Friday, April 10, 2009

Progress Report 2

Well, I must say that this week's presentations were amazing. MyCampus was the most dramatic thing that has happened in and to this class I think. The group has tremendously delivered since FishVegas and seeing their presented response (1000+ users 20 hours after the deployment of their app) I'm now motivated to learn Chinese! Their implementation was excellent and the interaface seems extremely user friendly . It is a perfect application designed for nosy Xiaonei users.

Captain cook has always been up there and it seems like their new improved version is very cute as well! I play diner dash when I'm bored and may switch to Captain cook if they deploy a desktop version. Will definitely support them on facebook as well :)

Hmm.. spree kingdom was a good learn! Though we have tied up with NDP, we are doing it for free x_x. Spree kingdom's detailed examination of the entire workflow was good. Their team proves that programmers and non-programmers can contribute equally.

Varsity chronicles is a very nice concept. They have huge plans and though they have tried to limit themselves to casual gameplay, I still feel like it has the functionalities of a full-fledged RPG! good job guys - and I would really like to be one of the engin gals bashing up some other dude in the future (for now, I'll settle for the chem guy..he seems creepily cute :P)

Let's meet was simple and cute. I think they have a good idea but a lot of competitors. Their going out of facebook using facebook connect is something unique though and may give them an edge when marketed to the right people properly. The GYSB matching was simple and sweet. These guys know how to market!

We have apps all around this time - advertising, fun and RPG games, photocollage and facebook connect and what to say about Xiaonei - they've emerged as a class in themselves.
Overall an amazing class. :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Facebook Security and Privacy

Today's lecture was quite an eye-opener to me. Till this week, I was another person among those millions who click on "Allow" or tick on "I Agree" blindly. No more. What shocked me down to reality was the spoof DBS site. I am an iBanking user and I would never doubt this site. It looked really authentic! (ASIDES : Just reminds me of this other site - - one of my friends commented on. He gtalk tagline said - "Authentic spoof?" ... seems too good to be true =P )

Another interesting point brought up was that security is all about making sure the application does what should be done and ensures that what shouldn't be done is not done. Doesn't this mean the application must know what is my 'private' information? If we think about it, security is ultimately about making sure that your personal and private information makes rounds only in the right circles... but I guess what makes more sense was the intelligent quote brought up - which went something like "if you are on the internet, nothing is private!"

Another very important point that drove home was that security is only good at the weakest point! Don't leave windows open - no matter how many bodyguards you have outside the room. =)

Toan's MM stole the light away this week. SQL Injection. Luckily, his attempt didn't work as the name was read as a string. But certain important points about implementing some simple things which can go a long way to providing security was an interesting learn. We must understand security concerns and check input and check output to minimally take care of sql/code injection problems!

The software development section was crisp and nice. It was indeed interesting to note the underlying tone in the attitude adopted during a typical development process in a start-up. =)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Taking off

Firstly, I must say - what a class. I'm doing a technopreneurship minor - but the spirit of this week's class taught me more about the reality entrepreneurship than any of the modules I've done so far!

What I learnt:
  • Its all about taking off. With a solid idea, the right people and the passion.
  • Search engines are the way people find stuff today. If you want to be known - be up there.
  • Ultimately, networking matters - a lot. If you aren't good at it, get to know some people who are.
  • Have the passion. Be motivated. It may be about making more money than the President of the US. Or it may be as simple as getting to try more food at new restaurants :P
  • Entrepreneurs can also sleep well. (Contradictory to my prior notion - because of some people I know personally - who stay up all night and sleep for 5 hours in the day! )
  • It is about helping people realize the need.
  • Know that unique thing about you. Wearing a turban may be a daily task for you. - but millions of other people can find it amazing - and fun.
  • Opportunities come. Take your calls. Decide which ones will help you grow.
  • Try and think about the future, even with no money in hand.
  • Get skin in the business. It should matter enough to you to give it your 100%.
  • Don't try to be everything. Be one thing - and better be the best of the best there.
  • Understand your limitations. I noticed that many of these people prefer to sell off their ventures after attaining a certain growth. That is important too. Knowing when and where to stop.
  • Talk and interact with your end customers. They are ultimately key to your success.
Some points I'd rather not accept at face value:
  • Entrepreneurship can't be taught. I disagree. Though the success rate is around 1% it is still worth the chance. I personally know some people who have come from the same background as me (where a traditional mindset is to get a well-paid job after college) who have learnt and succeeded. Though it is not everyone's cup of tea - entrepreneurship can be taught in the sense of encouraging people to get to know other existing opportunities. So that if and when it knocks on your door, you won't shoo it away.
  • Pride in your work. Sales. Contradictory sometimes. Why? Sales can be demeaning. Especially for a new start-up. Think about this strongly before starting up. Will you be flexible enough to take pride in getting the deal through? If not, find someone who will.
Hmm..what to say. It has been a great week. And I have learnt a lot. How have I applied it?
  • Make MM search able and findable. We renamed Mishmash 2 times over the last week. And we think we finally got it right. search for photo collage - MM is on page 1. search for photo album - MM is on page 1. search for collage - MM is on page 3. (working on it.) Hopefully our tagging strategy and the new Fb homepage layout will help publicize it even more.
  • Get to know your key performance index. What kind of growth are you looking at? At MM over the last week - we have garnered a total of 750 users with more than 400 monthly active users. :) We need to think of the future and get our features up there performance and returns wise so that we keep our users interested.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Software Engineering

Firstly, I must apologize. My blog has been dead. But the development frenzy @ Mishmash is on. :) Anyways, like Dr. Ben says, better late than never.

Anyways, I have got a brief summary on what Software Engineering is after reading a few blogs :P

To be very honest, when I joined this course all I was thinking about was picking up programming skills. Mine were very near the bottom part of the lowest pit and I thought that by being part of CS3216 I would be forced to learn to program. But over the course of the last 8 weeks, I've realized that programming is only a PART. To be really honest, whenever people said that programming is not the most important part - I never really believed them. Maybe because I couldn't program, I felt it was the biggest barrier to executing an idea I had. But after working - especially on a user-driven platform like Facebook - I realize the importance of people . It takes people to understand other people. It takes people to understand that there are millions of tools out there. It takes people to realize an idea. And it the people in the millions of facebook users we are trying to capture who will ultimately judge months of our work in the flicker of a second.

That said, I realize now why the emphasis is always on drawing out the DB Schema first. It forces you to think through all the possibilities. Though our group is still not using SCRUM, we have still thought it out using the traditional pen and paper. It also matters so much that you do this in a group. Comes down to people again. While 4 people in a group is a convinient number, it may not be very ideal I think as the possibilities of missing out stuff is quite high. However, I am really amazed to know that Wei Man worked with 80 people!

Which ultimately boils down to the fact that co-ordination and same-line-of-thought are very important for effective contribution. And Software engineering is all about engineering and managing tools available to achieve this. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Project Case Study: GetHelp!

The idea of Get Help is great. The functionality of the interface is quite clear. But I think there a few short-comings when it comes to interface design. when I think of using this app.

The whole idea is to get help. The need quick help option is great. But it would be better if there were a categories option. Where I would could choose categories for my help - for instance it would be easier for me to ask friends who've lived in Germany for a while where I can find vegetarian food - I can choose categories food and travel.

I would like to see this categories in the Overview page. The 'What's new' and 'Call for Help' are only updates from friends. But I would also like to see only certain feeds - those I'm interested in tracking and those I'm interested in helping.

Display the badges more prominently in the statistics page. Vote for the reliability of the responder (like in e-Bay)

Team Dynamics: Case Study

Lanh said, “It would be really bad if we have a great idea but are unable to execute it successfully”. What are your views? Which is more important - the idea or the execution? Why?

One of my favourite lecturers in NUS said this: "An idea cannot be patented; or stolen. It belongs to no-one till it has been realized."
I thus believe that execution is more important. You must realize the resources you have access to as this is the ultimate limiting factor in real-life. Though we say that "Bah! there are always people to code and design" - these are exactly the people who actually realize your ideas. Understanding them and their limitations is very important. For instance - Serene and Jeremy say that they had the poster/marketing part all done but they had no actual screenshots of the application to show! While the challenge for the coders in the team is to realize the application, the challenge for the marketers is to adapt their selling strategies to what has been executed and realized. Though the idea may not be great, an executable application can at least have real interested users - but a really great idea with a buggy implementation will end up frustrating everybody.

What have you learnt about Facebook so far?

Facebook is this really trendy girl with an open mind and fluttering thoughts ready to be influenced with a lot of money to spend. Reach out to her heart. And the world begins again!

What I mean to say is that Facebook has perhaps the most-diverse user-base ever - and thus there and minds and hearts out there that are willing to embrace almost every new idea. And facebook provides the platform for these few people to be trend-setters of the future - by influencing the people around them (and thus the linking begins). One thing though is certain. That people in facebook judge every application - in most instances, the very first time they use it. It must appeal to them in some way. "Success lies in understanding what the people want - but still don't know they want it" . And delivering it in the way they find most acceptable.

Comment on the ideas for Another Life and Fan Gang.

Fan gang I think was a great idea. Simple in implementation and powerful in gathering a user-base. But I agree that the application seems too general. There are crazy fans out there who spend a lot of their time on forums. I know this personally being a fan of a television show - I visit the forum quite frequently, participate in discussion threads and have even created avatars/signatures with my favorite characters from the show. IM friends is an option that I have used frequently as well. If I were able to create a fan page and have my own fan gang for this show on facebook, I would love it. I feel that this idea could have worked better if the developers had thought of a fan page that they would personally create - they would have a clearer idea of what features are the most important and would be all the more passionate about their idea :)

Another Life was an okay idea. I personally prefer using second life. Facebook is already another life! And role-playing still hasn't grown on me. I think that this application would have a harder time garnering users - it is technically more difficult to implement and the returns may not be very huge considering the competition.

Should the team have changed their idea for the Final Project mid-way or stuck to their original idea? Why, or why not?

I think that they were right to change their idea. We must believe in our work. What I feel went wrong was that they didn't learn from their first mistakes. They quit Another Life because they felt the idea was getting too large and fuzzy for them to handle - but their definitions for Fan Gang weren't clear enough.

List the major problems (obvious and non-obvious ones) in faced by the team? How could they have done differently and better?

Communication - email?!
No clear leader/moderator
Scared of team-members dropping out and thus more accomodating of ideas
Split the work, but didn't co-ordinate well (coders and marketeers)

What did the team do right/well?

Had the guts to change to an idea they believed in two weeks before the deadline
Worked hard

What would you do if you were Jeremy on the evening of 24th April (and the deadline for the final project submission was the next day)?

This is quite sad. But honestly, I would just let it go. Changes in the last-minute by a non-coder are the worst thing that can ever happen to a submission. Especially an application like Fan Gang - where proper re-doing would mean completely switching from XML to database!

I would not consider redoing the application. Instead, I would do something that I could - like do a write up - an analysis of what went wrong and where. I would come up with a good and solid feature list - and clear indications on why they would work and how exactly they should be implemented. I would try to ask for a final personal extension (for my team-mates as well if they respond to my email before tomorrow's deadline) where I would work for a week more and get my coder-friend from first year in Hall to help me once she is done with her examinations.

How would you handle a situation where one of your team members is unable to deliver on the work he/she promised because of personal problems?

It depends. If the personal problem is affecting promised delivery - then I deserve to know how big the problem really is and as soon as possible. In this case (like facebook) it would be a personal judgement call. If I feel that; yes, this is indeed a big personal issue and my teammate let me know he/she is facing this problem as soon as it begins affecting his/her contributions, I would accept and consider asking an outside friend to help.

What, in your opinion, are the key learning points from this case study?

Plan and Execute. Revisit the plan again - add features - exectue. Don't completely separate the planning and executing phases.
Voice out your thoughts and concerns as and when they arise (when there is still time!)
Work together. Help everyone else understand what exactly you are doing.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Graffiti - the stroke of a genius

I thought all the presentations yesterday were amazing! All the chosen applications highlighted the potential of evolving social platforms in effectively targeting and capturing different segments of the market! Thanks :)

The application I'm choosing here to critique is Graffiti. Why?
  1. MishMash - our baby from Fb Assignment 1 - is nearly up there in terms of functionality, Our intent though is completely different. Studying this app and why it became such a raving success is something that would definitely help MishMash grow as well. :)
  2. I agree with Wang Sha, who in her post says that this same application can be applied in the Xiaonei context. The success model is out there in a 'Steps to follow' format and so yes, it excites me as well!
  3. I think the group that presented did extremely well :) Just like Graffiti, their presentation was simple but managed to capture our interest and imagination in a few key strokes (For me, the first being Dr. Ben's portrait and the second being the Animal Planet promotion)
Well, as I've already said what captured my attention, I also began wondering about the key question Dr. Ben asked - How many users of graffiti are really designers? Well the answer is hardly 2%. And how many of those wonderful graffiti out there -used to promote the app- are made by amateurs? Again, the answer is hardly any.

But what graffiti offers to me is possibilities. Dreams. And an inherent Challenge. When other users can use the same application - which looks so easy to use btw - and express their dreams onto their portraits, why can't I? I'm not thinking - "Archu! you've had paint, photoshop, illustrator and what not for years! And your masterpiece is still under construction?! "

So yes - the app is successfully able to rope in newbies, amateurs and professionals alike. In proving that they have a talented installed base, they are also able to lasso in the big fellas. But is Graffiti able to successfully retain their installed base?

Well, here I think that one of the suggestions made by the presenting group can come in very handy - multi-author comic! It is what will retain the remaning 98%. But I personally disagree with their suggestions of including text and multimedia content. The major selling point of grafiti is in the fact that the 'designs' are always credibly original. Adding options to embed external content would perhaps even scare away the existing sponsors!

How does all this translate to something I've learnt and can apply? Well -MishMash is a very simple to use photo collage maker. How to get people to look at it? Rope in the professional designers. Allow them to design their own stickies/backgrounds and show them off. Rope in the professional photographers. Get them to use MishMash to submit their best photographs revolving around a particular pre-designed theme. Get Olympus interested. Get National Geographic interested. And make all these available as templates that an average user can ultimately use in 2 simple steps to create the album of their dreams.

Feel like ending with a quote which is pretty much what I learnt from this session :P

"The ones who succeed, BELIEVE. And TALK"

I loved the causes presentation as well! The video was crisp and attention-grabbing. :) I really think that it is something that must be extended beyond geographical boundaries. Rotract for example is a well established organization in Asia. Designing an app along similar lines for them would indeed be intriguing.

2 PlayFish games in this session. The power of a leadership board when used effectively is $$$!!!