The Path Starts Here...

These are the thoughts and ideas of Joel Goldman, an aspiring entrepreneur obsessed with the unlimited potential of the internet. Join him in his search for trends and the next big thing.

Jul 26

Make Your Users Come Back.

I was reading a really interesting article* by Nir Eyal (if you haven’t read it, definitely check it out) which contrasts the popular belief that products should be as easy to use as possible. The reasoning stems from the idea that effort is linked to commitment. A great example of this is buying lottery tickets. Although players’ odds are (statistically) the same (there are arguments that say randomly chosen numbers have a higher expected payoff**), those players who chose to fill in their own numbers like a multiple choice test play significantly more. This phenomenon translates to mobile/web user experience. When users takes the time and thought to add content and shape their experience, they are making an investment. And as in the lottery ticket example, this investment results in a higher likelihood for a given user to return. 

This doesn’t mean you should give your users a large and daunting task to complete on their first visit or download. The key is moderation, and rewards. Each time you get input (time, data, effort, social sharing) from a user, use this input to provide a reward- the improved value of your product or service. This input-reward cycle forms habits that power some of the largest and most popular web and mobile based services like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Foursquare. 

This post coincides with the launch of Stamped’s new mobile app, Stamped 2.0. I am a huge fan of Stamped, a recommendation sharing platform, that allows users to stamp their favorite restaurants, books, music, movies, apps or anything else they love. By giving your seal of approval (stamp), your friends are more likely to see that new movie, because they know you have similar taste. Let’s use Stamped as an example to investigate the two related ideas I talked about earlier- the effort commitment link, and the input-reward cycle. Stamped has two types of input; creating stamps, and following/inviting friends. Stamped has done an excellent job for making both of these inputs super frictionless (finding the item you want to stamp), while still requiring effort (adding a comment, adding a photo, and giving credit). This balance of ease to effort creates a similar addictive feel of the lottery (easy to buy a ticket, more effort to fill in each number) and Pinterest (effortless to pin, thought required to caption why it caught your eye). Following/inviting friends is a great example of the input reward cycle. It takes one click to invite or follow, and the reward value is huge (new recommendations to browse). 

One of my main critiques of Stamped is that is does not prompt me to create Stamps, and with low user base, there’s not very much incentive to Stamp my favorite things. Stamped 2.0 allows me to publish my stamps to Facebook, a creative solution to both motivate users to Stamp and spark Stamped’s user growth. I love the addition of to-do lists in the new app. It allows users the ability to use Stamped as a discovery engine all of the time, not only when they’re looking for a new restaurant or song. An addition, inspired by new app Checkmark (which I haven’t downloaded yet, because I can’t bring myself to pay $2.99, even though it’s an app I’ll probably use- but more about the profit analysis of price points in another post), to improve Stamped as a discovery engine (especially for small businesses), would be optional location based reminders in the form of push notifications for items on your to-do list. 

Overall, I’m a huge fan of Stamped and believe it’s on it’s way to becoming one of the most popular networks for business and product discovery (because who do you trust more than your friends, family and colleagues). I am looking forward to continuing to use it as a source for great restaurants, movies, books, apps and more. 

*Nir Eyal’s article has some excellent links to research articles analyzing the psychology behind many of the ideas I touched upon here. I highly recommend reading them if the psychology of reward based decision making and rationality is something that interests you.

**The argument that playing random numbers in the lottery has a higher expected payoff results from two ideas.  First, if two players win the lottery by playing the same numbers, then their payoff is split. Therefore, if you play more commonly chosen lottery numbers, you have a lower expected payoff, because if you do win, you have to split your earnings. Second, players who choose their own numbers are drawn to certain numbers such as birthdays, repeating numerals or sports players numbers. All of which are not uniformly distributed among all of the possible lottery numbers, and lead to a lower expected payoff for players who do not randomize (feel free to comment with questions, for a more in-depth analysis). 

Mar 9

Feb 27
“Success comes to those that dare to dream dreams and are foolish enough to try and make them come true.” Vinod Khosla, Co-founder of Sun Microsystems

Minimum Viable Product vs. Minimum Delightful Product

MVP or Minimum Viable Product, is a term popularized by Eric Ries for web applications. It is now used by start-ups across different sectors in reference to releasing a basic product early. Start-ups use MVPs to gain feedback, and discover if there is a want for the product in the market before investing the time and money to implement additional features. For consumer applications MVP doesn’t make much sense. Especially with the widespread use of touchscreen mobile devices, the natural interface of swiping and touch demands a delightful UX. Basic functionality without a compelling user experience is bound to fail in a consumer market. Thus product development teams interested in rapid development and iteration should aim for Minimum Delightful Product (MDP). It will ultimately payoff in the long run, owing to more user retention and as a result, better user data and feedback.

Clear is the perfect example of an app that focused on MDP. They went with the simplest functionality they could build, a todo list. And although basic, they developed an intuitive interface and beautiful design for a delightful experience. Check out the video or download the app if you haven’t already. 

Think about your favorite mobile apps and applications. Why are they your favorite? Is it the design, the experience, the functionality, or all three? If it’s an early development, does it focus on MVP or MDP?

Feb 15

The Unlimited Potential

What do I mean when I say, “the unlimited potential of the internet?” The word to emphasize here is potential. The amount of data available is massive, and we have just touched the tip of the iceberg for possibilities. Currently, the emphasis is on moving to mobile, cloud, making EVERYTHING available wherever you go. As a result, very few startups have taped into this ‘potential’. To give an example of an interesting use of data, Hunch, “provides smart, taste-driven, highly-customized recommendations,” based solely on analyzing the edges (followers) on Twitter. Furthermore, using only this network, it can predict your preferences (on some controversial topics) with 90% accuracy. Hunch has used the structure of Twitter to profile characteristics of its users. 

There will be a transition to more startups doing similar things to hunch. Startups will shift from generating data to analyzing and manipulating data with clever algorithms for awesome results. Think of all of the possibilities. 

Currently: USER + PRODUCT = DATA