Sunday, July 15, 2012

Are you a looky-loo?

David Hickey, the famous american art and cultural critic, once wrote a brilliant essay in his book Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy. It's called "Romancing the Looky-Loos". The essay was published in 1997 and basically talks about various different kind of audiences in music.

recent post by Seth Godin reminded me of the essay and "looky-loos".

It was a term invented by Dave's father, a musician, for a particular audience who had come to the performance only to consume or as Dave Hickey says in his essay, "nonparticipants....They paid their dollar at the door, but they contributed nothing to the occasion - afforded no confirmation or denial that you could work with or around or against."

Being a participant is different. It is as if your presence matters - you matter. Being a participant means, you give feedback. Being a looky-loo means you consume/absorb and go away.

Groundswell has taught us that a wholesome community will need both the participant and looky-loo at the same time. However Internet after a long time dominated by TV, has created an opportunity to do a two way conversation. 

Please don't miss it! 
Please don't be a looky-loo!

Monday, July 9, 2012

What is a Process

Enabler OR Disabler?

When I started working, my first job was with a services based organization and process was the Queen there.

I had just started and somehow started developing this misconception (like many others around me) that processes are bad. The reality was, in fact, that the organization was able to put food on my table because of these processes only. You see, in any service based organisation, you need matrices to tell current and prospective clients that how your organization is executing projects and if it is justified to hire and pay freshers like me. These processes help you with those metrices and since they are employed industry-wide, they help clients too, to do comparative studies of useful parameters like quality and productivity.

Its only when I went to start working with an acquired product organization of another organization, where processes are loosely implemented (not always though), I came to appreciate their holistic importance. And for the first time, I carved out a philosophy - are processes enablers or disablers?

When it comes to the product, as Don Norman says it's not about you, it's about who uses the product. In the same fashion, when it comes to processes, it's not about you. It's about who implements the process.

As a product person I clearly have a strong faith in processes, but then when we try to follow processes based on what is written on the manual, and not based on, for whom it is written, the process eventually ends up choking the funnel - being a Disabler.

On the other hand, when you have a process which not only follows what is written on the manual or on the company's wiki, but is also accountable to the people for whom it is being implemented and who are implementing it, that when it frees up the bounds - being an Enabler.

The key is to strike a balance between two - use both the intuition and the manual together. If either of them gets implemented in a process individually, we have a perfect recipe for Disabler.

I will let you decide what kind of processes you would run your organization with - Enablers or Disablers. Please note though, you can build manuals and wiki; you can't build intuition, you have to hire it and nurture it, to see its magic on time.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mobile Apps: Content Vs E-commerce

My experience with the mobile apps has been mixed both as a user and as a product guy. Most of the organizations, whom apps I have used, have created the apps more as an afterthought than as a planned strategy. As a result, these apps have become more like a broken and hanging limb off their body than a part of theirs.

Usually, these apps are created thinking the target users being people who are connected with the Social brand. Now the intent is great, but the direction is flawed. The mobile apps are indeed are a part of your Social business than Social brand and hence there is a huge divergence in the way people look at it.

I personally believe that with screen size of phone getting larger every six months, by 2015 we should see a movement more towards mobile websites from apps, since they don't need to be installed and with a bigger screen size and HTML5 adoption, most of their current limitation will get away.

However, in this blog, I am dealing with one of the most contentious issues of today's times for mobile apps. Which is, should there be a difference in which e-commerce and content based mobile apps be productized? I strongly believe the answer is yes, especially after watching so many screw-ups. Below I am jotting down few pointers in a table for both of them. This is by no means a complete list or comparison but an easier way for people to read and understand the differences in complexity

Content Based mobile appE-commerce based mobile app
Primary Source of income: Ads
Secondary source of income: Content
Primary Source of income: Transactions
Secondary source of income: Advertisements / Content (if they create UGC)
It should take minimum clicks for the user to reach to her destination.
Best example is Instagram. From the time they launched first, they have reduced clicks from 3 to 2 from the time you click photo to uploading it
Don’t worry about how much clicks it takes user to reach her destination, as long as clicks can keep pushing/nudging her to transaction
The clicks could be independent of each other.
Let the user discover your content on the site after he has found what he is looking for.

Don’t tie it with the clicks.
Instead tie it with the time he would spend on your app
Clicks have to be tied to be each other. They have to be relational and relative to each other, so that they can push the primary source of income: “Transactions”
Though your business runs on content and you are very emotional about it.
But hey! think what do users come on your site for?
Not content, but specific content

Be selective in terms of showing the content.
Don’t cram everything, just because you are the king of content.

The best way to push your content would be to promote it in the descending order of page views/clicks so that you can monetize as well (It’s not a charity after all!)
Educate users: Cram a lot of content and information as against content based mobile app.

It’s a paradox, a brilliant one at that because users come to consume focused content on content based app (Instagram, Draw Something, IMDB) while on e-commerce app, they transact based on information/content they consume (textual, picture, videos, location based). Hence with more information, you are creating a better chance to convert.
Make as much content possible, scrollable on single screen instead of hiding it behind the tabs or behind “see/read more”.
Tabs and hyperlinks don’t work in app especially when the person is looking for information.
“see/read more” would work here for content here since the users are more information focussed here. However, from the usability perspective, I would still not advice this

Saturday, June 9, 2012

An open letter to My Superwoman

(Photo credit: Illustration by Emily Marcus/Standard-Examiner)

Dear You,

You changed me when we met. You zapped me. You made me, me.

You see, before, I was fat. With you, I am an athlete.

Before I had a job. With you, I have a career.

Before, I was ugly. With you, I am a lover. And I am a friend as well, and not lonely. I am not scared any more. I am alive.

We are so much better as one, you know. As one, we work.

One Half of Us.

Inspired from "Dear You" of Freaks

Monday, February 27, 2012

Eye of a Tiger - Drishti'12 by Christ University

Around a month back, on 27th January 2012 I got an opportunity to be a part of a wonderful platform at Christ University in Bangalore.

The stage was Drishti'12 -  a platform for the visionaries of tomorrow to envision where India would stand by the year 2020. I was really fortunate that they choose me to be one of the judges among the three. The other two eminent judges were Prof. C.S.Dikshit and Srinivas S.

Bubbling with ideas and imagination, participants challenged their thought processes and presented on following topics:
  1. Banking and Finance
  2. Economy
  3. Science and Technology
  4. International Issues
  5. Social Issues
  6. Environmental Issues
They painted a vivid picture of how India will look like in these areas by year 2020.

To me, the whole exercise was significant since it showed how India is preparing generation next to dream, break out of mold and imagine things which may look like very far, but in reality, catching up - changing fast.

A lot of work had gone by even before participants got on stage and started speaking. They were ably guided by Prof. Ram Mohan and the following process was followed:

  1. Six main sectors, namely: Banking and Finance, Economy, Science & Technology, International, Social and Environmental Issues were identified as the topics to concentrate.
  2. Several subtopics were identified under each of these sectors so as to cover the diverse aspects of each sector.
  3. These subtopics, six each, were assigned to the different mentor groups. (December 2nd, 2012).
  4. Each of the mentors in charge of the respective sector, were given an equal number of subtopics to work on. The mentor groups had to select a student to represent the views of the group by January 13th, 2012.
  5. How each mentor group came up with the vision for these subtopics was left to them. A subtopic could be dealt by a student individually; or the mentor group itself could be split up into groups, each dealing with one topic.
  6. After preparation, the assigned subtopics were discussed and debated upon within the mentor group.
  7. Presentations were made on all the assigned subtopics, and one student was selected from each mentor group to represent their views.
  8. The selected students were introduced to their team members and a formal briefing on how to proceed with the final presentation was explained (January 15th, 2012). The final presentations could include videos, skits and other creative ideas 
All the selected students under each sector then got together to combine the views of their mentor groups, so as to present a consolidated view of the respective sector in 2020. A consolidated presentation was then prepared for each sector’s vision 2020 and presented before the mentors representing each sector. Suggestions were given by the mentors representing the various sectors to the participants so that the quality of the final presentation would be enhanced.

On January 27th, each sector was allotted a total of 15 minutes on stage.

Participants presented brilliant stuff all around, mining through a lot of data, which was impressive to see.

During the first 12 minutes, they could put forth their vision for the respective sector as creatively as possible - in the form of presentations, videos. Following this, 3 minutes were reserved for Q&A by the judges.

We judges were to judge the teams on the basis of content, presentation, creativity, Q & A and trust me, it was not easy!

It was a close call . Eventually team representing "Environmental Issues" bagged the first prize, with "Social Issues" team, being the runners up.

A note of thanks to the organizing committee, headed by Manimoy Chatterjee They were stupendous! It was infact, one of the finest organized event I have ever attended and been a part of.

Below are the few photos of the event, thanks to Manimoy and the Organizing Committee (again)!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When we are not targets or traffic,

we are eyeballs!

But aren't we more than just unique traffic numbers? We are human beings who want the respect and treatment of a human being from the products we use.

And that's why I don't want to see the results which Charlie Sheen sees. I want to see what I want to see. After all technology enables behavior, it doesn't cause them.

Don't believe me? Hear out Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The problem with mass mailers is

that they are "MASS" mailers.

They are not written to me, they are not written for me and yet they land up in my inbox day after day, week after week, month after month. 

So here is a solution:
  1. I need these mass mailers to be renamed as -mailers where denotes my name
  2. I need -mailers to talk to me
  3. Don't ask me how for #2. After all every time I transact with your website, your Facebook page, your Twitter profile; I leave so much of my critical information there like my name, browsing history, demographics - go and use that
  4. Make me partner in crime - use my information to benefit me. 
    • See which city/country/hotel/airline I book and get deals on those for me at my -mailer
    • See what do I read and publish that for me at my -mailer. Don't give all the junk authors I don't care about

When you will do all this, may be our relationship can finally get better!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"That's how organizations work"

"But I have never done this before, so why should I do this?"

"But my business unit uses different tool, then why should I use your tool?"

"But it is working fine, so why do we need it!" 

As soon as we get overly tied to the lessons we are taught in business school or elsewhere, we start doing things the way it’s been done in the past. And then we’re going to have a company that’s like those that existed in the past

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Faster Horse or Car

Henry Ford, after "invented" the car and the process around it was asked if he asked around for what his customers want - in other words did a market research? He said, "If I would have asked them, they would have asked for faster horse, not car!"

A lot of organizations with their razor sharp focus on their stakeholders requirements get into what I call a "faster horse" trap, where they just end up building a better version of what their stakeholders have used/already been using. What's more. at times, it backfires and "faster horse" ends up being "pooped horse".

Then there is other side of the spectrum where data rules and whatever stakeholder wants in as a requirement, she has to substantiate with data. Sounds great and works great (most of the time). It becomes an Achilles heel when there is no data to substantiate a requirement, an ambitious requirement  which needs people to be intuitive and only people who have gone through the grind, have used the product and understand the pain of user/customer.

The need is to balance data with intuition - balance requirement with wish-lists where imaginations no hold bar. Blinded by either one of those, at the end of the day would give you a "faster horse".