Friday, August 28, 2020
Saturday, September 16, 2017
Before I go over the process, I’d like to underline why it’s important to write on a daily basis even though you don’t publish your posts. For a bit of background, since I write everyday, I have hundreds of drafts with only a small fraction that are published.
- it helps you clarify your ideas so they’re much more digestible for your audience — examples include — you’re trying to persuade your engineering team to adopt a new technique/pattern/tool/technology, or you’re trying to convince a candidate to join your team, or you’re trying to close a sale with a prospect on using your product.
- it helps you simplify your ideas. Ideas can be complex and that’s why it can beneficial to you and your audience if you strip away the complexity and bring it down to first principles.
- it helps you find your style of communication. I can guarantee you, if you met me, you’d realize that I talk the way I write on this blog. Sure, I might talk fast at times because I’m super excited but I’ll always focus on getting to the main point.
- I start out with listing topics that I have something valuable to contribute to, whether its experience or skill. This is one of the reasons why I write a lot about company culture, organization scaling, team learning, engineering, as well as, technology startup trends.
- When I’ve decided on a topic, I’ll list out who, why, what, how as a way of jotting things down.
For who: I’ll write down who I’m writing the post for which will help me identify which hashtags or which social networks I’ll share it on.
For why: the reason people would be interested in the content, perhaps its lessons learned in some new technology that you’ve recently switched to.
For what: generally the higher level topic of your content, which can be culture, engineering, business. It helps you frame your perspective and helps you focus on boiling down to the main point.
For how: sometimes you’re writing about culture at your company, you’ll definitely want a call-to-action to your job listings — or perhaps it’s an open source library you just wrote, you always want to link to it so that your readers can check it out.
- After you’ve identified who, why, what, how, you can simply start with your main point that’ll get people interested in reading more.
- I generally try to stick to 2–3 sub-ideas of the main idea that gives me enough content to write about.
- Conclude with re-iterating the main point.
Making your ideas simple and obvious takes practice over a long time. Being obvious means taking advantage over context. When you know who you’re writing for and you can simply explain what value you’re offering, as well as, the people you’re generally writing for have read articles that are somewhat related to your topic, your content will be obvious to them. The main difference is that you may have personal experience and lessons learned that they’ll find valuable and interesting.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
After listening to Arnold Schwarzenegger's audiobook "Total Recall", there's a chapter that goes into an amazing story of how incredibly ambitious James Cameron's vision of Terminator was. As a film director, James Cameron was extremely technical (he could make highly experienced lighting technicians feel like it was their first time doing lighting), knew all the equipment like the back of his hand, had a huge vision for the film, and ensured that everyone on the team had the vision crystallized in their minds. Incidentally, he could tell when there was too much lighting in one scene and took the small details very seriously.
He was a control freak. Naturally, I would assume that he had the same controlling approach to Avatar and Titanic, both largely successful box office hits.
Everyone loved working with James Cameron because he knew how to challenge his team. He knew how to set out and paint a grand vision -- and he definitely knew how to make it a reality. That said, when it comes to his films, it is his way or the highway. I can understand this since he wrote the scripts, pitched to studios, and got the funding necessary to make it happen. In one particular case, Arnold Schwarzenegger absolutely hated the line "I'll be back" -- it sounded too girly for a killer robot. James Cameron wrote the script as, "I'll be back" but Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to remove the contraction by saying, "I will be back" -- it seemed more in line with what a robot would say. In the heated situation, James Cameron ended the argument by saying, "Look, I don't tell you how to act and you don't tell me how to write. Just say the damn line."
Terminator went on to be a box office hit -- one of the most legendary films ever made in history and the line "I'll be back" became the most popular phrase in movie history. The thing about James Cameron was his intuition. He knew deep down what would be amazing for the people to see and what people want to see on the big screen.
Relating to startup founders, I think that a lot of highly successful startup founders have the same approach to achieving big goals including Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), and Thomas Watson (IBM). They had the ability to see into the future, paint a grand vision, share that vision with the team and challenge the team to make it a reality.
Monday, March 24, 2014
One day, I was wanting to upgrade an existing mobile project and I wanted to make use of the new features like the Pull To Refresh widget that landed in Titanium v3.2.x. I thought it looked amazing as soon as I saw it. So, the first thing I did was "sudo npm install -g email@example.com". Everything looked great! Until...
> titanium -v
Oh man. That didn't work. The tricky thing here is that they have an SDK version, a CLI version, as well as, a Studio version. One thing to note is that it's easy to install the SDK and CLI from Titanium Studio but I figure since they've made the CLI, they're wanting developers to move away from large IDEs and use text editors like Atom, Sublime Text, TextMate or even Vim or Emacs.
The eventual fix that I ended up going with is just removing "/usr/local/share/npm/bin/" from my PATH. This ensured that when you're invoking "titanium" or "ti", you're using the correct one from npm. Good times! Keep calm and mobile on!
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Inconsistent Patch Dates
It was truly difficult for any top 3s team to defeat RMP except in one particular patch which buffed beast mastery hunters and enhance shamans. This paved the way for the legendary "Beast Cleave" 3s composition. Only 3 days after the patch, all the top arena rankings on all battlegrounds had Beast Mastery Hunter, Holy Paladin, Enhance Shaman. The forums were flooded with "please fix burst damage on enhance shamans and beast mastery hunters" -- Every arena match you would hear Blood Lust (ARARRGHGHH), the spirit wolves would come out and the Beast Mastery Hunter would pop BM -- and your mage would be dead in a global before he could even Ice Block. Incidentally, one could say most of the patches that came out were really to address PvE issues -- to help diversify raid compositions (bring in more enhance shamans instead of stacking rogues or fury warriors as DPS). Blizzard did a great job of addressing these issues and I agree with them for taking the right approach -- to focus on the larger set of users on World of Warcraft -- which happened to be the raiders.
The eventuality of World of Warcraft in eSports
With MLG, IEM, and ESL dropping support for World of Warcraft around 2010 due to game balance issues, inconsistent patch times, and watchability issues -- naturally, PvP became less popular with World of Warcraft's user-base. Looking at the lessons learned, in order to make a game truly eSports friendly, there are two core aspects that really make it enjoyable for audiences: watchability (how easy is it to understand what is going on) and game balance. Naturally, MOBAs like League of Legends, DotA, and soon Heroes of the Swarm are easy to watch and I definitely see these games growing in viewership in these games in the coming years.
The future of competitive gaming is dependent on the viewership and the competitive spirit behind eSports. Riot Games has done a fantastic job of making League of Legends what it is today -- the most popular eSports game in history (although, you could say Starcraft was pretty big too). Ultimately, I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot from Blizzard Entertainment when Heroes of the Storm launches, as well as, the launch of Hearthstone on mobile devices.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Assuming that this is a brand new git repository:
mv .git/hooks/prepare-commit-msg.sample .git/hooks/prepare-commit-msg
Edit the file by commenting out what was originally in the file and then add this:
Now, whenever you make a commit, it should show up like this in the log:
Since GitHub and Bitbucket both support Emojis inside commit messages, you can do something cute like this
Want more emojis? check out the Emoji Mardown Cheatsheet!
Friday, February 28, 2014
Some of the key benefits of continuous delivery include
- Being able to avoid large integration (merging) issues when feature branches have diverged extensively from what is on production. Smaller changes going into production frequently are a lot easier to resolve (fix or rollback).
- Deployment procedures can be tricky depending on the platform and the technologies you use -- automate everything so that you don't miss any steps within your deployment procedure
- Smaller changes going into production are easier to code review, it won't take up too much of an engineer's time
- Jenkins (running Jasmine tests via NodeJS on any controllers, responds to webhooks when master changes, and pushes iOS binaries to TestFlight API)
- Nomad (Ruby-based tool which lets you generate iOS binaries)
- TestFlight (a platform for automating beta testing specifically iOS apps, getting user feedback, and getting crash reports/device diagnostics)
- When developing a feature, branch off of master `(master) git checkout -b FEATURE-XYZ`
- Write the feature, pull in master, freely push to your feature branch and Jenkins will continue to run tests on your feature branch
- When a feature has been completed, use nomad to generate the IPA, commit the generated binaries depending if your Jenkins server is Mac OS X or not, submit a pull request to master, have it code reviewed.
- When the feature branch gets merged into master, we have a webhook that fires and Jenkins takes it off of master, runs tests, then ships the binaries to TestFlight via the TestFlight Jenkins Plugin
- This will automatically email all your beta users or specific groups of beta users (you can customize this list) to install that version that was just merged into master
- When you invite new beta users, don't forget to update your Mobile Provision Profile prior to merging into master by adding the new device identification numbers -- this will make it so that when they get emailed to install a new version of your app, they won't get a rejection error.
- The installation experience for beta users whether they are technical or not is absolutely amazing.
- If you ship to production 50+ times a day, your beta users may get a lot of email spam for installing specific builds.
- You won't need to commit the IPA to source code if your Jenkins box is Mac OS X (our Jenkins box is a Windows box since the platform runs CI on .NET code)
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Built into the very DNA of Borentra is the essence of moving fast, failing fast, and evolving quickly. As the BORG would say -- "we adapt". From an engineering perspective, our tooling isn't complex at all -- we do our best to keep things lean and fast -- just so that we can quickly respond to customer feedback. That said, we are ever so focused on providing the best customer experience in the social space. Furthermore, in order to achieve these goals, we always need the latest tools that will allow us to ship faster and respond to the amazing feedback from our users.
For source code hosting, we use GitHub and we've adopted the GitHub Flow which basically means master is always deployable and we use feature branches when working on bug fixes, enhancements, or user feedback. Once a feature is ready to be deployed to production we send a pull request and if the code is good to go (code review and tests pass) we merge it into master. Once the merge happens, we have Jenkins listening for a webhook payload which basically means master needs to be tested on our CI server (Jenkins) and deployed to production (Azure).
A very lean process lets us ship fast. One of the first things we put in place was continuous deployment to Azure without even having a database! With a deployment pipeline in place, we are able to rely on so much automation to get from zero code to a feature on production within a short time span. As mentioned above, we are fully deployed on Windows Azure. We currently use Blobs, CDN, Azure Websites, SQL Azure for our web stack and then we have a few sprinkles of NodeJS and Neo4j for lookup services (Quick Add widget) that encapsulate power tools, trending books, Halloween costumes, Xbox360 games, PS3 games, Magic The Gathering cards, and Pokemon cards.
The last 4 months have been hectic but putting an upfront engineering investment for a deployment pipeline has been absolutely vital. Without speed and efficiency, you can't respond to solving problems that your target users are having — as an early stage startup, our biggest advantage is that we can quickly evolve the product so that we can continue to focus on increasing user engagement, as well as, user growth.
Sign up for Borentra today!
Sunday, November 10, 2013
The level of holistic thought we put into Borentra might make people think we're insane. We work incredibly hard on building up the technology just right so that there are no barriers to borrowing, renting, trading things nearby. Incidentally, we also find that it is important that while we are small, we can take tons of risks with our marketing, sales, and engineering.
In this blogpost, I'd like to give a run down on how we're solely focused on growing on top of Facebook's 1.3+ billion monthly active users, as well as, the technical design side of how to increase Facebook CTR on desktop, mobile, and tablets. It is important to note that since Facebook's growth strategy for the next few years is focused on mobile that our strategies continue to evolve alongside.
Epic Growth On Mobile Across The Globe
In Facebook's Q3 results, they state that they currently have 1.3 billion monthly active users -- and they will continue to acquire users for next year's target of 2.2 billion.
Evolutions In Click-Through-Rates (CTR)
As Facebook continues to innovate and push businesses into being able to reach a wider audience, we constantly see the News Feed constantly go through quick evolutions. As such, the new sizes for photos on news feed articles are
- Square: 320px x 320px
- Vertical: 320px x 398px
- Horizontal: 398px x 320px
These dimensions are typically consistent across desktop, mobile, and tablets. With your news feed stories having images that are optimized for these sizes, you'll generally find that your CTRs will increase over time. Beautiful photos that really amplify the context of the story or your brand make it so that you can reach a wider audience. Furthermore, one would think that since photos are becoming the de-facto way of increasing CTRs, one would think, "why not just put text on my images?". Great question; however, we've recently seen that Facebook has implemented background processes to detect if you are uploading photos with too much text. It is really interesting to be a part of a living, breathing system of 1.3+ billion monthly active users -- marketing has to be on the ball with every single marketing strategy just to stay on top. I could be reading this blogpost a few months from now and say to myself, "Yeah, I remember how back in the day that worked really well".
As you can see, we're always thinking outside the box -- we believe that's part of being built on top of Facebook, which is a living-breathing-ever-changing eco-system -- this will require constant evolution in our marketing tactics. Stay tuned for more as we continue to blog about our experiences!
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Typically, when asking other marketers about their Facebook user acquisition tactics, they typically say a few things
- "Facebook isn't great because boosting your posts costs a ton of money with no return on shares/likes"
- "Twitter is a better place for user acquisition after you build up a huge following"
- "Building up your SEO on your blog improves your brand and helps with acquiring users as they will be able to find you easily"
As the clever cat I am, I decided to take on this challenge. Was it even possible to do efficient user acquisitions on Facebook? is it true that when some of your users say "I only use Google" or "I don't trust Facebook" that you should focus on supporting different OAuth providers?
After a bit of experimentation, we've found out the following:
- If your friends are using the product, they will be willing to signup via Facebook as they don't want to miss out on what their friends are sharing
- Facebook has over 1.3 billion monthly active users now, 2.2 billion supposedly by next year
- Facebook has real people, a low percentage of fake accounts/spam/robots as opposed to Twitter with a high percentage of fake accounts. Ultimately, people pay for your product, not automation scripts/robots/fake accounts
You can still achieve amazing growth and acquire users on Facebook.
What are we currently doing to achieve our growth?
In my last blogpost, we were using multi-vertical marketing over Facebook Open Groups and leveraging the Social Graph Queries "Open Groups about Snowboarding" with sprinkles of location-specific queries (Open Groups of People living in Germany about Snowboarding) to target countries or regions that have a high product adoption rate. These regions include Australia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and Philippines.
We're currently using the same tactic but changing our Social Graph Queries to include more verticals like Fashion, Video Games, Magic The Gathering, Pokemon, and more.
In addition to Facebook groups, we also use Facebook's new trending widget to find users talking about specific things like Snowboarding or Hiking. You can view this by going here: http://www.facebook.com/hashtag/Snowboarding. You'll end up seeing an endless stream of public posts where people are discussing the topic. We've managed to get a ton of traction this way too as it is context-specific and it's super easy to start conversations with people.
Just to tie it all up, we've been able to achieve 120%+ user growth month over month on Facebook alone for the past 3 months -- we intend to keep going up because the more we start using different features on Facebook like Closed Groups, Hashtagging, and Trending Status Updates, the more we find opportunities to reach out to potential users. Additionally, as we push towards 2,000+ users, we're finding that when people borrow a book or a tent, they most certainly refer 1-2 friends on to the platform. This may not seem like a lot over one night; however, over a year, this is massive growth.
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