saturday mornings, I’ve recently taken to long walks throughout Brooklyn, after a morning run.
Having a clear mind allows you to make decisions with the proper perspective.
If you view yourself as an innovator, then this is essential - how can you navigate uncharted paths if you can’t clearly visualize your trajectory?
One day after a run in Brooklyn, I wanted know how many miles I ran on my route. But I didn’t want to piece together a solution using Google Maps & mental math. I was mobile, and wanted something visual and simple.
I said to myself:
"Self… I wish I had an app with a minimal map interface, where I could trace my finger on a map, in any combination of streets, and it would tell me the distance."
This hypothetical app would use a free-form sketch technology where my traced path would snap to conform to the street lines on a map. This would allow the distance to be calculated because my sketch would correlate with an actual street route.
See wireframe below:
After I thought of this, I wondered “how else could this line “tracing” idea could be applied?”
For example: a Snapchat-like app where you can take an image & create a stylized version of it by drawing over it. Much like tracing paper… where you could sketch over a face in a photo, and the lines snap into place around the main forms in the photo. The final product is a traced line drawing that (kinda) looks like the subject.
Then you share the sketch with your friends.
Would you find either of these apps useful or interesting? How else could this minimal sketching approach be used?
Have you ever wanted to jump into the TV like that kid from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory?
Well get ready… it will be possible soon.
The TVs of our near future will have apps on them, and amateur video streams will also be consumed as entertainment. As a viewer. you will have direct influence over what you’re watching, via live voting/polling & chat.
Mark Suster of GRP Partners says that “TV of the future will not always have linear stories” and people will begin to play a greater role in controlling & participating in their own TV experiences - in real time.
There are a few key trends that lead me to believe this:
consumers are increasingly addicted to real time connectivity
people are eager to participate in content creation around social memes (i.e. “Sh*t People Say”, Gangnam Style, “Harlem Shake” videos)
the second screen is becoming a standard for consumer entertainment experiences
ubiquitous wireless access & increasingly powerful mobile devices make video capture & transmission easier than ever before
… basically, the internet and TV will converge in many ways.
How will this look?
Successful players in this space will make an experience tailored to the consumer’s interests, creating a seamless personalized browsing experience, while allowing for discovery.
Live people/content will be organized around topics & interests, to make browsing & discovery easier. TV will be a tactile, participatory experience. And browsing becomes not just looking for your favorite shows, but also finding new interesting people & relevant discussion.
At YouNow, a live video social network, we see this as a huge part of our product’s future. Our users will be able jump into the television set through their mobile device or webcam, and get in front of an audience of real people all around the world to chat, meet others or entertain!
A huge market is opening up for amateur content & real-time live video engagement. And YouNow plans to be at the center of it.
A few months ago I came across a sturdy, abandoned door on the streets of Brooklyn. I ended up carrying it home, and using the door to make a painting. I removed the handle & lock on the door - finding a supporting structural cylinder. I liked it so much that I put it on a chain, and I’ve been wearing it around my neck for the past few weeks.
Since the door lock’s inner workings are simple, yet interesting, I thought I would take the opportunity to explain how a basic cylinder door lock works.
1. A key enters the lock shaft. If the key is the correct shape, and properly solves the “puzzle,” then the pins are properly aligned and turning the key also turns the cylinder. If the key is the wrong shape, the pins prevent the key from turning.
2. When the cylinder turns, it also turns a “cam” that is attached to the cylinder. The cam pulls a bolt in laterally through a second cylinder, allowing the door to open. When the bolt is extended into the frame of the door, the door cannot be opened, and is locked.
I am fascinated by simple technology that solves everyday problems. Whenever I can, I like to take the opportunity to disassemble the components that fit together to solve a problem & figure out how they work.
Let me know if you thought this was as cool as I did, and if there is anything else you’d like to see me dissect!
An apartment with a single broken window deteriorates quickly because when tenants see it, they tend to think that the management doesn’t care. This results in neglecting care of the facilities and the building decays rapidly into disrepair.
A good example of this is New York City crime rates in the 1980s. The city’s inability to control even a small crime like graffiti was a signal to citizens that it would not be able to address more serious issues - so crime abounded. However, crime rates dramatically decreased when the city engaged in urban renewal efforts, which started with something as simple as cleaning the graffiti on subway cars.
It is important to fix “broken windows” in your product. Seemingly insignificant details can often have a disproportionately adverse effect on how your company is perceived - both internally and externally.
A “broken window” is a negative signal to both your users and your team. And you want them to know that you care. So don’t sacrifice excellence for agility - fix your broken windows.
After 7 years of operation, Stickam is shutting down. A pioneer in the live video space, Stickam paved the way for live video sites looking to be more than seedy hubs for pornography. They were the originators.
And now they are closing their doors. Why? Well, I certainly don’t know the exact reasoning, but I can make a few educated guesses as to why Stickam is throwing in the towel.
Many other players have entered the live video space over time. Ustream, blogTV, justin.tv, twitch.tv, YouTube Live, tinychat (and YouNow of course!). More competition with different experiences can appeal to niche consumers, thinning out the pool of potential dedicated users.
2. Low engagement
It’s hard to keep users engaged on live video sites. Engagement is driven by broadcasters, and so there must be an incentive for these users to go live. It’s a variation of the chicken & egg problem. No one wants to broadcast if nobody’s watching, and no one wants to watch if no one is broadcasting.
If the main traffic comes from external influencers, who are driven by financial incentives, then when marketing funds run out and influencers leave, you are left with no users.
My guess is the cost per user acquisition outweighed the lifetime revenue per user.
The service that will be most successful in this space will create an experience that viewers and broadcasters can enjoy - even without high profile users. It will not be only about content, but about meeting people in a safe, fun & enjoyable way.
And if my team and I do our job right, that company will be YouNow.
The interest graph represents the next frontier in “social.”
Contrary to the social graph, which can be used to make inferences based on your social connections, the interest graph maps tastes, creating a network of people who share interests, but don’t necessarily know each other. Based on data such as: likes, follows, purchases, engagement behaviors, explicit and implicit interests, etc, the interest graph can provide unique insights into individual consumer preferences and behaviors, allowing for experiences that are increasingly personalized and relevant for consumers.
This is already happening! - to some degree. For example, Quora presents content to you based on topics that you have followed, and the interactions of people you are following. It quickly provides you with a custom tailored experience, with ample content discovery opportunities.
But content discovery is just the first step.
The next step is a deliberate effort to connect people with people, (rather than content) using the interest graph.
While “content” may be the conduit for connectivity, the ultimate goal (in my mind) is using interests to catalyze intimate human interactions.
This is where I see YouNow going - using the interest graph and tags to bring together likeminded people & facilitate real-time interaction experiences. More to come on this…
Yesterday I was chatting with my colleague Erez Barkai (CTO of YouNow) about AAPL’s declining stock (currently at $446/share), and how they need to develop a new product, rather than squeezing the extra juice out of existing product lines.
He suggested an idea for a new product, although I’m pretty sure that Apple wouldn’t go for it. Nevertheless, I thought it was a cool idea to explore, so I made a sketch of it below.
The idea is this: a tablet / laptop combo, where each component has separate operating systems, but when connected, they function on one OS.
Keyboard (with it’s own hard drive & OS) acts as a port for the tablet
Tablet - acts like a monitor when connected to the keyboard (turns off it’s own OS), but acts as a fully-functioning tablet when separated from the keyboard.
NOTE: The idea to combine a laptop & tablet is not quite novel. There are other convertibles on the market, like the Lenovo Yoga Ideapad 13, and the HP Envy x2 (which actually seems very similar to this idea). The main idea here is not adding a peripheral to a tablet, but rather added functionality & a separate, advanced OS when connecting the keyboard.
While a convertible tablet/laptop has advantages (like cost efficiency), the ability to separate the pieces introduces issues like durability concerns, and it seems hard to pull off elegantly. And if we are talking about Apple, it’s likely they wouldn’t make anything like this (not really their style, and maybe not in best interest, considering potentially cannibalizing other product lines).
What are your thoughts on a 2-in-1 laptop/combo? Would you buy one, let alone use it? And what is Apple working on next… a phablet?
3 Lessons From Snapchat: Get People To Share Your Product
I have been talking about Snapchat a lot lately, and with good reason. Their recent growth is proving that they are doing something right - at the very least they are getting people to use the service and invite their friends.
So what can we learn about how to increase a product’s virality from Snapchat?
1. Make it clear WHY users should invite their friends Snapchat elucidates that users should get their friends on the service quite easily - in fact it is central to using the service. Since the photos self-destruct, it is in the users best interest to get more friends on Snapchat, so they can have more content to consume. This creates a hyper-desire to get more people on the service, (even greater than what is typical for products with network effects) since users are not collecting photos, but simply experiencing them.
2. Make it easy to connect with friends ALREADY using the product Since the user understands that Snapchat will be more fun with friends, she is obliged to add her friends who are already on snapchat. Snapchat makes this easy, by importing the user’s contacts, showing clearly which friends are on the service. When the user adds their friends, it drives further engagement, accelerating the viral loop.
3. Provide a simple way to invite friends NOT using the product So if my first experience was good, but I understand that I need more interactions to make my experience better, then the natural next step is to invite my friends who aren’t on Snapchat - whether by direct invite via Snapchat, or by word of mouth recommendation.
Snapchat includes in the friends list not only the friends using Snapchat, but also those who are not currently using the service. This makes it easy to invite friends, and also reemphasizes the fact that the user should again reach out to their friends to get the maximum benefit on Snapchat.
At YouNow we are working to optimize our viral loop, and so I plan to take these quick learnings and apply them. Is there anything else to learn about virality from Snapchat?
I’ve been using Snapchat a lot lately. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s a compelling product for a number of reasons.
I’ve noticed recently that what has really captured my heart about Snapchat, is that it allows me to find real world canvases on which I can paint my imaginations, and quickly share them with my friends. For example, I’ll draw a genie emanating from a bottle in a water advertisement… or a playfully menacing Godzilla frolicking among NYC skyscrapers.
I think one of the hallmarks of a good consumer product, is its ability to instill a sense of ownership and freedom in the user while still providing the proper constraints necessary to make the product simple and intuitive.
Have any of you used Snapchat? I’d love to know your thoughts.
Working at a startup really teaches you how to produce quality work out of nothing. Rather than inheriting proven systems, best practices, and tools to help you be efficient, you have to build these structures yourself, extract key learnings from your work, and above all, execute.
And because solving problems out of thin air, and thinking on one’s feet 24/7 isn’t natural for most, you may find it difficult to be productive when you’re given huge problems with very little structure. Even in highly structured situations, it can be hard to consistently perform at the level it takes to really “knock it out the park.”
If there’s any piece of advice I’d give, it would be to act like an owner. Think: “if this was my company/team/business unit, what would I do to ensure that is succeeds?” It’s a sure-fire way to become instantly more valuable to your team, and perform at the level of excellence that will ultimately advance your professional goals.
Here are a few ways to “act like an owner”:
1. Own Your Domain
Be indispensable in a vitally important part of your business or team. If you have been tasked with a particular task, OWN that space. Be an expert. If you handle your company’s web presence, then do what it takes to become a social media guru, and the go-to person for your team.
NOTE: this doesn’t mean you are limited to only your expertise, and can’t contribute in other areas where your team needs help. In fact, you should be a pioneer and expand your domain.
Which leads me to my next point…
2. Find Voids, and Fill Them
When you are working in situations with high uncertainty and little structure, there are bound to be gaping holes in your team’s approach or product. Discover where your team is deficient, and propose solutions to your problems - and be prepared to lead the implementation yourself.
Be proactive: consider how you can best help your team, and then execute it.
3. Work Sustainably
Create an infrastructure which helps your team/product/company to continue on sustainably. An owner doesn’t build a company just so that it can come crashing down. Entrepreneurs, while perhaps motivated by the reward of an exit, build a company because they want to see it continue on to create value. The same concept can be applied to your work, (since you are acting like an owner) but on a smaller, more manageable scale.
For example, if you have a task that you do repeatedly, find a way to automate it and do more with less work. Not only does this make you more efficient, and will free you up to fill voids and expand your territory, but it will also ensure that others can also build upon your work.
When you begin to think of yourself as an “owner,” your approach and work product begins to change drastically, making you much more productive & helpful to your team. Do you have any experience with being effective in situations of huge uncertainty and a lack of structure? I’d love to hear your advice.
As a follow up to my post “Life Hack: Build the Right Habits,” in which I discuss how powerful habit is in shaping who we are, I thought I would be transparent and share a few of my goals for 2013, show the measures I am taking to “build the right habits” and drink my own kool aid. I’m also taking a small, focused approach to these goals, to ensure that I make the most of them.
Overall, my theme for 2013 is “striving for excellence.”My goals are: 1. Hone my product insight & problem-solving capabilities 2. Increase my productivity by a factor of 10 3. Challenge myself to be mentally & physically excellent 4. Find proper product-market fit for YouNow
As a small case study, I’d like to focus on my first goal, break down why it’s unnatural for many people to solve problems, and explain how I am combating this natural impulse with the right behaviors in 2013.
Goal #1. Hone my product intuition & problem-solving capabilities.
People prefer to find solutions, not create them, as most people don’t like to engage with this part of their brains. It feels too hard. “Why think critically when someone else can do the work for me?”
Common behavior for dealing with day to day obstacles is to: a) complain / avoid the problem b) adapt, to mitigate the impact of said obstacle c) find and employ a solution someone else has created
C is a fine approach, but there are often problems we encounter for which we cannot easily find solutions. This leaves you the option of either a) complaining / avoiding the problem (which is counterproductive) or b) adapting so that the obstacle is less annoying (energy efficient, but ultimately unproductive).
I often find myself in the option b territory, doing what I like to call “evolutionary evasion.” Depending on the nature of the problem I may encounter, I will often adapt and learn to live with/around the obstacle, rather than finding a solution. For peace of mind, “evolutionary evasion” may be a good tactic. But for innovation, it is a bad approach. Someone has to solve the problem - why shouldn’t it be me?
So, I am making it a habit to solve problems (big and small). I touched on this partially in my blog post “Flex the Muscles of Your Imagination.” In it, I explain how I challenge myself daily to invent something new. Sometimes my “imaginations” solve problems, and other times they are fanciful. Examples include: an elegant floating candle, rubber-like flexible eyeglasses you can put in your pocket, and a super-thin & flexible dual-screen tablet.
By actively and habitually engaging my brain in problem-solving, I am training myself to recognize the inefficiencies and limitations around me, and imagine creative solutions. Resolving to write down / sketch out my ideas, even if I don’t understand exactly how they should work at first, allows me to be prolific and uninhibited. And instead of evading my problems, or putting them off until later, I am attacking them head on in 2013.
Do you have any suggestions on how to become a better problem solver? Or perhaps, any tips on achieving my other goals? Your feedback and thoughts are welcomed!
Habits are incredibly powerful in determining our productivity levels, professional success, personal health, values, and more. And how “good” or “bad” they are is really shaped by the behaviors we exhibit. Therefore, by understanding that we as humans naturally create habits, and that habits are incredibly formative in your development as a person, you can mold yourself into the person you wish to be, simply by building the right habits.
Habits are powerful - how? The behaviors you exhibit on a regular basis define who you are. While we all have conceptions of who we’d like to be, the truth is that we are the person we consistently perpetuate day after day. This is why it’s important to be aware of how powerful your habits are, because they determine who you are in reality. In order to improve and achieve the goals you have set for yourself, you need to change your behaviors consistently.
If you work out fervently, you will likely be in good shape. If you practice the guitar daily, you become more skilled and familiar with the instrument. If you read frequently, you will become more knowledgable and a better reader. Conversely, if you sit on the couch and watch 5 hours of television and eat potato chips every day, you are priming yourself to be unhealthy. It’s important to recognize that our habits are not the exception, but our behavioral norm - this is why they define who we are.
Pretty simple & straightforward.
How do habits form, and what are the implications? As humans, we become easily accustomed to doing things the way we’ve been doing them, and our minds/bodies work together to build habits for efficiency’s sake. It becomes natural to repeat the same behaviors, and essentially we become good at doing them - with less effort. So to get the most out of our natural human inclination to create habits, the idea is to limit destructive behaviors & consistently practice constructive behaviors.
There is a positive feedback loop that good habits create. By executing constructive behaviors, and developing good habits, you build skill. Additionally, you are creating a momentum of continued positive behaviors, allowing you to consistently take advantage of the skills you are building. Building excellence in anything is a combination of those two things: developing skills and exhibiting behavior that makes the most of that skill.
I’m using habit to improve my productivity, problem-solving insight, and physical fitness. I encourage you to discipline yourself to build the right habits that will help you achieve your goals.
Facebook introduced an app called “Poke" yesterday. "Poke," which seems to be a clone of Snapchat, lets you nudge your friends by sending them a poke, message, picture or a video - the catch is that the content only lasts for matter of seconds. There is no archiving of the event: simply a record that it happened in a blank activity feed.
What I like about Snapchat (& Poke) is that I am able to share a fleeting moment with a friend that can never be revisited, yet the very existence of that moment adds nuance to my relationship with that person. For example, I caught Godzilla chillin’ in midtown (see picture above) sent it to my friends on Snapchat.
The emergence of this trend of instantaneous feedback & the consumption of ephemeral moments is something that I have been thinking about for the last few months. Naturally, I’ve been considering its implications for YouNow, the live video social network I’m working on.
We (YouNow) don’t do archiving well, because we haven’t focused on it. I think this is a good thing. Instead, YouNow’s value comes from real-time feedback of a live experience.
We’ve seen users searching for archived content (especially with people coming from YouTube), as there is a natural human desire to “see what you missed” when someone was live or had a “show”. But I think removing archived content, while perhaps counterintuitive, could be the right approach, as it makes watching/doing a live broadcast an exclusive experience. It also attunes users to other interesting content that may be happening on YouNow.
I have a few ideas on how to make this work, by still providing a way for users to capture the most interesting and exciting moments of a live broadcast. But first, I’d like to hear your thoughts.
How would you propose that we allow our users to capture live experiences, without archiving the video?
What can LEGO teach us about making good products?
Since my childhood, I have been enamored of LEGO products. The iconic construction toys were instrumental in development of my identity as a “maker”, and have fundamentally shaped the way I see the world. I would lock myself in a room for hours and build vast civilizations. Things I read in books, historical events, space travel, medieval kingdoms - all became real to me. I built anything that I could imagine.
Besides inspiring generations of makers, LEGO’s superbly built products have allowed the company to build a powerful business dynasty. In 2011, LEGO grossed ~$3.5 billion in revenue, while their closest competitor, Mega Bloks made $0.4 billion. And despite selling their products at a significant premium to other imitation products, LEGO takes ~70% of the construction toy market.
After 80 years of toy manufacturing, LEGO continues to build lasting products that are made memorable by their characteristics. They are:
1. User Friendly. LEGOs are intuitively easy to use. In essence, they are simple interlocking plastic bricks, each piece deliberately made to fit together with other bricks. A customer can open a box and start putting pieces together immediately, or follow detailed instructions to build a design that LEGO has suggested.
2. Well Made. LEGO goes to great lengths to manufacture & package their products with perfection. They have calculated the ideal “clutch power” (the amount of force it takes to separate two bricks), making their products functionally sound and useable. And each brick type is uniquely labeled, so that should a brick ever become loose or not fit properly, it can be immediately identified and discontinued.
3. Useful & versatile. People of all ages use LEGOs to learn from, to play with, to create and in turn share their creativity. The toys are exceedingly valuable for their repeat use, as kids (and adults!) will use them again and again, deconstructing and rebuilding as they imagine new combinations of pieces and creative possibilities.
4. Full of personality. Despite their simplicity and structured form, LEGO products are infused with personality. Boldly colorful pieces, diverse mini-figures and multiple accessories provide the user a remarkable palate for imaginative storytelling. And while LEGO has generated many unique character series of their own, they also license various movie franchises, (Star Wars, Harry Potter, and more) bringing additional creative masterpieces into the LEGO world.
Much like Apple, LEGO has inspired subcultures of die hard customers who identify strongly with the brand by creating quality products with an enjoyable user experience. In my opinion, they provide a strong example of consistently making an excellent product.
Have you ever played with LEGO bricks / minifigures? What has your experience been? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Lately I have been considering what a next-level computing experience looks like (an integrated hardware & software solution). I’ve been imagining the role of gestural mapping, holograms & 3d space, all of which I will likely discuss in more depth at some point. But before we get to the fancy stuff, there is one aspect of the “navigation” experience that is ripe for innovation - and that is the computer keyboard.
1. What’s wrong with the current keyboard, you ask?
a. Ergonomics. We as humans are spending increased time in front of a computer screen, for both leisure & work. Intense, lengthy keyboard typing episodes can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, among other problems like bad posture. Many alternative “more ergonomic” alternatives have been designed and manufactured, but because I don’t see them widely used by consumers, or bundled by bigger players, their impact is not significant enough. b. Inefficiency: unused keys / key combinations. The Pareto Principle (aka the “80-20 rule”) states that, “for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”. This logic holds true in the case of the keyboard - as most people do not use all the keys/key combinations available to them. 20% of the keys do 80% of the damage. A simpler keyboard leaves less room for confusion, opening up the door for more intuitive experiences. c. Diverging consumer behaviors & use cases. Keyboards are really useful for some digital activities, and not as crucial for others. For certain activities, like programming, heavy word processing, etc, a keyboard is a must. However, consumer behavior is rapidly changing, and activities like game-playing, browsing, video watching, shopping & searching don’t require much typing at all. For these uses, a simple trackpad or touch screen, with optional typing capabilities suffices. Think tablets.
2. So, why hasn’t there been more widespread innovation around the keyboard?
a. There is such a strong precedent set by the QWERTY keyboard, an old tradition began by the birth of the typewriter in the 19th century. It is such a force of nature, that throughout history multiple attempts to do away with QWERTY have failed. I mean, who wants to relearn how to type? Making changes to the arrangements of keys is not expedient for consumers, and thus, not easily adopted. By default, this tradition stifles innovation.
b. People like options. Despite the fact that there are some key strokes / combinations that I (as a consumer) hardly ever use, it is comforting to know that I have the option to use them, should I ever need them. c. Limited distribution opportunities. While there is a market for computer peripherals, most consumers want things to be nicely packaged for them, preferring bundled solutions (laptops & desktop packages). Big players are risk-averse, as introducing a radically different keyboard design into their bundled products could mean losing market share. A systemic resistance to change also makes it harder for smaller, more specialized computer peripheral players to gain a critical mass of users on new keyboard designs, thus perpetuating our problem.
3. How can we innovate?
While typing every letter gives us more control, it is also time and work intensive. Finding a way to make consumers do less work when navigating (or typing) is a way to produce a better solution. How can we guess what people are saying, and say it for them, reducing the work done by the consumer? Conceivably, this could be achieved by employing machine learning, and creating an integrated system that suggests to people what they are looking for, or completes unfinished or basic search queries. (think Siri)
Ideas for innovation: - reduce unnecessary key strokes - make keyboards more ergonomic (separation of keys, reoriented) - virtual keys, rather than physical (think touch screen) - can feet also be used? (like a piano foot pedal) - what role will gestures play in this? (both 2d and 3d space)
Challenges: - How do we get people to adopt a new paradigm? - The physical & audible feedback of the keyboard is rewarding - Who will be the first mover?
While the title of my essay may be “alarmist”, I AM NOT implying that computer keyboards will completely disappear. Rather, I see a bifurcation of the computer keyboard, separated by the functional roles it plays to different users. (this is essentially a continuation of the touch screen trend that has proliferated along with smartphones and tablets)
If we can combine a simplistic interface with other technologies that allow consumers to do more with less work, I believe a sophisticated and innovative consumer keyboard is both possible and inevitable.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
In the over-saturation of consumer technology & social media notifications, many people are finding themselves on digital sensory overload. There is a perceptible desire to return to the simplicity of the past - back before cell phones were navigation devices, jukeboxes, gaming consoles, televisions AND computers all at once… but were bricks instead.
We used to keep physical photo albums. Now, we hoard hard drives & folders on Dropbox. Sure, we have Facebook albums and Instagram profiles… but what happened to scrap books and letters?
These feelings of nostalgia have given birth to two notable trends:
1. Physical experiences enhancing virtual experiences.(it used to be the other way around!) Machines were created to supplement what humans can physically do, and “digital” was born to augment the power of machines, thus further empowering mankind. But in our increasingly virtual world, people wish to experience something tangible and gratifyingly simple to ground their digital identities.
Facebook recently launched Facebook Gifts, allowing users to send physical items to their friends. Now, a “happy birthday” on Facebook sounds a lot more enticing. And Mint Digital creates various products that generate physical mementos for digital interactions. For example, Stickygram takes your Instagram photos, turns them into magnets, and ships them to your house. And Olly releases fragrances when you receive social media notifications, while Polly gives you “sweets for retweets.” These products add emotional nuances to virtual experiences through simple sensory interactions.
2. Use of "nostalgic design" tropes & skeuomorphs We as humans have always idealized the past, drawing inspiration from “retro” design and fashion. And as Moore’s law suggests, digital technology is improving exponentially, consistently exhibiting higher performance for less size and cost. So with consumer tech transforming so rapidly, it’s no wonder that people yearn for the objects of yesteryear - they are literally disappearing into thin air!
Products like USB typewriters, iPhone docks with handset receivers, and “Noisy Typer" software feed this nostalgia by providing the mechanical weight & sounds of old technology. And modern web design is filled with skeuomorphs that use visual cues from older objects to suggest an application’s functionality. Have you noticed Apple’s heavy use of old school thermometers, calculators, microphones and virtual notebooks? Or perhaps seen products like Tomorrow.do, which mimic entire physical experiences virtually?
Like wearing vintage-inspired clothing, or playing Super Nintendo… rocking with old stuff is just cool, and conceivably helps one to feel grounded in his or her history. However, the technologist in me can’t wait to see what new device will make the iPad mini feel like a Game Boy.
Have you noticed these trends? Perhaps you’re experiencing sensory overload or technological nostalgia? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
a candle-lit lamp, levitated by repellent magnetic forces. two concentric quasi-spheres ensconced together to form a floating orb of light. the gently capricious flame dances around the spherical glass body, at once romantic and enchantingly graceful.
For those who don’t know, YouNow is a live video social network where anyone can broadcast live to the world & find an audience willing to watch them. It’s a cool new way to meet new friends and build a social following.
At YouNow, we are using an intimate medium (live video) to bring people together from all over the world, creating an interactive social experience that fosters social discovery, entertainment and building new relationships.
"YouNowers" oscillate between 3 layers of engagement:
Broadcasting: in front of a live audience, large or small
Active Viewing: voting on a live broadcaster, chatting with broadcaster & others
Passive Viewing: people watching, browsing
The symbiosis between these passive and active engagement layers creates a strong, pulsing environment for social interaction. Our users are making friends, building real relationships, and hanging out - virtually!
YouNow’s diverse venues for self-expression, intimate & interactive chat environments, and a user-centric balance of active & passive engagement opportunities all contribute to a new social experience that is nonpareil.
Each day, I get to imagine the future of social interaction and discovery. And it makes me giddy. Why? I can conceive of it very clearly, and I’m frighteningly ambitious in my vision for the role that YouNow will play in this.
You should see the sketches I’m working on.
If you have been impacted by YouNow, or have found it valuable, please let me know in the comments below! :)
A friend asked me the other day, "Yo, why do people in tech/startups love to use the word hustle?" and I gave him an intuitive quip: "Because ‘hard work’ just doesn’t describe what we do."
Unfortunately, this was a poor answer, and I knew it was inadequate as soon as I said it. The question stuck with me for a while. And after probing around in my brain, I figured out what hustle means to me. Let’s consider the following metaphor:
In the comic book Iron Man, the protagonist Tony Stark is victim to a severe chest injury in which pieces of shrapnel is moving towards his heart, threatening to kill him. To save his own life, he creates a chest plate that generates a magnetic field, preventing the shrapnel from piercing his heart. A rechargeable battery powers his chest piece and his special armored suit - enabling him to save lives (including his own).
By now, you can probably recognize that in my fantasy world, hustle is the glowing battery in Iron Man’s chest. It is an ever-present bundle of energy: simultaneously an urgent reminder of the possibility of death/failure & motivation to succeed at any cost. It is ultimately the “X factor” that makes Iron Man a boss.
When starting a company, hiring talented people & a having a good product / business model will ultimately help you to achieve product/market fit. However, hustle is the necessary lifeblood that keeps startups (and entrepreneurial individuals) alive.
Hustle is the embodiment of the energy needed to propel a startup forward, through the trough of sorrow, when no one believes in you or your company. When failure is imminent, hustling is doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals. It is a philosophy of resourceful doggedness that always pushes forward. It is about living with a bias toward action. Doing, rather than postulating. Learning and iterating, fast. Figuring out creative ways to solve problems. Telling yourself that you can do anything, believing it, and then doing the impossible.
What does hustle mean to you? Do you have any inspirational stories of determination and resourcefulness?
Each day I try to conceptually invent something new, useful and imaginative - no matter how outlandish or impossible my ideas may seem at first glance. Since I haven’t actually built prototypes for these ideas, they’re not quite inventions - so I call them imaginations.
I start by taking myself mentally to a place of calm and solitude where I can think without interruption. And in this isolated space, I am able to focus my mental energies on invention.
I’ve thought of a variety of imaginations, but some of the most viable include:
rubber-like flexible eyeglasses that you can put in your pocket
shoes you can easily slip on (that aren’t slip on shoes)
a one-handed computer keyboard (think joystick / baton style).
one of my sketches: “eyeglasses you can put in your pocket”
By actively engaging with my “inner-inventor,” and giving my mind more opportunities to find creative solutions, I am training my brain to be nimble and prolific, while imagining a future that I have created.
I think I will start to share some of my imaginations in more depth on my blog. Until then I will keep imagining the future. Stay tuned & start actively using your own imagination!
Dyson (a British technology company that designs and manufactures vacuum cleaners, fans, and other tools) is a giant among men when it comes to creating sophisticated products that are easy to use.
With their novel technology, Dyson is known for pushing the limit of what is physically possible, while removing common elements that are inherently problematic. Since Dyson was founded in 1993, they have produced innovative products such as filterless vacuums (using cyclonic separation), bladeless fans, brushless electric motors and heatless hand dryers!
—- Dyson pioneered the idea of the bagless filterless vacuum, a standard that has now been largely adopted across the industry. —-
What I love most about Dyson is their focus on making things that work well above all else - thus making function an integral part of design. By eliminating frill and exposing his product’s inner-workings, Dyson is intentionally transparent in showing how his technology solves your problems. This transparency helps to establish a lucid mental model of how things work, making useful products also delightful to use.
—- The Dyson Airblade uses a rapid fire layer of unheated air to dry wet hands in ~10 seconds, despite using less electricity than conventional hand dryers. —-
Dyson’s “form follows function" design approach shows that achieving simplicity and solving hard problems are not mutually exclusive. In an interview with Innovation Magazine, James Dyson expounded what he viewed as good design:
“For me, design is about how something works, not about what it looks like. It’s what’s inside that counts. Good design solves problems and changes something for the better. Aesthetics should be a by-product of the design, not the other way around.
The look of our vacuum cleaners derives solely from their function and ease of use.”
I prefer products that solve problems, are easy to use, and are elegantly executed. Steve Jobs often quoted Leonardo da Vinci by saying that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I agree wholeheartedly.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between simplicity and functionality in design?
Back in April 2012 I was inspired by an article in the Economist called “The Third Industrial Revolution.” It describes how 3d printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a technological disruption in the making, and will change the way we build and interact with the world around us.
Its power lies in the ability for individuals to quickly iterate complex designs and have custom items printed immediately. In recent years we’ve seen a rise in the demand of customized niche products with the success of companies like Etsy and Kickstarter, who allow creative individuals to make unique products/projects and find an audience to buy them. Now companies like Shapeways, a 3d-printing marketplace, provide platforms strictly for 3d-printed designs. Additive manufacturing gives “makers” everywhere the ability to create custom products like never before.
Due to the economies of scale it offers, mass-manufacturing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. However, I truly believe 3d printing (and associated technologies / processes) will have the potential to upend the manufacturing industry. As this technology improves, it will decrease the costs of custom manufacturing by far, allowing “makers” to create custom physical products more easily than ever before, and unearthing new innovative business models for 3d-savvy entrepreneurs.
This quote from the Economist article I read gives a telling glimpse of the transformative power of additive manufacturing:
“The applications of 3D printing are especially mind-boggling. Already, hearing aids and high-tech parts of military jets are being printed in customised shapes. The geography of supply chains will change. An engineer working in the middle of a desert who finds he lacks a certain tool no longer has to have it delivered from the nearest city. He can simply download the design and print it. The days when projects ground to a halt for want of a piece of kit, or when customers complained that they could no longer find spare parts for things they had bought, will one day seem quaint.”The Third Industrial Revolution, The Economist
Need I say more?
Expect to hear more on this from me in the near future, but in the mean time, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this below!
I took a look at the new Myspace a couple weeks ago, and I’m excited to check it out!
A sleek new redesign with a modern, Web 2.0 feel makes Myspace seem sexy once again. The Pinterest-style boards / items are an interesting addition as well. And while it’s hard to get a feel for the service while watching someone else click through a prototype, I think they do a good job of creating an all-inclusive, immersive experience.
It does feel a little overwhelming at times, and perhaps confusing as to what one should focus on doing. However, I certainly know the challenges of simplifying a complexly multifaceted product, so I’m not criticizing - just stating observations. I’m interested to see where this will go!
Sir Willam End User was an avid social user; thoroughly engaged when a new product properly scratched an itch and excited him, but equally fickle and capricious. Without an intuitive mental model to guide his thoughts, Sir William would find himself frustrated, bored & confused.
After numerous disappointments by less-than-stellar products, he lamented his complaints in a manifesto decrying the evils of a poor user experience:
Thy Product Dost Bore and Confuse Me!
Thy Product needeth a spring cleaning. - Mo’ Features doth not equal Mo’ Betta.
Thy Product dost bore me. - It faileth to meet my needs.
Thy Product is a stumblingblock. - Wherefore, I pray thee, hast thou impeded my progress?
Thy Product confuseth me. - What?
Thy Product is an obstacle course. - Impertinent knave, didst thou consider my flow?
In light of Instagram’s success, many rising mobile video apps have endeavored to become the “Instagram for Video.” Companies like SocialCam, Viddy and more have shown prodigious growth in app downloads / monthly active users, but I wonder if these users will truly remain active after the initial buzz dies down.
One thing Instagram really has going for them is that it transforms users into artists, essentially… empowering them to capture fleeting moments and make them magical in a way that is easy and fun to consume.
But there’s something different about video. Videos generated in a moment don’t quite have the same effect or ease of display that photos do. Perhaps users need more skill to make their videos look exceptional. It seems much more difficult to make video work.
Photographs > Video?
In his post “Photographs > Video?" Semil brings up some good points as to why he is somewhat skeptical about video:
"I’m not sure if it’s a core behavior as snapping pictures is"
"the current interfaces seem to deemphasize “capturing video” as a feature within the camera interface"
"even if core behaviors change and/or the software around the video camera evolve, there are technical hurdles that would need to be overcome in order for the average phone user to capture and share a video that would meet the requirements the audience’s time to consume that media."
I tend to agree with Semil’s skepticism about video: to some extent, at least. Regarding Semil’s first point about user’s core behaviors not including video, I don’t see this as much of a problem, as I believe these behaviors will change very soon. (he mentions this himself in #3.) And while current interfaces may “deemphasize capturing video,” fortunately I also believe that mobile UI improvements will make videos even more enjoyable to create and share.
What really made me go “hmm” was Semil’s 3rd point: that users would encounter technical hurdles preventing them from being able to deliver to the standards of their audiences. At first I was like, “my thoughts exactly”… just throwing a filter and a music loop over your video clip doesn’t necessarily make it “magical.” There are more moving parts when it comes to video.
…but then I thought, well what about LIVE mobile video?
Live Video > Video
At YouNow I’m constantly trying to imagine the future of video… how it will be transformed by mobile, and how users’ core behaviors will evolve over time. People have lower standards (at the moment) for live video - that’s just the nature of it. A trade-off is made, sacrificing production quality in return for experiencing something genuine and raw. While live videos by and large are not (yet!) Mona Lisas, they certainly whet social users’ appetites for intimate engagement.
Perhaps live video could reach audiences despite their technical high standards for video content. I have to think a little bit more about this… but what do you guys think?