Shazeeye's Blog Thoughts on User Experience, Technology and Business

29Dec/113

Cool software and hardware for your iPad

Over the past few months I've been trying to find ways to use my iPad more like a regular laptop so that I can just use one device instead of two and the fact that it's so convenient. I still use my laptop but along the way I've found  software and hardware for the iPad that's really amazing. Let's me show you this cool stuff with a few videos.

1. Keyboard: If you do a lot of typing a tactile keyboard definitely helps. There are a few on the market - Zaggmate is popular and expensive ($100) and Kensington is great value at $65. As seen in the video the keyboard comes in a case and is removable if you just want an iPad case. There are slots for the camera and to charge the iPad. You can also tilt it from 20-70 degrees for a better viewing angle. Volume and home controls are available on the keypad and setup is very easy.

2. Microsoft Office:OnLive, a company based in Palo Alto, has created OnLive Desktop a cloud based service for creating Microsoft Office (MS Word, MS Excel, Ms PowerPoint, etc.) files on the iPad. Files created on the iPad are accessible on any other device through the OnLive Files Website. They can be mailed and shared on a laptop but not on the iPad. To share the files that you created on the iPad you have to open the file on a laptop.

I'm waiting for the next version of the iPad when they (hopefully) have a USB or some form of external drive to help save files or at least have a file sharing option that is not limited to the Apple network.

Channel

Value

When to use?

How to use?

Social Media-Facebook

Facebook friends are invested in helping you out so if you could ask them to share your message this channel will get you maximum reach

If you want to create awareness and get maximum reach using your social equity.

Ask friends to post your message and share with their network. In your message mention what you want and send the message with a link to your blog- don’t forget to track the link with bitly.

Social Media-Twitter

Gets you traffic but visitors will not spend quality time on your blog. It helps establish you in the Twitter world as a thought leader where you can communicate directly with other gurus in the field. It is also used to identify latest events, updates, etc in the field.

Use twitter to become a thought leader as you will be judged on the quality of your tweets. You could tweet every time you write a blog post. You must tweet daily or every other day to stay current.

Tweet regularly and often. Try to tweet original thoughts on topics in your field so that your followers will retweet it and thus your circle of influence grows to make you a thought leader in the field.

Social Media-LinkedIn

Very high value as people are looking to hire on this network and by using a blog you enhance its value. Visitors from this channel spent the maximum time on my blog.

Always as you build your career – even when not looking for a job. To help give you a professional brand identity.

Add the blog application to your linkedIn profile so that every time you post on your blog it appears on LinkedIn. Post LinkedIn status updates as and when possible.

SEO – Content based on user interest

This is the most valuable channel of all. If you don’t have a unique perspective that or interesting content visitors will not stay or revisit. This helps build loyalty and stickiness to your blog.

Must always use content based on user interest else you will be one among the millions on dying blogs.

With the help of many tools as mentioned above you can gauge user interest and write posts accordingly. I’ve also looked at the offline world (events, conferences) to gauge user interest in my field.

SEO- Linking

Social Media channels need regular effort but SEO is more of a long term strategy than Social Media. Efforts put in a year ago will still reap benefits. Linking helps get traffic from other similar blogs, directories and is one of the easiest SEO methods.

Use only when you are linking to sources that add value to your blog otherwise people will realize you are just spamming their pages/websites/blogs.

Check the credibility of the places you link with as they can either help you or even harm you. Page ranks of above 6/10 or higher are good to link to.

SEO-Long tail keywords

Helps differentiate you from competitors by targeting a niche within your field (example:marketing+ technology+healthcare)

Must use to win against the bigger competitors in your field as you won’t win competing head to head (like Judo Strategy).

Use the traffic estimator to see which combination of keywords keep increasing in traffic month over month

SEO tools- plugin

Tools help to make it easier for Google’s search bots to find the right keywords and thus increase SEO.

For every post use the SEO plugin to promote your keywords

WordPress (blog platform) has a number of SEO plugins that can be added easily.

SEO-keywords

Since the entire SEO game is about keywords it is critical to get the best value by choosing the most valuable keywords

Use to understand trends in the industry and what people are looking for so that content on blog can be tailored accordingly

Use keyword tools to identify these keywords as well as what keywords the competition is targeting

Adwords

Ads help reach a wider audience as well as create awareness. Adwords is the most targeted form of traffic.

When you have the budget to reach a wider audience and when you feel the ROI is worth it

There are some best practices mentioned above (categorize campaigns, use more than 1 ad, bid accordingly and write effective ads) but I still need to learn how to best use this channel

30Aug/110

Managing Disruptive Innovation

PARC or Palo Alto Research Center, a Xerox Company in Silicon Valley has contributed tremendously to commercial innovation through ethnography. I am a huge advocate of ethnography and PARC pioneered this process of studying human behavior and "hybridized" it with other social science and analytical methods to optimize it for business application - particularly for addressing new opportunities, customers and markets. PARC owns 2500 patents and have created products such as GroupFire (acquired by Google), Inxight (acquired by SAP) and Uppercase (acquired by Microsoft). You can see some of their presentations here. On August 18th I went for a presentation on Managing Disruptive Innovation by Tamara St. Claire, VP of Global Business Development and Head of Commercial Operations.

Tamara spoke about managing disruptive (vs. incremental) innovation, its risks, two case studies and lessons learned.  Incremental innovation happens in existing markets (left column in image on right) while disruptive innovation happens in new markets (right column) and is more challenging to manage. She mentioned three risks in disruptive innovation - technology, market and execution- emphasizing that markets and execution are the most challenging factors to overcome. A further breakdown of the risks are found in the image below. Lack of credibility/experience (includes C level stakeholders), lack of channel (sales/distribution network) and lack (actually the inability to filter through too much) of information are critical risk factors.

The best way to enter a market of disruptive innovation (with existing or new technology) is to start with a minimal viable product (MVP) introduced at the right time and a strong value chain. MVP is a product with a limited set of features that fits the user needs of a niche market. Once the product has gained an audience ideas to gain mass market with added features can be explored. Tamara gave an example of one of PARC's chip packaging technology which was introduced seven years ago but shelved due to bad timing. It was reworked seven years later by partnering with Sun Microsystems and Oracle due to their advances in chip technology. The value chain are a group of activities (see image below- extreme right) that help to bring the product to market. In existing markets best practices help define a path to market entry but in disruptive markets one has to be flexible and shift gears depending on learnings. It is also critical to partner with experts and consultants studying these new markets as well as visit trade shoes and conferences to learn as much as possible. Partnerships are forged to strengthen the chain and build credibility.

Case Study: Printed Electronics Services

PARC developed low cost disposable printed flexible electronic expertise and devices can be applied in health electronics, packaging and biomedicine. When DARPA (Defense Agency) contacted them to develop an early detection solution to prevent brain injury for soldiers they partnered with consultants and experts to expand their printed electronics services for defense applications. They soon realized they couldn't manufacture the films at the scale desired and thus decided to play a connector role (flexibilty to change is key) between materials and manufacturing.  They partnered with Polyera and 2 other manufacturers thus giving up positions in the value chain and concentrating on their strength (network orchestrator). The lessons are outlined in the image on the right where N=1 means that they relied on more than one consultant or expert to help traverse this new territory and in many cases related to disruptive innovation a group of experts help bring together a holistic viewpoint and a superior product. The other lessons were to be flexible to change course, focus on strengths in the value chain and partner in areas of weaknesses.

Case Study: Content-Centric Networking Protocol

PARC developed a communication protocol complementing existing IP infrastructure to reduce the cost of distributing video and other content in IP/TV networks. Content-Centric Networking uses a unique architecture that caches content closest to the users who request it most thus reducing network capital cost and operating expense.  To create this solution PARC collaborated with Van Jacobson, Chief Scientist at Cisco and an IP/TV expert and took it to open source for feedback. They tested this network with the government and early adopters and used feedback to improve the solution to get critical mass. The lessons here were to get the right commitment, gain critical mass and engage user feedback early.

Overall lessons are to use ethnography to understand how people are using your products and thus have a well defined MVP. Disruptive innovation is more about unique business models and integrating technology. As a company expands it is critical to have a portfolio of products ranging from core to next gen products and using a process to manage this innovation can be the difference between success and failure.

30Jul/110

Using technology to bring social change

On July 19th I went for a symposium on social change. The panel included Ossama Hassanein, an angel investor and mentor to Arab entrepreneurs, Craig Newmark, Founder and CEO of Craigslist, Sam Bernie, Sr. Director of Engineering at Kiva, Megan Trotter, Program Manager at Tenderloin Technology Lab at St. Anthony Foundation, Jake Levitas, Research Director at Gray Area Foundation For The Arts and Ed Bice, moderator of the panel and founder of Meedan, a non-profit social technology company which aims to increase cross-language interaction on the web.

The event was hosted at St. Anthony's Foundation, a nonprofit that serves a million meals every year to the needy and also acts as a clinic, counseling center and much more. Each panel member spoke of various initiatives they are spearheading to spread social change or the the use of technology to initiate solutions that make sense for the community. Some of those initiatives are listed below.

Craig Newmark founded Craig Connects to support 100+ non profits do good for the community. Though there are many areas the organization focuses on Craig spoke about his work to support military families and veterans. He mentioned that the biggest challenge with social change is that people doing good aren't good at talking about it so that they can get more funding, PR, etc. so he is working hard at addressing this issue especially in sifting the effective and deserving nonprofits from the others.

Sam Bernie who worked at the Grameen Foundation before joining Kiva said that social change is about empowering people at the grass roots level. People such as you and I Provide loans to  entrepreneurs on Kiva primarily because of the moving stories that help establish a meaningful connection between the lender and the entrepreneur. He hopes to create a deeper connection between the lender and borrower through technology. For example, Kiva may add a feature to track multiple loans for a person over time so that lenders can follow the borrower on his or her journey. Sam also states that the divide between access and capital should be narrowed. For example, he helped roll out a web based social initiative in Lebanon but people never used technology there so changes had to be made to best help them.

Ossama Hassanein is connecting Arab entrepreneurs with American Venture Capitalists to help navigate Arab countries through poverty. He has helped finance more than 100,000 companies in his career.

Megan Trotter teaches people to use technology - computers, social media, basic editing software, etc. She states that social change can only come about through education. We can all use technology and resources to solve hunger, poverty, etc. but human contact is essential in facilitating these programs to success. Her classes educate 100 people every day to learn technology at the St. Anthony's Foundation.

Jake Levitas works with technology and government to implement change. His hack-a-thons help organize programmers to build applications to solve social problems. He hosts one every weekend during summer and connects people with the government through this program. His projects include mayoral candidates and he believes that challenges such as these hack-a-thons help sieve through the noise and get people to act more than talk aimlessly. For example, he states how technology helped people find loved ones during the Haiti earthquake.

30Jun/110

Customer Acquisition Lessons in Internet Retailing

David Bell, Professor of Marketing at Wharton, gave an excellent seminar (download David Bell's presentation) last evening on the most important factors in internet retailing. He summarized four of his recent papers in this space and most of his research stems from Wharton's startups specifically diapers.com and Netgrocer.com. His online customer acquisition lessons are summarized below.

1. Social Contagion states that communication and observation affects online demand evolution. Traditional brick and mortar retailers are limited by their small trading areas. It is more likely for you to visit your nearest grocery store whereas the internet is unlimited but this also means that you don't know where your customer is located.  One of the main findings of social contagion (as seen in image on left) is that your new customers will be located near your existing customers. Communication and observation are key in social contagion. This is where word of mouth and visual differentiation are key. For example, Warby Parker, a Wharton startup, makes prescription glasses for $95  compared to the average competitor price of $500. They have visually differentiated themselves from the competition by making their frames a distinct color (blue, orange, turquoise and more) and a classic vintage-inspired shape (thicker frames). As for word of mouth they donate a pair of glasses to someone in need every time you buy a pair.

2. Spatial Structure follows a pattern of proximity and similarity. This finding states that social and demographic proximity and similarity can drive online sales. For example, an interpersonal property or similarity such as ethnicity could drive sales of an online product that started in Chicago and then moved to LA and then Springfield through word of mouth. Internet retailers first grow through physical proximity and later through similarity among distant locations. Thus internet retailers should target sparse locations with geographically diverse demand. For example, target zip codes that are not close to each other and not socially or demographically similar but have a good number of target customers.

3. Preference Isolation brings shoppers online and explains geographic breakdown of online brand demand. The image on the right explains this concept. Consider 2 markets for diapers- Market 1 with 200 people of which 100 have babies (50% penetration) and Market 2 with 2000 people of which 100 have babies (5% penetration). Market 2 is the preference (in this case diapers) minority and the market that an online retailer should target. The primary reason for internet retailers to target Market 2 is that the brick and mortar stores in Market 1 will stock 50% of their shelf space with various diaper brands (pampers, huggies and even niche brands such as 7th generation) so it is easy for people in this market to access these diapers but Market 2 is going to allocate only 5% of their shelf space thus carrying the top selling brand only (say Pampers) so customers are more     likely to look online for  the other brands especially niche brands thus driving online sales.

4. Acquisition Modes vary in efficacy according to location characteristics. Different acquisition methods (magazines, online WOM, offline WOM, online search) get you different customers and are complementary as seen from the image on the right. Word-of-mouth (WOM) acquisitions  benefit from physical proximity among targets (offline WOM—contagion; online WOM—connectivity). Use magazines for sparsely populated markets and WOM for densely populated markets.

Many other factors such as taxes, shipping cost and type of product matter in customer acquisition in internet retailing but have not been studied in this research.

30Apr/110

UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition: Part 2 of 2

You can read about the first four finalists at the UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition here.

5. Picatcha: is a picture-based captcha that uses images of brands instead of text thus getting ad revenue too. Captchas are text messages to distinguish humans from computers to prevent spam and improve security. They are used on blogs, contact forms, e-commerce sites, etc. Picatcha improves usability and security over current captchas. It aims to recapture the 3-18% new users that leave a website due to a frustrating captcha experience and prevent the 60% hacked captchas.

6. Intimal Solutions: cures deeply embedded ulcers on feet and legs that can't be treated by substitute technologies. This minimally invasive method is a relief to substitutes - surgery or tight compression bandages that may not help and the problem could recur. Intimal Solutions tested a group of patients and found that the technology heals 84% ulcers in 25 weeks and the problem does not recur. They have already applied for 3 patents and received insurance codes to bill to.

7. Easy Parking Spot: is an online parking marketplace. It helps small businesses, individuals, schools, churches, etc. monetize their parking spots by posting their parking availability and cost on this website as well as placing physical signs in front of their parking spaces to help with branding. Using a mobile app you can identify a parking spot near your location and reserve it or recharge it with this app without having to go to the parking meter to add quarters.

8. Gram Power: is a pay-as-you-go energy storage system to improve energy accessibility in the $11.6B rural energy market in India and Africa. This prepaid plan is activated by a dongle and can help entrepreneurs and individuals get access to electricity for a minimal cost. This electricity rental plan will be distributed and managed by sales managers.

Competition Winners

Grand Prize ($20,000): Intimal Solutions

People's Choice Award ($5000): Imprint Energy

Best Elevator Pitch ($1000): Inserogen

Semifinal track winners:

IT & Web: Kopo Kopo and Picatcha competed and Kopo Kopo won

Energy & Clean Tech: Imprint Energy and Gram Power competed and Imprint Energy won

Life sciences: Cardio Paint and Intimal Solutions competed and Intimal Solutions won

Products & Services: Axis and Easy Parking Spot competed and Axis won

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