Wednesday, March 12, 2014

This week’s good reads: stories of life at the top and at the bottom.

The american dream can happen outside America. According to Dong Nguyen, the creator of Flappy Bird, the dream can also quickly turn into a nightmare.

Read the story on rolling stone.com.

How is life when you have a retail job? Joseph Williams, a veteran reporter who after losing his journalist gig took a job at a sporting goods retail store, tells his story on The Atlantic.

Read the story on theatlantic.com.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How to easily get test email inboxes

Do you ever need quick to activate and easy to terminate email inboxes?

Have a look at http://www.fakemailgenerator.com

I love this service. It couldn’t be easier or faster to get a new email address up and running and ready to receive email messages. As you land on their home page, you will already have an email inbox ready to be used. You can still configure the email address picking from a list of available domains.  No need to register. 

I found the service extremely convenient at least for two use cases:

1. Testing email messaging from applications we are building.

Most online services will send, sooner or later, some email to their user as part of the user experience. With Fakemailgenerator I can easily test whether an application is sending emails when it should and whether the message is the correct one.

2.  Testing how an email message will look like at the receiver’s side.

Sometimes you have to make sure the text is readable, looks good and the links you might have added work at the receiver’s side. You want to make a good impression. Fakemailgenerator can help you also with that. This is not fully error proof as formatting can depend on the email client used by the receiver, but at least it might help you spot common problems. 

Fakemailgenerator does not allow to send email messages from the inboxes they provide. If that is what you need, then this service is not for you. 

Here is a screenshot to give you an idea of how the service works.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

UX: Don’t ask if you already know the answer

Dear Tori.fi:

You know when I posted the item, and you know when I removed it, so why do you ask how long it took to sell it? Just have your computers make the math, the answer will probably be much more accurate as I do not exactly remember when I posted it anyway.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Typical example of an error message fail

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Long term change happens through small steps

When faced with a difficult issue or challenge, do something else. Focus entirely on solving a subproblem that you know you can successfully resolve.

I realized my problem is not just procrastination but focus. Ah ha! So for ten minutes, I’ll turn off my computer and cell phone and spend that short uninterrupted time knowing there will be no distractions. Once I’ve made this little ten-minute practice a daily habit, I’ll revisit the larger challenge of time management.

Taken from Derek Sivers’ notes  of the book “5 Elements of Effective Thinking

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Make your own mistakes

There are tons of articles out there to pick from and the business around helping new entrepreneurs continues to flourish with online and classroom courses, books, and conferences. 

It has been a few months now since I actively started working on a new project that hopefully will turn into a business. It has been a roller coaster ride so far and it hasn’t been easy. 

I am reading something every day about how one should go about building a new business, a habit I started with the hope I would move faster and avoid mistakes other have already learnt from.  This has helped but not as much as I though it would. At the end you have to try and make those mistakes by yourself to learn. Only when it burns, you can feel it. 

Today I run into this post by David Spinks. It was so well written that I thought I would repost it here. He did have a paragraph specifically about learning through your own doing:

11. The only way to truly learn something is to experience it yourself

Some of you might be nodding your head as you read this post and thinking how it’s cool to learn all this stuff.

The problem with these kinds of posts is you won’t truly understand what I’m sharing until you experience it yourself.

I can’t tell you how many times Nadia and I have talked and just laughed about how everyone told us the same thing but we made the mistake anyway.

They can tell you that startups are hard, fundraising sucks, validate first, hire slow, fire fast, follow your gut, ignore advice, etc… but we’ve failed to truly grasp any of those concepts until we went through them ourselves.

So if you take one thing away from this post it’s that you should just try.

Put yourself in uncomfortable positions.

Take risks.

If you don’t know shit about fundraising but you think you need to do it, then just start. You’ll learn quickly.

Want to start a company but can’t wrap your head around everything involved? Just take that first step and you’ll learn along the way.

Jealous of that person who seems to know everything about woodwork? The only difference between them and you is that they did it and you haven’t yet.

People don’t do things because they understand them. They understand them because they did them.

Now let me go back to trying something new…

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Do you care… or do you just want to sell?

Today I read this article by Tom Fishburne on customer acquisition and it made me think of something that happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

A customer support rep for Saunalahti (read “a salesman) called me. She started the call by telling they were conducting a special campaign to measure their customers’ satisfaction with a service called Elisa Vihde and gather feedback from customers. 

The  Vihde package includes fast cable/fiberoptics broadband and a cloud based PVR/movie rental service that is accessible via a dedicated box and PC/tablet/smartphones.

As I am as subscriber of the service, they wanted to know how satisfied I am with it. I was confused because I actually bought the “vihde service” not from Saunalahti, but from their parent company, Elisa.

I asked: “Do you want feedback about Vihde or the mobile phone/data service I get from Saunalahti?”. The question put the rep a bit off track, she answered “well….we are interested in any feedback you want to give”. Sounds great…

Well, she asked for it, so I went on telling what I like and dislike about both their Vihde and  phone service. I believe I spoke for about 10 minutes, that must have felt like death to the person on the other side of the phone. She did not speak once and gave me the impression she was doing something else like preparing for the next call or checking her Facebook feed.

When I ended my elaborated review of the services I bought from them, she started again to speak, this time to sell me a tablet. That was the confirmation that she did not really care of anything I had to say and had not probably listened to me at all as she could have understood I was not the target market for that offer.

I politely replied we already have two iPads at home and were surely not interested in an android tablet. I also finished the call saying I hoped she still took notes of the feedback I gave and would pass it on to product development teams. I bet she didn’t. I bet she didn’t care. She only wanted to sell.

Photo by Giulia Forsythe /flickr

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 Thursday, September 26, 2013

How soon is “as soon as possible”?

I made a call to Suomen Autohuolto a couple of days ago to book service for my car. Apparently no one was able to take my call and a pre-recorded message told they had saved my phone number and someone would call me back.

I was pleasantly surprised as typically in these situations one just has to queue for 20-30 minutes or is just told to call back later.

Right after my call ended, I got an SMS from Suomen Autohuolto basically repeating the same message. They would call me back as soon as possible.

Now I was even more positively surprised. It felt like they really know how to manage customer relationships and especially serve new customers. I guess I was wrong. Two days have passed since and they still have not called me back. I wonder what “as soon as possible” can mean to them. I thought they would call me within the next 24 hours. This type of behavior really breaks all the good work they have done with the calls management system. Setting wrong expectations or even breaking promised you make to your customers will only contribute to losing customers who stop trusting what you tell them.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Incentives to fail. Why Finland is upset about Elop’s “golden handshake”.

In 2011, Nokia announced to the world a significant series of “strategy” changes, that ended up contributing to the transformation of the company that we all witnessed since then. 

The market for mobile devices had started to shift dramatically since 2007 and it was significantly impacting what the future of the company would have turned out to be. That despite Nokia board and its top management had done anything or nothing about it.

Steven Elop announced the change with the nowadays infamous “burning platform” memo. The strategy actually remained pretty similar to what it used to be (Maintain a relevant position in the market for smart devices, Connect the next billion), but the way to achieve it changed as the technology (and possibly the ways of working) at Nokia changed.

The key strategic goal of “winning in smart devices” was updated with “together with Microsoft” and the goal of building the third ecosystem was also more clearly stated.  

Nokia set out to execute, and the first outcomes were the new Lumia devices launched with Windows Phone 7. Meanwhile Nokia market share in smartphones continued to, in fact accelerated its collapse. 

There was hope (and, as it seems, expectations to) that Windows Phone market share would pick up sufficiently quickly for Nokia’s phone business to survive.  Not only with the work of Nokia and Microsoft, but also with that of other mobile device manufacturers.

”Nokian investoinnit ovat perustuneet ajatukseen, että luomme ekosysteemin, jossa on monta laitevalmistajaa. Nyt  pitkälti yli 80 prosenttia Windows Phone -ekosysteemistä on Nokian hallussa ja meidän pitäisi investoida yksin.

Risto Siilasmaa - Talouselämä

Someone actually thought that maybe Samsung and other players, seeing the approaching death of the long time market leader Nokia (and possibly MSFT), would have stepped in and helped them build the “third ecosystem” that they badly needed to survive.

Seriously, what were they smoking? Nokia and MSFT were pretty much alone with this, at least from a technology and device vendor point of view. It was clear that Nokia would have been the major, and in practice the only, device manufacturer for the Windows Phone ecosystem.

Execution went on for a couple of years and the results have been pretty limited. Window Phone ecosystem continues to have a tiny role in the smartphone market. Gartner reported a 3.3% market share for Windows Phone at the end of Q2/2013. Hopefully for Microsoft, it will get better in the future.

When looking at this from the point of view of Nokia’s achievements, failure is what comes to mind first. Failure to achieve what were set as targets in 2001 caused, among other things, the final sale of Nokia Devices and Mobile phones units to Microsoft. Failure is something that is almost always in the realm of possible outcomes and thus it must be accepted. Surely, there has been a ton of work behind this failure, and the people who tried hard must be respected for their hard work. 

However, when failure is the final result, the payouts and the incentives that go with it should probably be adjusted to the outcome. If one has worked hard, and yet failed, one should still be rewarded for taking the risk and trying, but not at the same level as one who succeeded. This is because success is typically the ultimate goal, and it does not only come out of luck.

It is because of this reason that the Finnish media is going crazy about the incentives payout that Elop will get leaving Nokia. He put together a new strategy, tried to achieve the goals, but failed. And yet he will get the same maximum payout as if he had stayed at Nokia and succeeded.

That is a very weird way for Nokia board to incentivize the CEO. It almost appears to be like if they had created for him the incentives to fail.

Disclaimer: I was employed by Nokia until April 2013. I witnessed this story from the inside and more recently from the outside of the company while living in Finland.