27 December 2010

2011 - What Will We See?

This is a repost of an article that I originally wrote for Technorati and was published there.

(Picture by Sean McGrath)

Once again, it's the time of year for reflection and predictions. I always enjoy reading what others thought about the past year and what they're expecting from the year ahead. With so many interesting happenings in technology in general, and specifically in the Internet space, it's a fun task.

2010 – Year of the Consumer

2010 could be termed the Year of the Consumer with vendors introducing consumers to location-based services (Foursquare, GoWalla), social couponing (Groupon), and a vast array of apps. Apple's iPad changed the game for apps on both web and mobile devices, creating incredible consumer demand. Coupled with the mainstream evolution of smartphones, this demand has launched an explosive market opportunity.

On the development side, there has been a lot of noise about HTML5 and CSS3. All the big guys are behind this, and Adobe even has a tool that converts Flash to HTML5. The popularity and compatibility of HTML5 is increasing every day, but there is still a ways to go before it becomes mainstream.

And let's not forget cloud computing. For the past few years, the technology for cloud computing has been maturing and slowly adopted by many companies. Evidenced by the new TV commercials, cloud computing is now an accessible infrastructure that enables web companies of all sizes to scale relatively easily. And pretty much everybody is using it now.

Top Predictions for 2011

If 2010 was the Year of the Consumer, 2011 will see the inevitable market impact of this shift. New technologies will emerge, and only those with the best user interfaces and marketing strategies will survive. I expect that app mania will continue and businesses of all sizes will expand their footprint on mobile and web platforms.

My Top Ten predictions are:

  1. HTML5 in action. Browser support for HTML5 is getting better (in both desktop and mobile browsers), so we will start seeing HTML5 and CSS3 more and more in mainstream Web applications. Life for Web developers will finally be (a bit) easier, and user experience across platforms will converge and improve, although not fast enough.

  2. Tablet wars will get serious. Apple currently has 95% of the market, but that's because they have been the only real player in the market. That's changing fast with Samsung and others debuting their own tablets. Who will dominate in 2011? Still Apple, especially if/when they launch iPad 2. Dell, Samsung, and HP will be the other major players there.

  3. Android will gain more market share and close the gap with iPhone, but will not overcome it. They aren't doing enough to appeal to the non-techies.

  4. Mobile and web platforms will continue to converge. The web has become ubiquitous so there will be less of a fine line between web and mobile. This has already started with the iPad (is it a mobile device?) and will crossover to other devices like Google's Chrome OS notebook (which still has a ways to go before it can become popular).

  5. The number of app platforms will expand: smartphones, e-readers, televisions, Blu-ray players. I'm not sure we'll see apps in the fridge or washing machine in 2011, but who knows... I look forward to CES in January.

  6. More of our information will be stored in the cloud, and streaming services will increase in popularity. This includes photos, documents, music, and maybe even videos. The pricing will need to become more competitive to make this prediction come true.

  7. Social analytics. We need easier ways to measure and analyze people's interactions in social networks (person-to-person and person-to-brand). This year, we'll start seeing some successes and standardization in this area (which will probably lead to Google acquiring the leader).

  8. Richer TV experiences. Google TV, Apple TV, and Boxee are all working hard to create richer television experiences for us. These products may not yet become mainstream, but will no longer be novelties reserved for hardcore geeks, either. 3D television will not become more popular as some people are expecting.

  9. We will start to see actual adoption of peer-to-peer micro payment systems (Square, for example). It will become more and more popular to just pull out your cell phone when you want to pay for a cup of coffee. This year, though, there probably will be more people accepting payments than people actually paying, but that's the first step towards replacing our old-school credit cards.

  10. Maturing of the location-based application market. Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt, My Town (Booyah), SCVNGR, Facebook Places, Google Places, Yelp, and Groupon are all about the places that people go for deals in their business and personal locales. I think some big players will stay on top (Groupon, and Living Social with the help of Amazon). We'll see some co-operations/mergers, and smaller players will go off to silently die in a corner somewhere. Groupon clearly intends to dominate after sending Google packing.

I'll wind down 2010 playing Angry Birds, which for the record, I predict will expand this year and become a major Pokemon-like brand (only cooler).

Happy New Year!

09 November 2010

Traveler From The Future

I recently spent a lot of time traveling, both as a tourist and as part of my job (in my line of work, there isn't really a clear line between the two). The more I travel the more I discover that, thanks to the ubiquity of the Internet and the advanced capabilities of smartphones, traveling hasn't changed this much since Columbus set sail (ok, maybe since those Wright kids got bored with just biking around their backyard).

Preparing For Liftoff
It starts off even before I embark on my adventure, while organizing all my plans. I use a great (free) service called TripIt which easily aggregates all my travel information (flights, hotels, rentals, etc...) and lets me access them from one spot both on the web and my phone. Adding all of my information is a cinch, I just forward all those flight confirmation e-mails (and such) to TripIt and they take it from there (they even have a Gmail plugin that does that automatically if you want). Using the TripIt app on the iPhone lets me easily check my flight status and gate changes, right before my flight. Very useful.

Getting Online
In my day to day life I rely on the Internet quite a bit (anybody say addiction?) but once I land in a foreign country it becomes my lifeline to learning about my surroundings, making my way around, connecting to people who have experience in the new wilderness I've been flung into, and sharing and documenting my experiences.

Once I land in a new country my first order of business is getting online (how else am I supposed to checkin on Foursquare at the airport?). Cellular roaming costs are a biiiiatch, so I would stay far away from that, but I've had different experiences with getting online in different countries. The best being in London, just walking in to a T-mobile store and £5 later I had a working cellphone with unlimited bandwidth for the month. In other countries the experience was less seamless (especially depending on the people's competence in English) but after some running around I always manage to get a local SIM (in Europe you usually want to ask for a "pay as you go" SIM with a data plan, but they don't always understand the "data plan" part). The prices vary but they usually have deals where you can get more than enough bandwidth for pretty cheap.

What I usually do is try to find some offline map apps for my iPhone before I leave home so that I at least have a map at my fingertips when I land and have yet to setup a reliable Internet connection. There are many different apps for this depending on where you're going, a quick Google from home will do the trick to find reviews about the best ones for your destination.

Then the Fun Begins
Being constantly connected with a smartphone while abroad used to be a fantasy (those are the kinds of the things I fantasize about :) but now it's a necessity.
It affects many aspects of my travels:
  • Getting around - whether it's how to get to a conference venue, finding out where the hell I am, or locating the nearest subway station or nearest McDonald's (a man's gotta eat). Google maps is the killer app for this on the iPhone and Android. If you're in a major city like New York it will even show you public transportation times as part of the walking directions it gives you.
  • What sights to see - when in tourist mode you don't really know what to see and where to go when planning a trip in a new city. I discovered that there are TONS of great iPhone apps for doing just that - many of them free. The best experience I had was with mTrip (specifically their app for London but they have guides for other cities). Although it's not free ($6, which is less than any travel book you'd buy) it gives you both offline information about tons of different places to see in your city of choice plus an awesome automatic day planner. What you do is tell it where you want to start your trip (your hotel for example), what kind of things you want to see (sight seeing, shopping, churches...), and how many days you have, and it automatically sets up your schedule for the entire trip. You can then manually edit your schedule (add/remove spots, rearrange stuff...) and it gives you transportation instructions from each spot to the next. It's like your own personal travel guide, the easiest way I could think of to getting to know a new city.
  • Connecting with people - whether it's asking for tips and recommendations from friends or getting help with something when stuck, always being connected to your Twitter and Facebook friends is something that we will increasingly be relying on. I got great recommendations for restaurants and cool exhibits while in Amsterdam and even got a few people searching for me in real time for what settings I need in my iPhone in order to connect to the Vodafone network in Amsterdam (it's kinda hard to search when you don't have Internet :).
  • Sharing and documenting - the reason people take cameras on trips with them is to both document the experience for themselves and to share with others. I find that by using services like GoWalla and Foursquare I can do both in real time. Ok ok, so GoWalla wont replace my camera entirely, but it's a great way for me to be able to look back and see exactly where I was at what time (and I get information about the place while checking in). And all my friends/followers can see where I am and share their experiences from that place. Invaluable (plus my mom keeps tabs on me this way).

My usual attire
Now I can hear all you naysayers saying "can't you disconnect from e-mails", "I go on vacation to get away from being connected",...

I think that attitude will disappear in the future as we cease to perceive e-mail and IM as work (actually future generations will probably only use Facebook, but that's another post) and the Internet becomes an even bigger, integral part of our lives.

Nobody forces me to answer emails or IMs while on vacation, even if I am connected, and it's up to me when to reply and at what length. It's like turning off the phone while you're away. Feel free to do it, but when you need the phone you turn it on.

What's Next
The two improvements that need to come next stem from the two biggest problems I had when travelling like this:
  • Battery life
  • Getting online

During my day to day I'm usually 1 hour away from a power outlet at worst. Most of the time I can plug my iPhone in and not have to worry about its abysmally short battery life (all smartphones currently suffer from this problem). However, while traveling I'll be away from power for at least 8 hours at a time, sometimes it can get up to almost double that. And these are not normal days where I use the iPhone occasionally (is once every 10 minutes considered occasionally?), while traveling I'll be using the phone every few minutes at times: to look at the map, open a travel guide, checkin to a location, take a picture, god forbid even upload a picture... All these things suck the battery like Snoop Dog’s toilet when the cops come.

Battery life needs to improve significantly so that we get to a point where we can do all of these things without having to worry about them killing the battery. Just like the good old days when your Nokia phone used to hold up for a week between charges.

The second road bump in my experiences (aside from losing my luggage, but who cares about that), is getting online in a new country. This needs to become entirely seamless at some point in the future so that you land, turn on your phone, and are connected (without the ridiculous roaming charges). Once demand increases, phone companies will need to realize that their services are a commodity, and as such we expect them to be readily available at our beck and call.

Until that happens, this will remain a luxury only for hardcore geeks.

15 September 2010

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Code Monkeys

This is a repost of an article that I originally wrote for Technorati and was published there.

I was reading Jason Hiner's article, "We're entering the decade of the developer", and it sparked some thoughts about apps, developers and the future of both.

As Jason notes, developers are an upcoming force to reckon with, but so are consumers. As apps become more popular, user expectations – and demands – will rise. This means that there will be zero tolerance for UI issues, a demand for sleek design and speed, and high levels of core functionality.

What does this mean for developers? Quite a bit, actually. There will be a need for more than just "code monkey" developers. Visionaries and entrepreneurs who understand the market and its future opportunities, and collaborate with top notch developers to realize those visions will win in the end.

Bottom line: In order to succeed developers will need access to design/UI people and marketing and distribution mechanisms that are easily accessible and have a critical mass of users.

Luckily some of those already exist (and are improving all the time) and many are quite easy to use and can even be free. For the visionaries and entrepreneurs who see and seize these, along with some great infrastructures that are readily available (Paypal, cloud computing, collaboration tools, oDesk, code-sharing/Q&A sites, communication tools...), there are endless opportunities.

This only means good things for consumers and the apps they consume as this decade offers developers much in the way of visibility and possibility.

24 August 2010

Google Opens Chrome Web Store to Developers

This is a repost of an article that I originally wrote for Technorati and was published there.

First announced at Google's I/O earlier this year, the Google Chrome Web Store is now in developer preview mode, giving developers a chance to test the platform before it is officially open for business.

This gives developers time to experiment with how the store works, play around with payments and figure our how to install apps within the Google Chrome web browser (the Webstore will be for apps, extensions, and themes).

From my perspective, this is another sign that Google is working to change the way people consume content on the web, the same way Apple changed the mobile industry with their App Store.

Before the Apple App Store there was a classic chicken and egg scenario. Consumers did not spend money on apps, which created no incentive for developers to create them. But when Apple launched the iPhone, accumulating a massive user base drawn to its great product and brand, it was able to launch the App Store with a ton of developers on board. Apple successfully centralized mobile apps. Suddenly, there was a horde of developers working to create simple apps, reach millions of users through the App Store, and make a lot of money. Like Apple, Google already has critical mass, and a well-known brand, which are important elements to doing this successfully.

Google wants end users to be able to easily find new apps on the web, a difficult task today, and to get them used to start spending money on web applications, especially in a micropayment kind of way. Once live, developers can easily access the millions of users who are going to be looking for cool apps to install (and be able to easily charge users).

This isn't a new scenario. Attract lots of users who use your platform and like your brand, encourage developers to create great content with the promise of millions of consumers, drive users to install (and pay for) apps, and watch the whole system snowball. With the Google Chrome Web Store, which strongly mimics the Apple App Store, the conundrum of how to find users who want your apps –and are willing to pay for them—goes away. This is a boon for developers and consumers alike.


06 August 2010

Give Grandma Her Apps

This is a repost of an article that I originally wrote for Technorati and was published there.

Recently, Forrester analyst Thomas Husson wrote a blog post on the future of application stores and I was struck by his suggestion that publishers make it too complicated for end users to find and download apps.
He said:

"The subtle differences between widgets, Web apps, native apps, Java apps, and optimized mobile Web sites don’t make much sense to your end users. As long as they have an icon that acts as a touchpoint to access content and services that are relevant to them, it won't matter. The challenge for you is to make sure that your core target audience has your icon on their home screen, so that they engage with your company and not your competition."
I couldn't agree more.

Husson points out that there is an increasing demand for apps from end users, however, app stores need to greatly improve the user experience so that even those with no technical knowledge can leverage their offerings and access all these coveted apps.

Today, the delivery of apps to end users can sometimes be cumbersome, especially as it relates to app payment. Paying for apps is probably the second most difficult challenge for end users after poor user experience. While payment is what drives developers (the idea of being able to easily make money off of their application), it is a big hurdle for end users.

App stores need to encourage developers to offer free apps so that overall adoption rates rise. Down the road, when the market matures, payment will become easier to manage and more accepted by end users so everyone will benefit. In the meantime, App stores must reduce the friction and let end users easily consume free apps without having to set up an account or payment method (currently, in the Apple Appstore a user needs to set up an account before they can download any app). This will lead to a better app economy in the long run.

This doesn't eradicate or reduce the benefit for developers. On the contrary, with the right monetization mechanisms in place, publishers can realize greater adoption and higher revenues without charging end-users. Developers need other monetization options to be available via the platforms for which they develop; for example, built-in virtual currency systems, easy access to advertising (a la Apple's iAd), and affiliate systems.

Once app stores make it easy for developers to use these different mechanisms in their apps, more and more apps will be self-sustainable without having to charge users. This will lead to an increase in adoption, while still being able to monetize the popularity of an app (for both the developer and the app store).

The driving forces for a good app economy in an app store are:
  • A critical mass of users that reach the appstore
  • A user experience that enables all these users to be able to consume apps easily
  • High quality apps
  • Happy app developers

In order to create high quality apps, app stores need to make sure developers are happy with the results they get from developing an app and offering it through a specific app store. Aside from the prospect of making a lot of money by developing an app, app stores can lure in developers by offering reach. After all, the two things that pretty much every publisher on the Internet is interested in are traffic and monetization. The app store needs a critical mass of users anyway in order to thrive, so it should offer the developer mechanisms for reaching all those users, especially based on the quality of their apps (good apps get exposure to more users, creating even more of an incentive for developers to create good apps).

The apps space is definitely heating up and there is a lot of potential there, but app stores still have a long way to go before everybody, including my grandmother, will be consuming apps.

The big guys all know this and are setting their sights on creating app stores for different platforms to hook in users. Aside from Apple's Appstore, some great examples to keep an eye on are the Google Chrome web store, Microsoft Windows 8 (both currently pending), the Conduit App Marketplace (yes, technically I work for Conduit, but biases aside, you should really check it out), and OpenAppMkt (both live).

27 July 2010

The New Al Bundy

I happened to run across Tony Hsieh's (CEO of Zappos) presentation from SXSW '09.
Awesome stuff there, here are some of the highlights that I think are relevant for pretty much any technology startup, especially b2c companies (but definitely not only).

Just like Donald Norman said in his presentation at Business of Software, Tony basically says: it's all about the experience (after all he's only selling shoes, it could have easily become a boring, Al Bundy style, online shoe store that most likely would not have succeeded like Zappos did).

"People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."

Zappos' core values are what made it a success both in terms of it's actual business, in terms of employee satisfaction and attracting talent, and actually selling the company to Amazon a few months ago.

Here are their core values:
  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More with Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

Some other interesting tidbits from his presentation:

Interviews & performance reviews are 50% based on core values & culture fit.

He introduces 7 steps to building a brand that matters:
  1. Decide - if you want to build a long term brand
  2. Figure out your values & culture
  3. Commit to transparency (twitter is a great tool for this)
  4. Vision - "Whatever you're thinking, think bigger." Chase the vision, not the money...
    He adds a nice quote from Puff Daddy: "Don't chase the paper, chase the dream."
  5. Build relationships - (not networking) Be INTERESTED rather than trying to be INTERESTING
  6. Build your team - "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." (Al Gore quoting African proverb)
    Hire slowly. Fire quickly.
  7. Think long term - There is no "get rich quick" formula. "Overnight" successes are years in the making

In the end he actually offers a copy of the Zappos culture book to whoever wants one and tours of their offices when you’re next in Las Vegas (they'll even pick you up from the airport or your hotel in a Zappos Shuttle!).

How's that for service?

14 June 2010

I don't like the Like button

I've been a big proponent of the Facebook Like button, ever since I saw Mark Zuckerberg announce it on stage at the last f8 conference. It seemed like a no-brainer, every site would add it and Facebook would take over the world.
There seemed to be no reason for a site not to add the innocuous little snippet of JavaScript code to every page/post.

Hell, within a week of announcing the Like button, Facebook stated that over 50,000 sites had already added it. According to Facebook, just a month after it was launched more than 100,000 sites had added it.

Of course I also added the Like button to this blog and was basically expecting readers to hit it if they enjoyed a post, thus telling their friends about it and maybe driving people back to my blog.

However, I think it's harming me! (well not harming me physically, but you get it)

Here's the deal: when I write a new blog post I also tweet about it and update about it on my Facebook wall.
Many people see my Facebook update in their Newsfeed and either comment there or hit like on the Facebook post.
This is what builds up as more people comment and like:

The more people comment on that and like it, the more it will appear in the news feeds for their friends and therefore gives me more exposure.

(bear with me here, I have a point)

When people click on the Like button at the bottom of an actual post on my blog here's what may appear in their news feed:

Much less appealing, ah?

Not only that, it also dilutes my "likes" (splits them into two groups, likes for the original post and likes for the update on Facebook about my post).

What I would like is a way to combine both groups of people who like my content into one group so they'd all promote the same thing, which would make it appear more in Facebook Newsfeeds.

I tried to manually add the Facebook Like code to each post, after I updated about it in Facebook so that the Like on my original post actually likes the Facebook update. It's a manual process that takes much more time but I was willing to do it. (I need to post to my blog, update about it on Facebook, quickly go back to edit the blog post, and manually add the Like snippet of code to the post).
The big problem is that Facebook for some reason (I'm guessing technical) doesn't allow adding their Like button to facebook.com URLs.

So I'm thinking about removing the Like button entirely from each post (until Facebook allows liking of facebook.com URLs).

My reasoning behind this is that if I remove the Like code from each blog post people may go back to the original Facebook update and hit Like there. No more diluting of likes and the updates that appear in people's newsfeeds will be the richer kind, not those puny ones that you get from the Like button.
For users who didn't come to my site from Facebook I'd ideally want to keep the regular Like button, at this point, but that's too much of a hassle.

So should I remove the Like button?

20 May 2010

Why I Need An iPad

Lots of people have been asking me why I need an iPad (I plan on getting one really soon).

Here are the answers that I've been giving them (and myself) on why I need an iPad, before owning one:
  • It turns on really fast (much faster than a laptop). This is great for taking notes, looking something up, checking my calendar...
  • Relatively lightweight to carry around. I know a netbook may be lighter but carrying around an iPad is lighter than my laptop
  • It can do most of the essential things I need to do on my laptop, especially when on the go: email, web, docs (mainly Google docs), twitter, watching videos, Skype
  • It has a great interface for playing games
  • The non-committal data plan. Whenever I'm in the States I can just purchase a $15 dataplan for that specific month, directly from the device. Very convenient. 
  • It's cool, innovative, and really sleek (I gotta be a part of the revolution), which brings me to my final reason:
  • Cuz I'm a geek, duh :)
So it won't replace my laptop altogether but while travelling it pretty much has me covered.

Here are the things I think I will be missing by carrying around only an iPad:
  • No way to sync my iPhone (for backing up and transferring media)
  • No Bittorrent client
  • No way to convert videos for viewing on the iPad

17 May 2010

Modern Spyware

Let's start with a confession: I'm a Foursquare addict. The minute I arrive somewhere, I pull out my iPhone and check in on foursquare to let my ‘friends' know where I am. I also use Blippy when I buy stuff and I send pics of what I'm eating to Fiddme. My Last.fm account broadcasts to everyone what music I'm listening to, in real time.
Oh, and I tweet at least 30 times a day.

What's my point? Well, it's like this: A few years ago, I wouldn't even upload my photo and put it online, for fear of exposing myself to potential unwanted evils. Spyware had reared its ugly head and was out to get us.

But, enter the age of modern spyware, and we're all sucking it up. Why? Cuz it's fun, it's entertaining, it makes us feel important to have an audience. Besides, it's no longer perceived by the masses as being spyware. Hell, it's become weird NOT to do it – we're opting in, en-masse, to let companies spy on us. We're willingly and excitedly spying on ourselves and reporting in as often as possible, letting the world know pretty much everything there is to know about us.

And the more, the merrier, is the goal here; not only do we want an audience, but we follow up on who's following us, how many - we want numbers and we publish those numbers with pride: "I have 20,000 followers on Twitter!!"

So the question remains, WHY? Why do I spend so much of my time checking in and tweeting and posting? Why are so many of us unwilling to put down our smartphones before sticking the fork in our steaks, or getting on the treadmill? Is this a massive case of world-wide narcissism? Are we that attention-starved, or are we all just trying to stretch our 15 seconds of fame as far and wide as they'll go?

I've pondered this long and hard, and here's what I've come up with:
  1. I guess the number of followers I have somehow makes me feel more significant than the four real-life friends I'm sitting to dinner with in ten minutes. Yes, dammit, I need to feel important.
  2. I like the idea that I'm logging my life and can keep track of what I've done, where I've been, etc. For both me and for future generations who'll be able to look back and see that grandpa bought an iPad when it first came out (assuming they'll give a damn).
  3. There's something comforting in knowing that while the big, scary, chaotic world around us expands and accelerates, I'm part of a global community that's getting closer and cozier with knowing more about one another.
  4. To accelerate serendipity - when I arrive someplace, like a restaurant, I can immediately know if somebody I know is also there and connect with them.
  5. To get a feeling for what's hot and what's not. When I see that lots of people go to the same restaurant (over time) it basically serves as a recommendation from my friends for the place. Same for bad reviews.
  6. As a means of showing appreciation – if I get good customer service, have a tasty meal, find a great deal… I get an innate urge to share my happiness with the world and show appreciation for whoever/whatever was responsible for momentarily making me happy.
  7. It brings people into my world and gets me closer to the people around me. This is probably the gist of it. I'm no longer alone when I choose not to be.
Shit, Foursquare just let me know that my friends are already at their table, and I'm clearly late for dinner.
Gotta run...

This is a real shot taken when I went out with some friends to eat together in a restaurant.

11 May 2010

Are we in control of our own decisions?

In this great presentation from TED, Dan Ariely demonstrates how easily we are guided into making specific decisions, all while being under the illusion of being in control (not me of course :).

Here are some of the highlights, excuse the crappy screenshots (the entire 17 minute video is embedded below).

In a survey among different countries the percentages of people willing to donate their organs varied quite a bit:

When checking to see why there were such differences between countries, they checked for cultural differences between countries and saw there was no correlation (Austria and Germany for example are culturally similar but have totally different percentages of organ donors).

The answer came from checking the donor form at the DMV.
In some countries (the ones with the low organ donor rate) there was a section like this in the form:
People wouldn't read the text, not check the box, and not join the organ donor program.

In other countries the same question would appear but with a slight variation:
and people would also not read the question, not check the box, but by doing so they would join the organ donor program.
(This is a classic opt-in vs. opt-out decision used in almost all online forms)

Another example he gives is in this sign up form for a newspaper:
1. is a web only subscription
2. is a print only subscription
3. is both web and print subscription for the exact same price as option 2

When presented with these 3 options, these were the percentages of people's choices:

So the middle option is useless (nobody chose it) and can be removed, right?
Look what happened when it was removed and only option 1 and 3 were offered:

So by offering a "useless" option, that nobody chose, the perceived value of the third (more expensive) option went up and more people chose it (because they believed they were getting more for the same price).
That "useless" option made more people pay $125 instead of $59.

Not bad, ah?

Check out the entire video:


29 April 2010

2010: Products I Can't Live Without

Here's my list for 2010 of products that I absolutely can't live without (inspired by Mike Arrington's list).

These are all products that I use daily and either make my life easier or more fun (and are not trivial like my fridge and car).

This list is a current snapshot of my favorite products, I think the interesting part about it will be to look at it in the future and see how it changes.

Here we go:

  • Gmail - you know what this is
  • Google Reader - this and twitter are my main source of news (no tv, radio, paper, or news site)
  • Twitter - no explanation needed (I hope at least)
  • Facebook - ditto
  • Zenbe lists - great iPhone App and web application for managing and syncing tasks from the iPhone and web 
  • SplashID - password manager for the iPhone and desktop
  • Flickr - where I store all my photos, including those that I post to Twitter
  • iPhone 3GS - marvelous device
  • Google Docs - where I create and store all my documents. I still use MS Office for Outlook and PowerPoint
  • Dropbox - great free solution for automatically backing up any files I want, syncing them between computers, and accessing them from anywhere in the world
  • Eztv - pretty much my only source for watching TV shows
  • del.icio.us - where I store all the sites I may want to find again in the future
  • Google Maps - use it all the time, especially when abroad
  • Skype - use it mainly for saving on the phone bill, occasionally for IM
  • Foursquare - ok, I could live without this one but I use it all the time
  • Plancast - for letting people know what events I'm attending and to discover what events I should attend
  • Digg - main way of seeing what's hot and finding cool stuff
  • TechMeme - main way of keeping up to date with tech news
  • AppShopper - how I track iPhone apps that lowered their price
  • Blogger - the service I use to host and manage this blog
  • Jango - great way to list to music I like online (used to be Last.fm till they started charging money)
  • bit.ly - URL shortening service with very useful tracking information
Since the iPhone is such a big part of my day to day, here are the iPhone apps that I can't live without:

  • Waze - free turn by turn GPS application
  • Boxcar - how I get Twitter reply and DM push notifications
  • IM+ - how I get gmail push notifications 
  • NoteMaster - app to edit and view Google Docs on the iPhone
  • qStatus - app to easily update Twitter

Feel free to post yours in the comments...

12 April 2010

Why the iPad is Just No Damn Good

Apple has let us down.
Apple, the monolithic underdog of the computer world, has slammed the door on technological advancement with the release of the iPad.
Ok, that’s a bit melodramatic, but let’s face it – when a superpower like Apple creates a locked-down platform, controlling everything from who creates an app all the way to its distribution, pricing, and everything in between, they pretty much staunch the thriving open ecosystem that has led us to where we stand today, technology-wise.

The magic of open platforms allows developers to hack the software and create all kinds of ways to improve it. That’s the natural evolutionary process at work. When the original iPhone came out, it came with nada, zip, zilch – then it got hacked - thank the tech-gods - and SHAZAM, behold the App Store.

So, ok, they’ve kindly provided the dev kids with their SDK - BUT!, and this is a big but, if you want to make an iPad app, you have to go through Apple, play by their rules, and either get to hang with the cool kids, or get turned down and hang with the science club geeks.
And let me help you out here – considering all the criticism flying about Apple’s strict application (rejection) process and their banning third party applications which enable functionality they deem ‘unwanted’ on their sleek & sexy gadgets - the sci-club is where the hackers, the developers, the “Keep Moving Forward” guys would rather be.

When Apple did the same for the iPhone we accepted it because, let's face it, Apple invented the whole concept of applications for mobile phones. We just blindly accepted their rules.
But the iPad is not another run-of-mill cellphone. Oh no, no matter how you look at it, it's the next evolution of the personal computer that has become such a huge part of our lives.

Alright, let’s give credit where it’s due; there’s definitely something to be said for the Apple mystique - the bandwagon excitement of ‘if it’s being released by Apple it’s gonna be cool and I have to have it’. And no doubt the iPad is not only super sexy but also [another] great mechanism for delivering apps.

But is that where we’re heading?
A world where one company controls the content that the masses can consume?
Developers who must abide by the semi-random rules set by the guys at Cupertino, or their software will just disappear?
Kids that grow up being used to the fact that to replace a battery you need to leave it up to the pros... the damn thing doesn't even have screws you can tinker around with.
Do we want kids to just learn to accept the limitations that are imposed on them, without questioning?

Is that good?

Sure, for Apple’s bottom line.
But what about for those on the other side of the fence? What’s the message Apple is sending to the techie community? Not a loving one, that’s for sure.

I’m asking a lot of hypothetical questions, I’m aware. But I’m pissed off by the industry’s so-called good guys pulling a worldwide ‘Amazon Kindle’ move (times a million in size and relevance, but you get my meaning).

So yes, Apple, I’m officially disappointed, as are, judging by heated reactions all over the web, legions of ‘in the know’ people who see what you’re doing and are taking a stand against it by refusing to shell out $ for it.

I’m not gonna buy an iPad either.….I keep telling myself that, anyway.

At least it blends: :)

10 April 2010

I'm Back

I started blogging almost 10 years ago.
Over the years I've gone through different blogging phases: from daily posts about random cool shit I ran across on the web, to posting dumb updates about mundane things I was doing at the time (I may have even had a "just had a great bowl of cereal" post), to occasionally posting tech related stuff, and to not blogging for months (dare I say years?) on end.

I recently became officially appointed as Chief Geek at Conduit (after my previous role as Head Of Product) and decided that's as good a reason as any to dust off the old blog and get back to business. Plus, my shiny new title pretty much gives me carte blanche to rant about anything tech-related.

So after a few weeks of messing around with server and DNS configurations, comparing blogging services, setting up templates/graphics... the blog is pretty much back in running order.
Got a new name (used to be guymal.com), new template, and lot's of new energy.

You can expect to read mostly about tech stuff that gets me excited (or pisses me off), anything from gadgets to web applications on the interwebs and social media that all the cool kids are talking about these days.
Hell, I might even throw in a LOLcat every once in a while...

Stay tuned!

31 March 2010