Screenshots from The WordPress iPhone/iPad App

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, one of the reasons I moved my blog from TypePad to WordPress was the pathetic mobile presence that TypePad had. It was very hard for me to compose or edit a post on my iPhone, which was getting really annoying.

That is no longer the case now that I moved to WordPress.

Check out the screenshots below from the WordPress iPhone/iPad app. It’s awesome! I can now compose a new post and format it with ease (on both the iPhone and the iPad.) I can include a photo or a video without a problem.

Thank you, WordPress. You’ve just made my life so much easier!

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Goodbye TypePad, Hello WordPress

I finally moved my blog from TypePad to WordPress. The decision wasn’t that hard since I wasn’t really happy with TypePad for a while. Also, the migration wasn’t bad at all since both TypePad and WordPress offer an import/export functionality that makes it easy to move from one platform to another.

To be fair, TypePad isn’t a bad platform. It just hasn’t kept time with the beat of consumer expectations since 2008. Here are some of the pain points I had with the TypePad platform:

  • No default mobile web layout (ridiculous!)
  • Stats are useless
  • Expensive for what it offers
  • iPhone app is a joke
  • No iPad app!

The aforementioned shortcomings didn’t really bother me 18 months ago. But as I started to use my iPhone and iPad more frequently, my blog activities suffered because I couldn’t do anything productive on the blog using those two devices. Given that I was paying $14.95 per month for this service, my expectations were really high and TypePad never measured up.

WordPress.com, on the other hand, has the following going for it:

  • Default iPhone and iPad layouts (HTML5 goodness!)
  • A bargain for what you get ($99/year to get the more advanced blogging necessities like domain mapping, …etc.)
  • Self-hosting option (in case I want to move my blog to my EC2 account.)
  • Great stats
  • iPhone and iPad apps
  • Great tools and widgets

I gotta say, I’m more engaged with my blog now that it’s on WordPress. Granted it’s been only a couple of days since the transition, but I honestly feel more engaged with it. I already have a couple of drafts waiting to be proofread. I’m super comfortable with using the Dashboard and the array of tools available within it.

As for TypePad, I think its failure to keep up with what’s considered platform “standards” is going to hurt it in the long run. With so many blogging platforms competing for our business, I would say WordPress and Tumblr are the only two worth looking into. I have had a media blog on Tumblr for a year now and I love it.

Whatever you do, skip TypePad.

Steve Jobs: 56 Years of Genius End Today

The man who has become synonomous with "WOW" is mourned tonight by the entire world; by so many people young and old. No one had touched so many so profoundly like Steve has with his imagination and beautiful products, one of which I'm using right now to compose this post.

When I first got word of Steve's death, I was numb. Everyone knew that he wasn't doing well, but no one expected him to leave so soon. I know it's odd since I never met the guy, but it felt like I lost a mentor.

To me, Jobs represented everything that's great about America. Her exceptionalism, her promise and her genius. His departure made me cry for my country and for her future. Inexplicably perhaps, but very real nevertheless. At a time with so much turmoil and divide in America, the last thing we needed right now was the loss of an American symbole of Greatness and Excellence.

But that's life for ya.

Rest in Peace, Steve.

Jobs

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

The Business Case for HTML5

Several weeks back, I gave this presentation at the HTML5 Los Angeles meetup group. A couple of days back, I was humbled to see it featured on SlideShare.

There’s plenty of talks about the technical aspects of HTML5 but not much about its business value. This presentation sheds light on some of the benefits of HTML5 for business. Enjoy!

The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

117478738 Crucial Lessons for Fledgeling and Mature Companies

I started reading Eric Ries's blog, "Startup Lessons Learned," back in October 2008. I was quickly impressed by his technical acumen and the simplicity of his writing. I also enjoyed the breadth of topics covered and how engaging they were.

Needless to say, I was glad to hear that he was going to distill all his knowledge into a book, and now that I read the book, I'm glad to say that he didn't disappoint.

The book defines a startup as a 1) a human institution designed to 2) create a new product/service under conditions of 3) extreme uncertainty.

Notice how the definition doesn't address the size of the venture or its backers or its origins. As long as it is a team building a product with high uncertainty, it is a startup.

The book also covers the entire life cycle of a lean startup, Figure 1.

Lean-startup

Figure 1.
Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop that's at the core of the lean startup (image source)

Eric puts a huge emphasis on "validated learning" as opposed to "failure as a way of learning." He says, "a failure to deliver results is due to either a failure to plan adequately or a failure to execute properly." He's all about accountability, which is sorely lacking in so many institutions these day, with the most egregious being Wall Street.

Eric goes on to explain the principles of the lean startup with andecodotes of successes and failures in business. One of the most fascinating and very telling for me was the SnapTax story. The fact that a giant company like Intuit could spawn an innovative startup (i.e. a team + a product + high uncertainty) was a nice validation for my unsuccessful push for an R&D department within the companies at which I worked in the past. SnapTax was a team of five individuals that was given freedom to experiement while held accountable throughout the process. The results were impresssive.

If nothing else, the reader, especially those running mature companies, should pay close attention to Eric's conclusion. He stresses the points of validating assumptions, rapid testing of ideas, and most importantly, "stop wasting people's time."

I think that's the most valuable lesson in the entire book. Mature companies that continue to waste their talents' time with banal and insipid tasks are bound to lose those talents and will only be left with lazy, oftentime overpaid individuals that are too comfortable, too politically secure that they can't produce anything new or original even if they tried.

Startups are a "human institution" first and foremost. If the right team isn't in place, you do not have a startup. Nurture those talents and don't waste their time. Only then will the trappings of success adorn your business and you.

The Devil in The White City by Erik Larson

This book is about the evanescence of life, and why some men choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible, other in the manufacture of sorrow.

– Erik Larson.

The Devil in The White City The Spirit of Entrepreneurship in America

This is a fascinating book. Yes it is a great read full of suspenseful moments, and at times horrific details, of the murders by H. H. Holmes in Chicago circa 1890s. Yes it is a great book about the Columbus World's Fair that was built in Chicago in 1893 by America's greatest architects. Yes it is entertaining and yes it is historic.

But what makes this book fascinating to me is the fact that it's a case study of entrepreneurship in America in the late 1800s.

The project at hand was the World's Fair and the man behind it was Daniel Burnham. Burnham was a successful Chicago-based architect when his firm was selected to design and manage what most thought was an impossible undertaking: build a World's Fair that makes America (and Chicago in particular) proud. Expectations were very high given the astounding success of the World's Fair in Paris a few years earlier at which the Eiffel Tower was unveiled.

Burnham was not a man with small vision. He was known for this frequent admonition:

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.

Burnham made no little plans indeed. He built the Montauk–the first skyscraper ever.

Once built, the Montauk was so novel, so tall, it defied description by conventional means.

He was one of the most celebrated entrepreneurs of his time and this book is about how he managed to take on something so ambitious, so impossible, and made it a reality.

Burnham had to deal with government bureaucracy, inflated egos, unexpected setbacks, budgetary issues, amongst other things. Sounds familiar?

The Burnham story is a testament to the American innovative spirit. It's also an inspiration to all entrepreneurs and those who "choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible."

Are you one of those lucky few? Find out if you got what it takes. Read this book.

Google+: A Full-Court Press on Facebook – Tom Taulli – Finance Corner – Forbes

Lyle Fong, the CEO and Co-Founder of Lithium: “Active Facebook users at some point face a conundrum – either they don’t accept friend requests from all of their coworkers, acquaintances and distant family members and risk being viewed as elitist, or they accept all requests to be nice, but then find themselves having to censor or sanitize their own posts. In either case, Facebook becomes less useful over time. Google+, with their circles functionality, can be game changing if they can address this core problem.”

via blogs.forbes.com

I disagree with Fong. I'm an active Facebook user that accepts every invitation from people I know and I still don't compromise my posts. I have friends in lists and I always share with specific lists.

Groups and Lists are to Facebook what Circles are to Google+. Nothing new there.

I think that "Sparks" is what's really setting Google+ apart here. Content auto discovery based on interest is a huge business and one only Google can do well.

Illustration: Google+ and The “Actionable” Social Web

This is a followup to my previous post on Google+. Here's a very simple illustration that explains what I mean by the "actionable" social web:

The image below shows a post shared by Steven Levy on Google+. The post talks about a book he recently wrote called, "In The Plex."

BeforeThat's all good, except, that post could be so much better if it allowed Levy's followers to actually buy the book right there and then. This post could be enhanced as follows:

AfterDo you see the Amazon "Add to Cart" button below the post's description?

Now that's a much more meaningful post to people interested in the book. Now they have the option to buy it without leaving Google+.

Before Google+ came out, I was hoping that Facebook would do something like this. But here is why I think Google can easily succeed in making the "actionable" social web possible:

  1. Google understands data: unlike Facebook, Google's bread and butter is understanding data on the web for ranking and relevancy.
  2. Schema.org: Google is pushing for structured data through schema.org. With website getting more structured, the more accurate the understanding of their content becomes.
  3. Sparks: You can follow a particular interest on Google+ by creating a Spark.

The questions now becomes this: when will be see enhanced, "actionable" posts like the one below on Google+?

After2I hope the answer is: very soon!

Can Google+ Be The “Actionable,” Relevant Social Network? You Bet!

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about relevancy and the future of user experience on Facebook. I argued that relevancy in Facebook was broken and suggested a way to fix it.

Google+
Two days ago, Google released its newest social product, Google+. As I read through the Tech Crunch post explaing what the product was about, I couldn't help but smile. Google's Vic Gundotra was quoted saying:

We believe online sharing is broken. And even awkward. We think connecting with other people is a basic human need. We do it all the time in real life, but our online tools are rigid. They force us into buckets — or into being completely public. Real life sharing is nuanced and rich. It has been hard to get that into software.

Thank you! That's precisely the arguement I made. Google is finally onto something big in the social space! Moving away from the "walled garden" approach that's at the core of Facebook, Google+ focuses more on shared, real-time interests than mapping real life relationships.

Google+ is inherintly relevant. You don't need a virtual handshake of "friending" another person to connect. With Google+, you can hang out with anyone, no strings attached.

So it's open, it's relevant, but is it actionable?

I worte in my previous post about the detailed, localized and actionable relevant experiences on Facebook. What I meant by actionable was giving the user the ability to transact on that piece of relevant content without leaving his/her profile page.

So, does Goolge+ offer that capability?

Google+, Circles, Hangouts and Sparks

Not yet, but it's definitely within the realm of possibility.

What's currently missing in Google+ is autodiscovery. Right now, you can follow a topic by creating a "spark." This allows you to get content from everyone following the same topic. However, if someone who's not following that topic shares a related piece of content on the topic, you won't see it.

Sparks depend on the explicit intention of the user (ala Facebook) instead of the context of the shared content itself. As it is today, Sparks are useless, but they can be great!

The good news here is Google can easily implement autodiscovery. If you read In The Plex, you know they can. So the question here is, how can autodiscovery make the experience actionable?

For starters, if Google is able (and it is) to recognize the category and context of every piece of content users share on Google+, then they are able to monetize that content by making it actionable.

For example, let's say I'm into photography. I go ahead and create a "photography" spark to follow all the related content people share on photography. A week later, some random person (who is not following the "photography topic) on Google shares the following post:

Dude, I love my Canon 5D Mark II. It's like the best. camera. ever!

Because Google now recognizes the category and context of content, it flags this content as, "photography, canon, 5d mark II, ….etc." And as a result of that, I would see that post under my "photography" spark … with a link to buy the Canon 5D Mark II from the Google Store or Amazon.com or whatever.

That added link, which is a call to action, is where the power of Google+ lies! By knowing what the content is about, you can enhance it by offering a call to action that makes sense to the user who is more likely to engage with it.

Now think of all the other verticals that this could apply to: travel, financial, automotive, gifts, …etc. Google can partner with subject matter experts in each vertical to provide to help it enhance the relevant experience by making it detailed, localized and actionable.

Thought?