The fountains of money

14 Sep

What would you say if I tell you that the water fountains in this picture below are running on money?

Data Fountain

You might think that I am being philosophical about life and things like that. You might even accuse of me being a fan of Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey. But it isn’t the case.

These fountains are working from a live data feed of currency rates. Its refreshed every five seconds, so you can see the fluctuation in the market. (At the moment dollar is not doing well against Yen and Euro.)

What a great way to visually present information. I have talked about Visual Thinking in my last post, but this is taking things a little real-life. Its almost like information becoming alive. Now that’s a wonderful way to present information.

Behind the scene, these fountains are getting data from Internet, that data is fed into processors in embedded devices controlling these fountains. So a machine is talking to another machine and it then interfaces with our world through expressions of water.

Ah! poetry of M2M, mashups, interface design, user experience, embedded devices and beauty.

Now that’s what I call visual Thinking.

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Visual Thinkers ! this is for you.

9 Sep

Are you like me?

Do you describe ideas more visually using back of napkins and small sticky figures, boxes and arrows. There is no idea big enough or complex enough that can not get some help from few lines, words, and pictures. I love to draw concepts.

As part of Product Management responsibilities sometimes this communication skill becomes handy. Development teams, marketing, sales, quality control, and executives they all need to be involved in various elements of my work. I have saved hundreds of hours of useless frustrations by walking up to a whiteboard and drawing few lines and sketches.  Goodness, people love when you just get their idea and rest of the energy is focused on more productive aspects of discussions.

I came across this wonderful technique – sketchcasting by Richard Ziade of Basement.org. Its just amazing and extremely simple. I have already started using it as part of my work and personal life.

Here is the technique in action, where he talks about Product Management trap (double treat for you product management fans out there.”

 

I am currently doing my sketching using mouse and pocket PC, I know its not a convenient way, but till I get my tablet PC its serving my needs.

I will post few of my sketchcasts soon.

 

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Evolutionary Design, or design using evolution – a work in progress

10 Aug

Lets say we met in 1995, and you just got your first email address. What would have been your response if I asked you, “so what do you think this Internet thing will be like in next ten years?” I am sure you could have predicted the whole www web and its changes, and web 2.0, and Google, and YouTube, and Facebook,……. Right!

Evolutionary Design

May be you would have, but I could not? Future is pretty unpredictable.

Now, lets imagine we had a product called Evoneng, the worlds first evolution engine. To use Evoneng, you just put a product, an idea, or a phenomenon in front of it ask it to tell you, what it sees in say 5 years, 10 years or longer. Instead of just crystal balling, it uses the well tested process of nature’s evolution.

EvonEng might have come up with various combinations and we could have predicted trends like global village, social networks, return of craftsmanship etc.

Good idea for some science fantasy, right!

Not really. Its already happening.

Something on these lines is already being developed. I was researching more information on this idea to see what is out there. Here are my references (finds) so far:

Evolution and product design:

http://www.icosystem.com/articles/business/Bonabeau…

Evolution used in game design: Spores

Its a very good example of how evolution is used in game design. Its a bit techy and full of game design jargon but you can appreciate the basic theory and how its implemented in actual design.

Evolution in game design at gamedev.net

http://www.gamedev.net/reference/articles/article1…

Hunch: Eric Bonabeau’s Hunch: is using evolution as part of discovering things.

http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/17397/

and here is Eric’s company that uses evolution, exploration to find drugs for the pharmaceutical industry

http://www.icosystem.com/apps_marketplace.htm

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Next steps

Seeing the interest of so many of you in this subject I have decided to put a detailed post or an article very soon. Check back soon or bookmark this page. For those a bit more technical souls you may click here to subscribe to my RSS Feed.

Keep creating.

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To post or not to post, that is the question

7 Aug

Are you like me? Your blog is turning into a nagging, needy friend asking for your attention all the time. You are supposed to meet everyday even when you have nothing to talk. And your blog posts are turning into small talk, the casual and informal chit chat; “So howz going?” equivalent in websphere.

Blogging introvert or extrovert: Who am I?

I was thinking about my relationship with my blog. Am I suppose to post daily? What should be the depth of my contents? Am I expert (connected into things) enough to talk about something daily? or am I willing to use my blog as a place to crystallize uncooked ideas. What should I do?

Thanks to , the usability master, there seems to be a solution to my woes: write articles, not blog posts.

So that’s what I will do- I will have natural depth in each blog post and let the nature of my exposure to the subject and my need to talk shall determine the frequency of posts.

I might still post these small posts but I would not be compelled into writing daily and hence adding to Internet-clutter. I will try to come up with a little more than a heading and a talkback url for my posts.

the famous author in his non fiction book, “On writing,” described a technique for fiction writing but its very relevant for bloggers as well. Here is the essence of it, my paraphrasing,

“write with the flow, describing as and when the ideas come. Write, till you hit a conclusion of sort. Leave it at that point. Then revisit it later; take the ends that needs to be expanded and do a second round of “going with the flow“. Eventually you will cover the subject exhaustively.

When editing, look for patterns, roadmaps, ideas, unique things. You will often see a structure, a natural progression of ideas. Its almost like the way we talk; it will flow.”

Another way to look at it will to think of a journey on a highway. Its like traveling to side roads and small towns while  I am heading towards my destination. Hence enjoying the ride, seeing the city (subject) in a more natural  “as it comes to me” way.

water flows, wind blows

Action: Put posts that are with some depth and stay away from tendency to post for the sake of posting.

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Wiki and Product Management

31 Jul

“Don’t ever answer the same question twice”, this is the advice Jeff Lash gave to product managers on his blog, How to be a good product manager.

Pragmatic Marketing framework also suggests to get out of firefighting mode (tactical) and become more strategic.

If we need to accomplish this objective we may use Wiki. Wikies could be a good source for product managers to post information about products, sales processes and collaterals and allow the sales team to find it at a centralized place. Sales team can edit and hence share their experiences, and hence create a collective knowledge about product, customer, and market dynamics.

Think of a scenario in which Sales discusses their “secret” tactics to use the promotional material to get a “close”. Think of that being part of new-sales execute informal training. Think of it being done by the very people who are in the marketplace. So a tone, voice, language and style more conducive to sales teams.

Now take this further and think of a production/development manager adding a comment to the discussion highlighting the methodology, the technique, the production value to that discussion and editing that in the Wiki. So sort of closing the knowledge loop. Sort of behind the product’s front end scene thing.

Now imagine a Finance guy adding further a financial commentary as to what is more financially viable in all effective sales methods. A phone call – yes. A visit to customer’s head office in Milan – no. A conference call to customer’s head office – well may be.

Hence it starts a dialogue and its not being managed (read: labored) by a single person. The collective wisdom of groups, in this case the whole company, is building it up.

Lets think of it as Product Management 2.0, a more social, democratic use and creation of information.

 

 

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Let us drink to Marketing 2.0

16 Jul

Wine is a good social lubricant. It allows and encourages dialogue and so are  the blogs.

Conversations, Dialogue and Interaction are necessary for a company to find out what its customers are thinking.

I came across this story about Stormhoek using blogs to communicate with its customer community.

Stormhoek

I have to confess I am not a expert when it comes to wines. Except for , Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon I do not know a lot about wines. I am often confused as to what goes with which food and mostly stick to our hostesses’ recommendations.

has targeted this group of people who are not gifted with great wine-knowledge. And where can you find these customers who do not follow conventions or don’t even bother to know about them. Well, what else can more represent this group than blogs and bloggers. And that’s exactly where Stormhoek went.

They sent a bottles of their wines to a group of bloggers. Who subsequently discussed these in their blogs: opinions good or bad started a dialogue. And the rest, as they say in show-biz, is a history.

Interestingly I found out about this story while I was reading a blog: and then later on I heard this podcast for the background story.

So next time when you are looking for newer, more social (read web 2.0), interactive, and cost effective ways to promote your products do consider blogs.

Blogs are not only an effective way of stating external dialogues but also they will facilitate an internal shift in the way we look at our markets and customers.

This customer-company dialogue is the first step in Product Management 2.0; eventually it can lead to the customer becoming the creator or at least the co-creator of your products.

 

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GPS your friends in to Facebook

4 Jul

Are you thinking about building a cool product for iPhone? Are you thinking about building a Facebook application on iPhone?

What about if we use iPhone’s GPS capabilities with Facebook application. So next time when you meet someone on the street you can see their profile on your iPhone, just because you are in the same location and you both have decided to accept “Add Friends” request on your iPhone.

Makes you think, right? Good. Now here is another idea.

Live Expense Tracker- an application idea for iPhone.

I use my bank card a lot to pay for things. I am often surprised to find out my balance when and if I look at it. I would like to see my expense/cash status in realtime.  That can allow me to make only needed purchases.

iPhone Application idea:

Build an iPhone application that allows to track expenses and real-time synchs it with cash in my checking account. You may incorporate iPhone’s GPS capabilities into it – for example track where the purchase was made – location etc.

Do you know in some countries you can use your cell phone instead of a credit card?

How to get new product/application ideas?

A good technique to to find what might happen next is to look at the slightly advance markets, in our case its European cell phone market.

 iPhone

Sources for new ideas

Look at these cool companies with some interesting products, that can stimulate your creative juices. Jambo,

Want some great source of new product or company ideas. Check out