Youtube’s Decemeber 2012 Redesign

I’m not a UX guy, so hopefully somebody can shed light into this.

youtube new design

 

Added plug. Check out Up Dharma Down


[book review] The Lean Startup

Heralded as one of the must buy books for entrepreneurs The Lean Startup was written by Eric Ries, founder of IMVU. The book describes itself as a scientific approach to starting a company.

As the title implies, the goal is to get lean. Lean might mean several things to you like starting with a lean budget, lean time, lean resources or a lean product. These descriptions are actually part of the book, but one of the key components with starting a lean startup is customer validation. The goal is to learn from a process that will allow you to validate your hypothesis, create the experiment, measure the results and build from these learnings. The key with the whole process is to create a way to keep iterating through your ideas and your experiments so that you will be able to react, not with gut feel, but with hard data. No assumptions but rather well backed decisions based on data.

The book is divided into three main sections, Vision, Steer, and Accelerate. These main categories take you through the journey of learning the method.

Vision is your high level, concept phase of learning the difference of the methodology from traditional corporate thinking. This section takes you to realize the whole concept that creating sustainable business is a process. When it’s a process, it can be learned, and can ultimately be taught.

Being exposed to a lot of entrepreneurial activities, the first section doesn’t cover anything ground breaking, rather it shows you the possibilities of viewing a challenge with a different perspective. Well repeated in the book is that the Lean Startup methodology is not just for new startup companies, but for any organisation creating a product. I think this goes well with anybody working in a knowledge based industry. Formulating marketing campaigns, community engagement and other community based marketing can benefit from having a lean approach towards their business.

Steer, talks about the methodology. Dropbox and Intuit were were given as examples while going to the process of build -> measure -> learn.

This whole section is what you want to read. Again, the whole book is not rocket science, but the process itself is well thought of and it’ll get you thinking whenever you go through the rounds of work. Several methods and techniques were presented here, again with the goal of getting you to rethink how you do things now and getting into the lean mindset.

One thing that stuck out for me was how we measure “success”. We have to get into the habit of measure the right things rather than the things that will make us look good. (which is very typical in large companies) I got my fair of vanity metrics that I see often. How, and more importantly, what we measure is a crucial step in learning. If we don’t measure the correct things, our assumptions might be validated the wrong way. If you are measuring page views on your site rather than activations, this might present you with a great chart, but it won’t give you more business. I like quantifiable measurements as it takes away any doubts and uncertainties whenever we look at metrics.

Accelerate talks about growth, releasing in small batches and how you will move after applying your validated learning.

I especially liked the chapter about batches as it’s quite common for us to procrastinate by releasing a larger batch until it’s perfect then getting bombed in the end as our work didn’t get enough validation or feedback.

The last part of the book also shared a lot of resources to get you on track with the lean methodology. Blogs, resources and other books that will help you get into the mindset of lean.

As me and a friend are building our product now, the book helped me think of how we should be constantly validating our assumptions and what metrics to measure. I’ll be talking about this more once we launch and I’m so happy that it’s going to be soon.

If you are looking for a precursor to startup life, this book is a great way to change how you think and how you tackle problems. I think this is not only for startup companies, but for individuals who wants to achieve more. Conducting experiments is not just for directors or people handling budgets, it’s also for people on the field who talk to customers and clients and can constantly reinvent themselves and adapt to different situations. With the lean methodology, you can categorically experiment while constantly learning. Read it and use. 😉


Cynthia Alexander

News came last month that singer/songwriter Cynthia Alexander is leaving the Philippines for good. She’ll be heading for Seattle, Washington where I know she’ll be doing great.

There’s a few arguments going around on how Filipinos don’t appreciate our own talent and will wait for others to appreciate them before we recognize the artist. Contrasts between Cynthia Alexander and Jessica Sanchez of American Idol fame has been made as well. Jessica Sanchez is an excellent singer in her own right, but comparing her to Cynthia Alexander’s situation is a bit off.

I’ve been a fan of Cynthia for more than a decade now. I discovered her from NU 107 when her first single from the second album was out, titled U & I. With deep lyrics and a great melody, I had to buy her album, fast. After which I got to memorize all her songs from that album called Rippingyarns. Me and my brothers were lucky to find her first album, Insomnia and Other Lullabyes after years of being out. There was a time in college that I got to see her live at least once every month while me and my brothers trekked all the way to Quezon City just to catch her at Conspiracy. Good times indeed. I already moved to Singapore when she started playing at 19 East, nearer our house, but was lucky enough to get a copy of her album, Walk  Down the Road, from my brothers.

Cynthia has a special place in my musical heart because she is just magnificent. The way she structures her songs, to her deep lyrics and her evolving melodies, her music is just pure art.

People are asking why she’s not famous in the Philippines and why not more people appreciate her songs considering she has won multiple awards in the Philippines and overseas. My personal take is the Philippine market is just not mature for her music. I’m lucky enough to have been exposed to several genres and develop my own taste of music. My aunt, who lived in the states for a while, always blasts 80s music and this gave me my own musical identity. Cynthia’s lyrics are deep, some people don’t get the melody, some just can’t appreciate it and more importantly, people just don’t get as exposed to it as others.

Philippine local music stations has been slammed before for not playing as many local tunes as to songs from the US. I always hear R&B, hip hop and club songs, but not as much Original Pinoy Music (OPM). After the death of NU107, one of Philippines only rock station, knowing more local tunes became much harder. I always thought that music is a great equalizer as anybody can appreciate music but then again, local stations has control on whose music they play and unfortunately most of it is not from the Philippines but from the US. I highly doubt it that we don’t have good bands as I hear them all the time. I guess to be appreciated by the masses, it’s takes more than just talent.  (darn luck :P)

Cynthia Alexander has three studio albums and one live album. You can check out her music at http://www.myspace.com/cynthialexander

If you want some vids, here are a couple of my favorite ones I found on youtube.

I took the picture above during one of her rare gigs here. Such a fitting image for her departure. I know she’ll make it big in the US and I’m happy for those Seattlelites who’ll be catching her gigs soon.


[book review] Ilustrado: A Novel

I have mixed feelings with Ilustrado.

Winner of the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize, Ilustrado talks about the return of Miguel Syjuco, also the authors name, to the Philippines, to find more about the deceased Crispin Salvador, his mentor. He went back to the Philippines from New York to find out more about his mentor and potentially find his last manuscript that will expose several high flying, influential, and political families.

His journey spans over 150 years of Philippine history all the way from the Spanish occupation up to the recent Edsa revolutions. Here, he discovers a lot about his own family, his interactions with fellow authors and his “society”.

The character of Miguel feels like a reflection of the author. Born of a rich family, having the opportunity to travel the world and studied overseas, he felt as if he was an “Ilustrado” himself. Ilustrado in Spanish means the learned or enlightened one and was used in the Spanish colonization period by Filipinos studying in Spain. They were educated overseas with the goals of changing situations back in the Philippines.

The book was presented as a story within several stories, interweaving several books by both Crispin and Miguel as well as the ongoing story of Miguel’s visit to the Philippines. This format was a bit too hard to read and comprehend as several plot lines were happening. While the author wanted the stories to intertwine, it wasn’t the end result as some of the stories were too far off to remember or not as connected to the main story line as the others.

The story itself is interesting for a Filipino, especially the several metaphors with the current political landscape in the Philippines. It might be a bit hard to comprehend for somebody not familiar with Philippine politics and culture, as there’s a lot of local references sprinkled here and there but it won’t be a big barrier for you to get into the story.

Miguel Sjyuco, in a few of his interviews, mentioned that he didn’t want to be just a Filipino writer but a writer for the world. This didn’t come as strong as it should have through the novel as I felt that the whole book was not here or there. The main plot line was indeed captivating and it got me wanting for more. His exploits with his family and friends, his chronic drug use and his encounters with his new “friend” gave me a glimpse of his life. The main plot line mixes well with some of the stories, but too many things were going on that it lost focus.

I applaud Miguel for writing an honest piece about the Philippines. My hatred for poverty porn has been satiated by his representation of the Philippines. Even though it’s a side that most Filipinos never see, it’s honest and real.

If you have enough patience in you to read this book, you won’t be rewarded with something magnificent but you’ll wake up to a part of the Philippines you rarely see.


Use Zune Pass on Windows 8 Release Preview

Windows 8 is the next iteration of Windows. For those not as familiar, Windows 8 is a radical change as Microsoft is introducing the Metro design for Windows. You can find out more about Metro at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metro_(design_language)

With Windows 8, Microsoft is integrating a lot of its services to take advantage of its several platforms. Windows Phone, Xbox, Hotmail, Skydrive and other consumer services already uses one authentication via Live ID and it makes sense that the new OS will take advantage of this. If you’ve tried the pre-release versions of Windows 8, you can easily see the influence of this even from the login screen.

With this integration, news of rebranding of some services like the Zune are abound and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens.

Anyways, if you’re using a Zune Pass, don’t fret as you can still access music just like before using the built in music app in Windows 8.

As I wanted to maximize the integration of the services with my new Windows 8. I loggedin using my hotmail account synced with Zune and lo and behold it actually works.

The music app works just like the Zune app but some features are missing like the mixed view. Some of the navigation features are still missing and adding songs to the current playlist doesn’t exist.

not really sure how to add songs to “now playing” and don’t tell me i haven’t tried “add to my music”

I know this is still an app preview so no surprises that these features are missing and I’m guessing that they are focusing on the main features so far.

There’s a bit of getting used to in the Music App. For one, there’s a lot of scrolling and clicking going on. Just to know the individual songs in the album, I have to do twice the clicks compared to the Zune app. Because of the design of Metro apps that has to cater for different form factors like tablets, this limits power users like me to navigate the app like everybody else. Whenever I use an app extensively, I learn as much shortcuts as I can as I want to get to the action as fast as I can. Browsers, email clients, OSes and such allow you to do this, but once an app is designed for multiple purposes it loses this advantage. I know Windows 8 has several shortcuts for you to get to the settings, the app bar, etc, but if you are navigating on the content of the application yourself, the developer has to create shortcuts of their own.

Overall, I’m very happy that the Zune will be continued (either as the Music app or something else) but I hope they empower the Music app just like the Zune. A nicely designed app that shows me what I want to see when searching and exploring new music. Come to think of it, the Zune app was one of the first applications to use the Metro language way back. A nice, cleanly made application that made great use of white space all through out.

If you are using Windows 8 Release Preview and notice any gems like these, please comment on. Would love to know what you think of the apps and how you’ll be using it.

PS. Super happy that Skitch is on Windows 8. Skitch is a photo annotating app on the Mac OS.


Startup Weekend Cebu 2012

I was lucky to have been part of Startup Weekend Cebu that happened over the weekend. Held last May 11, 2012 at University of the Philippines Cebu, me and a few of my team mates came down to explore the startup scene in Cebu. I also helped out the organizers to get some some mentors and a judge for the event.

I’m no stranger to Startup Weekends and I’ve been part of a couple here in Singapore. One thing that I always look forward to is the pitches during the first night. Pitches give me a quick idea of what are the problems that people care about and think of and it’s something worth solving or spending time on.

During SW:Cebu over 40 pitches were given which lasted for over an hour. I love the diversity of crowd pitching. From professionals to students, people from different industries and nationalities. The mixture felt great and more experiences will be shared all throughout the event.

Over 40 participants lined up to pitch

I find that the pitch reflects the problems that the participants face. One thing that I observed was how the expats were trying to solve “first world problems” while most of the locals were pitching solutions for entertainment, solving simple problems, staying in touch with their families and such. Coming from the Philippines, I felt a big difference between the pitches. A couple of pitches that really stood out was one about how he can get the best deals for importing luxury cars to the Philippines and another one about how he can rearrange his DVD collections efficiently. These type of problems just strike me as “non problems” and it was quite interesting to see it being pitched in Cebu. Those type of pitches would’ve had a different reaction elsewhere, but in the Philippines where most of the people can’t afford cars, the pitch would be falling into deaf ears. I guess that’s where knowing your market well comes into play.

As the teams form up, the ideas got polished and everybody starts piling up.I wasn’t able to talk to all of them but I noticed that most of them has a great sense of design. Most of the teams were really prepared and some went there to get mentoring and feedback for their ideas.

Teams formed up and ready

One of the teams I talked to was Codetoki. I love the passion of the founder and how she wants to solve the issue of lack of industry knowledge in fresh IT graduates. Her idea was to provide a platform for students to reach out to IT professionals and bridge the gap between school and the industry. She hopes that students and industry professionals will help each other and increase the competent talent pool of IT professionals in the Philippines.

Can’t help myself take a photo with Swan Hat guy

I also talked to AppsXL. I was really impressed with their design capabilities and it showed through their presentation and product. AppsXL is creating a platform for mobile developers to easily create applications using native code through several ready made templates. A number of apps on the Appstore follow a standard template, so if you are a developer and want to create a quick app for one of your clients, you can just purchase a template from AppsXL, skin the app and you’re ready to go. I can imagine AppsXL being similar to wordpress theme makers like woothemes but for a more niche market. Although their final presentation wasn’t solid, I think there’s a market for the idea. I wasn’t really convinced on how they priced their templates, $100 for a template, as I think it was quite low. Hope to see more from AppsXL as demand for mobile applications is rising.

One of my own personal goals aside from knowing more about the tech scene in Cebu was meeting the community. I have to thank Tina Ampers and Ian Tusil for inviting us and making us feel welcome.

Tina is the founder of techtalks.ph, a technology meetup at Cebu. It’s a great way to meet the tech community in Cebu. Aside from her, I met some awesome guys from PhilDev, DevCon, MorphLabs, Kickstart Ventures by Globe, IdeaSpace by Smart, Microsoft, Google, a few local blogger communities and a lot more to mention.

I was excited to see all the support that everyone put in and I hope the teams that formed will continue building on their projects. From experience, some of the teams in Startup Weekend fizzle out but I hope the winning teams will continue on their projects and ship the products out for the market to try.

The winning teams at the end of the weekend were teams that focused on real problems. The first place winner was team WaitKnowMore. They are trying to solve the problem of waiting in line for common services like paying bills or waiting in line for the doctor. Their system will allow an establishment to inform a customer when it’s their turn in line while allowing advertisers to publicize deals for the customers waiting in line. There are existing systems like this out there, but I haven’t really seen or tried it personally. It’ll be great to see this properly implemented and give relief to waiting customers all over.

Keep yourself updated with the Startup Weekend Cebu team and their follow up events via their site at http://cebu.startupweekend.org/. If you are interested to support technology events in the Philippines, either in Cebu or Manila, feel free to ping me and I’ll try to connect you to the right persons.

P.S. Make sure you stop by Cebu’s natural wonders. We stopped by Matayupan falls and the view was breath taking. You always see waterfalls on TV, but being there in person feeling the breeze of the water in your face is just refreshing. Cebu has a lot more to offer so make sure you explore the wonderful island.