Thursday, April 10, 2014

Push Notification Activation Best Practices?

The #1 way iOS mobile applications reactivate their userbase is through push notifications. But not all users are willing to turn push notifications on. Does anyone have best practices or examples of applications that do a *great* job of getting their users to allow push notifications?

I’ve seen a few examples of apps that use a page during the sign up flow to justify to a user why accepting push notifications is a good idea, and only once this page is completed does the app launch the “accept push notif?” modal dialogue box.

Anyone have tips or tricks beyond this smart (but simple) low hanging fruit?

The hardest part of getting your users to accept push notifs is that you only get one shot. If the user declines notifs initially, you cannot reprint the user later. You need to use copy to beg them to go into iOS Settings and manually enable notifs. It’s an incredible high hurdle of activation energy to clear and I imagine once a user initially declines notifs it much be nearly impossible to get them to activate later.

So, best examples or best practices anyone?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
This new “cinematic VR” company Jaunt that Redpoint recently funded looks interesting.  They’re making a camera that will take 360 degree video, which can then be viewed using 3D headsets like the Oculus Rift.
I have not used Jaunt, nor have I ever seen real video through 3D goggles. On the surface one challenge they’ll have to tackle is camera movement and its effect on the viewer. When I make a decision to move myself in a 3D world, it’s less jarring then when my view moves for me without my control.  So, if you put a Jaunt camera on a dolly or a set of rails while shooting, it might not be easy to consume as a viewer.
When I first saw this technology in a news post online, I started to wonder how actors and storytelling would have to be modified for immersive 3D consumption.  To date, 3D gaming has largely failed on this front. When its storytelling time in a 3D game, game designers do one of two things: A) lock my camera position to force me to watch the cutscene without control, which is boring and breaks the immersive effect or B) let me run around the scene without being locked in, which means I invariably see the scene from a bad angle and miss half the action. Neither option really works well. 
I think Jaunt (and other forms of immersive 3D storytelling) could learn a lot from Sleep No More, which is a staging of MacBeth in the fictional McKittrick Hotel, where the audience runs around from room to room as the play happens all around them. The design decisions that Sleep No More had to make might translate well to a digital 3D staging.

This new “cinematic VR” company Jaunt that Redpoint recently funded looks interesting.  They’re making a camera that will take 360 degree video, which can then be viewed using 3D headsets like the Oculus Rift.

I have not used Jaunt, nor have I ever seen real video through 3D goggles. On the surface one challenge they’ll have to tackle is camera movement and its effect on the viewer. When I make a decision to move myself in a 3D world, it’s less jarring then when my view moves for me without my control.  So, if you put a Jaunt camera on a dolly or a set of rails while shooting, it might not be easy to consume as a viewer.

When I first saw this technology in a news post online, I started to wonder how actors and storytelling would have to be modified for immersive 3D consumption.  To date, 3D gaming has largely failed on this front. When its storytelling time in a 3D game, game designers do one of two things: A) lock my camera position to force me to watch the cutscene without control, which is boring and breaks the immersive effect or B) let me run around the scene without being locked in, which means I invariably see the scene from a bad angle and miss half the action. Neither option really works well. 

I think Jaunt (and other forms of immersive 3D storytelling) could learn a lot from Sleep No More, which is a staging of MacBeth in the fictional McKittrick Hotel, where the audience runs around from room to room as the play happens all around them. The design decisions that Sleep No More had to make might translate well to a digital 3D staging.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On Mozilla and Leadership

Brendan Eich stepped down last week from the CEO of Mozilla post, due to the controversy over his support of Prop 8, California’s anti-gay marriage legislation. 

I don’t use Mozilla products anymore and have not for awhile. On a Mac my primary browser is Chrome and my secondary browser is Safari (for when I need new cookies, primarily). I know that Mozilla has done a lot to contribute to the open standards I use on the web, and they are a great voice for open source culture. But that said, the boycott of their products last week (such as OKCupid encouraging its users to drop Firefox), was a surprisingly impactful (from a media perspective) move given that Firefox seems to be ceding market share naturally anyway. 

There is  no shortage of political conservatives in the Valley, and the attention on this one conservative (Brendan) in particular is interesting to me, especially given that the larger problem at Mozilla is its waning influence. The focus landed on Brendan more than most Valley conservatives because he was trying to lead a company where his personal politics contrasted the politics of most of the employees, Board, and open source community he was trying to lead.  

If Brendan were trying to build a company from scratch, there were be a natural process of selection where he would end up recruiting people that were ready to follow his lead. But, taking charge of an organization that has been infused from the start with a more liberal ethos proved too difficult.

This is instructive to any management change, and it’s not limited to issues of personal politics. A Founder infuses a company with his or her own DNA. Any future leader of the company has to make a similar impression upon the company (read “impression” as a molding of wet clay). The new leader must take the prior DNA, carry it forward, and simultaneously infuse some new piece to make the company reinvigorated and new.

The inheriting company leader can’t use just a partial piece of him or her to make the impression… it has to be 100%. There is little work/personal separation in leadership; what a leader does outside of a job is just as instructive to his or her employees as what happens in the workplace. 

I have never worked at Mozilla and have no interaction with their employees, so I can’t really *know* anything about this situation, but observing from the outside, this feels like a failure to carry forward the company DNA.

The Mozilla I nostalgically like to remember is the one that pulled off the David and Goliath impossibility of dethroning Internet Explorer’s dominance in a completely scorched-earth market, battling uphill against monopolistic lock-in. The NYT two page ad was a high-water mark for me in this impossible mission. This is the Mozilla I’m rooting for, and I hope they can find a leader that can embrace this core founding DNA while also adding a bit of his or her own in the right direction.

Monday, April 7, 2014 Friday, April 4, 2014
We’re No Worse Than The Guy Down the Street
Joel Spolsky tweeted out displeasure on Google’s new ad formating on the left side of the page. Matt Cutts responded saying “Bing’s no better.” I’ve captured the conversation in a simple screenshot.
I’m currently reading Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness; Nassim observes this same phenomenon in traders that Matt at Google just displayed.  When traders are wildly successful (Nassim contends largely due to luck), they attribute their success to their above average intelligence and skill. When they are failing, they again compare themselves to others and defend their loss as “less than the other investment firm across the street.”
It’s a remarkable bit of psychology, defining your successes and failures in the context of an invisible scoreboard.
I wonder what standard Google held themselves to previously, before Bing arose as a possible #2, and how their behavior will evolve going forward, if Bing either catches up or increasingly lags behind.

We’re No Worse Than The Guy Down the Street

Joel Spolsky tweeted out displeasure on Google’s new ad formating on the left side of the page. Matt Cutts responded saying “Bing’s no better.”
 I’ve captured the conversation in a simple screenshot.

I’m currently reading Nassim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness; Nassim observes this same phenomenon in traders that Matt at Google just displayed.  When traders are wildly successful (Nassim contends largely due to luck), they attribute their success to their above average intelligence and skill. When they are failing, they again compare themselves to others and defend their loss as “less than the other investment firm across the street.”

It’s a remarkable bit of psychology, defining your successes and failures in the context of an invisible scoreboard.

I wonder what standard Google held themselves to previously, before Bing arose as a possible #2, and how their behavior will evolve going forward, if Bing either catches up or increasingly lags behind.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Exhausted with the responsibility of having all human knowledge a few taps away in my pocket at all times, I’ve decided to get a new cell phone. 

I just won an eBay auction on a Nokia 3310, and this will now be my full-time cell phone. In an eBay first, the seller is paying me to take it from him; my -$1.12 bid price came through!

Please refrain from texting me unless it’s urgent. Apparently Sprint won’t provide a modern cell plan for this brick, so I’m back to paying $0.15/msg. Plus, I’m concerned responding in T9 mode all day will lead to early onset carpel tunnel syndrome.

Why did I make the jump to this model of brick specifically? One word: Snake.

Exhausted with the responsibility of having all human knowledge a few taps away in my pocket at all times, I’ve decided to get a new cell phone.

I just won an eBay auction on a Nokia 3310, and this will now be my full-time cell phone. In an eBay first, the seller is paying me to take it from him; my -$1.12 bid price came through!

Please refrain from texting me unless it’s urgent. Apparently Sprint won’t provide a modern cell plan for this brick, so I’m back to paying $0.15/msg. Plus, I’m concerned responding in T9 mode all day will lead to early onset carpel tunnel syndrome.

Why did I make the jump to this model of brick specifically? One word: Snake.

Friday, March 28, 2014

seedcamp:

.@andrewparker and @katie_bolin from @sparkcapital meeting the Seedcamp Teams and sharing how they support early stage companies.

This was fun. Thanks seedcamp for making it happen.

How Quickly Should Local Services Add New Geographies?

I regularly meet founders running companies where the services offered are tied to local markets. Spark has made a number of investments with this characteristic, such as: BloomNation, KitchenSurfing, GetYourGuide, and PostMates. A common problem that all these businesses face is the pace at which to expand to new geographies.

There isn’t a single easy answer to this question. Above are two visual representations of the pace at which Uber and Craigslist spread; two of the more successful locally-tied services online. Craigslist obviously grew up in a different era of the web, and Uber has a much tougher time launching a new city than a more digitally-oriented-product startup has, so both of these cases are somewhat exceptional. I also looked for data on Yelp’s pace of expansion, but couldn’t find a good visual.  The "expansion" section of their Wikipedia page is fairly informative on this front. I heard anecdotally that ZipCar deliberately followed Craigslist’s initial cities when choosing where to expand. There’s an argument to be made that every startup is its own exception, so learning from the wildly successful exceptions is informative.

The pace at which you expand a locally-focused startup involves optimizing a set of variables: capital constraints, pace of hiring, data / supply density, customer awareness, and (quite frankly) management ambition. It’s an essential part of the plan for all these types of startups, and it’s a decision that will change multiple times as the company grows.

//HT to @cm as my source on the Uber chart, which inspired this post.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It Gets Better

The most poignant and accurate criticism of Bitcoin today is very simple: how has it made the world a better place?*

It really hasn’t. Payment transactions are not cheaper nor easier (from a cost perspective nor a UX perspective). This new form of currency is not more egalitarian, on the contrary, 75% of it is in the hands of 2000 people, so welcome to the new 1%, or more accurate: .0001%. It’s an energy hog as mining requires more and more power with no side benefit. The level of thievery means that in practice it’s not more secure (despite theoretical security innovations). The dark web usages of the currency are a bummer that taints legitimacy.

All that said, the single best way to be wrong on the Internet is to assume that it doesn’t get better. There is perpetual progress, from multiple parties, both collaborating on GitHub and competing in opposing startups, constantly pushing the rock up the collective hill. That’s just how the Internet has always moved, and Bitcoin, born on the Internet, will be no different.

It gets better.

* (That ultimate Bitcoin bear statement is not my insight (though I wish it was). Happy to quote the source, if he/she desires.)