I didn’t know that I died when I was 30

How many people in this world achieved amazing results within the first 3 decades of their lives? Alexander the Great by the age of thirty, had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world. Jesus Christ died around 30. Albert Einstein conceived in his mind his most important theories, before 30. Nikola Tesla also achieved his most important inventions during 3 decades, and many others. 30 years is a life, an entire life. No more than 200 years ago, life expectancy was around 40. That means one life! Nowadays life expectancy in the industrialized world is 2 or 3 times that, which means, at least two lives in one!

Culture and society understands life as a progressive path with goals down the road to achieve. Birth, Education, Job, Family, Old Age and Death. All this on a “life spam”, but it doesn’t specify time. So what about if we extend our lives up to 120 years? That means that we again start to work before 25, and keep working until we retire, let’s say 90… Does it make any sense? So, let’s face it. We humans can achieve whatever we want, in the first 30 years of our live. We can change the world in just 3 decades!

So, I propose to change our vision to a new way to understand life and goals. I’m 36 at the moment I’m writing this. If I assume my symbolic death when I was 30, it means that now I’m 6 years old. But I don’t need to go to elementary school and I don’t have to deal with all the obstacles of my lack of experience as a 6 year old child. I want to imagine, that I woke up and now I’m 6 years old but I have all the knowledge that I’ve accumulated in my first 30 years of life.
I already spent one life, whatever I did it’s done, I can’t change it. But, I can learn from that life experience for my new life that’s started 6 years ago and I just didn’t know. So instead of start thinking in terms of “I’m too old now”, “I lost the train and the opportunity to do this or that…”, “I can’t start a new career now”… I will think in terms of “I’m 6 years old and I know a lot!!, I still have one more life left in this video game”.

So that’s it, I’m still in the middle of the road of my life, that means I have just made the 50% of it. We can start over again, planning again, studying again, doing again whatever we want and work for this second chance we have.

If you are in your 30s think about this: you just started your clock again and you maybe didn’t realize about it. If you are in your 40s, you are just about 10 years old! You still have a life ahead so don’t loose the illusion. If you are far away from that, remember that at 60, you will die again, and a third chance is given to you, so don’t waste it, because that’s the last one, at least based on our current medical advances :)

This is my exercise for this 2012. Realize that I died at 30, I’m 6 years old, and my life started again. Let’s take a break, and rethink about everything. I have the opportunity to make it again, better and more interesting than before. Go ahead and do the same. Think about what you have done until now and if you are not satisfied with it, now it’s the moment to start anew!

Good luck!

Making your app free or paid

Before making your app free-ad based or paid, or both, it’s better to spend some time thinking about how people will use your app.

Ads need a network connection and need to be visible. Your app has to be used under this two circumstances. So, the perfect app for ads is an app that needs to connect to Internet and that the user spends a lot of time using it. Apple has two common business models for ads: “Cost Per Mille” (CPM) which basically counts impressions, that means views. You get money just because the user views the advertisement. The other model is “Cost Per Click” (CPC). You get paid only when the user interacts with the iAd banner (the ad). So, more time using the app, more time seeing the ads or eventually more possibilities to interact with the ads = more money.
For example, news, blogs, feeds, entertainment and social networking are perfect apps for ads. The user will be connected to Internet, and will spend time everyday using the app. For Games, it depends. If it’s a simple game, that people use in dead times, you are sure that they will use it several times per day. In this case, ads are convenient. For more complex and time consuming games, people usually play them when they have time. This doesn’t happen quite often. So, making a more advanced game and the revenue from the ads, maybe is not worth the effort. There is a difference between free time and dead time. I’ll explain it later.

There are applications that the user wants to have but don’t use them everyday or many times per day, like reference, productivity and tools. For this type of applications, following the paid pattern is better. For example take Photographers Rights. If you are a photographer, you may want to have this app because you never know when you will need to know your rights in another country or in your own country as a photographer. For this reason, Photographers Rights App is a good reference, and a must have for a pro photographer. However, it will be used on specific situations. That’s why making it free with ads is not the business model for an app like this. It follows the paid app pattern.

It’s important to understand the concept of free-time and dead-time. When you are in the train, waiting for an appointment, lunch time, quick break in your job, waiting in the airport and so forth. Those moments are forced inactivity moments. You have to stay there, doing nothing more than just wait. Instead of wasting our life as plants doing the photosynthesis with artificial light, people always try to do something during those short periods of time. That’s dead-time. You didn’t plan for it, and it’s imposed to you by the circumstances. You usually don’t know how much time will take a dead-time period. That’s why those dead-time periods are perfect for a time-free app (I’ll talk later about time-free-apps and time-fixed-apps). Dead times are perfect for ad based apps. People have countless dead time periods during the day and that’s the moment they will look for some app to spend that time with. For example, reading a blog, playing a simple game, using social network or checking some rss. It’s OK to interrupt these activities at any moment. You really don’t know when the dead time is going to end, so you also don’t know if you will have full concentration during that dead time. Perfect to put ads on them.

Free time is different. You know when you have free time and you usually know how much free time you have. During free time, people will, eventually, decide to use a more immersive app. In this case I think that ads based apps, like reading news, blogs, rss, social media, multimedia entertainment, are more profitable. The user can use them in dead and free time as well, because the user can spend more than one hour reading news or just 5 minutes. On the other hand, games played when you have more time ahead, usually are more immersive, complex and content rich. In that case, maybe it’s better to go for a paid model. People willing to spend time playing games, usually spend money on games. Ads, in these cases, are a distraction that nobody want to see. Remember people hate ads! So, usually an ad is accepted on something they don’t give a huge value, like a time-dead app.

All this is related with other two concepts: time-free-apps and time-fixed-apps.
Time-free-apps are those that you can interrupt at any moment because the task never ends. For example, reading the news. You can read them later as the process of reading news “never ends”. Everyday you have more news to read. Watching a movie also is a time-free activity, you can interrupt and continue it at any moment. But time-fixed-apps are related with activities that you cannot interrupt without loosing something. For example, even if every app can be stopped at any time, nobody likes to stop a game in a very important moment. If you are a game player, how many times did it happen to arrive to the destination station, and get out of the train and keep playing? Players also hate to receive a call in the most exciting-adrenaline-consuming moment! Think also about edition apps, from writing or image editing, which, in reality, are time-fixed apps. You start writing and at a certain point the concentration flow is full. If you interrupt the process in that very moment, it’s hard to come back as fresh as you were before. That’s why, usually time-fixed apps are used during free-time and time-free apps are used during dead-times.

Of course it depends on everybody. There are people able to dictate several letters at the same time, like Napoleon. But those cases are exceptions. Usually people loose concentration very easily.

To conclude:

During free time, people tend to use time-fixed apps and not always an ads based model makes sense. Reading news, rss, blogs, social media and entertainment are the best for ads because those apps can be used during dead times and during free time.

During dead-times, people tend to use time-free apps, that they can interrupt at any time and continue later on. Furthermore, simple apps that are just less boring than waiting staring at a wall, go under this category. These apps are good for ads, because people have countless dead-time moments.

I didn’t want to use the the terms of synchronous apps and asynchronous apps, for time-fixed and time-free apps. Mainly because all apps in a phone are asynchronous. The user can always interrupt them and come back to the same point later on. The synchrony is just psychological, not related with the apps.

This has nothing to do with LITE apps. These apps have a different approach. When to use ads on a LITE app or create a LITE and a Full app is a topic for another post :-)

Getting things well done!

After I read the news about Steve Jobs stepping back as Apple’s CEO, I was going back in time, digging in my memories and experiences, since the first day I started working in an IT company. I came up with a really simple conclusion that needs some explanation. It’s so simple that just saying it, has no effect. But it’s really powerful.

I have a long experience working with workaholics and micromanagers. I’m wrong if I put these two profiles together. A micromanager can be a workaholic but not all workaholics are micromanagers. In fact many of them are not managers at all.
I know how these profiles behave, how they think. I know how to predict many of their actions, in fact they are very predictable. I know how bad they can be for a company, how much they can damage a working environment. Sometimes they can also be useful, but it’s much better if they never have total power and are managed by somebody else that knows exactly what kind of people they’re dealing with. They are not bad or good people, in fact their behavior roots are very complex.

After reading many articles about Steve Jobs, his personality, about glimpses of his life and stories from people that know him; there was something that wasn’t clear to me. He is usually described as a workaholic and a micromanager. Many people now is saying that this, hypothetical “qualities”, are good for a CEO and maybe many people will try to get inspired by those descriptions. Well, I don’t know him, but thinking about what he did and what Apple was doing under his control, makes me think completely different.

I read a story (worth reading) today in Google+, from Vic Gundotra that inspired me to write this post. He talks about Steve Jobs calling him by phone, on a Sunday morning, talking about the yellow gradient of the second O in the Google icon on the iPhone. How do you interpret that? Obviously that Steve is a workaholic and a micromanager. But wait a minute. I’m pretty sure he was right about the yellow gradient of that icon. Nobody else would have changed it, or even care about it. So, who had to do it then? Someone that really cares about doing things well: Steve Jobs.

So let’s think about this from a different approach. Think about all the things you think are really well done, from a refrigerator, a car, a phone, whatever, and put them in one set. Then do the opposite, you will find that it’s much easier to find things that have been just done but not well done. You can have a Windows PC and it can help you to perform common operations on a computer, but if you compare it with a Mac, you will notice the difference. Operations are the same, the purpose is the same but almost every corner in the the Apple machine is well designed or at least, they really tried to do it well, and that’s important.

So, do you think that Steve Jobs behavior can just be classified as a workaholic and a micromanager? If you ever worked with that kind of people, do you think that they can achieve, what Steve did? To be disruptive in technology you need to be able to see the big picture, to make an abstraction of the tiny world that surrounds everyone of us and think differently. Somebody that gets trapped in a compulsive behavior denotes his/her incapacity to perform such abstraction from their environment. So, do you still think that the key is being, apparently, a workaholic and a micromanager? I don’t think so. There is much more behind that. If we look at the root problem, it’s easy to realize that sooner or later somebody has to do things well to achieve success. What if somebody else noticed that the yellow gradient was wrong and was willing to change it? Do you think that Steve would have been there, spending his time taking care even of that tiny detail if everybody took care of details willing to get things well done? I don’t know, maybe, but probably not.

I remember a painful time with a micromanager I worked with years ago. I like to take care about details and get things well done without having a bad impact on production. I didn’t even know that I wanted to do things well, it was just the way I felt comfortable. He was the opposite, he micromanaged me in every possible way, telling me even how to code stuff that he had no idea about. He forced me to take wrong paths because usually a micromanager is a paranoid that thinks that only him is the right guy to do the job. At the end, his interventions were useless and made me waste a lot of time that I could spend improving my work. Later he realized I was right. We still had time to fix it but, as the project worked, his mentality followed with the “who cares, as far as it works!!” mentality.
This mentality is the root of every thing that gets done, but that never will get well done!
This is the big difference. You can improve that icon, setting the right yellow to the second O. It’s not a waste of time. Tiny details make a big difference when they merge in the final product.

If you lead, if you are responsible for a project and you care to get things well done, if you care about details, about the big picture and realize that it’s made by all those tiny insignificant parts, if you just care! If you love to see the job done perfectly and beautifully, but you are alone… what will you become if nobody else cares and think that you are just an obsessive person? You become like Steve Jobs, and, in that case, you have to carry all the weight and do it by yourself.

To conclude: it’s hard for me to believe that he is a real, by nature micromanager. Maybe he is a workaholic and a forced micromanager. Just taking a look to Apple products and how they are always ahead of time from everybody else, gives a clue of what is the behavioral pattern that he wanted to be embedded in the company.

This is the inspiration I want to take from all this. I will always try to keep “getting things well done”. I didn’t really realize about this subtle-different-simple concept before, until now. I loved to see things getting closer to perfection and never reaching it, but I didn’t realize that the main stream just don’t care as far as they are not the consumers.

I’ll keep this in mind for all my applications. Even if it’s a free app, even if it’s just a prototype, even if the app produces no profit at all, adding a little constant effort and just having the will to take care of the whole thing, keeping in mind that a perfect whole is made by it’s tiny perfect parts, is the most important quality to get things well done.

Why did I choose Flickr?

Flickr hosts all my photography work and I want to explain why did I choose Flickr and why do I recommend it to professional and amateur photographers[…]

Flickr Logo

Flickr is an image and video hosting website and actually is one of the best and most visited sites for this purpose. By the way, many photographers asked me sometimes why I chose Flickr. The main complains from non Flickr users that I heard were:

  1. The interface is ugly
  2. It’s hard to browse
  3. It’s not intuitive
  4. I cannot create my own template
  5. The design does not match my own style

Well I don’t agree with those assumptions, so instead to reply individually, let’s do it in this post.

Flickr is more than an online album or a hosting website for image and video. Flickr is the online Swiss knife for a photographer. It’s a tool that has the flexibility to adapt and help to promote and make a great diffusion of our photography work.

The interface is ugly? Well, what is ugly? It’s a personal and subjective impression. Maybe for some people it is ugly and for others it doesn’t. What about Google for example. Do you think that Google design is elaborate? It has the same design as 10 years ago! But it’s the best search engine out there and because it’s fast and useful it becomes a good tool.
Well for Flickr it is the same. It’s a powerful tool.

It’s hard to browse. It has a complete set of options for search. You can perform search by licenses, cameras, tags, people, titles, groups and so forth. Is it hard? It depends, if you just want to perform a simple search, go to Google and search for an image. Flickr can do sharp searches inside its database. In fact it’s used by many publishers to find great photos. Thanks to it’s powerful search options some publishers got in contact with me to buy full resolution pictures, for example here, here, and here

It’s not intuitive. To make something powerful you cannot make it stupid. Usability forces the user and the designer to reach a point of balance to keep the interface useful and easy. Flickr has a good balance, it’s useful for professionals and it is still easy to use for people that just wants to see pictures. Look at Flickr interface for a minute and please “read” the links in there. You can find a full set of options. There is also a slide show button that lets you see the pictures in a more fancy way.

I cannot create my own template. Please! Flickr is not a myspace-like site. It’s an online photo and video hosting service. It’s the visual-data-base of your photography life. Flickr provides more flexibility than just allowing users to create a simple template.
Flickr has an API that allows third party applications to make use of all its capabilities. There are hundred of applications making use of its API to present your photography in the way you desire.
For example:

  1. Moo cards. Cheap and good quality business and personal cards totally customizable. Just link your Flickr account and feed moo with your photographs.
  2. phpFlickr it is a class written in PHP by Dan Coulter you can use this class to create custom websites using the pictures in your Flickr account.
  3. Many plugins for wordpress, check this list
  4. And hundred of more applications out there, check this huge list

So you can create your own template to show your work stored in Flickr, using it not only as a storage system. Look at it as an interactive database of your visual work. Your own rules, your own design and an interface to interact with your content. Is that not enough?

The design does not match with my own style. Do you want to use Flickr as your own portfolio? And it doesn’t match with the design that represents your style? As in the previous point, think about it as a tool that, among many other things, includes also a web interface. It’s a tool, and as a tool the aim of it is to be used as a tool. Create your site, design it and use Flickr as your own database.

The final and more important characteristic of Flickr is the social aspect. Creating a photo and video hosting service with an indexed database and a search system build on it, is nothing far away from what we can find out there in other services. But creating a video and image hosting service that is also social, is a challenge and Flickr accomplishes that.
It helped me a lot to find people with amazing and inspiring work. It also helped me a lot to put me in contact with many photographers around the world and near my city. It has all the social tools to fit perfectly in a Web2.0 experience.

The social aspect of Flickr is the most important thing of it. If people don’t see your pictures, it’s the same that your pictures do not exist. Art made by humans will feed human minds. Social means people, people means eyes and minds that see what another mind saw through a lens. The feelings, sensations and messages hidden in any pictures can only by understood and transmitted if the public have access to them.

Where do you upload your pictures?
Why do you prefer a different platform?
What is the thing you really hate of Flickr?

What is photography?

What is photography? Philosophical thoughts and conclusions.

Photography is the only art capable of capturing the Present from the stream of the river of time; from which we can only grasp the constant flow of Past and Future.

I think that this is Photography. Compared to other arts, Photography is capable of capturing the flying instant, the concept of instant in the time, the fixed and never-changing moment of reality. Photography breaks the stream of the world we live in; it stops the process of mutation and transformation of reality. It lets us open a window to something that is present but that we are not able to capture by ourselves because we are only able to sense the constant stream of the river of time and its main events.

Every time I look at a photo, in that moment I’m looking at something that I will never see again. Something that even being in that moment and in that place, I would have never been able to see it as it is captured, because it is happening or it stopped happening. In the moment something is, it stops being so. The Present does not exist for us, only Past and imminent Future, only a stream. The camera lives in another time, it is born and dies during the moments when light crosses it. After that, the silence. Everything ends and only something called photo is left, something that stores the instant, the invisible moment, but present for us.

Compared to other arts, the Photography is able to play with reality using the reality itself, the world and the universe as they are, seen from one of the unique and infinite possible points of view.

Now I feel Better :)