The Rise of Mobile SDKs

The last 2 engineers I spoke to who had quit their jobs to do a startup are working on building 3rd party solutions for app developers. There is clearly a trend of more folks trying to build services for various apps. From Analytics to payments, ad networks to notifications, there our services for everything, even Emotion Tracking and Augmented Reality.

How these 3rd party services tend to be used across various apps is by integrating their SDKs (essentially including code libraries from other providers into your apps).
Let’s consider an example of an e-commerce mobile app. Here are some of the features/attributes
which might be needed

SDK

SDK

  1. Accepting Payments
  2. Analyzing usage (clicks, pageviews, conversion funnels etc)
  3. Sending notifications (push notifications about offers/promotions etc)
  4. Campaign Management (to track installs and their behaviour from various paid install campaigns)
  5. A/B testing
  6. User Engagement/Rewards
  7. Messenger/Chat and so on

This list would vary from app to app and the developers have two options, Build each one of these functionalities or integrate existing solutions (Mobile SDKs that provide one or more of these services).  While the benefit of integrating an SDK to do say user behaviour analysis is immense (and in most cases the only option and you can’t possible build this functionality on your own) it is where the problem starts and one wonders, “how will this scale?”

SDK overload

SDK overload (via @WahWhoWah)

 

How many SDKs can you possibly embed in your app? The performance and maintenance issues are plenty. While from app developers perspective the challenges are obvious (which ones to choose, how to migrate data from one to another in case of switching, how to attribute any problem to one SDK in case of multiple SDKs etc), what worries me is how upcoming start-ups with their business model built around offering SDKs to developers will come about.

Distribution, is possibly the most important thing for a startup and I foresee getting various app developers to use your SDK (and not building a cool service) as the biggest barrier to entry/success.

I’m sure you might have built a great user analytics/customer lifecycle management/campaign management etc SDK but how many SDKs can a developer possibly try and integrate?

Concluding Thoughts
1) Building an SDK that offers to replace an existing/prevalent one like Flurry or Mixpanel though comparatively easier to build will be extremely tricky to distribute/sell
2) Building an SDK that offers to replace multiple existing/prevalent ones (Flurry, Testflight, Admob etc) though extremely difficult to build will be comparatively easier to distribute/sell
3) Mobile platforms (Apple/Google etc) might improve their offerings around various fundamental needs and start including them into the platform APIs like iOS did with Facebook and Twitter. A native Analytics/campaign management service will be difficult to compete with
4) Some app developers might be privy to share their data (for say Customer Lifecycle Management SDK)

This space is quite exciting and I’m really interested to see how it shapes up. What do you think?

 

 

 

Chamath Palihapitiya’s Resignation Email (from Facebook)

From Quora

i leave with incredible hope for how you will continue to make this place awesome. every tuesday, i talk to the n00bs. and i generally tell them the following, which i leave for you as a reminder:
its easy to get distracted. everyone thinks we are much better than we actually are. be humble and honest about the fact that more is left to do than has already been done. keep moving quickly and don’t get bogged down in the things that don’t matter.

we risk becoming like everyone else. the only chance we have is the discipline and resolve of the silent majority who needs to and MUST become more vocal as the company gets bigger. fight for the culture the way it should be…not the way it was or the way its becoming.

be afraid of the company you don’t know. there is someone out there lurking with a small idea that will grow into a giant. don’t ignore that which you don’t immediately understand and keep pushing to evolve faster than what people expect. it can create unease at times but its our only path to long term relevance.

speak the truth. its too easy to “manage” – upwards, sideways, downwards and be rewarded for it. this is death. speak candidly especially when it means it won’t be well received. respect the person but don’t let bad ideas go unchallenged.

their is more valor in failure than success. success is hard to define and hard to isolate root causes when it happens. its rare to learn much of anything from success except to conflate luck and skill, but you learn tons in failure. take enough risks that you continue to fail…and celebrate those so that it becomes the battle scars you talk about when you do eventually succeed.

don’t be a douchebag. this is pretty self-explanatory but its not about the right to ripstik or the quality of the candy bars in the office. its about winning. everything else comes second….a distant second. and the perceived correlation between winning and the rest is only in your mind. interestingly so is the resolve and focus to win.

i’ve really enjoyed my time here. thanks again for the chance to always say what’s on my mind. its a rare place that allows everyone to do that and our results speak to the values of risk taking, openness and transparency. don’t betray them as we move along.

good luck. make it rain.
chamath

 

My experience with Pebble: The smart watch

I’ve been longing to buy a watch for quite some time now but wasn’t sure which one to buy. But, when I got to know about Pebble, I kinda knew that this would be it. A smart watch which does more than telling time and looks good/different was enough for me to make the purchase, plus I also wanted to experience the wearable tech market first hand and this was the cheapest way in.

Pebble and Skinomi
Thanks to the lovely friend who got it for me from the Amazon US.

Otherwise priced at 150$, along with the Skinomi cover it costed me Rs 11063/-. I got the watch some 10 days back and here’s my experience with it so far

1) Look & Feel – As someone wise said people buy watches not because they tell time but because of their fashion/design appeal (Apparently the watch market is worth $ 80 bn). The watch looks great and is comfortable to wear. It’s shape and finishing makes it stand apart

2) Integration – Pebble connects with your phone (Nexus 4 in my case) using Bluetooth. All one needs to do is to install the Pebble app in your phone and detect/connect it with the watch. Do this and you are done.

3) Frills: Watch faces and Shake to lighten up – Using some apps you can create/install new watchfaces. My current favorite is the “Breaking Bad” watchface. Another cool thing is that you just need to shake the wrist a bit and the watch lightens up

Breaking Bad - Pebble

4)  Features - Pebble comes with a few default features

a) Music – You can play/pause music on your phone using pebble (Though a cool thing, I am yet to find a real/proper use case). Though I did a fun thing once by playing music on phone which is connected to the car’s audio system using pebble (Bluetooth ahoy !!)

b) Alarms – You can set alarm on the watch (I am not much of an alarm person anyways)

c) Watchfaces – You can choose from various existing watchfaces and upload new ones

d) Notifications – The core offering of Pebble and few other watches is the Notifications part. The underling thought behind all this being, that the smart watch in it’s current avatar is not a replacement of phone but an extension of it. Some of the use cases being in situations where you can look into your watch before deciding whether you need to take that call or reply to the sms etc.

Some of the notifications that work with Pebble are

1) Gmail
2) Whatsapp
3) SMS

Read SMS on Pebble
4) Calls

5) Integration with other apps – This one is very interesting. Pebble for one integrates seamlessly with Runkepper. Unlike earlier, now I don’t need to keep checking my phone to see how much I have run or calories I burned. The phone can stay in pocket while Pebble can tell me all the needed details.

6) Installing third party apps – The most exciting bit is you can install apps developed by others on your pebbles to further exploit the device and it’s functionality. Here are some of the features you get access to using these apps

a) Reading and replying to SMS – Limited to a few template replies at the moment
b) Weather information
c) Calender
d) Utilities like “Find my phone”

I have few more apps which I plan to explore and also I am eagerly awaiting the launch of Pebble’s App Store for Android (They recently launched one for iOS).

If you own a Pebble, what has your experience been like?

 

 

 

Newsletter – Best of the Web

I read a lot on the internet, and by a lot i really mean a good lot. The issue which I like most others face is, what to read and where to constantly get that good content to read from.

In a tiny effort to help others from this struggle I’ve started a weekly newsletter in which I share some 10 links, mostly interesting articles across various subjects (tech to literature, economics to biology) and any interesting website/app/video/book etc that I come across while surfing the internet.

I started the newsletter a couple months back and have sent some 9 newsletters so far. Here’s what one of the readers had to say

newsletter
If you too read a lot and need a source for good curated content, subscribe for the newsletter here

Best of the Web

 

 

2013: My year on Indian e-commerce sites

Just had this idea of checking and analyzing how much money I spent on various e-commerce sites and doing what. So here’s a quick post sharing the same with the hope that it might be of interest of people running various e-commerce sites or thinking of doing so in future.

In the year 2013 I swiped card/availed COD across Flipkart, Jabong, Myntra, Amazon etc. Here’s quick glance of my purchases

1) Flipkart - Items Purchased: 58, Amount Spent: Rs 50,218

items purchased on flipkart
Split of items
Split of amount spent
Average price of a book I purchased on Flipkart is Rs 299 and average price of a footwear is Rs 876 (3 shoes and 4 sandals/flip flops)

2) Amazon.in – Items Purchased: 7, Amount Spent: Rs 6,598

Great thing about Amazon is that it already provides you an option to see all the purchases you made in that year
Search Order HistoryHere’s the split of purchases (6 books worth Rs 1,599 and a Kindle worth Rs 4,999)

Split of purchases on Amazon.in

3) Jabong – Items Purchased: 1, Amount Spent: Rs 1280

*I actually bought two items but had to return one for poor quality (return process was super smooth though)

Purchased a clothing item worth Rs 1280 during GOSF

4) Myntra – Items Purchased: 2, Amount Spent: Rs 3854/-

Purchased two clothing items worth Rs 3,854/- during GOSF

5) Others

a) Yepme: Items Purchased: 2, Amount Spent: Rs 998/-
b) Inkfruit: Items Purchased: 7, Amount Spent: Rs 3,738/-
c) Shopclues: Items Purchased: 1, Amount Spent: Rs 42/-
d) Bookadda: Items Purchased: 1, Amount Spent: Rs 667/-
e) Purplle.com: Items Purchased: 1, Amount Spent: ~ Rs 2500/-

Summary (Items Purchased: 80, Amount Spent: Rs 69,895/-, Spent some 8K during GOSF, alone, Spent some 11K on online bill payments/recharges)
item_vs_amount

A peak into my mind as an online shopper
1) Convenience very important but not more important than discounts. Moved my bill payments online. I do all my bill payments and DTH recharges on Paytm
2) Almost all my purchases have been via desktop (haven’t got myself to buying things via apps/mobile site yet.)
3) I’ve crossed the chasm from COD to swiping cards. I now prefer to pay online for most of my purchases. I don’t hesitate to swipe card for my first purchase on sites I’ve heard good deal about (Myntra, Jabong, Shopclues etc). Earlier my first purchase on a new site was on COD
4) I got comfortable enough to made a big ticket purchase (bought a laptop for around 30K from Flipkart)
5) Discounts/Offers have an influence on my purchase behaviour (both on pre-decided buys and impromptu purchases). I spent some
6) I trust most sites to deliver goods on time, offer quality goods and a customer friendly return/exchange policy
7) Flipkart’s scan (barcode) and search feature is quite handy for a quick online vs offline price comparison
8) I’ve grown to compare prices across sites before buying anything. I definitely use mysmartprice to compare book prices
9)  Wishlists and notifications are a great way for me to store items and decide when to purchase
10) As a heavy user I’ve figured some hacks to avail the max discount on certain items across some sites;-)

 

The Feedback Loop

One of the things that I feel that makes certain people and organizations tick while others don’t is ‘The Feedback Loop‘. I believe most(all?) successful  people/companies have a good feedback loop which helps them gather external information, couple it with internal hunches/insights and improve their course of action/style of working.

“The Feedback Loop” is a great tool when you are learning something. It could be internal/self imposed practice->finding gaps->closing them or taking feedback/help from someone else/internet and improving your skill. This is purely an execution skill. Figure out how can you best assess your current level(the more sources the better), and then use your sense to improve yourself

For instance: If one were to learn a foreign language remotely. They can
Watch videos, join an online course, study tutorials, read a book or use an interactive app.
An evolved brain would be able to choose the best options from the above mentioned which in turn would help them by leveraging the benefits of feedback loop. Let’s say an app which let’s them not only learn the language but also practice it and rate their skill set and provide suggestions

The Feedback Loop

Similarly people/organizations which have evolved, have a tight feedback loop (Identify gaps/scope of improvement ->Have yourself/team figure out how to fix them->repeat) which serves as a continuous self improvement process. Like the perennial structured software testing which never stops and is actively followed up with not only bug fixes but also some learning in the system which ensures that such mistakes are not repeated again. To make the process water tight, there’s a metric/check in place which makes sure that learnings are executed and not lost

Most people are not good at taking direct feedback and thus end up seeking only the indirect feedback if at all. Which needless to say is less efficient. They are anti-feedback types, every time honest feedback about their abilities is pointed out, they start looking in opposite direction. If only they could set their egos aside and taken in as much as they can without bothering the form and source.I’d blindly side a guy who has figured out a way to improve themselves/their work on their own.
Implement –> Test/Seek Feedback –> Learn –> Fix –> Repeat

At a organizational level, there are various sources of feedback, namely employees, customers, partners, investors(if any). If you don’t have a process of continuously seeking their feedback, logging data in a structured format, analyzing it and using the insights to improve the ways things are done, you are missing out a lot.

Got any thoughts on ‘Feedback Loop’ for individuals and organizations?

Delhi Elections: Exit Polls vs Results

The results are out and the winner is ‘Aam Aadmi Party’. A start-up that growth hacked itself to become the second highest seat winner. Here is how 2 exist polls compared to the results

exit_pollsvsresults

 

While Today’s Chanakya Exit Polls data were closest to the results, Times Now (except for their spot on BJP Exist Poll data) are way away from the results. Good Job ‘Chanakya’ !!

Now to take a macro view of the Chanakya exit polls and results

 

Delhi Assemble Elections Exit Polls Data

Delhi went to polls on 4th Dec and saw the highest turnout ever (about 67%). Here is a snapshot of what various exit polls say

Delhi Exit Polls 2013

The difference among these four exit polls is amazing. While Times Now says Congress will get 24 seats, Chanakya expects them to get just 10 seats and though it predicts 31 seats for AAP, India Today expects them to bag just 6 seats. 

The results are out tomorrow and I am curious to see which exist poll gets closest to them

 

Twitter Android App: Beauty is in the detail

I’ve been a Twitter user for about 6+ years and have started accessing Twitter via their Android app a few months back. Not surprisingly my usage of Twitter has grown manyfold since I’ve moved from Tweetdeck to Android app, and frankly the reasons are obvious.

1) Great app
2) Continuous availability/access

The android app for twitter is one of the most beautifully (think usability) designed apps. It has just the right buttons at the desired places, most intuitive functionality and easy on the eye. Here’s a little example of the nifty app’s detailing

Twitter Android App - Timeline

As you can see, the timeline view has app the possible things a user would want to do

General – Most Used (Excluding replies, discovery etc)

  1. Compose a tweet
  2. Search
  3. Follow someone

Pertaining to a tweet in Timeline

  1. Reply to a tweet
  2. Retweet a tweet
  3. Favourite a tweet

Now all these are great but an extra case comes for Retweets. Not only would I want to interact with the tweet but I might also want to follow the person whose tweets are being RTed

Timeline

Yes, that little highlighted icon is what caught my attention. Here ‘Chris Messina’ who I follow, RTed a tweet from Samantha (whom I don’t follow). and Twitter’s app cleverly shows a tiny icon along these tweets which lets users follow the person whose tweets are being RTed. A quick click on this and you are done

Follow the RTed person

That’s a nice example of putting relevant features beautifully without affecting the user experience. I’d love to talk more about the app sometime.