Localized Points, Localized Incentives

I was reading an article on Forbes about a new mobile application called Lovefre.sh that lets you earn points when you check in. This has been done before. But what hasn’t been done before is that the points you earn are location sensitive. The points can be spent on incentives that businesses in that area decide to create. It made me think a lot further about this concept. You earn incentives and discounts for an entire but local area based on the amount of checkins to that area you have made. It forces you to become a regular in small areas and centralize your business.

I see quite a few advantages to this model:

  • The environment will have less pollution as people are encouraged to shop locally, or in specific zones that they have designated for themselves, reducing the amount of driving around necessary. Normally they might have visited stores all over the place, requiring a significant amount of driving in different directions.
  • People will shop at stores they might not have considered previously because they have points to cash in on incentives only available in a particular area. Hard earned points shouldn’t be wasted, so people will find ways to use them.
  • As people concentrate in more localized ways they might actually meet each other and create new friendships and connections since the chances that they work/live in the area are increased.

It’s a fascinating concept that is bound to be copied. I’m excited to try it out. I have recently added checkin functionality to my museum iPhone app called Mused, but I’m not certain it would benefit from this kind of localized point system. What do you think?

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You too can get Google+ Verified!

If you’ve been watching my posts on Google+, you’ll know that I’m quite a fan. I like it so much that I’ve been neglecting Facebook and Twitter quite a bit. It may be because Google+ essentially merges the most common features of the two networks, but it also has a fresh new flair. Google is paying attention to its users, and it really shows.

But enough about that. I have a much more important topic to talk about — celebrities — more importantly celebrities on Google+! That’s right. Lots of celebrities are flocking to Google+, but we have no idea if the correct celebrity is there. Twitter solved this by confirming users who pay them large sums of cash for a Twitter Verified account. That way when you’re talking to @mchammer, you can know it’s really him.

But wait, this doesn’t exist for Google yet… Until now that is! Introducing Google Verified.

See, I’m verified and you know it’s really me 😉

Make your own with this Photoshop template by inserting your picture in the bottom layer and positioning your photo to the right. Then upload it as your Google+ Profile photo, and everyone will know that you are the real you!

Download Photoshop Template (.psd)

Come join the conversation and share your photo and profile at this Google+ post.

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Android winning the numbers game, but losing on profitability for developers

“Mobile app developers don’t necessarily have to choose between these platforms, and mostly aren’t.” via Venture Beat

This article is not grounded in reality. Most apps out there are simply not available on both platforms, so this is quite a sham.

“However, if you had to prioritize your focus, Android in the long run is the right place to be. Apple’s distribution platform is much better currently, but the numbers game is more important.”

Wait, so let me get this straight. First most developers aren’t choosing, and now only choose Android. Sorry, does not compute. Heavy slant towards Android here.

Android zealots are happy to announce that they’re going to win the numbers game. But the numbers game is only important when the hordes of users on the platform are spending money, and most users on Android don’t seem to currently. Android users are more frugal in general, and 57% of the apps are free.

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Colorized and themed Terminal

Over the last few years, I’ve been using Terminal that comes with OS X. Years ago, I had used iTerm because it offered tabbed windows so I could have multiple shells open in a single physical window. It also offered split windows. The Terminal included with Snow Leopard (10.6) basically caught up to this.

The only thing missing was a nice theme and some color customization, so that it could feel more like my TextMate customization. To do this, I needed to install SIMBL, install a special SIMBL plugin, install a new theme for Terminal, and then customize my bash settings.

Here’s what it now looks like:

A screenshot of my customized Terminal for OS X

If you’re on Snow Leopard, here’s how you can set this up:

  1. Install SIMBL 0.9.7a.
  2. Install the 64-bit version of TerminalColors plugin for SIMBL.
  3. Install the IR Black theme for Terminal.
  4. Add the following to your .bash_profile
export TERM="xterm-color"
alias ls="ls -G"
export PS1="\e[1;30m\][\e[\e[1;30m\]\e[1;33m\] \[email protected]\H \[\e[1;32m\]\w\[\e[0m\] \e[1;30m\]]\n[\[ \e[1;31m\]\T\[\e[0m\]\e[1;30m\] ] > \e[37m\]"

And that’s it!

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No More Unlimited

I suppose it always felt a little weird that companies offered “unlimited” plans, but then bitched and moaned when users used more than people who have much more simple needs. Unlimited became this heavily marketed feature, that at first gave some companies a competitive advantage. Eventually, users began to expect this, or they’d leave the service provided by the unlimited-less company and find one that did. This forced almost all of the companies to provide unlimited.

But sneakily, unlimited was rarely ever unlimited. Reading the Terms and Conditions (that confusing T&C document that no one ever read, because it wasn’t written for people, it was written by lawyers for lawyers) would tell you that there was a limit, and that unlimited was not truly unlimited. Some clauses stated a particular bandwidth limit, minute count, or some other quantity that should never be passed. Others would simply mention that it was at their discretion that they would punish abusers.

Why all this marketing that they’re offering unlimited when they really weren’t? And how come they’re never punished? My theory is that elusive wording isn’t illegal, and they’re delivering on what they have stated. They’re banking on the fact that we don’t read the Terms and Conditions and the contracts that we’re given, and they’re getting away with it.

For example, Comcast advertises that their cable internet (and now their Xfinity product) is completely unlimited, at a certain speed for a certain price. Their unlimited doesn’t mean unlimited bytes transfered per month. It means unlimited bytes transfered per second up to the speed that you pay for, but not the aggregated count of what was transfered throughout the month. Confused yet? I still am. They’re somehow able to say “you can transfer up to speeds of X, but just don’t transfer more than Y per month” and call that unlimited. And they’re quick to state that they can’t always provide the “speeds of X” all the time, since it depends on usage patterns of other customers. That’s unlimited how, again?

Now some of these companies are retreating and removing their unlimited plans altogether. AT&T recently removed their 3G unlimited plan, and replaced it with a plan with a 2 gigabyte a month plan, with steep penalties for going over that limit. Hey, at least they’re now telling us very clearly what that limit is… kudos for that. But if they never really offered a truly unlimited plan before, then how can they just get away with removing it now. Has anything really changed? I propose that they can now justify charging users more since they’re clearly defining the plans up front, since users have to police themselves now.

Another bothering element in this world of unlimited-less companies are the consumers who rarely made use of their unlimited, shouting for joy that they’re no longer subsidizing data hogs who took advantage of the product that was advertised to them. They actually believe that the savings will be passed on to them. Why didn’t these people use the pre-existing tiered services that did exist before? There were non-unlimited plans available for a lot of services. But, it’s convenient for them to blast “data hogs” all over Internet forums now. Personally, I never went above my AT&T 3G limits (and I have 4 3G plans on 3 wireless lines, and 1 laptop card), and looking back, I’m well under 2GB almost always. But, I’m still offended that people are condemning others that took advantage of the unlimited. It’s not their fault. It’s the company’s fault for advertising unlimited in the first place.

You can’t just say “we have an unlimited product, but we’ll penalize you and shame you and ban you if you use more.” It’s wrong. But they did say it.

Now Comcast on the other hand, I went over my monthly soft-limit because I’m a heavy NetFlix Instant user. As a movie buff, I watch 3+ movies a day, and many of them are in HD. My family also uses it to watch many episodes of television series, and childrens movies for our son. Comcast had no problem categorizing me as a data hog, and then banning us for 12 months. This comes after upgrading to their faster service, which, doesn’t have any increased monthly limit. So what happens is you simply blow through your limit much faster. And I got punished for upgrading to a faster service, that was advertised as unlimited.

In the end, we were so fumed that we cancelled our television service with them as well (which had all the premium channels, etc). The left hand doesn’t really talk to the right hand there, so they don’t really care. But it left them with one customer who will never come back to be their customer.

We’re seeing an increasing demise of the use of unlimited. On the upside, we’re now more aware of what we’re using and what the limits are. But the downside is that we’re continuing to slip behind a lot of other countries who are more innovative in these areas, which leads to us being behind in a lot of other things.

Unlimited may now be a thing of the past, but it never truly existed.

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Forced Focus = More Productivity

We are overwhelmed with information every day: texts, emails, phone calls, voicemails, instant messages, emails, handwritten notes left by family and colleagues, emails, RSS content, tweets, oh and did I mention emails? It doesn’t help that I’m naturally a bit attracted to multitasking as well. This means I need to force myself to focus sometimes, otherwise, nothing will get done!

And I don’t mean nothing actually gets done. Emails are read, thought about, and responded to. Instant messages received turn into conversations. Phone calls get answered (sometimes), and voicemails listened to. Don’t forget about all that promotion and interaction on twitter, IRC, or message systems on the project management web tool. Things are getting done. It’s just that the wrong things are getting done.

Sometimes I need to focus. I need to exit the email client, turn off the twitter client, and mark myself away on IM. And really, I need to exit the IM client too, because otherwise I’m tempted to respond to messages I receive even when I’m marked away. Having this self discipline is really hard, because you feel like you’re missing important bits of communication as the world passes you by with their tweets and blog posts about the latest happenings. It is actually an illusion that all the important chatter that everyone is buzzing about is important and you need to see right now! In most cases, there is nothing you really need to see (other than perhaps a few important emails) that can’t wait 8 hours.

I force myself to have some focus time. I quit the programs I don’t need open (and that includes a text document for some other project, or a web browser filled with open tabs). I think to myself, “Do I really need this open right now for the task at hand?” I certainly need to reopen these applications later, which incurs some wasted time, but it often nets me more time gained since I’m reducing the distractions dramatically. You can get some real work done when you reduce those distractions, or eliminate them entirely.

And that’s something I absolutely enjoy about using the Apple iPad. Since it doesn’t have any multitasking (without jailbreaking), you can only have one application up at a time. It forces you to think about what you’re currently working on, and what you’re going to work on next. Some people think this is a crutch, but I think it’s worthy of being called a feature. When I first started using the iPad, I would switch between applications a lot, because I was programmed to think like the desktop model. But once I let go of that, and began to start focusing, I saw my productivity shoot through the roof.

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WordPress 3.0

WordPress 3.0 dropped. And it’s a worthy upgrade. I’m particularly happy about the WordPress MU integration (MU is Multi-User). No longer do WordPress MU users have to wait until WordPress updates are ported. It’s nice to finally have updates more frequently, and over the next few months more compatibility. A lot of WordPress plugins never worked well under MU. Now that this functionality is mainlined, plugin developers will be able to accomodate for this much more easily.

If you haven’t already, go download WordPress 3.0.

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