Relay #70, Panel F

don't just know technology, understand it

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The update we want, not the update we need

A couple weeks ago I updated my long published Anonytext Android app in the Play Store. In addition to the regular bug fixes, because bugs, this version introduced a brand new feature. Unlike previous updates, and other apps that I've developed that tried to be useful, this version's new feature didn't solve any problem whatsoever.

The feature in question is the ability to chat with other Anonytext users. It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun to implement, but at the end of the day I can't put my finger on what value this feature brings. That however, hasn't deterring users. In the days following the launch the app realized a 1000% increase in engagement (using various metrics), and by all indications it wasn't just a post-update bump. Time will tell how sustainable this uptick is but for the time being I would say my time and efforts paid off.

Now before you start to dig too deep into the feature and the numbers to come up with some theory that aligns with the modern-day tech startup mantra "Find a problem and solve it", let me save you the time. I'm aware that as social creatures, people love to engage with others, and I'm also aware that being anonymous is a tangible draw. What I hold to however is that my execution doesn't actually "Solve a problem", or at least not for the vast majority of potential users. It's highly plausible that some psychology journal out there speaks to the value of ephemeral relationships and their positive impact on the psyche, and it would be great if I could point to such a study as the basis for this feature. The truth is however, that I just wanted to try my hand at a chat application, and figured I'd use the anonymity theme that Anonytext already had (as well as the user base) as a spring board.

Right now, and until the numbers say otherwise, I'm using this as a learning and teaching experience. When building something, you don't have to solve a grand problem for it to appeal to users and gain traction, and you certainly don't have to be first to market. The post-PC era (typing that burns my fingertips) is a new game for which no one has the rule book. You can be driven by anything, and whether or not your idea becomes a success is as dependent on luck as it is on anything you control.

I'll keep that in mind as I build the things I love, and it might not hurt much if you do too.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

LaTeX vision

Use LaTeX long enough and you develop a skill similar to the way Cypher views the Matrix.
"I don't even see the code anymore. All I see is bold, braces, roman."

Monday, October 08, 2012

Stock Trader Challenge in available for Android

A new game by Colada Studios geared towards competitive stock trading has been launched on Google Play. Stock Trader Challenge allows you to play against your friends in timed stock trading challenges, or to trade against the world on the Open Market. Grab it on Google Play now.

Friday, September 28, 2012

eñe for the masses

If you're a puzzle game playing, spanish language speaking, multi-player beating, Facebook timeline sharing, Android phone owning lover of word games, you should check out eñe Spanish Word Game on Google Play.

It's Apalabrados meets Scramble With Friends, but with more cowbell.

Check it out.

Friday, July 29, 2011

GoJ and the need for validation.

Why does the Government of Jamaica feel they need validation from some foreign consulting firm for even the most benign and obvious things? The OUR was charged with the task of overseeing the implementation of number portability since the inception of the incandescent light bulb, and yet all the news we can get from them relates to the hiring a consultant to tell them what they could have easily discerned for far less money, in a far shorter time, using abundant local resources.

It's an ever growing trend. Whether it's a case of needing an outsider to hold their hand and pat them on the head, or simply a "cover your 'ass'ets" strategy, where they feel a foreign consultant grants them indemnity in the event things go south, it's time we move past this phase of inadequacy, start to trust our own technologists and people on the ground, and push ahead with initiatives that have been lingering for years.

I'm truly disturbed.

-- - contract award for number portability feasibility study

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

To reminisce is human

I wrote this once. Don't hold it against me.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shopping with Alzhemier's

Amazon, I love you, but sometimes I just don't get you. I'm a fairly loyal and frequent Amazon shopper. I can categorically state that I've spent more of my hard and not so hard earned funds with Amazon over the years than I have with any other single retailer in my entire life. I say this to paint a picture about just how well Amazon knows me and my habits. No entity, private, public or otherwise, could make that boast. So I'm sometimes a bit perplexed about how Amazon makes use of that information.

Take one recent purchase; the much hyped and totally worth it Kindle wireless reading device. I opted for the 3G model since $50 for unlimited almost-anywhere data sounded like a pretty good deal. Amazon takes the fact that I've purchased a Kindle (or anything else) to display on subsequent visits, items they think would fit my interest. So imagine my confusion when on my return, the predominant recommendation isn't for a book, perhaps a best seller or an electronic version of a title I already own; it isn't for a nice leather cover; it isn't even for a reading light. Instead it's, get this, a Kindle.

Do Kindle owners generally purchase new Kindles once the smell has worn off the ones they got last week? The question might be relevant, except Amazon does it for the vast majority of things I purchase. My current Amazon homepage is littered with recommendations for sneakers, cell phones, and guitar stands; all recent purchases and all, I would imagine, at least once a year purchases for most people. Unless the end goal is to instill buyer's remorse in their shoppers, I can't see the logic behind this.

Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems. I'm aware that my recommendations come from an algorithm that looks at my shopping and browsing habits, and this could be something specific to me and my eclectic purchasing history, but I can't help but think that with all the stuff Amazon knows about me, and all the things they could predict, they sure do make a mess of the opportunity.

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