Social Media : The Glue of Contemporary Society?

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We are all connected. Facebook looks like the glue the world needed to connect us all. Alternatives like Twitter and Linked-in and Instagram connect people in a similar way. But social media also have an ugly downside.

Facebook has taught us to like and unfriend. It has taught us to be rude or unscrupulous towards both strangers and acquaintances. It has taught us to express our political opinions and to unfriend people because of these opinions. It has even pushed teenagers to suicide. It also has helped us to retrace old friends and stay in touch over long distances, to buy or sell second hand items, to view lots of cool videos we would never have seen otherwise. To hear the latest about people you know but rarely see or to help capture a criminal. Facebook is both a threat and a blessing.

But ask yourself : How many people on facebook do you talk to and how does that compare to your total number of facebook friends. How many of your friends posts do you actually pay attention to? How many have you hidden?

Although Facebook changes its algorithm regularly you get to see about 35 percent of your friends post. In some cases that is a good thing because you don’t really want to know every meal of the day some people still post. And those who are lonely do tend trying to gain attention by posting a lot of irrelevant things. Yet surely sometimes you want to read more from valuable friends.

But that is not really what this article is about. What we are after is more protection from the negative feelings and harassment. So I want to look in into the question if there is a way to reduce the threat of social media. To create a social medium that is more protective but that still keeps you in touch with the world. It may lose a few features but if people feel a lot safer that may well be worth the while.

How do you create such a social app?

I believe the primary condition is to make it an opt-in system where you automatically select who views what every time you share something. A system where it is easy to block people but where it is unlikely that you would given the nature of the app. The people that would end up in your friend list would be those in your phonebook. That means people you actually meet up with physically or that you value enough for a personal conversation. People who respect you. 

Opt-in means that you would select who you share your post with. Best way to do this would be to have groups where you can add or remove people or create new groups to your liking and just select a group to share something with. Mostly the group you shared an activity with and some people whom you want to share it with. But you are in charge. Is that technically feasible? No doubt. It is just a matter of combining functions that reduces selection processes so that the user is not bothered too much with picking who sees what and still has a feeling of control.

Another obvious question would be ‘is this commercially viable?’. Well think about it. What will drive you most to buy an item : a friend or an add? That means there is room for advertising for what a people like on their timeline so that their friends can see what they are following. I guess that answers the question mostly. Find out what they like and get their friends to see it.

Online Sales

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Ecommerce News Europe recently published an article that states that Ebay and Amazon together account for 66% of all online sales in Germany. A staggering amount although it did not surprise me since I was recently looking into Ebay’s marketshare in Europe by country and Amazon’s success in Europe is well known.

But what should we conclude from this? One might think that these giants simply have acquired a huge market share through efficient marketing but honestly that is not how I look at it. I am more inclined to think that the demand for online purchasing is there but local businesses are not involved enough in this potentially much bigger market.

The main reason for their lack of initiative is that setting up an online store is a considerable investment and it takes at least a year to achieve reasonable sales. To launch an online store brick and mortar stores need to adapt their storage facilities to small order picking and packaging. The web store may require an additional investment depending on what a company sells. Then there is the cost of marketing to draw buyers.  Obviously more staff should be hired for all this and maintaining the webstore is a big job which requires an experienced manager. In Europe hiring people is quite expensive due to high taxes. Bottom line it comes as no surprise that online sales are dominated by a few big players since it really comes down to starting up a whole new department of a business.

But does that mean there is no easy and low cost way for a business to build up a marketshare online? Given the fact that 90% of all online purchases are impulse buy there sure must be. I’m thinking of an ‘easy to reach – quick to buy’ kinda system that does not offer a wide range but just the spearpoints of a range. It should be a mobile app with one product per page and a buy button and it should be easily accessible. Obviously the software should be managed externally so sellers would only need to have an account and post products but the site should be personalised to the seller.

Such a system would reduce the overall investment dramatically and make the step to achieving online sales a lot smaller for any size company without much hassle. Creating such an app may not be too hard but getting consumers to use it is quite another matter if it is not supported. How many apps on your mobile do you use at least a few times a week? Because that would be a condition to keep it alive. So companies should promote this access point to the customers and a joint marketing effort would be necessary to get such a thing going.

We have seen plenty of social media efforts but I find them mostly chaotic and more focussed on advertising than on direct sales. Communication between the user and the company also tends to be slow and very limited. And if any of those social media products would have hit a big buyers market we surely would already have heard of it by now.

So until such a product finally hits the market I foresee little change in the current state of e-commerce.

 

source
https://ecommercenews.eu/amazon-and-ebay-account-for-66-of-german-ecommerce/

Timing is of the Essence

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Since its conception I have been struggling to find a way to present HowAbout to investors. Or actually to everyone. For as long as I was facing this problem I didn’t go actively looking for investors but used my own money. I read that investors only give you one chance and if you are not ready, you fail and it’s gone. Therefor there was no point in trying.

One would imagine that this would have put me under strain but the truth is I never doubted that I would find investors for HowAbout. I even felt I could permit myself to put down my pen and the whole project for a year and focus on priorities in my personal life. I was stuck anyway because the product at itself is way too extensive to explain in the usual five or ten minutes that you get for your pitch. I can only refer to a previous article posted here where I rebelled against ‘contemporary pitching’.

But one thing I always have believed in is ‘time’ or better ‘timing’. Complicated as it may be to explain, I do know very well that every product has its time. There comes a day where you no longer need to do too much explaining, a day where the market calls for a your product. I can situate this with a real life example. I used to be in the Fantasy games industry and a friend of mine had created a collectible card game. We went to a few game companies but it was new and complicated and nobody wanted to stick out their neck and produce it. And since in those days there was no Kickstarter we didn’t pursue the product. But six or seven year later a few guys in Seattle came up with a collectible card game called Magic : The Gathering. The gaming world had evolved and at the moment it was released there was real need for something new. It was the right time for a collectible card game and a few years later they were all millionaires.

I strongly believe now is the time for HowAbout to take it’s next step. It is the time for investors to step in and get his thing going and make money. There are many reasons. In a previous article I wrote about privacy. That was september 2016. Look how important it is now and how Facebook is struggling to keep its customers happy with their app. They desperately try to create false security but as long as their system is opt-out it will never be private. And so HowAbout is an opt-in system. It is based on privacy yet it still offers great opportunities for companies to do marketing and get sales. HowAbout is a completely valid alternative and a much better concept for the consumer.

But there is much more. Ebay is struggling to obtain growth because their business model stands in their way and they have no idea how to address emerging markets where their concept is just a rock in a pond. Google has overstretched itself and nobody sees it or has found a way to take advantage of this.  Real improvement in professional software like Outlook is nowhere to be seen. Other professional software companies don’t bother to make a mobile version of their application. It is as if half of the world’s software development is standing still due to lack of real innovative ideas. HowAbout has an answer to each of these.

Because of all this we obviously have thrown around our release schedule. We are now aiming at two big releases next year iso five spread over five years. When the market is ready you have to be ready as well.

About Incubators

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There is no doubt incubators are great. Especially for young people with little experience and an idea but just as much for businessmen who newly venture into entrepreneurship. And then there are all these other people who do have experience, and embrace the help to refresh all this knowledge, get deeper into it and learn to apply it to streamline the workflow for developing their product. Aside for those who think they don’t need to join an incubator for whatever reason, there are those people who are experienced entrepreneurs but don’t have the patience to wait for being selected by an incubation program. Usually they take the time to dig into the treasures of internet, where much of what you learn in incubators can be found. Knowing how to apply this knowledge to your product is then key.

Joining an incubator has one big problem : you need to have the time and resources available to join a six month program somewhere and show all your secrets to a group of highly skilled professionals. Taking the step to apply for such a program usually implies one can meet these conditions.

Being actually accepted for an incubator program however is another matter. In seed phase it is quite difficult since often your concept is not deemed market suitable in their view and even if it is, there is such a thing as trend in technology, which will reduce your chances of being picked out if your project is not ‘trendy’ enough.

Another possible big hurdle is the requirement of being a team. If you’re lucky enough to find the right people with the right state of mind , that’s a great plus. However this is not evident and if you don’t meet this requirement some incubators won’t even look at your idea.

Last but not least making your product being understood is yet another hurdle. In many cases this is an easy one, but sometimes it is not, and when this is the case, your product is easily considered not viable, too complex, or you yourself are considered not to have the right qualities to create a successful product. They just won’t accept that some things are not easy to explain without a product demo which you may not have yet. Not everybody has the talent to make smart videos.

When I look back and see the evolution HowAbout has gone through since its conception, I believe joining an incubator would not have saved me more than five or six months in the whole process. Aside from it being impossible to have joined due to turbulent times in my personal life, it took a while before there was money to get to programming and no matter what,  that is the key to any product. Sure, some incubators provide you with some money, but then again they get participation in your start-up. You get a lot of help, but you are forced into a working schedule for six months, which can be a good thing, however sometimes products need time to ripen throughout the development process. Stress is often not a good ingredient in a creative process. Ask any creative person.

Nowadays we got a few invitations from incubators to apply, but many no longer offer financial support, which is the most important element in the stage where HowAbout is now. Wasting six months to a feel good hotshot booster is not exactly what we are looking for. Mentors are not what we are looking for either if it is only advice they are offering.  Money and people who actually open doors for us are on top of our wish list.

Conclusion : Just for the experience, I would join an incubator if the time was right. Who knows I still will after HowAbout is launched. But when life pushes you around one can only go with the flow and keep working. Don’t ever think you can not create a good product without joining an incubator. Anyone can.

Personal Life and Your Start-up

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Combining personal life and your start-up is not always easy. And it doesn’t need to be bad things that mess up your working schedule. Selling property,  moving,  buying new property,  setting up the new property,  marriage preparation, a new born baby, these are ‘good’ things that will take a significant bite out of your  precious time and may temporary reduce your involvement with your start-up to ‘the highly necessary’. Combine any four of this with the usual december holidays and you achieve a build-up of work-to-do that takes months to catch up with.

Without going deeper into which four,  it is what I went through,  but that’s not all. When a partner in your start-up changes his mind about his financial involvement due to personal reasons in the middle of this mess,  there is not only ground for personal conflict but also a drawback in the further development of the product. That is where we stand.

Fortunately there is so much work to catch up with that this gap allows to get back on track and prepare for the search for investors. With a working prototype,  a strategic plan, a business plan, a financial plan and a timeline there is a great starting point to find them.

But that’s not all. It is a good time to take a good look at your product again and see if it meets the standards you set for a successful launch. Interestingly enough in HowAbout,  I found everything was smooth,  except for the main feature of the launch version. I knew it was the one thing I hadn’t streamlined yet,  so I knew the day would come I would face this but I didn’t quite have an idea on how to realise instant photo-sharing. Until a few weeks ago. It will take some extra months of development but they will be worth the wait. And then we will launch,  finally,  with a very strong product.

A Cheesy or a Cheecky Blog?

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Blog advisors say one has to post at least one article a day to keep peoples attention. I’m going to add my two cents to this statement.

I have subscribed to quite a few blogs, and frankly, I only read them very selectively. For example when I see titles starting with ‘Five ways to…’ I get discouraged to read them more and more. The reason is that most of these articles sum up the obvious, and look more like an excuse to post something than a valuable addition to a subject. Anyone can come up with this kind of articles and not say anything that a person with common sense doesn’t already know. You’ll lose less time doing one indepth search on your subject than read such blogs I would think, and you’ll get much more valuable information overall.

Some companies offer a weekly wrap-up of their articles. Then I wonder what is the difference between one poor article a day or a stack of them once a week. A jewel hidden among them could get lost that way. To my opinion, if you have nothing interesting to say, don’t say anything at all. Better send a joke instead, then at least some people are amused. Obviously that implies you’ll eventually have to let go of ‘political correctness’ to avoid getting cheesy in the long run, and many would consider that a risk.

Some famous people with blogs post very long articles with lots of personal story that I believe more resembles fanmail, or go way too deep into their subject to keep the attention of the reader. Not all readers are fan, and no matter how rich your are, that still doesn’t make you an interesting writer.

My point is that I don’t believe the customer is more happy with getting frequent crappy reads than with getting less frequent ‘readable’ articles that bear some depth and analysis. When adding the appropriate references, an article also does not need to be long. It can be a thesis based on different reads. Adding an executive summary is a way to get around the fact that sometimes there simply is a lot to say about a subject, and keep the impatient reader coming back without reading your entire article.

I guess a solution would be to select your readers in different groups, offer some kind of subscriptions. I believe the blogger’s contact with the reader would be a lot better, and you would get happier readers.

 

 

Your fingerprint as a username

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An interesting article from Privacy News Online at privateinternetaccess.com, written by Rick Falkvinge.

Imagine you had a really strong and complex password. It was so hard for anyone to remember, that you had printed thousands of business cards with the complex password on them, and left such a card at every single object you just happened to touch. Would that be a good password?

This week, there was a story about an FBI house search where the people in the house were compelled to give up their fingerprints in order to unlock phones, which were locked just with fingerprints.

Most people seemed to be appalled at the FBI being able to coerce somebody into unlocking their phone, while pretty much nobody would have blinked at phones being seized as part of a lawful search.

How many stopped to reflect over the fact that the house was probably filled to capacity, on every object and every surface, with those fingerprints required to unlock the phones in question? That it would have been absolutely trivial to recover them from the first glass fetched from the kitchen?

Fingerprints aren’t authentication.

Fingerprints are identity. They are usernames.

Fingerprints are something public, which is why it should really bother nobody with a sense of security that the FBI used them to unlock seized phones. You’re literally leaving your fingerprints on every object you touch. That makes for an abysmally awful authentication token.

It’s true that phones can be unlocked with fingerprints, but that doesn’t turn the fingerprint into a secure authentication token. Rather, it turns the phone lock into a phone bolt, without a key requirement – an electronic bolt which one particular person can open trivially (because they carry the fingerprints on their hands) and everybody else can open with a small amount of effort (because those fingerprints are trivially retrievable and copyable). But in no way should it be considered secure, or even a lock: it’s merely something that takes less effort to open for one particular person.

Yes, of course it’s better to have a bolt on something than no bolt (fingerprint security is better than nothing). But a bolt that requires a sliding action should not be mistaken for a lock that requires a key. A false sense of security can be worse than no security in some cases.

Biometrics were never authentication tokens. They were identity tokens. Authentication tokens are secret and replaceable, and your fingerprints (your retina, your iris, and so on) are neither.

When you authenticate something even slightly sensitive with biometrics, you’re doing it wrong.

The right way to do it is to identify with biometrics, and then authenticate with a proper security token, which is secret.

Privacy remains your own responsibility.