Tag Archives: development

Much Ado About Meerkat

“Those sorts of consumer shifts used to take years or decades, but now they can happen in months or weeks or days, and we’re becoming accustomed to that idea”
Ian Bogost, game designer

Have you heard about Meerkat?

Don´t worry, you might not even need to.

The hype cycle of new apps gets faster at every moment. I heard about Meerkat couple of weeks ago, this week it has been all the talk of the SXSW town and now it has already been declared dead.

Meerkat is essentially live-streaming app, which used heavily the social graph of Twitter and allowed you to connect to your Twitter connetions in Meerkat. Twitter has already blocked this fun, in conjuction of buying similar app called Periscope. Hence, Meerkat suffered a blow and in the world of tech news hyper babble that blow is naturally deadly.

I was not excited about Meerkat, when I heard about it. I didn´t and don´t recognize the novelty or appeal in the app. Opportunity to livestream is nothing new. When I was working in MySpace, we collaborated with Bambuser, which pretty much was Meerkat with MySpace-era user experience. There are currently many streaming apps available, like the one Twitter just acquired.

So nothing new under the sun, been there done that.

After that comment I can declare that I have officially become an old fart. A person who thinks he has seen anything in his life and can´t just wait to tell that “we tried it already in 2008 and it didn´t work then”. Old farts are the biggest obstacles of any innovation, because the old farts have seen it all. They have also innovated it all. Unfortunately, those innovations have happened only in their heads.

That horrible vision made me think Meerkat again.

The idea can fail for many reasons, but always the reason is not that the idea is bad. iPad was not the first tablet. Facebook was not the first social network. Idea can fail in so many phases, that you cannot really judge the initial idea. Ideas are not unique, executed ideas can be. Technology improves so fast, that the ability to do user-friendly and enticing live-streaming app is totally different than couple of years ago. Maybe 2015 is just the right time to launch live-streaming app. Executing idea is also just one thing, how do you market it and make it sexy is the other thing. Meerkat has been at least way more effective with their PR and hype machine than their competitors.

My opposition against Meerkat is that I do not see live streaming behavior taking off. To be honest, I did not see that Snapchat would evolve to be a legit app beyond teens sending their nude photos to strangers. I can also admit that I was wrong. Although it is easier to latch onto existing behavior, technology can also create new behavior. That we are glued into our smartphones is quite new behavior in history of human race. I don´t think that no one predicted exactly that to happen.

We are obsessed with new.

Meerkat has had disproportionate amount of hype, because media wants a new social media phenomenon. Old farts criticize it, because it is not new enough. Somewhere between the overhype of media (and tech hipsters in SXSW) and underhype of old farts is the truth. Which is: essentially no one really knows what will happen with Meerkat. But it is interesting to see.

You cannot ever evaluate the success of technology when it is hyped and brand new. The true stress test is when technology has become old and boring. That is when they start to make business sense.

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Robots Should Drive My Taxi

During my three years in Singapore, majority of things have improved.

Trying to get taxis and travelling with them is however becoming more frustrating every day. I mostly use public transport. Both bus and MRT lines work perfectly (at least in my routes). Usually when I select taxi, the selection is based on urgency instead of convenience. Quite often the service experience is not really pleasant.

The rise of the taxi apps has been double-edged sword. On the other hand they have enabled you to get taxis to areas where you could not really wave a cab before. On the other hand every taxi driver is now just circling areas and waiting for pre-booking fees from the apps. Also apparently some taxi companies try to force their drivers not to use the best app (Grabtaxi) and to use only their own apps.

Taxi booking apps and arrival of Uber in Singapore are hopefully just a start in Taxi revolution. I am waiting for the time that the robot cars will revolutionize taxi industry:

Singapore would be a perfect place to test self-driving taxis: small area which is mostly documented in GPS, not many cyclists, predictable traffic, predictable weather, good roads, etc.

Here are six reasons why I would select robot over human driver any time:

1. No mistakes

Google´s self-driving cars have crashed twice. First time a human was driving the car. Next time a human rear-ended Google´s car. I would feel much safer with robot driving my taxi, than have my human driver watching Korean drama from his iPad and fixing his smartphone while speeding on highway (real story). Airplanes are majorly automatically flown nowadays which has reduced the accidents. Majority of the flight crashes are caused by human error. Comparing the

2. No explaining routes
“PIE or ECP*?” was my crash course to Singaporean acronyms. I thought that the driver was referring to some part drugs. Taxi driver should better equipped as a professional to select the right expressway. Especially compared to me, as I am still occasionally thinking that traffic goes to wrong direction.

The point of taxi service is that client needs to only know where he wants to go. Driver should know how to get there. Quite seldom that is the case. I have realized that I am actually checking the routes before hopping into taxi to instruct the drivers. This is waste of my time. For some odd reason majority of taxi drivers do not use GPS maps in Singapore.

Getting from point A to B is not rocket science. Google Maps gets you quite far. Waze gets you even further (both owned by Google though). Robot-driving car would utilize these tools with ease.

3. No shift changes or general laziness
Nothing frustrates more than seeing green cabs refusing to take you where you want to go because it is not on the right direction for the driver. Taxi should be a service business.

There is something fundamentally wrong with incentive system for cab drivers in Singapore. Drivers can just cherry-pick easy drives and even stop driving if they feel like it.

Robot driver does not need sleep, go to toilet or have any of other hindrances human drivers have. It would just keep on driving. Self-driving car would not discriminate depending on where you are going. Or throw tantrums at you because you just happen to live close to the airport.

4. No hiding in the rain
Whenever it starts to rain, taxis disappear. Based on the studies many taxis don´t pick up passengers during rain. They are afraid of accidents, because taxi companies will deduct them 1000 SGD immediately after accident. You will get it back, if you are not to blame of the accident. Again that is fault of the system, but eventually consumers will suffer. You usually need taxis more when it rains and not the vice versa.

Driving in rain, even heavy rain is not even that difficult. People are driving in snowstorms and icy roads all the time in Nordic countries. Robot drivers would not have extra jinx because of the conditions and could automatically adjust their driving style to any weather.

5. No annoying bantering during your trip
From planner perspective talking to taxi drivers is always beneficial.

You get answers and firm POV on about everything you could even think of. I can also understand that quite many people do not necessarily want to hear driver´s view on air pollution, politics or prostitutes in Geylang. Instead you could tune your favorite playlist in Spotify and enjoy a smooth ride from place A to B.

6. No obstacle to card payment
Paying with card in Taxis is a troublesome experience. Despite the card stickers on windows, majority of the drivers try to avoid card payment by any means.

Therefore you try to always pay with cash. Even then you are scolded by paying with too big notes (usually 50 dollars, which just happens to be the standard note from ATMs). Automatic cars could just take your card without complaints and no worries when they will receive the money to their bank account.

Don´t get me wrong. There have been awesome taxi drivers who have saved me multiple times by getting me on time to the airport. Still I am firm advocate of constant development. Currently the service level you get from human drivers would easily be matched and improved by self-driving taxis. I am definitely the first one testing the driverless car.

*These refer to Singaporean expressways (East Coast Parkway and Pan Island Expressway).

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Why Digital Detox is Bullsh*t?

Recently there has been lots of hype about people going on digital detox. Digital detox means that you stay away from your mobile, computer and social media channels for a pre-determined time and then brag about it afterwards in digital channels.

Talk about contradiction in terms.

Generally people can do whatever they want with their life and time. I am also all for people living without digital devices for real. It is everyone´s individual choice and I celebrate that. Digital detox however is just lame attempt to have the cake and eat it too. The problem is that all this hoopla around people going back to the Stone Age blurs the real story around digital:

Digital devices and Internet has made our life better.

This is true to technological advancement in general. Life is better now than it was hundred years ago. Period. Every year people are becoming healthier, happier and more productive.

Thanks to the technology.

As technology develops people develop as well. Before some Luddite turns up the example of atom bomb, I would like to quote Kevin Kelly from his brilliant book “What Technology Wants”:

“The world does not need to be perfectly utopian to see progress. Some portions of our actions, such as war, are destructive. A bunch of what we produce is crap. Maybe nearly half of what we do. But if we create only 1 percent or 2 percent (or even one-tenth of 1 percent) more positive stuff than we destroy, then we have progress”

This the reason why ads like these make me sick:

Yes, it is annoying if your friend is meddling with his phone during your lunch. Or maybe you are just boring? Or whatever happened to the plain old firm saying: “Stop checking your phone”.

Digital detox and ad like this Coke example spread the message that we are digital slaves not capable of control it. This message is wrong and also destructive.

We are the masters of digital devices and social networks.
We can control them and we can control ourselves as well.
That is why I urge everyone to digital retox.

The more we use new digital devices, connect with each other and are open to the future, the more we will develop as a human beings.

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