You might already know of my bootstrapped startup Gauss – The People Magnet. What some of you might not know is that I teach entrepreneurial students at universities, young hopeful startups at NEXT, keynoting events and F500* corporates that as a startup entrepreneur you need to:
Talk to everybody about everything all of the time
Expose yourself and your ideas to as many people (your potential users and customers) as soon as possible
Acknowledge and understand that no smart person or company will ever copy you before you have a validated and proven business model
I have come to realize that it is about embarrassingly high time that I start practice what I preach. It’s about time to start eating my own dog food. I’m spontaneously throwing everything out there to see what happens when you shine as much light from as many sources as possible on your ideas and assumptions instead of having them worshipped inside the cult of the stealth startup. I don’t expect much and I have nothing to lose but my vanity, so here we go.
I hereby declare death to the cult of stealth startups and pledge and acknowledge that I will:
Publish and solicit feedback as broadly as possible on any and all prototypes before writing a single line of code (e.g. as features described in text, click-dummies or paper wireframes)
Be ready to face any and all critique in public in any form or way, the more and more brutally honest the better
Risk the embarrassment of being ridiculed and failing spectacularly in public
Risk having my ideas stolen by competitors
Only exercise the option to stop sharing everything in public, if and only if, I have a validated product-market fit or when I have a validated business model
As of now, I’m going to publish all prototypes instead of following the cult of the stealth startup. I LOVE your feedback going forward and you can use this form (so you can remain anonymous) or feel free to leave comments on this post in public. Be brutally honest. I’m ready to take it! :)
Here’s a scrappy video walk-through (and in no way am I apologizing for the poor quality, because I also preach it is better to have something instead of nothing!):
And here are two click dummies for you to test on your iPhone for yourself (they should sort of work on Android too, though).
The main click-dummy with core concepts. (Try this first for basic concepts and tap Robert Scoble to test features as his profile is the only interactive one)
This next click dummy will show you what happens when you get a notification from Gauss. (BTW, profiles are inactive, not tap-able in this version)
Let me know what you think. Is this a great idea or worst ever? Should we all remain loyal followers of the dark cult of the stealth startup or is it about time to let the public sunshine in? I shared this post on HN so feel free to continue the discussion there too.
*Caveat: Obviously, if you’re inside a F500 corporation, sharing within your enterprise is assumed, not necessarily with the public. That would obviously open up a can of whoop-ass from your legal department. Enterprise is funny that way.
Update: It seems Safari 5.1+ together with OSX Lion’s “All My Files” Finder view implements something similar as I suggested. Funny!
Update 2: It seems Apple added the animation for the downloaded file swooshing down to the download folder with OSX Mountain Lion. Double fun.
After a recent discussion on @twitter with @limi and @philikon on the difference between the Firefox and Chrome Internet browsers, I started thinking about why I still find both browsers lacking in the download experience department. Still, at least they both let us use an internet connection, be it one from infinity dish or any other ISP, to browse freely. Everyone has their chosen browser, the one they started using many years ago and have become so accustomed to it that changing over to one that “practically everyone uses” wouldn’t feel right. It is understandable, and now with people able to check out a mozilla vpn review (firefox) and Chrome vpn reviews, they can keep themselves safe online in the best way possible. I know I sidetracked there, but it is worth it to know more no matter which browser you’re siding with today.
For an excellent primer on how the different Internet browsers currently handle downloads I highly recommend reading @Limi’s blog post and come back to revisit this post.
I do not know about you, but I hate the Firefox Downloads window like the redheaded stepchild it is. The web-page-in-a-tab solution from Chrome (yeah, yeah, yeah – I know Opera did the tab thing first, but who uses that browser besides you?) doesn’t quite jive with me either.
Thus I decided to do this quick & dirty mockup of how the download experience in the browser could be improved.
Introducing the Browser Downloads Docking Menu
I would think a slide in/out dock menu for downloads would be a better solution. This way you’ll always know where your downloads are and it enables context (page and download file viewable simultaneously, guaranteed) and visual/ spatial cues (e.g. in an OSX version you should animate the download file flying into the downloads dock menu).
Visual / Spatial Cues
I think it’s important to visually show that the user’s intent to download has been registered, where the download can be expected to be found and what you can do next. If the dock menu is not out/showing already, it should slide out first, showing the user how and where.
Filtering & Recovery
Some sort of parameters to adjust list view of downloads should be added, but not visible to the normal user as default. Should be extremely easy to understand and use for normal people. Should change and filter view live/realtime. The big fat “Show all” button is there to secure that the user can feel confident that she’s seeing everything and that all filters are off/reset.
What do you think? Are you happy about the current download experience in your browser? How would you make it better?
Have you tried out TweetMag yet? It’s an exiting new iPad app that will let you comfortably read an aggregate of your @twitter feeds. The app is not totally unlike Flipboard, but it’s currently and it let’s you consume the content in a more flexible and enjoyable way in my personal opinion. However, the way TweetMag (as of writing) facilitates twitter list management sucks. I’ll suggest a quick and dirty fix to that below, but first, take a look at the sweet TweetMag app in their promo video:
The problem with lists in TweetMag
Right now, the process of adding and managing twitter lists in TweetMag can be a very painful chore especially if you are following many lists from one single user. You have to add each list separately, one at a time, by dragging the icon of a list from the menu bottom right to the top menue bar or rack (up to “TOP STORIES” and “CATEGORIES”). As that was not bad enough, you need to drill your way down the interface to find the same user again and open her lists again for adding the next list. And again. And again. And again. Ouch! And as if that wasn’t enough, you can’t even see which lists you have already added! That’s just silly and poor design if you ask me. Click on the image below to see a screenshot of the current TweetMag app on the iPad in its original size:
My improvement suggestions
It doesn’t have to be this painful. I’ve made a very quick and dirty improvement suggestion illustrated below, adding a simple visual cue and an extra button.
The user should visually be reminded of the lists she’s already added by labeling and/or fading out (ghosting) the already added twitter list’s icon (illustrated). It is not possible to spot which lists the user has already added in the current version of TweetMag, potentially leading to a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth operations to verify if a list has already been added or not.
Currently, to add another list from the same twitter user, the user is forced by the software app to step out of context, remembering (internalising) the previous steps and repeat a multiple step process to get back into the context of continuing to add twitter lists from the same user.
That’s just not nice to the user in my book. I think the software should play by your processes and let you stay in your context. By adding an add/remove list button directly in the list overview, the user would be able to add, remove, manage all list operations in one process without having to leave context or having to remember previous steps and keeping the original goal in mind while working herself back into context repetitively per list management operation.
Adding colour to the add/remove buttons like green and red could further enhance affordance.
Should you be worried that any spatial navigational cue of having the user dragging the icon to the TweetMag rack might be lost for each add/remove operation using simple button operations instead of drag & drop, I suggest looking at how Apple OSX is doing this; You could animate the icons flying up on the rack, flying down out of the rack respectively to retain the visual cues. Take a look at the image below for a quick and dirty mockup of my suggested changes:
I also added the suggestion on Get Satisfaction should you be interested in my suggestion to improving list management in the TweetMag app.
What do you think of TweetMag? Do you love it? Hate it? Perhaps you prefer Flipboard? Do you create and manage twitter lists with TweetMag?
You see, as I was doing my due diligence for my crazy new venture, I jotted down some notes on the history of digital social networks leading up to the Facebook era and I thought why not share them with you here.
Most of the following is based on to the level of theft in no small part, verbatim quotations from the book “The Facebook Effect” by David Kirkpatric (@davidkirkpatric) and some tidbits from Wikipedia, Google and my own faulty memory.
And, yes – it is heavily biased towards the US and Europe since I did not have much good source material on say, e.g. Chinese, Korean and Japanese social networks. Feel free to fill me in.
I claim Fair Use, as in the “Please don’t sue. That wouldn’t be fair.” kind. The following content is meant for educational purposes only . If you want to use or republish, please make sure to credit and attribute David Kirkpatric and Wikipedia. Commercial (re)use would probably be bad for your karma.
Here we go – A Brief History of Social Networks:
J. C. R. Licklider Source: Wikimedia Commons License: Public Domain
While initially conceived as an information and resource sharing network linking a variety of counter-cultural economic, educational, and social organizations with each other and the public, Community Memory was soon generalized to be an information flea market . Once the system became available, the users demonstrated that it was a general communications medium that could be used for art, literature, journalism, commerce, and social chatter.
Monochrome BBS – A more recent modern BBS
The first BBS is launched. (BTW, if you were a part of the BBS scene or want to learn more about it, check out this acclaimed and extensive documentary.)
The first public dial-up Bulletin Board System (BBS) was developed by Ward Christensen (@WardXmodem). According to an early interview, while he was snowed in during the Great Blizzard of 1978 in Chicago, Christensen along with fellow hobbyist Randy Suess, began preliminary work on the Computerized Bulletin Board System, or CBBS. CBBS went online on February 16, 1978
Diagram of usenet, Author: Benjamin D. Esham License: Public Domain
Usenet enables members to post to groups dedicated to specific topics. (Check out the highly interesting book “Netizens” for much more on the history and impact of Usenet and the Internet.)
Usenet is a worldwide distributed Internet discussion system. It developed from the general purpose UUCP architecture of the same name.
Duke University graduate students Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis conceived the idea in 1979 and it was established in 1980. Users read and post messages (called articles or posts, and collectively termed news) to one or more categories, known as newsgroups. Usenet resembles a bulletin board system (BBS) in many respects, and is the precursor to the various Internet forums that are widely used today. Usenet can be superficially regarded as a hybrid between email and web forums. Discussions are threaded, with modern news reader software, as with web forums and BBSes, though posts are stored on the server sequentially.
Minitel built in 1982 Author: Tieum License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
The French postal service is the first to bring the concepts of commenting in online groups and chartrooms to a mass consumer audience with the launch of the national online service, Minitel
A side note, from Wikipedia:
The German “Bildschirmtext” (BTX) is almost as old as Minitel and technically very similar, but it was largely unsuccessful because consumers had to buy expensive decoders to use it. The German postal service held a monopoly on the decoders that prevented competition and lower prices. Few people bought the boxes, so there was little incentive for companies to post content, which in turn did nothing to further box sales. When the monopoly was loosened, it was too late because PC-based online services had started to appear.
AOL logo 1991 to 2006 Source: brandsoftheworld.com License: Fair Use
America Online starts (albeit under another name; Quantum Computer Services, Inc.)
Check out David Carlson’s Online Timeline for more information about the world coming online 1990 – 1994.
match.com screenshot anno 2008
match.com started by Gary Kremen as a proof of concept for Electric Classifieds which aimed to provide classified advertising systems for newspapers launches, filled with personal information for a highly specific purpose.
Classmates.com created by by Randy Conrads launches to help people identified by their real names to find and communicate with former school friends.
PlanetAll a social networking, calendaring, and address book site launches in November 1996. It was founded by a group of Harvard Business School and MIT graduates including Warren Adams. (A big thanks to James Currier for pointing out that I had missed PlanetAll!).
PlanetAll was possibly the first social networking site on the Internet. The site had more than 100,000 groups, organized around real-world counterparts such as academic institutions and employers. When the user entered the name of his or her university, the service would list the user’s classmates who were also members of the service. Users could exchange authorization to access the each others’ contacts. Many sites at the time offered web-based address books and calendars, but PlanetAll.com combined the two: when a user entered travel plans into the calendar, the service would cross-reference the destination with the address book, as well as the user’s contacts’ travel plans; the site would then notify users when they would cross paths with their contacts.
sixdegrees.com founded by Andrew Weinreich launches, takes social networks further. A breakthrough in use of real names. The first Rolodex in the cloud. Invitation only. At the time revolutionary. “Network me” feature for matching you with users that met your quality criteria. Failed due to operating costs, licensing costs, development and maintenance costs and users only having dialup Internet at the time (e.g. the service lacked photos due to bandwidth concerns). Bought out for 120 million. Shut down in late 2000. Weinreich was granted a broad reaching social network patent.
Ethnic focused networks Black Planet founded by Omar Wasow (@owasow) and Asian Avenue co-founded by Benjamin Sun, Peter Chen, Grace Chang, Michael Montero, and Calvin Wong launches with limited social networking functions.
The daily jolt (R.I.P. April 6, 2010) launches as a campus bulletin board for 12 Schools.
tickle.com launched originally as emode.com, with quizzes and tests for both entertainment and self-discovery, by James Currier and Rick Marini. Warren Adams of PlanetAll is an investor.
Swedish teen community Lunar Storm (R.I.P. August 8th 2010) launches
Ordinary people begins using email. Again, using addresses that typically would not correspond to their real names.
Address books of emails maintained on and within the services. Members did not identify real-life friends or establish regular communication pathways with them. Later in the decade, Instant Messaging (IM) services like ICQ, PowWow and Ubique to hold the same way. People used pseudonyms for themselves, not their real names.
On August 4, 1998, Amazon.com announces that it has agreed to acquire PlanetAll. Under terms of the agreement, Amazon.com acquired 100 percent of PlanetAll in exchange for 800,000 shares.
Amazon.com shuts down PlanetAll.com on July 2, 2000, telling PlanetAll members, “We are pleased to announce that we have completed the integration of the key e-commerce related features of PlanetAll.com into our main site at Amazon.com… Although PlanetAll.com will be going away, you’ll still be able to enjoy some of the tools that help you keep in touch with like-minded folks.”
2001 – 2002 : Social Networking bug hits Silicon Valley and SF
Cyworld (huge in Korea) adds social networking capabilities
“Network Effect” as explained by Wikipedia (excerpt):
In economics and business, a network effect (also called network externality) is the effect that one user of a good or service has on thevalue of that product to other people. When network effect is present, the value of a product or service increases as more people use it.
The classic example is the telephone. The more people own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. This creates a positive externality because a user may purchase their phone without intending to create value for other users, but does so in any case.Online social networks work in the same way, with sites like Twitter and Facebook being more useful the more users join.
The expression “network effect” is applied most commonly to positive network externalities as in the case of the telephone. Negative network externalities can also occur, where more users make a product less valuable, but are more commonly referred to as “congestion” (as in traffic congestion or network congestion).
Network congestion tends to occur when a network node or link is carrying more data than it can handle, slowing down process times. Now, it may not sound serious but in fact, it is. So serious that it could cause something like Packet Loss, which means that any critical information that you are trying to send doesn’t reach its intended destination – this site has more information. With potential effects like this, learning how to prevent events like network congestion, and packet loss from happening will be very important to your network, as well as your online activities.
That being said, over time, positive network effects can create a bandwagon effect as the network becomes more valuable and more people join, in a positive feedback loop.
Friendster launches March 22nd by Jonathan Abrams (@ABRAMS), Peter Chin and Dave Lee. It gambles to lure users away from match.com. Uses real names and photos on profiles. You could search for friends near locations. Invitation only, befriend if you liked the photo. Cracked the code of the modern social network, defined basic structure. Problems; “Fakesters” – People with fake names, fake photos. Plagued by engineering misjudgments; did not scale, had major outages, performance issues. Mark Pincus (@markpinc)(later founder of Zynga) and Reid Hoffman (@quixotic) are investors.
Club Nexus launches by Stanford students Orkut Buyukkokten (@orkut) and Eytan Adar. Meant to connect Stanford students only. Complicated, too many features. (Bonus material: An analysis of Club Nexus by the founders.)
InCircle launches by Club Nexus founders. Alumni only.
Orkut Buyukkokten (@orkut) leaves for google. Programs a new social network prototype. Pitches it to google. orkut.com launches.
Tribe.net founded by Mark Pincus (@markpinc). A social network around specific interests. Burning Man, Alt Sex and connecting turned out to be what the users are more interested in instead of buying and selling things.
When Tagged launched in 2004 as a teen-only social network, security was a top priority. In October 2006 the site made a drastic change and went from being under-18 only, to allowing users of any age to join. This change has helped user registration skyrocket. In fact, Tagged was adding more users per day than MySpace in May of 2007.
YouTube sold to Google in November for $1.65 billion.
Dana Boyd & Nichole Ellison write in a paper:
“The salient features of a true social network”: “A service where a user can construct a public or semi-public profile, articulate a list of other users which whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. You establish your position in a complex network of relationships. And your profile positions you in the context of these relationships. Usely in order to discover otherwise hidden points of common interest or connection.”
As you may already know I use Dell Netbooks with Apple OSX and I previously wrote a post about how you can too.
I recently encountered a problem with the Dell Mini (Inspiron) 9 that I found no real helpful solution to fixing on the intarnets, so I thought I’d just take a moment to share what I did to fix it. Sort of. I’ve later learned that this issue also relates to the Dell (Inspiron) Mini 10 1011, and I have added some bonus material for Dell Inspiron Mini 10 1011 owners who wants to upgrade their hardware at the end of this post.
IMPORTANT: Whatever you do, don’t buy a new Dell battery before you’ve tried this. If it doesn’t work, maybe the battery is indeed dead. You could get a new one and try again but remember, you can always use the old Mini 9 Hackintosh connected to the mains in the kitchen, on the night stand, in the bathroom or give it to someone who could need a non-battery operated computer.
If you want to upgrade your Mini (Inspiron) 9, I recommend getting the 2GB RAM upgrade from Crucial and the 32GB or 64GB SSD upgrade from RunCore. If you do decide to get a new battery, you might want to get a more affordable 3rd party battery replacement – or if you want to play it safe – the more expensive original Dell battery. I personally also found the smaller Dell power adaptor more convenient to carry than the bulky brick.
Problem / Symptoms:
Battery not recognized on boot up (“Battery not identified, press F1 to continue”)
OSX reports that the battery is 100% charged (although you know it’s not)
White power/charging ligt and red low battery warning light blinking, disco style
Battery will not charge whatever you (even downgrading BIOS to A00) do and will eventually run out of juice
BIOS upgraded to A05 or above
Something else (I have no idea. You tell me.)
Conditions / Prerequisites:
Dell Mini 9 or Dell Mini 10 with blinking leds, disco style
Make sure the battery is connected to said Dell Mini 9
Recipe / Fix:
Boot from said “Dell I910 Mini/Vostro A90 USB Key Drive flashBIOS Utility” on said USB stick
Select the Mini/Inspiron A04 BIOS and flash it
Wait for the flashing to complete and reboot the Netbook
Et voilà. On boot, there should be no nagging “battery not identified: press F1 to continue”, no more disco blinking of LED lights and the battery will now recharge. I hope. At least it now does for me. For good measures, let the Hackintosh recharge the recommended-from-Dell 12 hours before using it
I’ll mention here that this worked with the original Dell battery that came with the Mini 9 and with my Chinese 8 cell aftermarket battery.
Problems / Still to resolve:
If you pull the mains power plug out, the red/white disco style blinking will return
If you pull the mains power and re-insert it, OSX reports that the battery is 100% charged (although it’s not)
If you pull the mains power and re-insert it, the Hackintosh will not recharge
Kludge to the Fix:
Don’t pull the mains when turned on
Or turn off, turn on, let boot
Or keep it turned off, connected to mains, see if the white charging light is on, if the battery is actually charged
Or rinse, lathe and repeat the flashing of the BIOS if the battery won’t charge once again
Hey, at least you do not need to buy a new battery or a new Dell Mini 9. I never promised you a rose garden.
Here’s the official Dell response to Mini 9 and 10v battery problems on the Dell support forums, although it did not help me initially. I tried to flash the BIOS back to A00 through each revision up to and including A06 with no positive result. Flashing directly from A06 to A04 with the battery inserted seems to have worked for me.
This has nothing to do with the “Airplane Mode” on Linux issue or the 12 hours charge-up battery issue, mind you. Those are red herrings if you’re using OSX and have the symptoms I described above.
In other personal Hackintosh news, I recently acquired a Dell Mini 10v off of eBay and upgraded it with 2GB RAM, a 60G SSD and OSX 10.6.5. I find the size of the keys more convenient for work use than the Mini 9. My experience so far is that the Mini 10v works flawlessly with OSX 10.6.5 – including sleep. I’d recommend it instead of the Mini 9 if you’d ask for my opinion on the two.
How to change the HD for a SSD in a Dell Mini 10v
How to upgrade the RAM in a Dell Mini 10v (Part 1 of 2)
How to upgrade the RAM in a Dell Mini 10v (Part 2 of 2)
If you’re looking to upgrade your Dell (Inspiron) Mini 10 1011 (the bigger better sibling to the Mini 9) featured in the above videos, I recommend the OCZ 120GB Vertex Plus R2 2.5″ SSD and 2GB Crucial RAM. If you are looking for a replacement battery for the Mini 10, I recommend getting this cheaper 3rd party battery – or if you want to play it safe – get the more expensive original Dell replacement battery. I also find the smaller Dell power adaptor more practical to travel with – and it works with both the Mini 9 and the Mini 10.