Little Acts of Kindness ft. Modern Consumer Apps
Gmail reminds you of missing attachments. Buffer replaces twitter handles with real names when tweets are shared on other networks. Some payment forms alert you of cards nearing expiry. Search for “golden ratio” , and google presents you with a calculator.
We’ve been enjoying these small but useful “acts of kindness”. I call them as such, because it is acts such as these that make software pleasant to deal with. The makers of such software care and think about their users, and take that extra step beyond what is necessary to improve user experience. Hence the Kindness. The effort involved in providing this experience is little, yet the impact is profound.
We’re experiencing a level up in this area. I’m getting to see many more acts of kindness around me. Here is a sample:
If you’ve bought an SLR from Amazon, and look around for lens any time in the future, Amazon will inform you of its compatibility with your camera right on that page!
If you’ve received a flight ticket to your mailbox, Google - via a service called Now - will help you with additional information: notifications of delay in flight schedule, and reminders for you to leave home at the right time taking into account traffic delays.
Modern consumer apps are leveraging your past interactions with them to improve your experience in the present, or “in context” - using purchase history to help you pick the right lens, email history to help you catch your flight on time.
This is a space that is evolving fast, a space that is dear to me, and I hope we’ll see a lot of software makers take cue and give their users little moments of joy.
Amazon - When browsing camera lenses, a box automatically displays compatibility with your SLR camera from your Amazon purchase history.
How many chat apps do you have?
I’ve been popping this question to people lately. After all, mobile startups today are constantly in hunt of coveted consumer attention and engagement. Some of my observations:
Everyone has Whatsapp. Everyone. Among the people I’ve met, of course. Facebook comes a close second. The variance of the third most common chat app is just huge! WeChat, Line and Viber have been pumping dollars into advertising. So I get to hear a lot about them. The PC/Blackberry generation talks about Skype and BBM. And there’s always that one app you’ve never heard about.
Calls, Email, SMS and IM have been the popular ways of reaching out. Following the wonderful days of federated IM, we’re looking at an explosion in the number of chat apps.
The barrier to making one is very low. IO focused technology is on the rise. The network effect is a crucial aspect at play - a chat app is only useful if your friends are on it. Emerging markets are just getting connected to technology via mobile, and tapping attention from them is crucial. Not to mention, when it comes to data, this is as personal and revealing as it gets, despite the amount of noise. So good business models are a given.
With all of these aspects falling into place, with some capital, a few good engineers and marketers, building the next big communication platform has been pursued by many. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, and if we’ll still have tens or perhaps hundreds of ways to get in touch…
Before you would call people but now to stay in touch you can still call, email, SMS, FB, Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, Hangout, Voxer, Line, Twitter, Instagram, Telegram, Path, FaceTime, GroupMe, BBM, Snapchat…and I am probably forgetting other ways to get in touch!
The Human Effect: When a human replaces a bot on Twitter
140 characters is what is more than sufficient for humans to identify humans vs bots. NPR’s socialmediadesk experimented with replacing the bot on twitter with tweets from humans.
A bot would presumably use the title of the content itself, whereas humans can be more creative. Along with the regular twitter tricks (like tweeting the same article out multiple times), folks at NPR tweeted questions, promoted discussions, retweeted replies, dug up interesting archived content.
The result? 45% increase in engagement, surge in clicks and number of new followers!
Last week, we experimented with sending tweets from humans instead of robots on the NPR news twitter account.
When did we tweet?
We turned off the automated tweets during business hours and created the tweets ourselves. Monday through Wednesday we tweeted approximately every 8-10 minutes. Thursday and Friday we tweeted approximately every 20 minutes.
International borders & Straight lines
Straight lines on a map are fascinating. They exist mostly due to the lack of geographical impediments like mountains and water bodies. That and agreement among governments.
Other borders are very likely to be composed of straight lines as well, just that the lines extend for at best a few kilometres. On a grand scale (a map), they look irregular.
vizual-statistix visualizes International borders per their orientation. The impact of colonization split on Africa is clear. The linear weight attached to the length of the borders mean America has a lot of straight lines too. Europe, and moreso Asia have borders that are all over the place.
A couple months ago, I made some road orientation graphics. I thought it would be interesting to repeat the exercise using the borders between countries.
The method is slightly different…
I’ve always been a fan of indentation. Those flower brackets (or braces) all over my code make me cringe. Indentation is good practice anyways - that they can also indicate bounds for scope, is fantastic!
It’s not the punctuation - I’m not a fan of the ‘begin’s and ‘end’s either. They’re okay for a single level of indentation, but things get quite messy with multiple levels. Which reminds me… people always demonstrate how indentations can cause trouble with code that has 6 levels of indentation, or with code blocks that are (ridiculously) long. And thats the best part! Both large number of levels and long code blocks are indicators of non-ideal code. They’re difficult to read and maintain.
I like to use 4 SPACEs (never TABs), and appreciate when editors and IDEs handle most of it for me. No noise from unnecessary punctuation or keywords, and code that reads exactly what its supposed to do is always good to have!
And finally, the koan that inspired this post
Master Evgeny was wandering amongst the throngs of Makers, prostrated in code and prayer, when he spotted the following on a novice’s screen…
During my travels between Bangalore and Mangalore, areas with extremely low human footprint fascinate me. The western ghats, among other places are very sparse. mapsbynik helps us visualize “blocks” in the US with zero population, along with some useful commentary.
Nobody lives here: The nearly 5 million Census Blocks with zero population
A Block is the smallest area unit used by the U.S. Census Bureau for tabulating statistics. As of the 2010 census, the United States consists of 11,078,300 Census Blocks. Of them, 4,871,270 blocks totaling 4.61 million square kilometers were reported to have no population living inside them. Despite having a population of more than 310 million people, 47 percent of the USA remains unoccupied.
Webmasters adding links, some of them “unnatural” and search engines fighting this “linkspam” has triggered an interesting discussion regarding “breaking the internet” starting with the OP and then on Hacker News.
For the most part, the SEO/Search engine wars stay between them. This case is different. Webmasters get punished, and out go hundreds of emails to other innocent webmasters and publishers for “link cleanup”.
It’ll be interesting to see how this will unfold over time.
I received an interesting email the other day from a company we linked to from one of our websites.
In short, the email was a request to remove links from our site to their site. We linked to this company on our own accord, with no prior solicitation, because we felt it would be useful to…
The great workplace dilemmas of our time…
There has been a growing interest in using MongoDB as an in-memory database, meaning that the data is not stored on disk at all. This can be super useful for applications like:
- a write-heavy cache in front of a slower RDBMS system
- embedded systems
- PCI compliant systems where no data…
A toy’s getaway. Beautiful concept!