There are many reasons why some mobile apps take off and others do not. The team, user experience, timing, luck, network effects, speed and a lot more.
This post isn’t meant to be an exhaustive analysis of what makes a great mobile app.
But there are two things in particular that I’m fond of discussing with startups these days.
Make us proud
Are your users proud of their profile on your platform?
Since the earliest days, many users would add to their email signature things like “follow me on twitter @username”
To this day, I include my twitter handle in my signature. It’s way more compelling than “sent from my iphone” and i’m proud of my Twitter profile and my tweets.
I know people have that same proud feeling when they share their Instagram or Tumblr profile with others. It makes sense that Instagram would create web profile pages for their users. Make them even prouder of their work. Here’s my profile page on Instagram for example. I like the way it looks and feels.
You can see the same thing at Academia.edu. It’s a social network and platform for academics and research to publish their own research without going through gatekeepers or locking up their own information. Here’s Richard Price’s profile page on that service (richard is the founder and ceo). This is a page to be proud of. He can see his stats and other cool things. He can publish his work directly. This is in stark contrast to the status quo where researcher basically hand over the copyright of their own papers to a journal and the result is that the majority of the world is unable to access their work
Last week, I had the opportunity to have a “fireside chat” with Dennis Crowley who is the cofounder and ceo at Foursquare. We had a talk in front of the whole company and Dennis asked me a few questions and i took questions from the team. One thing Dennis asked me was why we invested in Foursquare in the first place.
I told everyone at the company mtg that I fell for Foursquare because it was this wonderful mix of fun and utlity. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it — especially on mobile. It was fun using the app and remains that way for me every day.
I feel the same way about Twitter’s new video product Vine. It’s a great way to share and consume videos for sure. But the thing about Vine that makes it really special for me is that it’s so much fun to create a Vine. It doesn’t feel hard or cumbersome like other mobile video sharing apps. It just feels fun to create.
Here’s one of my first creations on Vine. Please share your Vines in the comments. You can also find me on Vine by searching for ‘bijan’.
There are a variety of things to consider in your product plans. But I think these are two key things worth keeping in mind.
(disclosure: we are investors in twitter, tumblr, foursquare and academia.edu)
Mine is the desire to make decisions quickly. Probably it comes from my days in startups where time is scarce and a decision needs to be made.
Or its just my personality. Whatever.
It’s an area where I’ve been making steady improvements over the years. But sometimes the old ways creep up when I’m not looking.
One of the many lessons I’ve learned is the notion of sleeping on tough decisions. If you are uneasy about making a call then don’t. Go sleep on it. Some of my favorite role models and founders are those that have the patience of an oyster. They are comfortable with the idea that tough calls need time to sort out.
There is a tendency in life or startups to make a decision with conviction rapidly and then move on. The team needs guidance and an organization needs a path. Leaving a meeting without a decision feels gross. Balancing thoughtfulness with a healthy sense of urgency is extremely challenging and the best do it well.
Perhaps this idea comes naturally to others. And I’m sure there are folks with the opposite challenge: those that find themselves spinning with indecision. But if you are like me, the best answer is to sometimes take a breath, go for a walk or run, hug your family and then sleep on it.
You’ll get to the right answer. Sometimes it just needs a little more time.
This blog has taken me in a few unexpected directions since I first jumped into the Tumblr pool some five years ago.
It has been a place to share my personal life and my work life. Basically a place to share who I am, what I’m thinking about and what I’m interested in at any given time.
One of the first communities that got me completely hooked here was the music community. It was strong when I joined and remains incredibly strong today. So many great bands and members of the Tumblr community expressing their love for music every day. And Tumblr’s native music experience got better with things like Spotify integration, Soundcloud integration and album art.
While my love for music continues, I seem to have discovered a new passion for photography. And the Tumblr photography community is absolutely inspiring. As I’m following more photographers, my dashboard lights up with beautiful stories and images. It’s highly curated by the author and gives me new things to think about each day.
I’ll update this post with all of the photographers I follow on Tumblr but off the top of my head a few include:
You’ll notice one thing in common with all of the Tumblelogs above except for the last one. They all use the High Res theme created by Justin Ouellette (Justin crazy talented and also happens to work at Tumblr). High Res is clean and simple. And I love how photos look. So I’m giving it a try.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of Le Petit Prince. (via zachklein)
“In the end, the President didn’t speak from the bully pulpit. He didn’t even speak from an elevated post. He just spoke from the mind, and from the heart, and he raised spirits still haunted by the image of twenty small, terrified children, heaped up in a pile of death, whose last breaths were spent in a state of terror because a madman got his hands on a military weapon that no one in a free country should ever be allowed to hold.”—Obama Leads National Move Against Guns : The New Yorker (via davehyndman)
Some thoughts on the future of search (beyond typing into the box)
Me: “just think of what Siri will be like when you are grown up!”
Ellie (age 11): “it should be pretty cool. you will like it if you are still alive”
Every Friday morning I take the kids to breakfast before school. With my travel schedule it’s a nice way to bring the week to an end.
The above was a memorable line from todays chat.
I’ve been thinking about the future of search a lot lately. Google has dominated for a long time with search. It’s been one of the killer apps of the web and there is a reason why Google makes so much money with search. It just works. And this money machine allows them to take big bets on cars, glasses and other stuff happening at Google X. It’s terribly exciting.
Particularly revealing was this thought from Larry Page, Google’s cofoudner and CEO about his desire to take moon shots.
You know, we always have these debates: We have all this money, we have all these people, why aren’t we doing more stuff? You may say that Apple only does a very, very small number of things, and that’s working pretty well for them. But I find that unsatisfying.
Its clear that the mighty Google believes the future of search will evolve and radically so. Thus, the moon shots.
This week Facebook launched their own moon shot — Graph Search. My friend John Battelle is pretty bullish on it and wrote some interesting observations recently. I haven’t tried it yet so I’m going to reserve judgement for the time being. But it’s still a search engine that gives you results after typing into a little text box.
These days I’m much more excited about searches that takes place without typing into a little box with a keyboard. Things like Google Now and Siri are super interersting to me.
Few other examples of search beyond the text box:
Foursquare Explore is a new type of search engine and gives you personalized results based on location and social data everytime you open the app. No typing required. One tap later and you get tons of personalized stuff.
Twitter Discover is also a new type of search engine. One tap and I see tweets I normally wouldn’t see but are interesting.
The folks at Expect Labs showed off MindMeld recently. It’s a video conf app but automatically provides relevant internet content based on the contents of the call. Completely different angle on search.
Ultimately the biggest driver on the future of search is undoubtedly due to mobile.
“One thing I like about film is that is has life, even without doing anything to it in Photoshop. There’s a depth. A warmth. Maybe that’s because analog is infinite. True, there are finite end points of light and dark, but there’s an infinite number of values in between. Digital handles this by making a finite series of approximations. Something gets lost in the process. Warmth, cold, brightness, tone… shadow, distance, color, happiness… these are analog qualities. A person doesn’t say “Today, I’m happy in the quantity x 1”. They say “Today, I’m happier”. Life is mostly analog. Analog photos have more life to them. Somehow I don’t think that is a coincidence.”—Film vs. Digital — 120studio.com
“It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative.”—Aaron Swartz, a Data Crusader and Now, a Cause
And yet, I noticed at the time of my post that pretty much all most former Microsoft alumni end up using non-Microsoft technology. At least that is my perspective based on folks I meet after they leave.
Today I read on Techmeme a post that called out former Microsoft mobile chief, Steven Sinofsky, is now using an iPhone. This is a Microsoft vet who led their mobile platform for years.
Who knows, maybe he is just evaluating the competition some will say.
But I really don’t buy that argument. I rarely, if ever, see Microsoft alum using Microsoft products after they leave. And I’m guessing Steven and his team fully evaluated the competition frequently during his tenure in Redmond I think it’s a bigger issue. Their own employees don’t cherish their own products.
“It turns out Facebook’s doing just fine with the kids these days — in fact, slightly more of the younger demographic reported using it regularly. But perhaps most impressive was Tumblr topping the list at #1, with 59% of respondents saying they used it regularly.”—Garry Tan, cofounder of Posterous, did a survey on Tenth Grade Tech Trends (via evan)
It was one of those wonderful mild winter days in New York City today.
I’m really loving our NYC office. We opened it up last summer and it’s so great having our own place here.
In between some interesting meetings, I was able to walk around and take a few photographs in the hood.
David and I made it up to the roof of our building.
After dinner I went over to Dumbo and practiced some long exposures.
Using a tripod with a small aperture and long shutter times doesn’t feel natural to me. Still have a lot to learn but it’s fun trying to figure this out. I didn’t frame this shot very well but I like the light beam from the ferry moving under the bridge.
Brooklyn is such a special place. I wish I had more time. Look forward to getting back soon.
(all photos taken with a Leica M9 and a 35mm lens)
Today @nabeel and I discussed Fred Wilson’s post on the evolving venture business, how the barbell in venture has made Series B and Series C rounds challenging, cool things coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show and Nabeel’s new camera.