Monetising Outside the US

As always, Fred’s blog is a pleasure to read. This time more so, because it is an issue close to heart.

He has just published a post titled: Does Rest Of World Matter More Than The US? in which he says:

What this means to me is that web services that are highly international today should invest in fully localizing their user experience and then start thinking about monetizing outside of the US. Start with local partners and then start putting people on the ground in your best international markets.

Rather that the conventional wisdom, as Fred suggests, that, “international usage cannot be monetized as well as US traffic”, I think it is the hesitation on part of these web companies to apply different business models in different regions.

Just yesterday, I was cribbing that while Apple is gladly selling iPhones and iPods in India, the India store is really shabby. Resident Indians cannot buy music in the India Store. Even MobileMe is sold in physical stores or through the Singapore online Store. Nokia and some of the mobile service providers are doing very well selling music downloads in India. And I don’t think it is a DRM issue as it is made out to be.

Facebook, Twitter and those guys have a better chance if they wake-up earlier as Fred suggests in his post. I am not sure just localising the experience will be enough though, while it is an important attribute for success in non-US markets. Interestingly, Godrej, has launched gojiyo.com – India’s answer to Second Life. Knowing Godrej, there is a business model to it, though it has yet to present itself very well.

India at least, and I suspect the other three of the BRIC too) are a volume and a patience game and few of the players have both the qualities, or are ready to investing in them. And I believe this applies not just to web companies, but others too.

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Monetising Outside the US

The Trouble of Having an iPhone

Don’t get me wrong.

I love my iPhone.

Over time – more than a year now – however, it has made me think a lot. Especially when I have had folks come and ask me “advice” on buying the iPhone. It usually isn’t that – they just want me to say, go ahead – it’s a wonderful decision. Don’t think! Buy it!

It’s a good device, an amazing gadget and really a fun companion to have with you. But it can get to you at times. A few instances where I wonder why I have this gadget:

  • There is an app (Pandora’s Box) that tells you what apps are available for free. (I have ever only paid for five apps, so I am not the one who contributes to the amazing statistics of app downloads from the iTunes Store). So you, usually, end up downloading apps that you use only for the first five minutes after you have downloaded them. Then they stay there – real-estate is apparently cheaper on an iPhone than in Mumbai – and when you see that app after six months – you have no idea what it does and why you downloaded it. You do waste a lot of time animatedly discussing how cool the app is.
  • When you have so many apps downloaded, and you realise that you don’t use 90% of them as frequently, there is a scramble to re-arrange apps. If you have an iPhone, you know how what I am talking about.
  • Most of the good apps aren’t available in India. In fact, the iTunes store for India is only one-third of the store. We can’t buy music and we can’t buy any video products. Even the sale of their OTA service is through the Singapore store. We are third in priority for Apple; we are a third world country. Nokia, however doesn’t think of us like that. Damn.
  • A friend of mine dropped his iPhone once. He had to buy another. Since then, I have become very careful about my iPhone. To the extent that my movements have become dainty. I wouldn’t think twice if I had to play football with my Blackberry, but couldn’t even dream dropping my iPhone on my desk from a height of 0.116 inches.
  • There are some amazing travel apps on the iPhone. None of them works when you are in Kumbharli Ghat. Heck, a state highway that connects Nanded to the NH4. Then, I love a compass. Any compass (That’s a safe gift to give me, if you were thinking). Now, I have to shell out the new bloated price for a 3GS if I want a built in compass. Gah!
  • I’d like to use Twitter on the iPhone. I have four different apps. Not a single one makes sense. While I have problems using Twitter anyway, the iPhone doesn’t help.
  • I can’t share photos very easily with folks who do not have an iPhone. So I have to go through a round about way of sharing photos. By that time the others have taken photos, shared it, uploaded it, had fun – I am still sending it by email and such. Bluetooth is so anti-social on an iPhone.

There’s more.

Sometimes I have fun re-arranging the apps. They make for some amazing “thoughts”. Not everybody understands it however.

An iPhone Grab

But this should suffice for now. But, don’t get me wrong, I love that thing. And don’t ask me why!

The Trouble of Having an iPhone

Goodreads for iPhone

Image representing Goodreads as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

We finally have a Goodreads app for the iPhone! More news at their blog.

I have just downloaded it, used it and am a happy-happy goodreads fan! I joined goodreads quite a while ago and I am happy now as I was happy then.

One of the things I really missed about goodreads was having it (nicely) available when I was in a bookstore. Of all the things that this app can do – that is the best feature for me.

The app is very clean, works just the way you would expect it to – and no – they haven’t cut any corners in building the app. The social features are all there – and your lists as you would want them are available to you.

If you are an iPhone and a goodreads user, this one is definitely for you!

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Goodreads for iPhone

Browsers’ Upward Mobility

A colleague sent a link to this article on Read Write Web about Mobile Apps vs. Browser-based application. The full report is on the site if you would like to download.

According to Taptu, “it’s getting easier and easier to create rich touch screen user experiences with the browser without having to create platform-specific apps.” Taptu also points to increasing usage of open standard APIs, enabling Mobile Web developers to access “deeper device functions such as geolocation. (Via Mobile App or Browser-Based Site? Report Says The Browser Will Win on Mobile)

The browser has almost become the de-facto application for the desktop, so it is no surprise that the same should occur with the mobile device. “Platform wars” are never convenient for people who are agnostic to platforms – the browser provides just the right environment to developers of application. The article adds:

It seems then that commerce services are taking more advantage of mobile web browsers than gaming and entertainment providers. But why? Taptu says it’s because “many [Commerce] products and services do not really fit into Apple’s iTunes content-oriented billing system.”

Browsers, it seems are ready to take over yet another device!

Browsers’ Upward Mobility

The Paradox and the Detox

So I found this via @ScepticGeek and I think it is an interesting article. The author does make a point at the start that presenting this theory elegantly is a problem. I agree. This is a problem statement that needs to be up there straight. I am a near-victim of this situation. What’s going wrong with social media services?

Put simply, I think that each new social media service that we start using makes it harder to keep up with things in general. At first, the cornucopia of Web offerings seems really great and we start using them as soon as we hear about them. We’re exposed to lots of different people, new knowledge, and generally enjoy ourselves. Each new website seems like a shiny new toy. Sometimes we get caught up in the thrill in making new connections and our friend lists grow.

But it doesn’t seem to be like it used to be. People don’t seem to connect with each other as much or follow each other’s work.

I keep trying to relate Barry Schwartz’s book The Paradox of Choice to this phenomenon. It’s not a perfect fit, but I think there are some things to consider about this.The paradox of choice is that something that should make us feel happy and fulfilled (having great flexibility of choices in our lives) often leads to stress and anxiety. [Via A simple theory on why social media is losing its mojo | Broadcasting Brain – different thoughts about thinking differently]

I’d recommend reading the entire article for a full perspective.

On a personal note, I have been at loss to make sense of the social media services that I have signed up to. A few remain that make some sense. And here are a few thoughts on why I think so:

  • Most of the new services you may join would come recommended from a friend you already know on an existing service. A simple logic — social media services needs communities — they depend of folks to invite their friends. After a while, you join more services — and find the same people all over. What different are you going to talk about.
  • There is too much of fear-hype over privacy and security. For example, when I see a ‘new” service asking me to connect to Twitter or Facebook without using OAuth or something similar, I generally leave, without signing up. I love OAuth because it helps me keep my password counts to a minimum.
  • (As has been mentioned in the quoted article), there is sameness of content all over the place. A friend uses Tweetdeck and updates Twitter as well as Facebook. Another, shares Google Reader items, which are also posted as Tweets.  Yesterday I read Rohit Bhargava’s article that said, “in just a few years we will reach a point where all the information on the Internet will double every 72 hours.” I think you will understand when I say I am not surprised.
  • I do not know how many people are asking this question, and if this is a question at all, but — to what end. There are these cartoons all over that talk of how social media has made us anti-social in quite a few respects — in meatspace (I like that term).
  • The other thing that has been irking me for a while is the amount of money and intellectual resources that are being “wasted” in developing even more similar services that are blurring differences. While ersonally don’t believe in spending trying to cool the earth, there are enough places where money could be put to good use — for profit.

There is more, much more. And while this is not a “Why Quit the-social-media-service-ending-with-r” kind of a post, it is a statement of stuff that has been going on in my head for a while. Phew!

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The Paradox and the Detox

More Usable Web

Recently discovered some very interesting stuff from the folks at arc90.

I found both their products very interesting and pro-usability. Both products are browser bookmarklets.

From their website:

Readability: Readability is a simple tool that makes reading on the Web more enjoyable by removing the clutter around what you’re reading.

I found this tool especially useful because I really hate the clutter in most Indian news sites.

TBuzz: TBUZZ is the easiest way to talk about the Web pages you visit on Twitter.

Worth a try. TBUZZ, especially, because these are the kind of features that Twitter-client makers aren’t thinking of (or are they?)

More Usable Web

My Gruml Wishlist

I have been using Gruml now, and it seems that with the quick updates and the kind of updates, it is getting close to being the perfect offline tool for Google Reader.

With the release of version 0.9.10, Gruml has come closer to incorporating all Google Reader features and making it feature rich, beyond what Google Reader does.

Having said that, here’s a list of what I am waiting for:

  • More stable implementation of read/unread synchronisation. It seems to me (and I am not geeky enough to know this for sure) that Gruml does a continuous synchronisation with Google Reader. It beats the idea of having an offline reader, kind of. There may be folks who want live updates, however, I’d like an option to poll for feeds at specific intervals.
  • A feed reader is an assortment of all that you like on the Internet. Personal and Professional interests alike. For someone like me, who has multiple Twitter accounts, it would be nice to have multiple Twitter accounts to send updates from Gruml. A simple drop-down perhaps on the dialog that allows sending tweets?
  • And while we are on the Twitter issue, it would be nice to choose a URL shortening service. I being me, I wish that there is a way to shorten URLs through tr.im. Also, For some reason the short-URL is at the end of the Tweet and you cannot add text after the URL. It would be nice if I could add my text before and after the URL.
  • This one is not just aesthetic, but a multi-line text-box would be nice when adding notes and sharing articles. When you are writing a longish note, a single-line text-box is not very useful. Oftentimes, its useful to edit the note before sharing it.
  • The current release has added a very interesting feature: post article to blog. Right now, this sends the entire article to the editor. If I have selected a specific text in the article, I’d like it to remember that and take only the selected text to the blog editor. If this same feature can be extended to Tumblr, what fun!
  • There are more simpler and common updates that are related to the look and feel (fonts, sizes and such), but I think those can come in later.

I’ll keep this post “alive” and update it as I think of more ways to make Gruml better. If I update it, I’ll let you know through Twitter.

My Gruml Wishlist