Instagram “Feeds” Its Followers

Instagram has now made the feed accessible to the web. Check it out at http://www.instagram.com
You can see your normal Instragram feed along with comments much as in the mobile app.
Instagram on the big screen
The first thing that I notice is that the display on my laptop is much bigger than my phone. This is both good and bad. The flaws in the image are much more apparent, but you can more fully enjoy a truly epic shot. I think overall this is a net plus vs. the phone experience.
Keep Your Comments In-line
Similar to the mobile interface, the poster’s first comment and a few of the most recent comments are displayed below the image. This is a good alternative to forcing an expand to see comments or listing all comments in line. You get a flavor for the interaction, but can scroll on by without a challenge.
Like and Comment All You Want
The web interface makes adding a [heart] or comment to a photo about as easy as the mobile interface. You can click a nice-sized icon or double click the image to like it. A comment bar is always accessible below the current comments, so you can click there are start typing. Of course, for most of us, typing on the computer is much easier than entering comments from the phone, but adding emoji will be quite tricky.
Proper Profile Page
This one isn’t as obvious at first, since you will just be in a normal feed, but once you click on an Instagramers avatar, you will launch their profile page. This page is great. Much like the mobile version, it shows your avatar and your profile text, along with your number of photos, followers, and followings. Fortunately, the banner is more than just the text. Instragram creates a collage of your images that will slowly transition to different images in a grid pattern.
InfiniteEye Instragram Profile
This is a much better way to highlight an artist or user and I hope to see this in an IG update of the future for the mobile version.
How Will a WebFeed Impact the Community?
It seems that this is another example of Facebook effect on Instagram. I like that I can access from the web and it gives me a place to send people other than Tumblr or Flickr for my Instagram photos. Of course, on the other side, the community becomes just a little bit less cozy and intimate. I honestly miss the early days of Instagram and all of the community that was fostered by the mutual activity in their carefully confined garden. But, that hasn’t been the reality for awhile and certainly not since Facebook acquired the service. So, we might as well enjoy the convenience of having easier access to our feed and easier presence for our followers and new fans.
Check it out and let me know what you think. Will it change Instagram? Is it better than the mobile experience?
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Amazon to hand out some serious coin

Amazon announced their new virtual currency, to be called Amazon Coins earlier today. Coins can be used to purchase apps, games and in-app items for Kindle Fire. They also pledge to give away “tens of millions” worth of the coins starting in May when the new service/product launches. See Introducing Amazon Coins.

I think it is smart for Amazon to provide another way to ease the purchase of content in the Kindle Fire ecosystem. Also, I imagine that they will give Coins away with purchases of Kindles and probably with lots of other goods, too. It will be interesting to see where Amazon ultimately goes with this, but here are some of my initial ideas.

Fire Halo Effect
I could see a small kick-back on purchases whether you have a Kindle or not. Soon enough, you’re going to want to have a Kindle so that you can cash in all of your earned Coins. Could be a serious draw for the ecosystem. I know that I spend a fair amount annually with Amazon. If they give me a small percent of credit toward virtual goods on their platform, it could make that seem more attractive.

Coins Aren’t Real Money
I also believe that they will make it easy to buy Amazon Coins or give them as gifts or in-app incentives. Once real money is translated to Coins, Amazon wins! You will spend it at Amazon on virtual goods giving Amazon an easy 30% commission. Also, you’re likely to have some residual coins drawing you back to add or earn some more. Finally, it seems much easier to spend virtual credits than real dollars and cents.

Kindle Everywhere
Could it also be a way to create more loyalty to their virtual goods over time. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon Coins accepted for Kindle Books or AmazonMP3 to be read and played on other devices, like Android phones and tablets or Apple iDevices. Could be a great way to create lock-in for their virtual marketplace. This would build loyalty toward their marketplace and not just the Fire device portfolio. Amazon’s devices have been created to support their “Long Tail” marketplace, not the other way around.

Drop Some Coin for Anything
Another obvious extension of this would be to allow Coins as payment for all kinds of goods. Want something shipped to your house? Amazon Coins could be a great way to get me to choose Amazon for real-world goods also.

What Did Facebook Miss?
Before I close, it’s worth noting that Facebook failed in their attempt to create a virtual currency for their apps and games. They ultimately abandoned Facebook Credits and just returned to national currencies. This may partly explain why Amazon has defined Coins narrowly for now and will offer only in the USA market at launch.

I wish them luck and can’t wait to see how this develops. Any other ideas or thoughts? Comment below!

See also: http://www.theverge.com/2013/2/5/3955202/why-amazon-wants-its-own-currency

Whether on the Vine?

Vine in the News
Twitter’s new service, called Vine and found at vine.co (that’s “dot company”), is already making headlines today. It seems that they allowed an explicit video to be promoted into their “Editor’s Choice” list which is automatically placed into every users feed. Fortunately, it was stopped before I experienced that shocker.
I hope they figure out quick how to eliminate that possibility cause that’s a deal-breaker for me and my family. Especially since there doesn’t seem to be a great reason to invest time on Vine other than amusement (not that fun is bad).
The Vine blog introduced the service last week as follows:
Posts on Vine are about abbreviation — the shortened form of something larger. They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special.
I hope that some more “people, settings, ideas, and objects” emerge beyond the focus on quirky and humorous that is the current trend. Not that i don’t enjoy shoes walking themselves or cats disappearing, but I think the service deserves to be more than that and needs to be to hold my attention long-term.
Experience on the Vine
From an experience perspective, they did some things very well. I really like the way that new videos are created. Like Instagram for photos, Vine succeeds in making video-creation accessible to the masses. To create a video, you simply hit the camcorder icon and are presented with the viewfinder. The camera records while you are touching the viewfinder and pauses if you let go. This continues until you fill 6 seconds (or quit sooner). So, you can easily catch small chunks and form something in moments. Then you see a preview of your video looping as it will on the service. At that point you can post or discard it. The only complaint here is that if you choose not to post, it won’t be saved to your phone gallery either. I took a short clip of my daughter at lunch that she didn’t want me to post, amd it’s gone forever.
Also, I like that you can scroll through a feed and the videos just start playing. Scroll down and another one loads quickly and starts playing. Vine did 3 things that really make the browsing snappy:
  1. Short, looping video = loads quickly and keeps playing
  2. No play button = the videos play immediately, draws you in immediately
  3. Endless page feed = scroll down and find another video
These design decisions work together to make the browsing pretty effortless and tends to make you scroll down for ‘just one more’ clip.
I think Vine will find an audience. I hope that there are some artistic, content, and community values that develop over time.

Find me on Vine as @DrewWilken or check my twitter feed. It’ll probably continue to have some Vine’s crawling about.

My Apple Stock is Not For Sale!

Apple_logo_money

On a day like today, I’m forced to re-evaluate my overweight investment position in Apple Stock. Fortunately, I first purchased Apple shares in 2004 in the same month that I got my first iPod, the newly introduced iPod Mini. At the time, I marveled at the miracle of having so much of my music embedded in such a small player and the ease with which I could play back and enjoy the music. I have since owned many other Apple products, but my favorite Apple has been AAPL, the stock.

Why did I buy in the first place?
I have 3 primary investment philosophies that I use to initiate any real-money investments. Apple checked 2 of the boxes at the time. First, it was a product I know and love, along the lines of Peter Lynch’s “Invest in what you know” principle. Second, it fit one of my identified business trends, the Long Tail, by enabling access to ever more distribution of music and other media content.
It has payed off well for me over these 9 years. So, even with Apple down another 13% today at about $450 per share, I am up about 2000% from that initial purchase, so nothing to worry about from that sense. But, the question remains – is it time to exit the building? My answer is an emphatic “NO!” so let me explain some reasons quickly.
Does my reason for owning still apply?
My original thesis for investing still applies. Apple still makes great products that I am more than willing to pay for and enjoy owning and using daily. Also, the Long Tail of media consumption continues to develop, and I believe the Apple ecosystem is a strong contender in this space, for music, TV, movies, books, apps, and other content. The value of the ecosystem can’t be too easily dismissed here. I, and many others, have invested in content that is most useful when paired with Apple products, so I’m most likely to continue choosing Apple as long as there isn’t a more compelling reason to switch. In addition, I believe that a newer business trend and inflection point that I’m now investing toward also applies, and that is the mobilization of computing. Smartphones, tablets, and similar are changing the way that we compute and work with computers. Apple is also at the forefront of defining this next generation of computing.
Is the business still sound?
What about the fundamentals? Apple is debt-free and holding a pile of cash, now over $130 Billion (with a B!). The two core business categories continue to grow. iPhone sales grew by 29% YOY and iPad sales grew by about 48% YOY. That is tremendous growth into the mature markets of mobile phones and computers. Still, Apples global market share leaves much room for future unit growth. Also, that means Apple sold over 75 million iOS devices during that quarter, further establishing the ecosystem.
 
Is the price too high?
What about the Price? I think Apple is undervalued. If you can show me another company that has achieved revenue growth of 27% per week YOY and continues to make record profits in it’s industry and sells for an effective P/E under $8 (after removing cash), then I want to know that stock too. For another perspective check, if Apple ran a price multiple (PE) like Google, it would be priced at over $1000 per share. If it was priced at a multiple like Amazon, it would be priced at over $6000 per share. In all, I think that the current price is quite attractive for the earnings. If Apple is able to continue growing revenues going forward, it will have to move to a higher price since there is not much downside from here.
Why is the market less enthusiastic than me?
There are 2 main problems that I have to acknowledge. First, margins are being squeezed. Both iPhone and iPad yielded lower margins in this latest quarter’s results. That’s why income stayed relatively flat with such dramatic revenue growth. In iPhone line, this is mostly due to the product refresh. iPhone 5,being early in it’s lifecycle, is more expensive to make so the margins are somewhat lower. Over the lifecycle, Apple will see component costs go down and yields go up with relatively stable pricing, so the margins will improve. For iPad, they launched the iPad Mini recently and a greater portion of iPad sales are in the lower priced and lower margin iPad Mini. I see this as a worthwhile trade-off as it is important to remain the best provider of mobile computers and protect market share position. I believe that Apple will continue to dominate this space much as they did in iPods. That will require them to offer more than one model and price tier as they are already doing.
Second, there is an emotional question of whether Apple will continue to be the same company now that Steve Jobs is no longer at the helm. As an admirer of SJ, I understand this concern and share it in the long run. Disney and other great personality-driven brands have struggled with the loss of their charismatic force of a leader. My answer to this is that even if Apple does nothing truly innovative and just iterates on the products already existing, Apple will continue to be a major force in the computing and phone markets. That alone should continue to drive great value over the mid-term. I personally believe that Apple has a unique culture that could still birth new and exciting products that transform other industries. Maybe its the elusive Apple brand TV or maybe something else. We can only wait and see.
My Apple Stock is not for sale!
I’m willing to ride this one out. In the current economy, if I sold my Apple stock, I’m not sure what would be the better place to safeguard my retirement savings. Apple pays about 2.3% dividend with a chance for the dividend to increase over time, which is better than money market or T-Bill rates. I believe that Apple will continue to grow it’s business, so I expect to reap some benefit from that over time as the market realizes that Apple is still performing well and will continue to make piles of money for it’s shareholders.

Finally Found Evernote, My Cloud of Words

I’m a frequent victim of the ‘cult of the new’. I’m constantly on the lookout for new apps or services that will make my life better (or at least seem so). I just discovered the value of Evernote this past week. I have seen Evernote mentioned countless times, and have even checked into it a couple of times, but was never sure how I’d make real use of it.

My understanding of Evernote in my previous looks was more aligned with the productivity and organization aspects. I resisted adding another productivity ‘tool’ that would ‘help’ me organize and track better. I have found that those apps tend to create rules that don’t mesh with my dynamic way of getting it done. Also, I really don’t want the chore of filing, distraction of more reminders, or overhead of checking things off the list. I got it wrong.

Along with starting this blog, I realized that I needed a way to really track my research, reading, and writing. So, I set out to find the ‘Dropbox’ of words. I am a fan of Dropbox and have used it with my family for a couple of years. It’s a great way to keep all of the files on different computers in sync and make sure they are available wherever you need to access them, including phones and tablets. Dropbox was my first real glimpse into the value of cloud services.

I checked evernote again and realized that it seems to be the cloud of words, with some organization and media capabilities added on. So, I’ve signed on, connected Zite, my favorite news reader, and started dropping articles into my Ever-notebook. I’ve also started keeping my list of blog ideas, and used it to author my blog entries.

So far, it seems to be the cloud of words that I was seeking. I have had to work out how to get the full articles into the notebook when sending from Zite and it takes a few extra steps, but otherwise it has been quite easy to work, has a simple way to organize into notebooks, and the tagging and search will hopefully help me find things long from now when I just want to refer back to something I know I saved somewhere.

I would love to hear from others that are using Evernote and please offer some tips for where and how to make the best use of it. Also, I’m using the free version, so I’m curious if others can share why they have chosen to upgrade or not.

Word!

My Lowe’s Step Up Experience

I spent the better part of my weekend painting, so I’m currently hurting. All over. After countless times up and down the ladder across 2 days, my muscles have rebelled, filled with lactic acid, and done their best to encourage me to hire out the job next time.

Yet, I have a good customer service story to share from the weekend. Lowe’s exceeded my expectations in a couple of ways.

First, we came in on a Saturday at noon to buy paint. I know better, but that’s just the way it worked out this time. I was able to gather all other painting supplies and select a ladder while my wife waited for our turn to order paint.

It was also nice to have some help in the tools section while shopping for a ladder. I was looking at another step ladder at 10 feet to reach the 12 foot ceilings, but lamenting that I already have (and store) a six footer and an eight footer. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could get by with an extension ladder since I’ll need one of those outside eventually anyway? Paul, a friend and frequent help in Lowe’s spotted me and, after hearing why I was looking on with bewilderment, suggested a combo ladder that can work as a step ladder or straighten out and work as an extension ladder. It was heavier to move around, but turned out to be perfect for the job. Incidentally, when I pulled up at the house later, I spotted my next-door neighbor had also just purchased the same ladder. I didn’t ask him, but I bet he also ran into Paul at our local Lowe’s

Paul also reminded me to make sure to scan a MyLowe’s card so that Lowe’s would have record of our exact paint color in case we needed more of it. I told him that I had a card but forgot to register it and don’t have it with me, so there is no way of matching it up. Paul helped me get signed up for a new card and registered right in the store, so I was fully ready to scan and go when I got to the checkout later. MyLowe’s seems a great way to help me, earn my loyalty, and encourage return trips to Lowe’s instead of a competitor. At least it’s not just another “loyalty” program that requires you to join if you want to get the regular price.

After the supply gathering and some more waiting, we had to make the always-tough decision of which paint to purchase. I told the clerk that I wanted paint without the primer since I’m just covering light-colored walls anyway. She answered that both grades of Valspar paint offered have primer, but the premium “Signature” paint has high definition color or some-such-advantage. I told her that that we didn’t need signature and waited for our paint to be ready. Fortunately, the remainder of the trip was relatively quick and efficient and we were headed home soon after.

We didn’t quite finish the job over the weekend, but got really close. As I wound down last night and surveyed the completed parts of the living room, I was grateful to Lowe’s for the good quality paint with primer. It had been a bit thicker to work with and seemed to need frequent refills into the paint buckets, but at the end, it was great to see that it provided great coverage with a single coat. So, as I crawled into bed last night, with achy muscles and sore feet from ladder duty, I was glad to know that I would probably not have to do it all again just to get the walls looking passable.

20130121-180836.jpg

Lowe’s chose to offer only an effective and high-quality option and I thank them for it. I know that, in product development, we are tempted to cover all the price points, but sometimes it’s best to just offer good stuff and let the customer enjoy a premium and satisfying experience. It was a pleasant surprise to me. Next time I may have to find out what that super saturation molecular color or some-such-advantage was all about. After all, as a consumer, I don’t even always know what I really am wanting, so I appreciate it when a company has found it and helps me discover it.

Pardon the bad pun, but I really feel that Lowe’s got a step up on the competition this time. Nice!

Inauguration Day!

047DrewThis post is an inauguration. The Presidential Inauguration isn’t until tomorrow, and it’s a big deal. President Obama will officially start his second term as POTUSA. Today, I’m ceremoniously entering the blogosphere, the Technorati, and potentially the forum of verbose windbags. This inaugural address is a big deal for me. I’ll try to keep it meaningful, but I hope you will forgive occasional ramblings or musings that don’t move your thoughts to new heights. I always enjoy starting out. I remember my first friend on Facebook and posting my first picture to Instagram only moments after hearing about it. Creating my first interest page on Evemi was a rush for me. Inaugurations are fun!

It seems appropriate to acknowledge the why, what, and how of this thing that is to become my blog space. I’m starting now because I’ve been challenged by a friend, so that’s “why”. I appreciate that peer pressure can make us better humans. It just did that for me. So, how will writing into a blog make me better? I can’t be fully sure, but I hope to explore some ideas, expand my community of thought, and to push myself toward other firsts. I’ve listed some interests on my ABOUT page, and surely some of the “what” will relate to those topics.

I believe strongly that our minds are not fixed in capacity (recent science backs me up), and I aspire to continuously learn and grow, to “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” in the immortal words of Steve Jobs from his Stanford University commencement address of 2005. So, even though I know that I have limited time and resource to bring, I will let other pursuits languish and do my best to blog-about as I find myself with something to say or to at least question and explore.

Which brings me to my last point. I want to pioneer. It’s a part of me. I have had the pleasure of pioneering and innovating many things in my work in the the new mobile economy and I plan to continue. There are always opportunities before us to explore, analyze, study, find the gaps, connect the dots, or just do. I hope that this blog becomes a way for me to share some of my efforts toward redefining mobility and customer experience. I also hope that I will find others that will join me and explore alongside. That’s the “how”.

Let’s get started, shall we?

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