Sunday, October 01, 2006

I know what you know and What He knows - Social Intelligence

Yesterday , my dad [a Mechanical Enginnering Veteran with 30+ years in Engine design] asked me to suggest a few good links to browze on the internet. Now thats difficult I thought. His interests are difinitely different from mine and I am not sure what he likes. So, while I was wondering what the solution would be for helping my dad find good webcontent, I stumbled upon StumleUpon. I have a SU account and have used it a couple of months back. But since my hard disk crashed I totally forget that it existed.

SU is good and I can say Very Good. It allows people all around to world to suggest good sites/content that they have visited . Other users can rates these pages and help improve the quality of content. This is in effect a little similar to digg and delicious but removes all the complexity and is fit for my dad. Who would find it strange even if the color of the logo changed. StumbleUpon to a good extent is an example of using the efforts and intelligence of millions of web users to generate value. This is what I would like to call social Intelligence.

Social Intelligence

In the real world we speak to friends , aquaintences etc and gather information. We create personal and formal networks and many professions rate a persons importance on the size of their rolodex aka personal network [LinkedIn, Ryze]. Social intelligence is much the same. Here you use the knowledge and efforts of people interested and exploring topics to suggest relavant material in their areaa of interest. While the current forms of social intelligence are realavant for surfing or browsing the internet, they are not suitable for all activities. For example if you were doing research on a particualr topic then SU may not help you much and search engines may be required to do the trick. [read google]

Search Engines Vs Social Recommendations
The purpose of SU and Google are entirely different and if you use SU to look for something you want, you may never find it. But it does something different it lets you window shop. And thats not bad either because most of the times we are not sure of what we are looking for or are not able to articulate it. In such cases Search Engines are less successfull. SU allows you to look at a wide variety of topics and some of the best sites with content on these topics.

Future of Social Intelligence
We should be seeing more of such applications in the near future. I do not see a finanical model yet in these applications. But the fact is that if the content is relavant then there should be a workable model to harnees the power of the millions of users on the internet.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Still Driving to the Shopping Mall ??

Have you checked out the latest in virtual communications like Second Life or Habbo Hotel ??

If not, do it Now !

Interaction btw people, real and artificial is changing . And this was something that happened when you were still trying to master that keyboard.

Virtual worlds are maturing from just gaming and test projects to real world experiences. Today you have worlds that people have created and hangout in. Real estate is being developed in these worlds and is being sold or thounsands of dollars. Business is is being transacted and Cases of virtual social justice are being heard. Yes its true. And as you may still want to close the deal on the prime property at the city centre, its time you gave a serious look at virtual worlds.

So, Why live virtual lives?
Rising cost of gas, busy city lives and just the fact that friends and family are scattered around the country are just of few reasons people will chose to live and perform some activities online. The online shopping experience is still poor and the best sites are still just ok to buy one or two items, but stuff like shopping your groceries is a very poor expeirience in the urrent browser based formats . In virtual worlds the experience is difinitely much richer and natural than its browser conterparts. You can walk into a store, check out the aisles and pick up stuff you want, Take a stroll in the park or Attend a virtual class room.

So What do I do in a Virtual World?
Chk out some of the scenarios here like shopping in a mall, very soon you may have all the biggest brands with full format shops in these virtual worlds. Today You can hangout with your friends at the virtual mall even though you are in SanDiego, California while your firiends are in NewYork or Ohio or Bangalore, India. You can shop real world stuff and get them delivery the same old way.

But is it kids stuff, or Is there some $$$ Real Money ??
Yes there is money, although we are at the very begening of the virtual experience , players like Second life are already seeing 10s of millions of dolloars being exchanged in the virtual worlds.
"SL’s now-thriving economy, currently has an annual gross domestic product of $64 million (U.S. dollars). Residents buy and sell Linden dollars for real money (Linden takes a small cut of all currency exchanges) and can do a brisk business peddling everything from developed real estate to exotic body parts for residents who don’t want to design their own. "- PopSci Magzine

Ok, I still cant go to the Moon, but what are the options for vitrual worlds
Second Life is by far one of the most popular virtual worlds. Habbo Hotel is a vitual hotel but is a 2d experience. ActiveWorlds is similar the SecondLife and is in full 3d.

There are many more examples and we are yet to see big competition in this space. But, watch out! This wave is as big as the web browser. If you run a business/ or are responsible for managing one , you have the option to align or be left out.

Make the choise now .

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Make it your own -Ipod Shuffle Tips and Tricks

Make it your Own - Your Art on Your Shuffle
I bought the shuffle so that I could play some good music with jogging sessions. I had a Sony Walkman sports walkman earlier but the shuffle is much lighter and does not have any moving parts that will stop working. The extreme simplicity of the shuffle just makes you want to modify it.

Ever since I got my new Shuffle I could not help but think of new ways to make it my own. Here is how to make your shuffle showcase your experessions. This method is non destructive , and you can repeat it as may times you like.

What you will need:Clear Tape, a marker pen and a Blade

Step 1 - Cover the Shuffle with clear tape
  • Remove the USB cover
    • Paste clear tape from the usb end to the opposite usb end over the face and back of the shuffle
    • Use a blade to cut out a line around the on/off switch to let it move and a make a small hole in the tape around the headphone socket.
    Step 2 - Draw your stuff
    Draw your art on the shuffle [on clear tape] with any perma-ink marker.
    Step 3- Protect Your Art and the Shuffle
    Paste a second layer of tape over the shuffle.
    Thats it!! your Done. Now, yes show Off, only you have this shuffle on the planet

    I have used only black you may try colors too . and post the results.

    Time taken: 5 Minutes
    Items Required: Clear Tape, Perma Marker, Scissors /Blade
    Benefit: Non-Destructive, Repeat it again with a new art by just peeling off the old tape.
    Caution: I have not removed the tape , I guess when I do it may leave some glue but I am hoping to wash it off with a coth/cotton diped in some soap. So do it at your own risk

    Sunday, April 23, 2006

    Web 2.0 for E-Govenance

    Blogging, Tagging, Photosharing, Micro Financiang, Stupidity etc from useful to useless Web 2.0 is making a mark in probably every aspect of modern society. Then why not use it for public voice.

    Web 2.0 for E-Governance

    Voting for Mandate or Ideology
    Time has taught us that no party is perfect nor is any single candidate. It is the policies and reforms that they act on that make a difference. Hense
    policies and public reforms seem to be more important than parties and people.

    A citizen adressal system where people can raise issues of concern and citizens can vote them can be useful in this context.

    The Clitizen Addressal System
    - A web portal/application that allows citizens to suggest change for public policy and reforms.
    - Allows citizens to add sub-sugesstions under major areas.
    - Allows citizens to vote for issues of concern to them.
    - Involves traditional media in looking at the issue boards and bring to public notice if the issues have been addresed.
    - Creates a mechanism to ensure that full participation from all sections of the society is made paossible

    As the usage of such a platform increases so will its value. Parties in the democracy will be forced to at least look at the sugesstions from citizens and include them in their mandate. And agendas that do not address major issues posed by citizens will automatically come under public question.

    Such of form of interactive democracy can be a good use of Web 2.0, Social Webs etc etc etc

    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    TIE Networking Meet at Bangalore, India

    TIE Networking Meets

    This article contains learnings from the TIE meet last week. It was held by the TIE Bangalore Chapter. The meet had a mix of and entreprenures, aVenture capitalist and an Angel Investor as speakers. The talks were very intresting. At times during the meet the entreprenures had views very different from the captialtists. Anyway it was good to know what these guys were thinking and their intrests.

    Analysis Paralisis
    No idea is perfect and most ideas change alomost 60% or more before the first sale is done. So dont spend too much time Analysing stuff. If you believe that it worth doing this and that someone would be ready to take out their credit card and type in the number , then may be the stuff worth doing.

    Many VCs and entreprenurs turned Angel investors could be invited to be Advisors to your new startup. These guys can provide valuable advice on shaping the service/solution and more importantly open doors to take the company formward. You may give the advisor a stake in your startup. Say 2-5%

    First Round Funding
    When the Capitalists enter, as a thumb rule the company if broken up into 50-25-25, where the pie goes to investor-entreprenuer-employees. Seed investing will invalriably be a small amountand
    will grow if the company does well.
    Disclosure- these statements are based on what was discussed in the meet by the speakers. Please feel free to comment if it is incorrect by any length

    A Team with B Idea or B Team with A Idea??
    Like it has been suggested many time over, surround yourself with strong people. Who know what they are doing and can make thigs work. The concept that the A team will be able to realise the flaw in the B idea and fix it over time. So, if you ever want to get funded the have the A team with you.
    My Take -->
    Although this makes sence, it is just a way to play safe by the capitalists. IITs and IIMs have great brand value, but all that matters is wether you know your team and believe in it. At the end of the day you do not want to have high profile people who are not able to appreciate what you are trying to achieve.

    My Final Take: "
    Screw It, Let's Do It "-Richard Barnson :-)

    TIE stands for The Indus Entreprenuers. The organization is a club of entreprenuers, VCs, and people from services industries supporting the startup like lawyers, CAs etc. TIE arranges networking meets regularly. Some of the biggest names in Venture Capital and Entreprenurship have been speakers at the monthly meets. TIE Bangalore. This months meet had Speakers from Sridar Iyengar, President - TiE Global, Ajit J. Deora, Partner - Lightspeed Venture Partners, K. Ganesh, CEO and founder of TutorVista.

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Institutionalizing Innovation

    I wish it had this one more feature !!
    You have bought a new camera and realized that it should have had that one more feature that would make it perfect
    . Or thought about this intresting mix for the breakfast cerals while at the table this morining.

    Manufacturers crave for such ideas and consumers have no where to go to tell thier ideas to the manufactures. Often manufacturers look for ideas inside thier company and fail to find many really good ones.

    In the recent past manufactures have looked towards consumers to help innovate. However these practices seem adhoc. A few succeses were coverd in the economist -> Talks about GE, BMW and Staples benefiting from consumer led innovation.

    How are New Ideas Born

    1. When people think diffrently
    2. The product\service is used is ways other that thought of by the creators
    3. When lots of people use it
    4. When the consumers grow beyond the capabilities of the product
    5. When you see other intresting products and mix and match them in your mind, to create that new imaginary product.

    And how can the Sony's and Kellogs of the world know this from their consumers.......... There is NO WAY. At least as far as I have seen on the Internet

    The Perfect Macth Web 2.o and Consumer led Innovation
    Web 2.0 suggests co-creation of value by the user community and the famous network effect. This simply means that the total value of the system increases as more and more people start using the system. Take Fikcr or StumpleUpon as an example. These applications are only tools but the real value comes from people using it.

    While Consumers are the best source of Ideas for any product/service, the web2.0 concept can be used to create an application that can allow consumers to suggest what is right\wrong with the product\service and how it can be improved. Manufacturers\Service Providers on the other hand can work togther with consumers who suggest these ideas to improve their offerings. In the meanwhile the manufactures can provide incentives like gifts\prizes to consumers for providing vauable suggestions. Consider your innovation team of a size of 50 Million people instead of 5-10 people thinks alike and with hugh pay checks.

    Creating the next generation Consumer Innovation and Interaction Platform
    The system can be a simple web site that
    - Allows consumers to suggests good\bad things wrt to products\services
    - Allows consumers to suggest ideas that would help create new products and target them to manufacturers
    - Allows manufacturers to incentivise ideas and provide the consumers with benefits for their idea

    Some one out there intrested in this concept??...... You can get in touch with me if you would like to explore this concept further. Just Leave a note here .....

    Sunday, March 19, 2006

    The Phone is Dead, Long Live the ComSet [Communication Set]

    The Phone as in a device that allows to type numbers and make call is seeing is last days on earth. I started using Skype and recently read stuff on Skpye based phones.

    The concept just seems to make so much sense. Skype and similar technologies use the internet as the backbone. The numbers are just user_ids on the application and you are able to call anyone on the planet use the same service. Today such calls can me made to regular phone too and at a charge.

    Corporate Communication.
    We have seen VOIP phones from CISCO withing our offices that allow calls any location of the same company. The ease of reaching anyone across the world has significantly improved communication and is being encouraged by corporates. Companies especially benefitiing from this technology are OutSourcing majors , Export oriented units. The technology helps significantly improve communications and reducues costs compared to conventioanl international calls.

    Personal/Domestic Communcation
    The biggest impact of the internet teclephony technologies will be seen when the technology is adopted widely among domestic users. This would mean th
    at all mobile plans would be for internet usage and telcos may charge based on the volume of data exchanged. However there will not be any charge diffrences for local, national, international calls. We can already see such phone arriving in the market. The one shown here is a product from Netgear and Panasonic.

    The Phone is Dead, Long Live the ComSet [Communication Set]

    I can imgine in the next 3-5 years all phones will be internet devices that allow calls as just one of the many features. Internet web surfing, Shopping, Online Games, News and PodCasting will become common uses of the communication device. Although many of the these services are avaiable today on the mobile devices, lack of standardzation, poor capacity of phones and connectivty mean very low penetration of applications. The use of internet and devices with laptop like capabilities will see the phone transform to a true communications device. Seen here are devices/prototypes from popular CE Giants. Similar devices may replace your phone sooner that you thought.

    Seems like intresting times ahead ......................

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Pre Sales Tips for the Frontline

    I have been a PreSales lead for a Large IT services company , and in my last 6 years in IT I have realised the value that a good PreSales Team can bring.

    Here are some tips from the battle field

    1. Know your customers.

    Like any like of business, first know who your customers are. In any ecology there area producers and consumers. The producers are your own service like that are ready to offer services. Consumers are Clients large and small, the Sales force and even internal teams that are serving customers.

    2. Do I remember you !!

    Meet, Call, Skype, Email do any thing to ensure that you are in touch with your customers on a regular basis. There are lots of companies out there and your client will reach you only if he is confortable with you. And confort comes from the feeling that you respect the persons time, and can provide the service or support he needs.

    3. Keep Track.

    Nothing is more wasted than a deal that you worked on but were not around to service it when it actually landed. In the busy life a a presales team it is possible and very common that you lose track. This is a definite No No. If there is more work try to get get some more resources on your team or just delegate to partner teams. Identifing-tracking-folowing up on leads is equally and sometimes more important that merelu responding to requests. Ensure that you always have your numbers with you. Number of calls made, number of customers spoken to, leads identifies, Leads followed up, Pipeline targets etc

    4. Never Transact, Partner

    As a presales team you have 2 options. to Transact, i.e to service RPF, expertise notes, approachnotes etc whenever you are asked for it. Or to Partner. When you partner you know when someting is going to arrive. You know when you customers are having a good time and when they are not and you are always ready with ideas and soultions.

    Remember customers, Sales force, Internal delivery team all have their own workloads and stuff to deal with. And the last thing they need is another sales pitch. Say what ever you have to say but consider the needs and problems of the person on the other side of the table and then speak.

    5. Innovate

    May a times there are oppurtunites waiting that are just not identified. Keep your customers on their toes by sending you short mailers, case studies with benefits and solutions and ideas. Remember not to share more that 1 page when you ping. Respect the time of the customer.

    A good presales team can significantly help any organization grow. you are the first technical/business line of defence and customers will make decisions based on your comptence.

    Till next post
    Chandan Maruthi