Mind the gap

I’ve been helping my neighbour, David, with his visa application1. Spending time with him over a couple of evenings gave me a chance to get to know him better. It’s been quite a learning experience for both of us. Their life2 is quite a contrast to ours, in areas we wouldn’t even think twice about3.

  • We live around our smartphones – are probably too addicted to them.
    He keeps his mobile phone in his car, doesn’t even get it to the house.
  • He provides his landline as the only contact number.
    We didn’t even bother with getting a landline when we moved to this house 4 years ago.
  • He doesn’t know how to use a computer. His wife got a new computer as present last year. They’re still to ‘open it’, because she hasn’t gotten up to it yet.
    We spend many days solely with them ‘computers’.
  • Continue reading Mind the gap

Android Keyboards in India

Why don’t Android phones sold in India come with Google’s Indic keyboard set up as default?

Specially for phones that don’t ship with proprietary/3rd-party keyboards, doesn’t it make a lot of sense to pre-install Indic keyboard over the default English keyboard?

It’s such a small step, yet can be quite a big enabler for the users (and, even, possibly a differentiator) – using the power of defaults to deliver a better user experience!

Why tweetstorms, not blog posts

The other day my wife complained, like many of us Twitter users have often done:

Why do people write these long tweetstorms, instead of writing a blogpost?

I blog. And I write tweetstorms. And the answer to that question, for me, is in three factors – reach, effort, and ephemerality. Continue reading Why tweetstorms, not blog posts

A case for splitting up the WordPress mobile app

Venn diagram of readers and writers on WordPress, specially on mobile.
Readers vs writers on WordPress

By integrating ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ in the same app, you’re forcing the bigger user group1 to also confront tools designed for the smaller user group.

On mobile – skewed by design more towards consumption, than creation – I assume the disparity in these two user groups is even bigger.

Having a standalone reader app, allows it to reach a much larger use case – ‘Help people follow, read, discover’.
Compare this to current use case – install it if you…

  1. post to WordPress frequently from mobile, or
  2. love reading in WordPress reader, despite having little use for other three tabs – write, manage, and notifications?!

A really good standalone reader helps plug in a singular user need2 – reading. That need, in terms of following blogs and websites, only rarely overlaps with the other need that the app currently fulfils – writing.

Though it will place it in competition with feed readers like Feedly, it also has 2 unique benefits as well:

  1. Close integration with a writing platform (related posts, comment & like directly from reader),
  2. The abandoned Google Reader audience that just wants to follow and read feeds, without being overwhelmed with magazine interfaces and more.

A good, successful reader mobile app with large user-base will, eventually, help close the RoI loop: suggest (through ‘discover’) other WordPress/Jetpack blogs, creating an incentive (or delivering reward) for creators using WordPress.


  1. One definition of readers and writers:
    – Writers: 7-day active writers – users who posted at-least once a week.
    – Readers: Unique visitors per week – including logged-in users, not-logged-in readers, and from feed readers.
    Another definition (more relevant to determining use case ratios):
    – Writing: Posts /week.
    – Reading: Page views /week – again, including not-logged-in readers, and from feed readers. 
  2. Should some day also write a similar, smaller, post on WordPress Calypso’s interface – how it needs to be split from current two, into three sections. Currently, the ‘write’ and the ‘manage’ use cases are mixed into the same tab, while ‘read’ is in its own.
    Ideally, ‘write’ and ‘read’ – each a singular, frequent use case – should have their own tabs. ‘Manage’ can be in a far-removed tab, or behind a ‘manage’ button. 

Mom asks: What’s monetary and fiscal stimulus?

Currency - Money - Economics - Fiscal - Monetary

(When my mom – ex middle school science & economics teacher – asks about monetary and fiscal stimulus)

When does an economy grow?
At a simple level, when earning/spending increases.
People and companies spend more when they have more money.
They get more money from increased borrowing, or increased income.

The government, when confronting low inflation and low growth, wants to increase this spending.
It has two sets of tools – monetary and fiscal – to stimulate this growth.

Monetary tools target increased lending/borrowing, and fiscal tools intend to increase income directly.

Continue reading Mom asks: What’s monetary and fiscal stimulus?

Cropped axes – a flag for misrepresentation

Economist's misrepresentation of car prices, and how much of it is tax credits.

Saw this chart – on prices in a car segment in the US – in this article in The Economist. I just couldn’t get over how grossly it misrepresented the data, so here’s the crib.

Illusion

On a quick look, the chart above seems to indicate that the US government discounts electic car prices by anywhere from 37.5% (BMW i3) to 60% (Tesla Model 3) of the total price – the ratio of light blue bar segment to total.

The reason for this apparent fallacy is the cropped axis on which the values are plotted – instead of starting from zero, it starts from about $22,500 and goes up to $45,000. Adding to the crime of cropping is the location of the axis labels – in the already text heavy section on top.

Result: most viewers would casually interpret that tax credits form a huge rebate on electric cars.

Reality

Electric Car Pricing - Corrected Axis Chart

The interpretation changes quickly when the axis is expanded to start from zero.

The tax credit is now clear as just a small share of the real price – a standard $7,500, whatever the car price – rather than a hefty 60% for a Tesla Model 3.

What’s more, it now highlights how competitively priced the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt are, even if the price subsidy is removed – only BMW 3 series beats them. And that’s before the running & servicing cost savings are accounted for.

Don’t crop the axis!!

Based on my experience of reading, and creating, countless charts – one of my key learnings is simply:

If the axis are cropped, the chart creator is trying to send a false reading – so dig in deeper.

In the case of this chart, the cropping is compounded by hiding the labels in the text heavy section of the graphic.

It’s either a super lazy job by the chart making (and the editor). Or a case of making the chart fit the story / bias.

Please, don’t do it.

Thin layer BaaS

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May it rest-in-peace!

I worked with one backend-as-a-service (BaaS) provider, Quickblox, where I saw closely users vetting the provider for stability and scalability (successfully). And I followed the rise, sale & fall of another, Parse, where we’re all seeing the impact of it’s folding on a wider community of users.

Combining experiences from both, there’s a business idea ringing in my head:

A thin-layer BaaS

Continue reading Thin layer BaaS

Quick-tip: Moving multiple tabs to a new window in Chrome

Just discovered this by trial (requires tabs to be consecutively located):

  • Open the first tab (click to it)
  • Press shift and mouse-down on last tab to move
  • Drag out of the current window and release mouse

Voila!

All the selected tabs in the range are moved into a new Window.

Productivity timer & activity tracking

Garmin Fenix 3 & Pomodoro Timer

The Garmin ‘move’ bar & the pomodoro timer

My latest piece of bling, a Garmin Fenix 3 watch, comes with an inbuilt activity tracker. One feature of this activity tracker is the so-called Move bar.

The basic idea is that if you are inactive for one hour, the bar turns red and shows an alert asking you to move around for 2-5 mins. The longer you’ve been inactive, the longer you have to walk to dismiss the bar.

On the non-fitness side of things, a.k.a. work, I use a pomodoro timer app to split my work into manageable bits. For the last year and a half that I’ve used it, I’ve stuck with the default 20 mins work, 5 mins break pattern 1. After every 4 sets, is a slightly longer 15 min break to stretch legs, and pamper Chewie.

Today was my first full day with the new watch, and I’ve already settled on a modified pattern – 25 on (working), 5 off (twitter). Every 2 sets, i.e. every one hour, take additional 10 mins off to walk around to clear the bar, chat with family, and then back again.

Worked well for the half day that I’ve worked today. If this works on Monday too, it’ll be a fun combination of work & walk :)


  1. Most of those 5 mins breaks are used for catching up, or posting, on Twitter :)