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Friday, September 19, 2014

Tim Cook on privacy

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realise that when an online service is free, you're not the customer. You're the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn't come at the expense of your privacy.
Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don't build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don't "monetize" the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don't read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.
Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn't come easy. That's why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.

This is part of Apple's Tim Cook's open letter to customers.

Today, digital privacy comes at a price. It is constantly a trade-off to decide whether to pay for a service with money or with attention to ads and interruptions that come in your way of using the service.

And a lot of people are still comfortable paying with their attention to ads and promotions targeted at them based on their behaviour that Apple doesn't keep track of.

Apple on one hand, and Google and Facebook on the other, are selling to different market segments. Tim Cook appears to be trying to poach some customers from the other segment, and will succeed as the disposable incomes of customers grows making the trade-off decision easier.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Meaning and Happiness

To increase happiness, do something fun. To increase meaning, do something challenging.

I have been happy plenty of times in my life. I'm not talking about happy as an extended state of mind, but as a burst of unhindered emotion with no guilt or regret. It almost always happens when I play football or when I watch Chelsea win a game. It is essential. But experiencing it too often will make it boring. The law of diminishing marginal utility sets in and progressively drives away the happy feeling.

If at that point, I decide to take up a challenging activity like writing a blog post or preparing for a customer pitch or going for a long run, I rarely have the motivation to do justice to the task at hand. I end up doing just about enough to tick off a checklist as opposed to really take the challenge (that the task is) head on and come out successful and be able to reflect back upon a job well done.

While I agree with what Chris says, the context in which we do something fun or something challenging makes a good deal of difference in increasing happiness or meaning.

When I plan my week, I intersperse things that are challenging and fun in an attempt to increase both. When most of the items on my plan fall into neither category, I know I'm in trouble and need an overhaul in what I'm doing.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Work and Pleasure

My definition of success is if you can't distinguish between work and pleasure.
- James Manos, the creator of Dexter

I hear people talking about the sacrifices one has to make to succeed in achieving their dreams. 

If you are thinking of something as a sacrifice, you are differentiating what is work and what is pleasure. And you are identifying things that fall in the 'pleasure' category that can be given up so that more can be accommodated  in the 'work' category. 

The moment you start thinking this way, you set out goals (dreams?) to achieve and try to minimize the time spent doing 'work' that is needed to get to the goal, and maximize the time spent doing 'pleasure', 

To me, this is a poor motivator. Every time I have to make a trade off decision on whether to pick an activity in the 'work' column or one in the 'pleasure' column takes away some of the joy in doing that activity as a bit of guilt/regret creeps in of not choosing the other.

When I read what James Manos had to say about success, I felt that is how I have been living my life for the past few years. 

When there is no distinction between work and pleasure, when everything you do is part of a routine that you look forward to, that is when there is the highest level of motivation for every activity irrespective of which column it falls in and that is when there is negligible guilt or regret of not doing something else.

When you are highly motivated, nothing will prevent you from claiming success.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Purple Cow

Cheap is a lazy way out of battle for the Purple Cow. Cheap is the last refuge of a product developer or marketer who is out of great ideas.
- Seth Godin 

Seth's idea of Purple Cow is a famous one. And a simple one as well. If you are in the business of being a cow, you had better be purple. You had better stand out. You had better be remarkable. Being black and safe is the riskiest thing to do, as you will never get noticed among all the other black cows.

It is easy to think that you can follow a successful product and offer it at a cheaper price and beat the successful product in the market. It is easy to convince others to join you in this pursuit. After all, there already exists a product. All you need to do is copy it and ensure your costs are lower than the price it is being sold at.

This will only work if you are Walmart or Amazon and have a cost advantage over your competitors. 

You can compete on price if you have the advantage of scale. You can have the advantage of scale if you build a product for the mass ensuring a majority of the audience is pleased with your product. This is only possible if your product is the first one in the segment. Unfortunately, I can think of no such segment that you can enter today (If I did, I'd be building that product!).

This leaves the only alternative of building something remarkable. Something whose goal is not to please everyone. But to be so very good at a certain thing, that it can draw a certain segment of people away from the mass product and to yours. Examples are a plenty, right from Uber to WhatsApp to Airbnb.

It is the age of the Purple Cow.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Questions to ask when pondering a big life choice

What's the worst thing that can happen?

What's the best thing that can happen?

How do I feel about this choice?

What doors will close if I pursue this choice?

Why am I hesitant or indecisive in making this choice?

If I don't make this choice, will I always regret it?

Will I be proud of this 10 years from now?

This post was originally authored by Chris Guillebeau.
Thanks to both Chris and my mentor for making me think through these today.