The Problem with Web-based Productivity Apps

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Just read this TC article on Draft, a new word processor. Tried it out, the interface is quite nice and slick, I like it a lot.

But, as with any web-based productivity software, after a while I will just default back to Office on my computer.

The truth is, as with all browser-based productivity apps, I have problems not being able to use my shortcuts (often limited, if existed at all), not being able to access my files offline, not being able to have the comfort of managing the files in a way that I’m so used to. As nicely designed as these apps are, they face the very fundamental challenging of altering user behavior.

Sure, casual users will be using things like Google Doc for collaboration, but these apps in their current state are not conducive for power users.

My money is still on Microsoft – though Office + SkyDrive integration is still clunky, I think with a bit more work it will deliver something that users will be happy with. It will be interesting to see how Chrome OS further develops its offline capabilities to compete with Microsoft, but I suspect they’re still got some catch-up to do.

Don’t be offended

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A friend was telling me yesterday about how oblivious his friends seem to be to the app he’s working on.

I told him, don’t be offended! It’s not like your friends have become LESS of a friend (ok, that could also be the case), but it’s more than likely that:

1) Yes, there is a distinct possibility that your product just… sucks. Or not relevant to your friends. Know who your customers are – sometimes it won’t be your friends! With Husky Chat, our primary user base are turning into 8th graders who log on to chat with friends on game sites – I don’t expect my friends to get on and chat with them.

2) Guess what – people don’t spend 100% of their time working on your app like you do. There are other things in life that they’re busy about, so sometimes they just forget. You will often get the “so what are you working on now”, “how’s the app doing”, or get an unsubscription email here and there, but that’s all to be expected!

So don’t be offended! Work harder, create a good product, and if affirmation is what you crave, look to your loyal users – because they are just as awesome as your friends.

Facebook needs to solve the “trust” issue before rolling out payments

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Yesterday Facebook announced the Facebook gift card, which got me pretty excited.

This is similar to what Google Wallet is doing (they’re testing a physical Google Wallet card that you can use, using the app to choose what card you want to associate with your Google Wallet card), and very similar to what PayPal was attempting to do with the physical PayPal card in store. Instead of jumping to NFC payments like Google Wallet attempted to do, it seems like the trend now (and rightfully so) is to create an intermediate product (the card) as the infrastructure / consumer behavior catches up.

I think we can (and I believe Facebook is) looking to Google Wallet to see where Facebook is heading toward.

The biggest problem for Facebook comes down to TRUST. Whereas Google has (somewhat) established themselves as a trustworthy company, Facebook has a long way to go before they can catch up in that arena. With all the privacy issues that Facebook has, it is going to be very difficult for people to get on the Facebook payments bandwagon!

What do you think? Would you trust Facebook to hold on to your money?

Facebook Graph Search is coming… now taking requests!

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Just got access to Facebook’s new Graph Search feature.

There’s nothing “new” here, in that Facebook is not all of a sudden showing photos of you that you’ve hidden or never knew existed, it’s just making it easier for it to, well, be surfaced.

Graph Search is not done being built-out yet, so things that are dependent on relationships won’t yield as much result (sorry, people looking for single friends of their friends, nothing here for you yet). And everything is dependent on what you are willing to share with Facebook – so if your Facebook is completely empty, you’re finee.

Will Graph Search change the way we interact with Facebook? Probably. In the limited time I’ve been playing with it, new ideas start surfacing of how to use this, for both personal and professional purposes. That being said, again, this is all dependent on informations that users have shared. The way to conduct searches is a bit strict too, so the more Facebook can figure out how to bring in natural language processing into this, the better this experience will become.

What does all this mean for you?

  • You think those photos are long gone? Check again. Those photos you are tagged in just might not be so private. I tested out Graph Search with a bunch of friends and the response was overwhelmingly “HOW DID YOU GET THAT PHOTO”.
  • Those Likes buttons you’ve been clicking on just on a whim? They’re about to come back and bite you in the ass. Start unliking things if you don’t want to be linked to those search results.
  • There’s a lot Facebook can surface, yeesh. Start conducting vanity searches the moment you receive the Graph Search upgrade.

There’s all sorts of fun things you can do here – like:

  • Photos of Eric Ho from 2011 taken in New York, New York
  • Friends of Eric Ho who Likes Basketball
  • Friends of friends who work at Facebook
  • Males who like Gossip Girls (1. nothing wrong with that, and 2. FB refers to “females” – how very Jersey Shore of them)
  • Friends of Mark Zuckerberg who Likes Google (haha, no result for this yet)

I am now taking requests! Let me know what kind of searches you would like to see and I’ll update the post with some of these hilarious results that are popping up.

On “Acqui-hires”

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I was talking to a friend the other day, who mentioned that there has been an increased amount of “acqui-hires” in the tech blogs as of late. He then went on to talk about how it’s really impressive how the large guys like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, are going about bringing in these new talents to fuel their own growth.

There is a nice, feel-good story going on here. But you gotta ask yourself – why these guys? There are plenty of folks out there working on similar products, with similar talent / skillset, why pick these guys over the others?

The truth, and what you don’t hear about often, is that at the end of the day, most of these folks who are being acquired are running a product that’s probably heading to the deadpool in due time. The reason that the word “acqui-hire” was created is to make the idea of having a failing startup that much of an easier pill to swallow. I would also venture to argue that most of these people that ended up being “acqui-hired” are backed by connected investors or advisors, who, from an investment perspective, are simply trying to recoup the losses that they otherwise would’ve sustained, should the product/startup go under. Sure there are the good, legit, feel-good stories, but at the end of the day, the concept of acqui-hiring, I believe, is a way for investors to get their money back, while gaining some nice PR exposure.

There’s a lot to be said about the support network that you get once you became part of the “club”. It’s like a fraternity – you have people who will help you with your PR, connect you with the right person, and at the end, help flip the company and help you land the next gig.

But that’s for another day.

Ad-Revenue Supported ATM Machines?

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Been looking at a bunch of mobile banking startups/products that are trying to displace the traditional banking model – I’m talking about Simple.com and GoBank.com, for example.

These banks rely on a small network of ATMs, so it’s not like you can just walk up to a Chase ATM (there’s no relationship) and withdraw money, without incurring some fee.  This got me thinking – about… ATMs and fees … and I began to wonder – could there be an ad-revenue supported model to replace the fees?

For example, the ATM detects that this card is an out of network card, and asks if the user wants to get hit with a fee, or watch a 30 second commercial, or sign up to some offers, etc. Or maybe when the receipts prints out, the receipt has some sort of ads placed on there.

Is this doable? Does anyone know the intricacies of ATMs and the networks it run on – and whether this will be an attractive value prop for ATM operators?

Go Niche

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It’s something that people have mentioned time and time again, but worth mentioning again. When you’re acquiring customers, there’s nothing wrong with starting with a small, niche, but potentially high-engaging audience.

The market might be small, the opportunity might be small, but it’s a great way to acquire an engaged group of users, which can really help you scale your product. You can test out new features and functionalities with these loyal users, understand more of their behaviors, before turning open the floodgate.

I’ve heard people say – “oh, but I don’t want to pigeon-hole my product so early on” – GUESS WHAT, no users = no product. Don’t try to be a people-pleaser. You’re not going to please everyone, and you’re going to end up with a shitty product.

Seriously. Go niche. You think your target market is X? TAKE ANOTHER TWO OR THREE CUTS and really get to the core of people you can target.

Lesson learned from Husky #12390217401924.