Category Archives: software

Why Web Startups Need To Think small

I’ve been a fan of 37signals ever since I first used Basecamp during my stint at Slideshare in 2007 and later while working on Kwippy. What’s also special about 37signals is that not only they build great products that make money, they are also doing a fabulous job at sharing their experiences and learnings with the community using Social Media long before it was a buzz word. If you haven’t done it already, you should checkout their blog where they talk about design, business and other things.

Sometime back I happened to listen to this talk given by DHH on ‘Making money online’. Despite a cheesy sounding title the talk is a great primer for web entrepreneurs  starting up or thinking of starting up. DHH touches upon a great point when he says

The odds of you in here making the next Facebook or YouTube or MySpace are tiny, the odds of you just actually just creating a product that few people will like and pay more for, not that shabby.

It’s kinda like reverse terror alerts, the probability of something like this happening, like the probability of you being crashed in the plane, tiny, but the fear you have of it or the desire you have to be the next Facebook, Huge, because it’s been broadcasted over and over again, you are being brainwashed

DHH further goes down to put forward the maths behind making a million dollars in an year by having  2000 customers and charging them 40$/month. Adding decent  conversion rate(5%) to the equation it would take about 40,000 signed up users to get 2000 paid customers. Taking it down one more level to make 200,000$ a year you would need just 400 customers at 40$/month.

The number of problems/niches one can attack trying to get this many customers are a lot, but not surprisingly we still find most web start-ups aiming at building the next Facebook or YouTube. Its not uncommon to find entrepreneurs by the dozen running after VCs and Angels to raise money for the next big thing on the internet despite the fact that most of them can get their venture started without too much money. One of the primary reason for this is the fact that raising million dollars for building(or the mere thought of) a global product that might be used by millions is SEXY however building a web product that’s being used by a few hundred or thousand users while making you some money isn’t.
This frenzy is fueled by media and consumers alike and the entrepreneurs(esp first timers) get unknowingly drawn into this trap and the next thing you know is everyone trying to make it big without even trying to taste success in building a smaller yet useful product.

While I won’t discourage anyone from taking big shots right from the start, I strongly feel its a lot better(and practical) to solve a small problem first before going for the bigger one.

Getting Real: A smaller, faster, better way to build software.

Here’s a goodie for all software developers(especially web). The mavericks at 37signals have compiled their thoughts on software development in form of a book aptly titled “Getting Real“.

What is getting real ?

  • Getting Real is about skipping all the stuff that represents real (charts, graphs, boxes, arrows, schematics, wireframes, etc.) and actually building the real thing.
  • Getting real is less. Less mass, less software, less features, less paperwork, less of everything that’s not essential (and most of what you think is essential actually isn’t).
  • Getting Real is staying small and being agile.
  • Getting Real starts with the interface, the real screens that people are going to use. It begins with what the customer actually experiences and builds backwards from there. This lets you get the interface right before you get the software wrong.

Another amazing thing about this book is that its FREE in web version(HTML) and if you want it in pdf or paperback you can buy it too . I recommend you to check the book out. Click here to get started

Typical Twitter Newbie


Any guesses how much time does it take for a typical user to figure out @replies ?

Curious about how many people feel the same way when they use Twitter for the first time, I ran a search on
“what is twitter” and here’s what I found

what is twitter ?

This is the reason why Twitter’s audience retention rate(percentage of people signing up who return the following month) is 40 %  (via Nielsen)

While we wait n watch what (if at all) Twitter is doing about this, Let’s see
what you think can be done to improve their retention rate ?

3 really simple checks to avoid being phished

Ishaan sent you a message.

Subject: Hello

“www vingers(enter dot)ru”

Sharma sent you a message.

(no subject)

“tinyurl[dot]com/pofb3m/, 937824”

Raghav sent you a message.

(no subject)

“tinyurl[dot]com/pofb3m/, 974785”

Ujwal sent you a message.


“Look at this”

Rob sent you a message.


“Look at this”

If you are a decently networked Facebook user, you too must’ve received lots of messages like above from your Facebook friends. It’s really surprising(and disturbing) how much people have fallen for these attacks. I am particularly intrigued by a lot of my friends falling for it. Call me what ever but falling for attacks like these shows lack of some basic understanding about websites and security.

Here are a few pointers to be kept in mind to avoid such phishing incidents

1) Always check the target URL of the hyperlink in emails/messages etc.
This can be done by simply hovering/pointing mouse at the hyperlink. For ex: “Hey check out my new blog” might look like a genuine message from a friend but you can make out(mostly) if it’s real or fake by checking out the target url, which in this case is i.e fake.

2) Always check the URL of the site before entering your credentials.
It’s naive to assume that the site that you were pointed to from an email/message which looks like your favorite site is that site indeed. By virtue of your experience and hunch you can mostly make out if the site is real or fake but checking the URL before entering your credentials is still the safest way to avoid being phished.

3) Always look out for context
I know it’s the hardest one to implement but you need to learn to be cautious about any message containing a hyperlink that doesn’t have a context. In case you’ve noticed all the messages posted above don’t have any context what so ever and thus should be approached with caution.

This  list could go on and on but lets keep it simple so that it’s easy to remember and share.

Did you too get phished ? If not, what saved you ?

Taking notepad to the web

I’ve got this habbit of taking notes while doing stuff online and I can be found having at least one instance of notepad(or kate) open on my laptop. The notepad works better than writing things on a paper as it doesn’t break the flow while taking notes and more importantly its easier to archive and share this way.Be it a bunch of links, or a piece of text that I need for reference or usage while emailing, the notepad works really well and I think there are more people who do the same.

Perhaps it’s this thing that led someone to make an online version of notepad meant for doing similar things. is a service that does precisely this. Got some text that you want to store or share online ?
Just go to and follow these two ridiculously simple steps

1) Write/Paste Text:

2) Press Save

This will give you a URL for your text and anyone who has this URL can access that text you wrote, talk about simplicity.

Not that txt bin is the only site that’s doing this, there’s textsave and then there’s yanobs notepad. Personally speaking, though I haven’t used any of these services much, I like the most. Here are the things I like about it

1) No signup required
2) Really simple and intuitive work-flow
3) Clean/No-nonsense interface

Did you get a chance to check out these services ? If yes, what do you think of them?

Twitter and Ego Massage

Warning: The content below might hurt your sensibilities as a Twitter Addict.

Twitter is the most popular microblogging service out there and saying its users swear by it would be an understatement. There are undoubtedly very few services in this space(or any  other) that are this high on customer love and even fewer services which have an entire industry surrounding themselves.

There was a time when Twitter was experiencing major issues staying up/running and there was a spurt of other alternatives with some offering new features all together or some simply adding features that some Twitter users always felt should have been a part of the system, but none of them really caused a mass exodus and Twitter is now back with a bang and is growing like crazy.

Being a Twitter user myself and a passionate social media enthusiast I’ve always wondered what really makes Twitter click. Being the first kid on the block, being simple and neatly designed, getting attention from early adopters is all critical to get a service started but to keep it going is another ball game. Many other services in this space or other have most or all of these pre-requisites but Twitter offers something at which others aren’t any where close. Yes, I am talking about the “Ego-Massage”. Nothing works in web 2.0 like the Ego-Massage(EM). The more you offer(or happen to offer) it the more you’ll find your users going head over heels for your service.

While it cannot be said with certainty if the emphasis on EM was their right from the start or it picked up some time later or its all due to various 3rd party tools but its for sure one of the unconscious reasons that makes people stick to twitter, talk and care about it a lot. Lets see how it works.

1) Follow not Subscribe:

Let there be Followers

Let there be Followers

In Twitter if you have subscribed to someone’s updates you are following them and in the same way if someone has subscribed to your updates they are following you. Functionally they might mean the same but both words have way different associations, while subscriber is a neutral word a follower is certainly isn’t. 100 followers is not quite equal to 100 subscribers or 100 friends for that matter. Who cares about friends if you have followers ?

2) Follower Count does Matter:
Don’t believe anyone(leaving maybe Louis Gray) who tells you they are not bothered by their follower count or they are just interested in people they follow not the one’s who follow them.

This is the reason why there are numerous articles like this telling you how to have more followers on Twitter but hardly any on how to have more friends on Facebook or articles like this which highlight the pressure one feels to follow back their followers which basically is derived from the pressure to keep them pleased and ultimately keep them chained. While there were people loosing sleep over a drop in follower count(organic or courtesy twitter) some one saw an opportunity and thus there was  Qwitter . A service that informs you every time some one un-follows you and the last tweet you posted before they un-followed . So now you can question people who unfollow you, seek reasons, introspect your tweeting and a hell lot more. The stage is set for an endless game.

Having lots of followers is one thing but what’s the point if you cannot carry the follower count as a crown and show rest of the world ? That’s what folks at twittercounter were smart enough to realize and their usage stats confirm this (In total we generated 171,281,809 counters since we started tracking). Hundreds of thousands of blogs now sport these.

3) Tools that Further Inflate your ego:
As if having a huge(and portable) “follower” count was not sufficient for one’s ego, somebody came up with Twitter Ratio. So now its not just about how many followers you have its also about your Twitter Ratio i.e follower/following ratio. Those who need constant ego massages can be found tirelessly indulging in maintaining( or should I say increasing) their Twitter Ratio .

Then there’s Twitter Grader

Since more is always merrier especially when it comes to ego boosting we also have twitterholic . So what if you can’t be a topper when it comes to follower count or twitter ratio. You just might be a topper or a top Twitter user from your region, which most certainly adds to the ego.

Want to know you Twitter Influence ? You can apparently do that too, here

Other people’s thoughts on Twitter’s Ego Massage

I would really love to hear what works for you and to what extent are you affected by the above mentioned factors, it at all you are that is 🙂

Here’s a fun “Twitter Whore” video:

Goodbye Google Reader ?

I’ve been thinking, I’ve been wanting and I’ve been trying but with no avail.

I am talking about my relationship with “Google Reader“. As much as I love reading blogs I’ve never really got too much into using RSS readers to follow blogs I like. That said, I started using Google Reader more actively a couple of months back, reading posts, sharing them and even favoriting some(do you actually go back and read what you starred ?). Things were fine till I was just following 5-7 blogs but once that number crossed a dozen, things started becoming difficult. I know, anything less than 40-50 blogs on the RSS reader is not a problem with many and some can even manage reading(or just manage) 100’s of blogs in their reader but incidentally “reading blogs” is not that only thing I do and thus have a  problem keeping track of large number of blogs and using another tool for it all together.

I happened to skip checking out my reader for a weekend(while out of station) and had a really tough time getting back following it regularly. While I was not doing any good at being regular reading post from blogs I like and the things my friends share this happened. I’ve made good friends with my gtalk and gotten it to do all sorts of things thanks to our kwippy gtalk bot. It’s been a regular affair now to check my google reader once-twice a week and to quickly glance through the new items and the way things are going I have a hunch that despite all its goodness I might just have to stop using it all together as now I can get new posts from blogs I like or what’s being said about social media marketing on twitter delivered straight to my gtalk which is nothing short of spectacular.

So, what’s your story ?

Of Virtual Gifts and Real Money

If you are one of those who always thought gifts can(and should) always be tangible, think again.

Few facts:
1) People spend over $1.5 billion on virtual items every year. Pets, coins, avatars, and bling.
2) The virtual goods market is expected to exceed $7 Billion in less than 18 months.
3) Facebook’s digital goods business has appeared to double to between $30-40 million/year at the current rate.
4) Second life raises $80M annually from virtual goods.

While a lot has been said about the business aspect of Virtual Gifts, what makes virtual gifts a phenomenon remains a mystery for most. Virtual Gifts might sound a bit weird for some but there’s a lot more to virtual gifts than 1’s and 0’s. Here’s what I feel make Virtual Gifts tick.

1) The Gesture: This according to me one of the most important/human aspects of virtual gifts. One might not be able to eat a virtual cake or smell virtual flowers but the fact that someone took their time, effort and maybe money to gift something has an inherent feel good factor for both the sender and receiver.
2) The Trophy Effect: Flaunting gifts, is almost as common as gifts themselves. The act of giving a virtual gift and receiving one can be flaunted and ego’s(of people involved) massaged. Be it one’s profile page or activity news feed, if implemented well in a platform it can be another reason to share virtual gifts.
3) A virtual gift is better than no gift: You might have hundreds of real life friends and family members but not everyone will buy you a cake or send you flowers but if given an option(with low price) people might choose to share online gifts instead of not sending any gift at all.
4) Fun: You and I might not agree but there’s a fun angle involved with virtual gifts, in a sense that you can have unusual, exotic and virtually relevant( hours for an online game etc) gifts which might not be possible in real life.

Though the virtual gifts market is growing at a good pace what  needs to be seen is what all types of virtual gifts get added to the mix going forward, how can they be interlinked with points or real money and how business models evolve over them. A barter system could also be interesting and so would a resale and sale back of virtual goods for real money. What do you think ?

Barcamp Delhi 4

After a painfully long wait and being postponed atleast a couple of times
Barcamp is finally back in town for Delhities respite. Delhi is not particularly
known for its Barcamp culture but seems things are in for a change starting this
time around.

For the uninitiated Barcamp is an unconference where all sorts of people come
in for all sorts of reasons (freebies, free wifi included) . Those who are willing
to present/speak on a topic simply add their names in the wiki and they are
allocated a time slot to present. Though most attendees are related to
software/internet the event is just not restricted to it, barcamp bangalore 6(BCB6)
being the perfect example which had participation from all sorts of people from
Internet Junkies to Social Activists.

If you are either a geek, blogger, internet junkie, entrepreneur BCD4 is the place
to be.

BarcampDelhi 4 takes place on 17th of may at

Amity Innovation Incubator
Auditorium, Block C, Amity University Campus
Sector 125, Noida

Hoping to see you all there..