Ain’t No Such Thing As Halfway Transparent

Transparency has been a big buzzword in the last few years especially with the growth of social media. Every company wants to be transparent in order to better “engage” with their customers. I’m all for it because it gives people a chance to see and hopefully understand what really happens behind the scenes.

The problem with transparency is when a company says they are transparent or they value transparency to their stakeholders, (and I use stakeholders here not shareholders because stakeholders is all encompassing including customers and employees) the expectation is for the company to be fully transparent 100% of the time. More and more organizations are transparent only when it suits them and often that is the when something is going right.

What about transparency when something is going wrong? Transparency during adverse times is more important than during days full of sunshine and rainbows. The bad times is when stakeholders want, and many times even need, information.

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is the final rap battle in 8 mile. That scene is the rise of B-Rabbit (Eminem) from obscurity into rap legend. In the final of the three round battles, Eminem is battling Papa Doc the leader of the Free World rap group and he attacks him by calling him out as not being a real gangster even though he acts all tough. Eminem raps about how his real name is Clarence (not a very gangster name), he goes to private school, and his parents are still together. The one line that stands out to me the most is when Eminem says “…ain’t no such think as a halfway crook.” That line means either you’re a crook or not, there’s no gray area, and either you’re in or you’re out. Here is the link for the entire battle and that specific line on Rap Genius. 

There’s no such thing as halfway transparent. You’re either in or you’re out, during the good times and the bad.

This also reminds me of the Clayton Christensen book How Will You Measure Your Life? It’s a must read for getting perspective on what we’re doing from a professional sense whether you’re an entrepreneur or CEO. One of the chapters entitled 100 Percent of the Time Is Easier Than 98 Percent of the Time, Christensen discusses how making an exception just once can become a slippery slope whatever the situation. While the chapter is referring to moral choices, there is a lesson to be learned about transparency as well. If an organization refuses to be 100% completely transparent just once, then time and time again it will be more difficult to draw the line and be fully transparent once again.

Transparency is easy to do in social media but companies consistently get it wrong. When I complain on Twitter about a specific service I’m getting, I don’t want a pre-approved fake apology. If you’re going to be transparent and engage with me, actually tell me what’s going on. Most people would rather know what’s happening and not be given an empty apology or excuse. Furthermore, if you really don’t know what’s happening then tell me you don’t know and will update me once you know.

Transparency is great for companies that can do it. Of course many companies cannot be completely be transparent for varying reasons and that’s ok also. However, if an organization claims to be transparent, then they need to be 100% transparent 100% of the time.

From Attention to Action: How I Started Listening to Serial, A Marketer’s Approach

As a marketer, I’m always fascinated about what makes someone commit to purchasing a product or using a service. My thoughts are not so much about the standard practice of analyzing the marketing funnel and taking a potential customer through the attention, interest, desire, and action phases of the purchase cycle even though the funnel is an essential part of any marketing strategy.

My thoughts are more simple. I’m considering the potential unaccounted for factors that influence the purchasing decision. There is endless research on social triggers and behaviors as it relates to marketing such as studies on the effects of word of mouth, or social media postings, reading reviews, etc. but what I’m referring to is more ambiguous.

My question is more at what specific point does someone go from desire to action? What does it take for the switch to go from off to on when considering a purchase? How many friends must he hear from about the product before committing to buying or even begin to consider buying? At what point do reviews and word of mouth intersect and how many yes or no reviews does it take to shift the scale to one side or the other? Is an impulse buy ever really an impulse buy? And for all these questions how does it differ from one person to the next?

These questions may not have definite answers and as marketers we’re trained to get our target audience “in the funnel,” but in the continuing evolution of consumer behaviors and external factors, marketers need to start thinking more broadly in their approach. With current technology, there’s not a single point of conversion from one phase of the funnel to the next but multiple entry and exit points, by which a potential customer can go through multiple times before committing.

As I write this post and think about the processes of going from one phase to another, I think about myself and how I began listening to the cultural phenomenon that is the radio show/podcast Serial. (Side note: if you haven’t started listening, you’re missing out.) I started thinking at what point I actually went from hearing about it to subscribing on Stitcher and listening.

I listen to NPR on my way to and from work and at lunch which is where I first heard about Serial. NPR was running a promo for the show and in the promo it was mentioned that Serial was created from producers of This American Life. I listened to This American Life with Ira Glass many times and love it’s format of storytelling. I think I said to myself “hmmm that could be interesting if it’s made by those guys.”

Observation 1: My attention was first grabbed by a wide spread advertisement. I made a connection to a similar product which I considered to be high quality.

I started listening to Serial after it’s 10th episode aired so I was already 10 weeks behind everyone else. I heard those promotions many many times over the course of those 10 weeks but I had yet to tune in. The second encounter that influenced my decision was a coworker mentioning it after a meeting. We were casually chatting and she asked me if I listened to Serial because she knew I listened to podcasts and NPR. The conversation wasn’t something that really made me immediately go and begin listening but it definitely peaked my interest a little more.

Observation 2: Word of mouth from someone who’s tastes aligned with mine peaked my interest further.

I finally started listening to Serial after reading an article discussing how our society goes through different cultural phenomena that sweep our society. It talked about how how millions watched the Dallas episode to find out Who Killed J.R.? and how The Wire became even more popular as the show was nearing it’s final season. It also talked about Serial and the millions listening and how even a subreddit was created. (I tried but failed to find the article) I’m an active Redditor and I strongly believe that Reddit is truly the front page of the Internet. If it’s not going viral on Reddit, then it’s not going viral anywhere. I went to the subreddit, making sure I would not read any discussions or headlines because I was thinking about listening to the show. I went to the subreddit only to see how many subscribers it had. It was a little over 19K subscribers at the time (almost 27K now). I thought 19K people on Reddit and millions listening everywhere else couldn’t be wrong. At that moment I made the decision to start listening. I’m not someone that usually joins in fads and watches or listens to something because people are doing it but this was different. It was a story podcast from This American Life and on NPR. Two things of which I was already a fan.

Observation 3: I was easily swept by the wave with the rest of the masses because I didn’t need further validation. 

To simplify and bring together my three observations, three factors combined to take me from attention to interest to desire to action as it relates to Serial: I was exposed to the product from multiple sources, it had wide ranging appeal, and it was a quality product. For a marketer to succeed, their plan must account for all three factors in a combined trifecta. The product must be exposed across every medium possible and as many times as possible whether it’s social media, word of mouth, radio advertising, or news articles. The product must appeal to a wide range of people even if it’s a niche product. The target audience and user persona assessments need to account for people that weren’t initially considered, and are on the far-reaching fringes because you never really know who could be interested in the product. Finally, if the product sucks then it doesn’t matter anyway regardless of who buys and where it gets blasted.

Marketing is no longer a road map for customers to go from point A to point B, from seeing an ad and deciding to purchase. Its not about casting a wide net and hoping to catch as many fish as possible. Customers are smarter than that. Marketing is now about creating a world for your product to exist with as many roads as possible leading to it but letting customers find your product on their own terms using the route they choose.

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Posted on – Why you should think of a passive UX for your next app

This post was originally published on

When I got the idea for Luper, I wanted to build something very simple that does one thing very well: reminds me to stay in touch with people.

That’s it.

There are many CRMs, task managers, to-do list apps, and note taking apps out there and they all work well and could help me achieve that goal. But for my needs, and for what I wanted Luper to become, they were all too much.

With an infinite number of apps, and a finite amount of time, UX designers and app developers need to start thinking about building apps with a passive UX not an active UX.

A passive UX is a user experience where the app requires minimal input from the user for it to be functional, as opposed to an active UX where the app requires a lot of user input for the app to function to it’s potential.

It’s essentially a function of time vs utility. For most apps, there is a positive correlation with the time I spend in the app and the utility I get from it. Facebook is an example of an active UX. I need to post, comment, like, send friend requests, and monitor my newsfeed for me to get the utility of keeping in touch with people and knowing what’s going on in their lives. Twitter and Instagram are more examples of an active UX.

Evernote is a great productivity app that’s also an active UX. I can create notes, organize into notebooks, add tags, input media and Evernote becomes a repository for all my notes.

Dropbox is what I think of as a passive UX. I add a file I want stored and then I only access it again when the need arises.

CRM applications are built with an active UX. Salesforce is the cream of the crop when it comes to CRM. The platform is the best at managing the entire sales process. It requires the user to input and upload information from multiple sources for the user to be able to scratch the surface of what Salesforce is built for and what it can do.

One of the best mobile CRMs I’ve seen is Refresh another active UX. It’s a beautifully designed app with access to all the information about your contacts, meetings, and follow-ups right there at your finger tips. I sign up, link my accounts, and constantly go back to the app when I want information about a contact before a meeting I have scheduled.

That’s great for people that need that kind of information at a moments notice.

I don’t.

I built Luper as a passive UX. I wanted to get the maximum potential of the app with the minimum amount of input. Again, I wanted Luper to do one thing and one thing only, to remind me to keep in touch with people.

Luper was built with a “set it and forget it” approach. The user creates a lup, sets it and forgets it. The app does all the work. It automatically reminds the user in recurring time intervals to reach out and it pre-populates the contact information based on the chosen contact method. If a user chooses to add notes, they can but that doesn’t add or takeaway from the function of the app.

Luper doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other productivity apps but Luper doesn’t need it. Luper isn’t a CRM. Luper is a personal relationship manager that helps me remember to keep in touch with personal relationships, or business relationships that have become personal relationships.

According to this study, the average user spend close to three hours on their phones on social media, texting, games, applications, etc. Productivity and utilities is only 12% of that usage. As an app creator, I understand these habits and decided to take a different approach. I can’t compete with robust CRMs and productivity apps, and surely can’t compete with social media and games. I also don’t want to take a bigger slice of the usage pie. Instead of having the user spend a lot of time in my app, I want them to get the maximum functionality while spending a minimum amount of time in the app.

Download Luper for iOS and Android at

Everything is Rechargeable

I was brushing my teeth with my new Sonicare Toothbrush (which are great by the way) before I went out.  My mom walks behind me and says “Is everything you own rechargeable…?” (Sarcastic motherly tone of course)

After almost choking to death from laughter and instantly tweeting the quote, I started to think about what my mom so keenly noticed…everything I own is rechargeable!

My iPhone, my toothbrush, my laptop, my camera….everything I use every single day is  rechargeable.

We are also rechargeable. Sleeping and eating are both forms of recharging, but sometimes we need more extreme measures of recharging.  We need that vacation, we need that career change, we need that big project, we need that escape that helps us recharge our batteries.

Relationships are rechargeable.  Reconnecting with an old friend, calling a distant relative, texting an old coworker, chatting with an old high school buddy on Facebook….these are all ways to recharge a relationship.

That’s why I built Luper. Luper reminds us to “recharge” our relationships.

Everything is rechargeable, we just have to figure how.

How My Friend with Basic Chess Knowledge Almost Beats Me Everytime

By no means am I a chess master.  I do enjoy playing every now and then and consider myself of average skill.  I recognize certain patterns and understand basic strategy.  I’ve won and lost my fair share games to people that are both less skilled and more skilled than myself.

The one person I have the most trouble playing chess with is one of my good friends.  All he knows is the basic moves and understands the object of the game.  His greatest strength in playing chess is he is the most unconventional player I play against.

He will take his queen out early.  He will open with a rook’s pawn.  He will advance a knight so far that you have no idea what do with him.  He doesn’t play offense or defense.  He assembles combinations that drive you crazy.  At one point in the game you think a move he made is the stupidest move ever but turns out to be the greatest.  My biggest fault in playing against him is that I underestimate that unconventional wisdom.

While there is a lot to be said about proven strategies, playing against him made me realize that I need to start thinking about the unproven and out of the box strategies. Sure the unconventional strategy might mean we lose a few games but the lessons we do gain are invaluable and will improve our abilities in the conventional realm.

Following conventional wisdom and conventional strategy can only get us to a conventional place.  True success comes from being unconventional, getting out of our comfort zone, and trying new methods to improve ourselves and our businesses.

Aim Higher Than The Low Hanging Fruit


Warning: This blog post is full of the term “low hanging fruit” and references and metaphors to someone harvesting or picking something off a tree. My apologies in advance.

As business lingo goes, the term low hanging fruit is by far one of the most commonly used terms in any business setting. I’ve lost count of how many meetings I’ve been in where someone says “let’s go after the low hanging fruit,” or “what’s the low hanging fruit and let’s build a strategy around it.” or “this is obviously the low hanging fruit.” Every time someone brings up low hanging fruit I cringe, I feel my stomach boiling, and I immediately lose interest in the meeting, and respect for the person who brought it up.

Here low hanging fruit is a business goal or objective that is easily obtainable, but organizations shouldn’t be “going after” low hanging fruit and should have had a system in place where the low hanging fruit is already being harvested to scale.

If low hanging fruit is so easy to obtain then why doesn’t the organization already have it. Why isn’t every piece of fruit that is easily attainable harvested?

For one, that low hanging fruit a person brings up to show they understand strategy and pretend like they know what they’re talking about isn’t low hanging after all. In fact it’s very difficult to obtain or worse not the low hanging fruit at all.

Second, and the tougher to accept, is that the organization responsible for harvesting the low hanging fruit is not as efficient or as capable as initially thought.

The best organizations and leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses and play to their strengths and fill in the gaps that are their weaknesses. Low hanging fruit should be in the strengths and if it’s not then there are glaring weaknesses that need to be overcome.

When it comes to defining a business strategy the low hanging fruit should not be brought up. To succeed in an ever competitive marketplace, organizations need to aim higher than the low hanging fruit. That’s how that organization will set itself apart.

If an organization is still attempting to go after the low hanging fruit, something else is wrong and the organization’s leaders need to fix the system. The organization hasn’t accurately defined their vision and goals, their target market, and their acquisition strategy.

Startups are consistently in this stage and that’s expected because by definition they’re a startup. Startups need time to fine tune their product and their approach. Startups have yet to define their low hanging fruit and that same objective may also be constantly changing.

Established organizations should never be in that position. The low hanging fruit should be in yesterday’s pie with the organization driving the trucks delivering the fruit. Let’s get away from constantly relying on the low hanging fruit to drive our business objectives. Let’s take risks and go after the more difficult objectives and step above the competition.

The Platform That Gets This Right Will Win

There is one commonality engrained in the user experience of all social platforms.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Reddit all have their variations of a personal newsfeed where a user views content, a collection of pictures, text, and, most importantly, external links, curated and shared by others. I’ll come back to why external links is the most important aspect of the feed.

The mobile experience for interacting with the feed is also similar across all the platforms. A user will open the app and scroll down interacting with the content posted by others in various forms with behaviors relative to each platform. It’s easy to interact with content. A user sees the content and if it’s something they agree with, they click like, they retweet, they double tap the screen, they repin, or they up vote, or they leave a comment. The interaction applies to text, photos, or videos.

But not external links. When a user sees a link to external content, the user clicks the link to view the content and the browser built into the app opens the content. For example, if a user sees a link to a blog post on Twitter, the user clicks the link, the article opens within the Twitter app browser.

The in-app browser is a horrible user experience. A user has to close the in-app browser to interact with feed once again. The in-app browser itself is slow, often doesn’t work, and when it does it doesn’t display the external content correctly. It’s almost useless to try and purchase a product, or complete a form in an in-app browser.

If most users are like me, they get fed up with trying to interact with the in-app browser and they either close the content and think it’s not worth it, or they copy the link and open it into an actual mobile browser like Safari or Chrome.

Both outcomes are bad for social platforms. A social platform wants users to stay within the platform. That’s how the platform makes money through ads. A platform wants users to interact with all content within their own app environment but the in-app browser needs to be fixed. It should be a seamless interaction between the external content and the app. A user should be able to easily view the external content, interact with that same content, like purchasing a product, and then return to the social app to continue engaging with the feed.

Considering most content on social platforms is an aggregation of external links, the social platform that makes the best in-app browser experience will win, hands down. It’s easy to get this right on a desktop, the new link opens in a new tab, but who will get it right for mobile?

A User Will Not Switch Platforms Because You Added Features

Instagram announced direct messaging of photos, similar to Snapchat. Instagram also launched Instagram Video, similar to Vine.

Last year, Facebook added hashtags, similar to Twitter.

Twitter added photo filters, similar to Instagram.

All of these added features on these platforms are great additions and often work very well. They may even enhance the user experience on that platform. All of these platforms added these features as an attempt to gain market share from their competitors but…

A user will not switch platforms because you added features.

Users are set in their ways. They have spent years using a platform and developed specific behaviors that will be impossible to break. For example, users have been adding hashtags to tweets for years but never to Facebook posts and few will start because the feature has been added.

Adding a new feature will get traction on the platform as a function of the number of users currently on the platform especially when a platform has millions of users (billion for Facebook). A percentage of users using a new functionality does not mean the user has used the other platform less but it will most likely mean the user has figured out a new way to include that new feature in their current platform usage behaviors.

Changing user behaviors and influencing users to switch from an existing platform is like moving mountains.

Adding bells and whistles are great but how does that new feature add to the core functionality of the platform?

New platforms launch everyday with “improved design” and a “unique user experience” but if the functionality the platform is giving is similar to an already existing functionality in another app or platform, why would I really switch?

I was at Dallas New Tech in December. One of the demoing startups was a camera app called Gestures. This app had one of the greatest UX designs that I’ve seen and it will absolutely improve the user experience of the iPhone camera app. I will definitely use it and test it once it launches, however, I’m an early adopter.

Most users and the general public are not early adopters and are not in tune with the tech scene as people in our industry. Is a new UX and sleek design enough to make my mom, who just got an iPhone last year, switch from the default Camera app to Gesture? Probably not.

Platforms need to think about how they can improve on current user behaviors and the unique essence of their platform before attempting to drastically change user behaviors.

Why I Hate Influencer Marketing

This blog post is about internet and tech “influencers” and not discussing celebrities or otherwise famous people.

When I launched Luper, I sent numerous emails and tweets to influencers in hopes of getting a slither of a mention on a website. Did it work? Absolutely. If it wasn’t for a blog post on Lifehacker and a feature on AbduZeedo, there’s little chance my app would have crossed the 1,000 download mark.

Will I keep trying influencer marketing? Of course. If an influencer can get more eyes on my content I would be stupid not to try it.

But I actually hate influencer marketing.

The entire process of influencer marketing is flawed

You carefully craft an email with a good subject line that’s short, sweet, and to the point, because after all you are trying not to waste their time. Yet, after all that work you don’t get a response.

I may be off base here but if I spent the time to find who you are and write an email specifically for you, I expect a response even if you are not interested in what I have to offer.

Influencer marketing is about enticing the influencer to engage with what you have because you are trying to appeal to their own self-interest. If you are a new tech startup, you might offer a writer a new story about your startup in exchange for some increased exposure. If you are a hotel company you might offer a local mommy blogger a free night at a hotel for her and her family in exchange for a review about her experience.

Simplified it’s “Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” but the scratching needs to go both ways for the process to work and that’s the problem.

I understand “influencers” are bombarded by requests but it seems many have let their ego get the best of them and have developed an aura of entitlement and a severe superiority complex.

What makes this even worse is when you ask 10 people if they’ve heard of that “influencer” that aren’t in the marketing or tech and startup scenes, nine of those ten (if not all ten even) people have never heard of that person. I’ve actually done this experiment more than once.

What makes an influencer an influencer anyway?

Is it because they have a column on an influential tech blog? Is it their number of Twitter followers? Or is it the pedestal we place them on?

Many have reached influencer status because of their depth of knowledge but it seems more still have reach influencer status because of their salesmanship and skills at networking and getting in front of the right people not because they know what they are talking about. I experienced this first hand at New Media Expo last year. 75% of the panels were worthless because they consisted of “influencers” throwing out “blue sky” type phrases mixed with industry jargon. Very few speakers and panelists actually spoke about insights gained through their own personal experiences.

An influencer is only an influencer in his domain

In my family, the influencer, when it comes to anything house related, is my mom. When it comes to electronics and technology it’s me. We’re influencers in our own domain. I don’t try and pretend I know how to cook and my mom doesn’t try and understand technology.

The CEO of 100 employee company might not be on Twitter but he is definitely influential in his domain, which for him is his company.

A tech blogger with 10,000 Twitter followers might write about startups but how many startups has he built. An app reviewer might write about new apps but has he ever built his own app? How many marketing campaigns has that speaker actually launched and what were his successes?

We can all read about a subject matter and familiarize ourselves with the jargon but does that make us influencers? I can read all about HTML,CSS, and Javascript but if I’ve never built a website does that make me a front-end developer qualified to speak to others about the subject.

We’re all enablers

We enable influencers to act like influencers when they have no foundation for their platform. We have to be more selective of who we deem as influencers.

We need better criteria, that includes context of the subject matter that defines their domain, before we attach the label of influencer.

An influencer level status should be attained not just through expertise but through the level of engagement with everyone else.

Finally, we need to be more selective to whom we present what we’ve worked so hard to build because not all influencers are worth the time or effort to reach out to.