(This is a guest blog post by Ludvig Ericson.)
People seem so stressed out today, yet we live in the era of automation where you can actually buy a pair of shoes on your morning commute while taking care of business. Odd, isn’t it?
Think about three things you did prior to reading this, how did you end them? Chances are you didn’t properly, “alright that’s 90% of the job - I’ll deal with the rest tomorrow.” In the words of Ronan Keating, what if tomorrow never comes?
Those 10% are often harder than the 90% you think you already did. Why this is and the psychology behind it is an interesting question in itself but let’s not get caught up in details.
Get things done and be done with them. Learn to love the word *closure*, “the act or process of closing something” or “a sense of resolution or conclusion at the end of an artistic work.”
As they say, when one door closes another one opens. This is true of your employment, marital status and other big things in life but also the small ones.
When your agenda is without end you’ll be prone to cut corners in a meaningless struggle aganist an enemy you’ll never beat.
How will you ever have a productive day if what you have on your desk is always leftovers from yesterday? In the words of Reinhold Niehbur:
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed, courage
to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Close things. Be done with them. Say goodbye.
(Read more posts on Productivity Tips. Check out my other series too.)
Here’s the computer setup I wish I had. Too bad they’re all devices Apple doesn’t make (at least yet).
1. Retina 27” iMac.
Apple recently announced their lineup of new iMacs, but they’re non-retina displays. The 27” iMac display is 2560 x 1440. Apple usually doubles the resolution to make it retina. So, the retina iMac 27” should have 5120 x 2880 resolution and it would be a beauty to read from. (Currently I use a 21.5” iMac and find it a bit too small. I’ll probably upgrade to the new 27” iMac, reluctantly wishing it was a retina display.)
2. Retina 13” Macbook Air.
I currently use a 15” Macbook Pro Retina and it’s a great machine. The screen is amazing and I’m surprised that I’m able to read Kindle books (read.amazon.com) with comfort. I put it in full-screen mode and can view two columns easily.
However, the 15” Macbook Pro Retina (though lighter than the other 15” Macbook Pros) is still too heavy for me. It’s heavy to carry around and it’s heavy on my lap. For me, the best form factor of a notebook I’ve ever used is the Macbook Air 13”. But again, the Macbook Air 13” is non-retina.
Apple recently announced the 13” Macbook Pro Retina… but after trying it out at the Apple Store, it feels too heavy for my needs. I think the ideal notebook for me would be a 13” Macbook Air Retina. But I might be waiting for a while.
3. 5” iPhone.
I’ve been using an iPad mini for the past few days and while I think it’s a neat device, I find myself using my iPhone 5 still the most because it’s always on me. I’m constantly checking email, websites, and apps. However, I find my iPhone 5’s 4” screen a bit too small. I wish Apple made a 5” iPhone screen. Sure, the phone would look a bit big but if they could make it super light and thin (thinner than the iPhone 5), then it would be fine.
I think this is why the Samsung S3 and Galaxy Note 2 are selling so well. People appreciate the larger screens. And this is probably the largest weakness of the iPhone; namely, it comes only in one screen size (or two if you count the previous 3.5” screen) and doesn’t accommodate for those with different tastes or needs in screen sizes.
4. As a final note, I think there’s an opportunity for Apple (and other manufacturers) to make a wearable device like a watch or necklace. The device would communicate with your phone and show alerts, messages, emails, tweets, etc. Also, you could take pics and videos from the device. The device would also track heart pulse and steps. You could dictate messages/emails/tweets, and also make calls from the watch. You could also also voice search/siri from the watch and ask “Hey, how far is the next Starbucks?” or “When’s the Houston Rocket’s next game?” and Siri would speak back from the watch. If you want to see more info, you just pull out your iPhone and the info is already showing there.
(Read more about my Thoughts on Apple. Check out my other series too.)
Apple’s new iMacs (21.5” and 27”) are quite impressive - much thinner, less glare, much lighter. (I’m thinking of getting the 27” version.)
The most interesting “addition” to the iMac is actually the missing DVD/CD optical drive slot. It’s been a standard feature for years and Apple has decided to completely remove it. You’ll need an external drive if you want to access a DVD/CD.
What’s interesting to me is that though while most people don’t use the DVD/CD drive that much, it still appears to be a feature most people appreciate. I occasionally rip a DVD or use the optical drive to reinstall the OS. I’m sure others use it sometimes to.
But you’ve got to give credit to Apple. They’re thinking ahead and imagining in a few years if optical drives make any sense (they don’t unless for the few people who could opt for an external drive). And though it will cause inconvenience for some right now, it’s where things are headed and that’s where Apple is skating to. They’re going to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been in the past.
Figuring out what to do next is crucial. In fact, it’s probably the most difficult skill in business and it’s likely to be worth the most. Seth Godin writes:
The new high productivity calculation, though, is very different: Decide what you’re going to do next, and then do it. Make good decisions about what’s next and you thrive. Innovation drives the connection economy, not low cost. The decision about what to do next is even more important than the labor spent executing it. A modern productive worker is someone who does a great job in figuring out what to do next.
Businesses live and die based on whether they make the right decisions on what to do next.
Zynga is an interesting case. They were riding high on the desktop social gaming movement and didn’t expect the environment to change so quickly. They ramped up with acquisitions, people, offices, etc. But the desktop social gaming field has been drying up of late and not growing much. Zynga didn’t expect it. As a result, Zynga’s forecasts are getting crushed. They keep on lowering estimates and revenue forecasts, and this has put major downward pressure on their stock.
RIMM and Nokia were on top of the world 5 years ago but Apple stole their lunch and now they’ve got to figure out what to do next - something they should have figured out years ago.
The bigger question is how do you get good at figuring out what to do next. Just like a hockey player headed to where the puck is going to be… you’ve got to be ok with leaving your current position. You’ve got to be okay with failing at times (ie., maybe the puck doesn’t go where you thought it would be). You need to look at all the other players in the game because each person affects where the puck could end up. In other words, you’ need to be good at reading the field. You need to put an end to indecision which will cause you to stand still and miss the opportunity.
And maybe most important of all, you’ve got to want the puck really bad.
(Read more about my Thoughts on Apple. Check out my other series too.)
Today Apple announced the the 7.9” iPad Mini (starting a $329). I want to take a few minutes to share why I think the announcement is a big deal.
First, it’s surprising that Apple didn’t price the iPad Mini closer to the Nexus 7 (which starts at $199). I was expecting the iPad Mini to come in at $299 or lower. But Apple pricing the iPad Mini at $329 shows that they’ve made a decision to not compete on price with the cheaper “plastic” Android tablets like the Nexus 7 and others. Rather than making a cheaper iPad Mini by cutting corners, Apple went all-in and created a tablet with the same precision as their new iPad or even their new iPhone 5. Apple is clearly making a statement with the iPad Mini - all other tablets are cheap in quality and lacking in user experience (ie., not as many tablet-designed apps).
Part of me wishes that Apple would have been more aggressive with the pricing and start the iPad Mini at $299 or even $279. But I think Apple is smart here and has a strong positioning statement. People trust the iPad. They know it as the best tablet with the best apps. Apple is leveraging this with the iPad Mini and is basically saying, “Sure the iPad Mini is pricier than other small tablets, but you’re getting quality and the best.”
If the Android tablet experience was close to the iPad’s experience, I don’t think Apple’s positioning would work well. However, Apple knows that 1) they can build an exceptionally better tablet than any Android manufacturer and 2) the iPad’s user experience is much better than any Android tablet, especially with the plethora of iPad-designed apps in the AppStore. So, I think Apple’s $329 price for the iPad Mini is smart and gives them enough margin to be significant to their profits.
Second, the iPad Mini gives schools an opportunity to buy iPads at a lower cost than the current $399 iPad 2. Apple is already making huge inroads in selling iPads to schools, giving them discounts as well as financing options. At $329 retail price Apple could offer a discount of at least $30 to schools (if not $50 or more) and also offer some very attractive finance and payment options. I recently was on a plane talking with a very large school board member and I asked him if schools have enough money to buy iPads. His response is that they all have budgets for textbooks and that money can be used to buy iPads.
The iPad Mini gives Apple an even greater advantage in the education space. Add iBooks Author (free textbook authoring software) and Apple’s aggressive textbook partnerships with publishers, it’s not too difficult to see Apple extending their dominance in schools.
Third, today’s iPad Mini announcement matters because it’s Apple first new product category announcement in 2.5 years. Sure, Apple has had a ton of announcements recently but almost all their products are improvements of current and existing product lines. However, the iPad Mini is Apple introducing their first product in the “mini” tablet market. Expect Apple to iterate like crazy on the iPad Mini. I wouldn’t be surprised for new versions to be introduced at least once a year. And it’s in the iterating of the iPad Mini where Apple will seek to try to dominate the mini tablet market. Some have described it as how Apple rolls.
Make no mistake. Apple’s introduction of the iPad Mini today was not a passive move by Apple to just grow iPad sales. Apple has clearly thought this through and is seeking nothing short of dominance in the mini tablet market. They have a strong positioning argument - the best mini tablet with the best user experience. And they will iterate like there is no tomorrow to make the iPad Mini better and better each year.
On a closing note, I think Apple still has a lot of room to introduce new product lines with their iOS platform. I would personally enjoy a 13” or 14” iPad to browse the internet at home, as well as a 20+” iPad to do presentations in front of small groups. And I think they would make a killing introducing an iOS watch.
(Read more about my Thoughts on Apple. Check out my other series too.)
I signed up for Tiny Post about 10 months ago. I created three posts and then haven’t gone back to the app. Just never found the use for it.
Then on August 31 TinyPost starts sending me emails. The first one is an announcement, “Brace Yourself: Filters and Fonts are here” and the second one on Sept 7, “Best Tiny Posts of the Week.” That’s alright. I’m not interested, so I just delete them.
Then on Sept 8, TinyPost sends me an email, “Nick Thomas liked your TinyPost”. Are you serious? Like the one I posted several months ago? So, I just ignore it.
Then on Sept 9, TinyPost send an email, “Amanda Good is following you on Tiny Post”. Strange, I think. Part of me is flattered but part of me wonders if it’s a bot.
On Sept 18, Tinypost sends an email (remember I haven’t posted anything in 10 months), “Tony Veralrud liked your Tiny Post.” I’m thinking, “Man, these guys are creating fake accounts and suck.” But I let it go.
Today, “Kate Bernstein liked your Tiny Post.” I’m thinking this is getting out of hand… Tiny Post, why are you playing with me with fake accounts?
Again today, “Luke Smith liked your [your post]” and “Tony Veralud started following you”. This is getting out of hand. So, I start to investigate who all these people are that are “liking” my post from 10 months ago and even following me.
So here are the profiles of the 5 people liking my posts. These are definitely fake accounts set up by Tiny Post and is a flat out shady practice. They’re tricking users into thinking these are real people, and that real people are liking and following them. Not cool. I even gave them the benefit of the doubt thinking maybe these 5 people are the founders, but they’re no where to be found on their team page.
Notice all these fake accounts have around the same number of posts, likes and following. It’s obvious Tiny Post is running these fake accounts as bots in order to fool their users. (see update below)
I understand it’s difficult to get off the ground as a social site. It’s the classic chicken and egg problem. Without activity, users don’t find value. But without users, you get no activity. I even understand Reddit’s approach of creating fake accounts when getting started. But I’m more understanding of Reddit because there’s an anonymity that’s promoted on Reddit. People are allowed fake/anonymous/throwaway accounts. That’s Reddit. But Tiny Post is clearly different. They’re going for your real identity with your first name and last name. And that’s where it becomes uncool.
Tiny Post, please stop the shady practices. It’s not cool. And I’ve lost my respect for your team until you publish a public apology to your users.
Update: There’s a lively discussion on Hacker News regarding this post. A couple users pointed out that I shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Tiny Post is orchestrating this themselves. It could be a third party who’s set up a bot to follow users so they can gain more followers. I think this is a valid point and something worth considering. However, it’s difficult to believe that 3rd parties would be that interested in Tiny Post to set up bots. But maybe I’m wrong. I would love to hear directly from the Tiny Post team on this. If I hear from them, I’ll update this blog post with their response.
Update2: Ingrid Lunden wrote a story about this on TechCrunch and got a reply from one of the founders basically saying that they’re sorry, they’ll stop, and that they were doing it to “test” user engagement. I’m glad they’re stopping it but I’m not totally sure I buy the just “testing user engagement” narrative. You create 20 fake users and have them like 3000 posts each (total 60,000 posts) and have them follow 7000 users each (total 140,000 users)… and only stop when caught? First, when would they have stopped, if they didn’t get caught? I’d like to know what their actual plans were (of course, they don’t have to share this but I’m curious). Second, do you really need to follow 140,000 users to do a “test”? I imagine using a couple of the founders accounts and following a bunch of people (ie., a few thousand each) and seeing the response is fine for testing. But following 140,000 users… sounds more plausible that they’re trying to gain traction vs testing. But again, I could be wrong. I’ve tweeted @tinypostapp and will update this post if/when I hear from them.
Update 3: Just got an email from Dick Brouwer (founder, Tiny Post) and he says that they did two 1-week tests to measure re-engagement based on different types of actions and users. He said they’ve removed the test users and halted the tests. I emailed him back expressing my concern about them misleading and manipulating their users with fake user accounts of models with changed names (ie., finding attractive models online, cropping their pics, making fake user accounts with those pics, changing the models’ names, creating a script for these fake users to follow a bunch of users, then sending email notifications to all those users notifying them that this attractive/hot user is now following them). This brings up a bigger issue about growth hacking ethics and what’s the line where it goes too far.
(Read some of my other Thoughts on Startups)
Jeff Bezos is a fantastic presenter and innovator. Yet, yesterday at the Kindle 2012 lineup event he made two major arguments that I have a difficult time agreeing with. (Watch full event on YouTube)
First, Jeff Bezos argued that Android tablets haven’t taken off because they’re “gadgets,” while the Kindle Fire sold well because it had better “services”. Bezos spent a large majority of his presentation describing the current and new “services” for the Kindles and Kindle Fires (all which are quite impressive: tons of content, exclusive books, whisper sync, dual-sensory reading, x-ray for movies, FreeTime for kids, etc).
In essence, Bezos is saying that Amazon’s Kindle Fire has better services than Android tablets and that’s why Amazon is winning.
But if you take a look at the Google Play store, you’ll notice that Google has been doing an impressive job of amassing a lot of content themselves. Also, Google has tons of services that Amazon can’t offer (search, gmail, calendar, docs, maps, google+, single sign on to all google services, etc).
I just don’t buy that Amazon has better services than Google and that’s why Kindle is winning. I think a better narrative is that there’s been a lack of a strong market leader in the 7-8” tablet space and as a result consumers have reluctantly purchased the Kindle Fire more than other android tablets, but it’s not a sign that the people are happy with the Kindle Fire or that it has better services. Maybe it’s because of price and convenience (ie., amazon.com). (note: I purchased a Kindle Fire 2011 when it first came out and was disappointed at it’s clunky and choppy software. It basically was unusable to browse the web compared to an iPad.)
I think when Apple enters the 7-8” market, there will be a clear and strong market leader: Apple. Then, we’ll see if Kindle Fire’s great “services” can compete with Apple’s complete package: beautiful hardware, great UI, the best apps, etc.
Also, I think Google is just getting going in the tablet market. The Nexus 7” is an impressive tablet and Android 4.1 with project butter is a vast improvement over all other android versions. I also think Google’s purchase of Motorola will allow Google to produce some impressive devices in the future. I was skeptical of the purchase initially, but was super impressed that Google hired Regina Dugan (formerly of Darpa) to head innovation at Motorola (check out Regina Dugan’s TED talk and be blown away).
Case in point: Kindle Fire might be the market leader in the 7” tablet space, but it’s not a strong market leader and Apple has yet to enter the market… and Google is just getting going.
The second Bezos argument that I’m having a difficult time digesting is his critique that Amazon is better aligned with customer’s interests than Apple because Amazon is making most it’s money on the ongoing use of the Kindle (ie., purchasing ebooks, etc) vs Apple is making most it’s money on the initial purchase of the device.
I appreciated Bezos laying out the Amazon Doctrine: “Above all else, align with customers. Win when they win. Win only when they win.”
To paraphrase Bezos: ”We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices. If someone buys one of our devices and never uses it, we don’t deserve to make any money.”
That’s a noble goal but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Amazon is better aligned than Apple, which Bezos asserts. Apple also is motivated to have customers use their devices because if they don’t continue to user their devices they aren’t going to upgrade to the next, newer device. So Apple has a vested interest in making sure that users enjoy their current experience and receive value. Apple also has interest in ongoing usage with the AppStore and iTunes stores. (side note: I do find the pay-for-what-you-use is a really interesting business model)
Overall, I think Amazon’s ambitions are noble but they’re going against two companies that alsoa very aligned with the customer. So, it’s going to be tough. I don’t think Amazon is going to overtake Apple in the tablet market any time soon. And I’m not sure if then can fend off the upcoming Android tablets in the 7-8” or 9-10” tablet space either. But I think Amazon will have it’s place. I still buy most of my ebooks on Amazon, am a huge Amazon Prime fan, and have a lot of loyalty toward Amazon. Amazon has proven it’s Amazon Doctrine through amazon.com, EC2, and it’s other services. They give good value to the customer without trying to take advantage of the customer. And customers appreciate that kind of treatment.
That said, it’s going to be an interesting next few years in the tablet space - Apple vs Google vs Amazon… and Microsoft trying to get into the game.
Who do you think has the best chances?
Andrew Chen wrote an interesting blog post, Mobile app startups are failing like it’s 1999.
I think the root problem is that the AppStore review process takes too long to encourage rapid, iterative development. If you need to wait 10 days for your update to get approved, it breaks the feedback loop that you need to have to iterate quickly for new products.
I’d like to propose a Fast Track approval system for app updates to the iOS AppStore. Here’s how it would work. If you have an update to your app that you’ve submitted to the AppStore, as a developer you can pay $300 to get that update reviewed (and approved or rejected) within 2 days. You can use this privilege as many times as you want, as long as you pay $300 each time.
The reason I think this would work is because many of the app updates are from developers that aren’t making enough money to really want to pay $300 for a speedy approval. They’re okay with waiting 1-2 weeks. However, for an ambitious startup trying to find product/market fit each day that you can save is worth a lot of money. Ambitious startups would surely pay $300 to get their update out quickly. This would encourage more updates and would encourage startups to have more of an iterative development process.
For Apple, the $300 would cover any additional app processing costs, and again I don’t think it would bog down their system as 95% of developers wouldn’t pay for Fast Track. But for those who do, it will really matter. And it would make a lot of startups excited to get out their update a lot quicker.
Ten million users is the new one million users
Insightful blog post by Chris Dixon.
I’ve been saying that the scale of mobile/social (ie., ios, android, facebook) has increased the distribution 10x for apps/services. It’s truly incredible what’s happened in the past 5 years.
But saying that, there are major challenges of mobilizing a non-transactional app… namely, usually your user experience suffers as you add more advertising. And on top of that, advertising is increasingly being ignored in mobile apps. It definitely makes in-app purchase, subscription and freemium appealing options to think about as a startup.
Where is David Pogue’s iPhone?
Entertaining story of David Pogue (tech writer from NY Times) losing his phone in the NY Subway and Find My iPhone, Twitter and the police helping him to track it down.
Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question – you have to want to know – in order to open up the space for the answer to fit. (paraphrased from Clay Christensen) — http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3225-what-are-questions