Back to good old sketching days!

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Boy…I am obsessed with the +1 button or what?

Let me state the obvious before we go further . For almost a decade page rank has reigned supremacy over the web. But notice the metamorphosis . Since Facebook launched it’s like and recommend buttons, the game has changed quite a bit. Here’s an example:

I search for the movie hangover and page rank takes me to the thehangover movie site. Using the democratic nature of the web as Google defines it. But, is that what i just wanted? No…as a netizen, I am more interested in the data that has been churned out of the social interactions on the content. e.g  what were the likes and dislikes around the content, the snoopy scoops, the consumer ratings et al.

If anyone ever comes up with a search engine empowered by social graph, it will probably include the content that’s most consumed via recommendations and likes. e.g a search on edie bauer may have a link to a specific design or item than the edie bauer website.  Which probably makes more sense to an end user. The term SEO will mean how you can probably make more people like your stuff than just surf ’em. That’ll probably be a powerful democratic nature of the web where content’s position in the search result are more based on interactions and true appreciations than usage.

In the above context, it’ll be interesting to see how well netizens get accustomed to +1 button so that google can index consumer likes and dislikes and create a composite of pagerank and a quasi “social-graph”.

+1 will be powerful for google search!

+1 button—plus one this!

Posted: June 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

Came across the recently launched +1 button from Google. When I heard about it for the first time, I thought it was probably similar to Digg adding to bookmark count on items. Later on figured out it’s similar to recommendations on a certain element someone likes on the web.

Couple of thoughts. “+1” sounds geeky. Not that I don’t like geeky stuffs, but why will you build a new product for all cyber-sapiens(all who use the web) , but give it a name that looks geared towards a specific class?

To anyone on the web, “recommend” or “like” is no-brainer, better pick a term that’s more known.

I remember several years back I had come across 2 advertisements in the same product line (beautiful and high end servers that don’t necessarily have to be huge) :

First one : Dinosaurs are not built for data centers

Second one: Presenting XYZ server: small elegant, and a high performance engine

I “plus one” the second.

Amazon +Kaizen

Posted: April 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

Back in 2007 when Kindle was launched to the market, it was a breakthrough in product! Engineered well , but launched at a price of 399, the buyers had to be  a class apart. Success of Kindle triggered emulation by competitors, but Amazon kept on reinventing not just in the product, but on the pricing and partnership and distribution strategy.

Pricing: Healthy competition made the consumer the winner. Amazon’s kindle was always available at a competitive price when consumers looked at ebook readers in the market. The best part is, amazon reinvented it’s pricing model this month and announced that they will sell an ad supported version  for $114 which is bound to attract a good chunk of price sensitive e-book consumers.  I am sure this model will be emulated again, but amazon may have an approach ready in store to counter the copycats.

Distribution: Even though Amazon started as a pure click and mortar, it has done well to create a perfect amalgamation of brick and mortar with its core click business. Distribution of Kindle at BestBuy and Target stores can vouch for this.

Partnership: At it’s best. Amazon just announced access to 11000 library book lending capability.

When it comes to seeing Kaizen in technology businesses, I find Amazon somewhere on the top of the chart.

In recent times I have been preaching and sipping a lot of noSQL. The results have been good so far. After several years pure sql driven data oriented design it was always a time for a fresh start! If you want a touch of humor on why noSQL, you may read this link.

The core of VentureAlly[@Ventureally] business reco engine used some  carefully selected and proven technology stack.

I will like to walk through a feature of VentureAlly that was developed over a weekend as a mini-hackathon.

I am sharing this at this time when  social media analysis is still RedHot and some of the concepts used here can be used by the readers to apply similar/derived architectures.

Here we go:

Problem statement: ABC Inc manufactures xyz product and wants to understand how many users like/dislike the product at a certain time.

Solution Provider(VentureAlly)’s problem statement: Capture tweets from the twittersphere on ABC, process the tweets about XYZ and filter the tweets based on understanding of “thumbs up” /”thumbs-down”.

Technology stack : Java, Apache HttpClient, Basic Text mining algorithms that can do lexical matching., MongoDB for data storage and MapReduce , JQGraph to graphically represent the interpreted data.

Overview :

As shown below, we use an application that runs periodically and downloads tweets from Twitter using  twitter search API. It then parses the tweets using standard text mining algorithms that filter out what can be perceived as a  “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” tweet. The results are then stored in MongoDB.

Twitter Analytics Architecture

A technology stack to analyze tweets

The user loads an analysis dashboard which makes an Ajax call to a Data handler ( e.g a servlet)  which in turn runs a map reduce against the MongoDB data store which contains a collections of filtered tweets.

Here’s a snippet from how the MapReduce part looks like :

@Override
public DBObject getTwitterAggregate(long orgid, String keyword) {
DBObject positiveResult=getTwitterAggregate(orgid, keyword, true);
DBObject negativeResult=getTwitterAggregate(orgid, keyword, false);
BasicDBList list=new BasicDBList();
list.add(positiveResult);
list.add(negativeResult);
return (DBObject)list;
}

@Override
public DBObject getTwitterAggregate(long orgid,String keyword,boolean assertion) {
//prepare the response;
DBObject responseObj=new BasicDBObject();
responseObj.put(“orgid”, orgid);
responseObj.put(“keyword”,keyword);
responseObj.put(“assertion”, assertion);

DBObject mapkey=new BasicDBObject( “tweetdate” , true ) ; //map
String reduce=”function(doc, prev) { prev.sum += 1}”; //reduce
//apply filter
DBObject cond=new BasicDBObject() ; //map
cond.put(“orgid”, orgid);
cond.put(“keyword”,keyword);
cond.put(“assertion”, assertion);
//initial
DBObject initial=new BasicDBObject( “sum” , 0 ) ;//assign sum to 0
//fetch response
DBObject x=mongo.getDbTable(TWEETS).group(mapkey, cond, initial, reduce);//run mapreduce
responseObj.put(“results”, x);
return responseObj;

}

And finally the end result:

Twitter analytics on Consumer brand perception

 

Pretty simple huh? Drop a line if you want to try this out.

Sprint 0 +Kaizen @ Rush2Deal

Posted: February 23, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Couple of weeks back I(@bhabanisahu)  attended a session @ scrum alliance to take a deeper dive at Scrum. I have been an Agile aficionado for years, have practiced in bits and bites in variety of projects , however in a pool of others in a class, it’s always enriching to learn from others challenges and problems!

One of the key ideas of me attending the Scrum Master session was to work with the instructor in brainstorming patterns I can apply immediately in building a fairly complex mobile application (even for the minimum viable product) which I am currently building with @prachisahoo . We conduct focus group sessions  with local businesses every week and collect their feedback on what we present to them as paper prototypes. The requirements from business owners has been shaping our product backlog well.

@prachisahoo and I decided that we’ll practice a blend of Kaizen and Scrum. Here’s how we have been going about it

  • Built a sprint 0 (the “getting started” sprint where you go paper-prototyping and mock screen dev)
  • Set hard targets for app mock-ups before every focus group session
  • Collect feedback on the screen mockups. We have a mobile app, so we show the customer how the app will be like. We get feedbacks on screen look and feel, feature changes and apply Kaizen to continually make improvements on the mock-ups
  • Every improvement on the above is driven by the fact that we have to get the MVP(minimum viable product) out in the market , so determine which of the enhancements follow the MVP path and which ones can immediately get back into product backlog and be prioritized

Observations:

  • Customers get a feel of the application early on
  • We can drop features and prioritize to build the right “thin slice”
  • We get to continually improve our app prototype
  • This is one way to show the customers the real “momentum” that’s building inside your venture. Makes them feel that your time lines are tangible

In the end , there is no hard ground on what must be the exact methodology. We believe it’s “whatever works”. If you are a startup building an app the lean way,  what has been your practice?

Will love to hear back!

I was at a recent hackathon organized @social dev camp in chicago. Prachi(@prachisahoo) and I(@bhabanisahu)  attended it for a 36 hours target of building something cool. I had heard about hackathon events , but had never got a chance to get into the experience myself. Having gone through the grueling times in delivering a product for a customer amped up by midnight caffeine power, I shared a whole of the same at the hackathan. However, I believe the experience at hackathon brings in more than what we do on a daily basis.

Let’s say you are an entrepreneur who loves to build something new that the world can use everyday. You have the idea, but don’t have time to build the solution. Or..you have  some time out, but there is a sense of guilt in you that you need to just submerge yourself more in your core venture and not get distracted by new ideas. Hackathon’s for you.

Some plus points from Hackathon:

  1. You get to build a minimum viable product in 24-36 hours. Isn’t that cool? You get to discipline yourself in your hiatus of 24 hours and build something that’s been in your mind for a while
  2. Because of hackathon you get to arrive a stage in your lean startup lifecycle to validate and iterate on your idea
  3. Hackathon gets a good bunch of geeks on board . You get to make some kick -ass connections.
  4. At a hackathon, you can potentially have a founder’s dating

You attended a hackathon. Now what?

I have tried to inject a hackathon flavor to our product development cycle @ ventureally and have been noticing some amazing results.We are purely in the “kick butt have fun ” mode.  Our daily /48 hours iterations complete minimum viable products .

Finally , I believe the site hackathonia.com has done a fab job to organize/conduct hackathons!