Tinder, one of the hottest dating apps, is making headlines for more than making matches. A security firm, IncludeSec, recently revealed a major problem in Tinder’s app that could allow hackers to accurately pinpoint users geographically using high school math.
Tinder is used to find people in your area looking to meet, date, or even hook up. Users pick potential matches based mainly on looks although each profile has a user-currated page. It presents a picture of a fellow Tinder user with a relatively near location. Like that person? Swipe her picture to the right for a potential date. Not interested? Swipe left. And all while supposedly hiding everyone’s exact location.
These sorts of apps are designed to be relatively anonymous, but after a bit of digging, the security company discovered that the app was releasing telemetry data that, when used to triangulate a user, can display the location of that user to within 100 feet. The full exploit is explained here and demonstrated in the video above. This is the second time such an exploit was discovered. A similar vulnerability appeared in July 2013.
Tinder has quietly fixed the problem, according to a statement provided by the company yesterday. Tinder is also not aware of anyone using the latest exploit. And that’s the issue.
Anyone can be a hacker. Anything that an API can be used for, it will be used for. The engineer that implemented that code clearly was under the impression that it was safe. Companies big and small obviously do not roll out code that can be maliciously exploited. The company’s goal is to make people happy, not sad. App makers have the responsibility to provide its users with a relative amount of security. This is especially true if your app is about meeting people around you based on their picture alone.
It’s likely that Tinder didn’t publicize this exploit and fix in order to save face. The company was already recovering from last summer’s exploit and probably didn’t want users to question it, again, about security.
Tinder is not alone here, although this particular exploit could have ended especially badly. From Target’s massive data breach to an exploit that opens Belkin’s WeMo devices to hackers, data security will continue to be a rolling issue. It’s a company’s responsibility to protect its data for the sake of its users. And when a breach happens, because they will continue to happen, transparency is the best policy.
The only question left is which app is going to leak data next?
At TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin (video below), Tinder founder and CEO Sean Rad didn’t reveal exact user counts, but instead mentioned the app sees 3.5 million matches and 350 million swipes a day. (About 30 percent of those are the right swipes that indicate interest.) And the app has seen 30 billion swipes and 300 million matches total.
“Include Security identified a technical exploit that theoretically could have led to the calculation of a user’s last known location. Shortly after being contacted, Tinder implemented specific measures to enhance location security and further obscure location data. We did not respond to further inquiries about the specific security remedies and enhancements taken as we typically do not share the specifics of Tinder’s security measures. We are not aware of anyone else attempting to use this technique. Our users’ privacy and security continue to be our highest priority.”
See original here: Problem In Tinder Dating App Leaked User Locations
Many people think that free language learning platform competes against other educational language services, Many people might assume free language learning platform Duolingo competes with other educational services, but the company that its co-founder names as a key competitor may surprise you. It’s Candy Crush.
Duolingo co-founder Luis von Ahn tells TNW in an interview that the company views games as its competitors, simply because they occupy time that users spend on mobile.
When we ask people why is it that you’re learning a language on Duolingo, we were expecting the most common answer to be something like: I’ve always wanted to learn a language or something like that, but the most common answer is because it’s fun, and at least I’m not wasting my time.
So we’re eating into gaming time, not eating into study time. It’s people that are procrastinating, but instead of playing Candy Crush, they’re getting something useful out of it. That’s like the most common user.
This also explains why late last year, Duolingo updated its iOS app to introduce a gamified virtual store. The store lets users purchase virtual items to customize their experience with a virtual currency called “Lingots,” which users can earn by achieving certain milestones in Duolingo. Von Ahn tells us that this gaming element was to make Duolingo more of a fun thing.
The way that Duolingo is going about gamifying language-learning will no doubt be a boost for the next region it intends to target: Asia.
After all, mobile games in Asia — in particular China — are hugely popular. A recent report released by state-affiliated research organization China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) showed a 54.5 percent growth in the number of users playing mobile games to reach 215 million as of end-2013, up 75.9 million from the end of 2012. Even messaging apps in Asia have taken to adding games to their platforms to hook in users.
Duolingo’s positioning as a fun app with the addition of gaming elements, beyond its core use of learning new languages, will no doubt be a boost for its standing in Asia.
Furthermore, a recent funding round raised by Duolingo will also aid its move into the region. The company closed a $20 million round led by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers earlier this week. Von Ahn says:
In Asia we’re not as big because we don’t support any of the Asian languages, but that’s one thing we’re definitely going to be doing over the next few months or so. In fact, part of this investment is to really penetrate Asia more, because right now we just don’t have support for Asian languages. We have not entered Asia almost at all. We do have some users, but compared to the Americas and Europe, it’s very small.
Right now, the regions where Duolingo sees its highest traffic are the Americas and Europe. A quarter of its traffic comes from the US, while Brazil takes second spot with 15 percent of the traffic, and the third is Mexico.
To move into Asia, von Ahn tells us that the first step is to simply offer the product first — which means courses that let students learn English from Asian languages including Chinese, Japanese and Korean. He says that these courses will be up in the “next few months” with Japanese ready in about a month.
The courses are being created by the Duolingo community. This stems from a crowdsourcing program the company announced in October last year – called the Language Incubator, which lets native speakers and language enthusiasts create courses that an algorithm will subsequently ensure are in line with Duolingo’s standards.
Von Ahn notes that these course creators don’t tend to be from Asia, given the small number of users Duolingo currently counts from the continent, but are more likely US citizens who were originally from Asia.
Von Ahn admits that Duolingo is considering its first ever marketing campaign once the course land on the service, but the company will see how things go first:
So far we’ve never had to do any type of marketing in any country that we enter — for example we just started learning English from Russian and it’s growing by itself without us having to do any marketing. We already have about 150,000 users in Russia without us doing any marketing; it just grows by itself. So we’re hoping that the same will happen in Asia, but we don’t know.
Other than its Asia plans, Von Ahn reveals that Duolingo is also planning to beef up its current platform with two major features: certification and group learning.
Duolingo is going to start certifying that their users have successfully mastered a language, which can then be submitted to employers or universities. Von Ahn notes that Duolingo has received a lot of requests for this, especially in emerging markets, as current tests tend to be expensive and people need to make an appointment in advance and travel down to testing centers to take them.
“We’re going to have a test as well, but it’s a test that you can take from your phone or on the Web, so you can take it at home, you can take it anytime — and it’s going to cost $20, not $250,” Von Ahn says, referring to the fact that the TOEFL test can cost up to $250 — which “may be a month’s salary” for some people in emerging markets.
“We think we can do a good job with certification… we think it’s quite unfair that these tests are so expensive because it costs like $10 to administer a test, it does not cost $200,” Von Ahn tells us.
To push general acceptance of its certification, Duolingo has come up with a study that shows people who take its tests have scores that are highly correlated with scores of the other tests. Von Ahn says that once enough people start taking the test, because it’s more convenient and cheaper, he hopes that they will start pressuring employers and universities to accept the Duolingo certificates. On top of that, Duolingo is launching these tests and in turn, certifications, with a few launch partners.
The certification feature will come some time later this year, but what will arrive first on Duolingo is a groups feature, according to Von Ahn.
Right now on Duolingo, people essentially learn individually. However, there have been many requests, especially from teachers, who want an easy way to keep track of all their students in a classroom. Duolingo estimates that there are tens of thousands of school-going children using its platform.
“So we’re going to have a groups feature, where the idea is that anyone can make a group of learners, and the leader of the group can always see the progress of everybody else, so you can think of it as like a teacher. But it doesn’t have to be a classroom, it can be any type of group,” Von Ahn says. Groups will have a leaderboard and a message board, with the idea to get them to learn together competitively. It will land on Duolingo “relatively soon.”
With these new value-added features, as well as the gaming element, Duolingo looks set to appeal to a wide swathe of users in Asia who are keen to learn English. However, whether it can stand out amidst the competition — after all, there are already online learning platforms that users in Asia rely on, and Duolingo has to appeal enough for them to switch. The fact that it’s a free app though, will no doubt be a boon for it too.
The essence of innovation and the foundation of many start-ups are to imitate and adapt from existing concepts. New ideas are mostly incremental improvements of past ideas, just as we as a biological species have evolved improvements over centuries. We at Twoodo are trying to make team collaboration tools a little bit better, for example.
One thing that never gets old in business is knowing your customer – and that’s because of how often we get it wrong. Too often we rely on our narrow worldview to inform us of who we think would use our product or service.
Data-gathering from scratch is a daunting prospect. The good news is that with a little research, you’ll find that a lot of this data has been gathered for you.
You just need to know where to look. Often times it’s not very far from your competitors.
Unless you’ve entered a “blue ocean market,” it’s likely that there are at least 10 other more successful companies doing what you are trying to do right now.
But that’s OK! That means there are ten companies with curated lists of people interested in your kind of service.
This is where the hijacking of open social platforms come in. Twitter is a famous example. Just click on the “followers” list of your competitor’s company and you have a list of Twitter handles worth getting to know.
If you just want to get a list of the top influencers of an account, use this tool to generate the data. If you want more comprehensive data on your competitors’ followers you can use this tool. It is important to make connections with influencers early on so they can be evangelists for your brand.
Similarly, on Google+ you can go to a page and click to see who the followers of a brand are. It’s pretty easy to link up with them, and once you are, G+ allows you to send email notifications to them of your updates or shared news.
I’m not suggesting you should contact them to spam them or tell them your service is better. But starting a conversation and finding out why they love or are frustrated by your competitors is a great way to find vital information. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to share their experiences.
Here’s a cool article on how to growth hack Google Plus if you want to harness its full growing potential!
Want to make sure that your new app doesn’t fall into the same traps as your competitors once did? Check out their “feature request” lists and past FAQs to get an idea of what users/customers are finding challenging.
Do this by simply going to your preferred search engine and typing “COMPANY feature request.”
You can create an improved business by avoiding the mistakes made by your competitor in the past, and also try to get ahead by offering features that users are requesting (but have not been developed yet). Totally legit and totally serving the user.
It’s as simple as typing “I hate XXX” into Topsy and seeing who hates the company and why. This is also a good way of discovering features people hate/love/want and incorporating the info into your business.
This won’t pose much of a challenge in North America, where English and Spanish covers pretty much the whole population. However, step outside of that bubble into Europe, Africa and Asia and you’ll find that an almost-copycat service done in a local language is niche enough to make you a sweet business.
Here’s an early example:
Tuenti launched in Spain as the Spanish social network when Facebook was only just allowing 13-year-old school kids on in the USA.
Spain has a population of (give or take) 50 million – more than enough people for the founders to enjoy a good income. This proves that, if nothing else, you can use language as your niche.
Mergers and acquisitions anyone? This is another area where your research on the FAQs and feature requests is useful.
Build a company or develop features fulfilling a need that the your large competitors have. Then, negotiate a partnership or buy each other out.
A famous examples is eBay buying PayPal and iBazar (a European online marketplace), therefore acquiring a payments system plus a continent worth of customers that it could convert to eBay users.
You will have to be fast on your feet if you decide to take this route, in case the company in mind is large enough to build a solution itself.
Data on visitors and customers is being generated in gigantic quantities. And it’s not limited to websites – there are startups developing ways to use street cameras to analyze who goes into shops.
Although much of this data is hidden or protected by law, there are some tidbits available online that can give you some insights into your target market. For example, if you are targeting US women then not being on Pinterest is crazy. Pinterest has an audience of 80 percent women, and 20 percent of all American women are on it.
There are other kinds of data available to assist in building your information about potential users, if you persevere on the search engines. If you are a game company, it is interesting to know that people who play Candy Crush do it from 6 to 9 PM and on Sundays.
This is important for your marketing efforts and for your live customer support. Here’s one way of finding out about the users of your competitors:
A recent experiment I did with Facebook also brought some interesting results. I joined an interest group (Arduino boards), and clicked “add friend” on all the members that had the option available (which was plenty).
Quite a lot added me back after a quick message to check that I was a legit person. Once I had connected with a large enough sample from the group, I was able to find such data as age, gender, location, industry and so on.
This is gold when you are trying to figure out who your ideal customer is.
If you do a Google search for your keywords you’ll probably see a bunch of competitors on the first page results. If they’re on the first page then they must be doing something right with their backlink strategy. Imagine how powerful it would be if your site had the same backlinks as not only the first result but every single one of the top 10 results!
This is possible with a few steps and a bit of elbow grease. The good news is that you can see precisely the backlink strategy these competitors are using.
It’s possible to find all the websites, blogs, forums or online magazines your competitors are getting their links from. Once you’ve got that list it’s up to you to get busy and replicate them by commenting on the same blog posts, asking for guest posts from the same blogs, posting on the same forums and so on.
Matthew Woodward has created a complete comprehensive guide to this growth hack. You’ll soon be appearing in the top 10 results for your targeted keywords – and apparently it can even survive Google’s algorithm updates.
This is long-term SEO with a strong foundation – a useful habit to begin with early.
Being “inspired by” or “adopting features of” other businesses is common practice. It’s costly and difficult to fight legal battles against anyone who decides to take your idea and run with it. Patent laws are not equally enforced around the world and it’s pretty hard to keep your secret sauce secret on the internet.
Even giants like Samsung and Apple are not above such controversy. Uber has allegedly poached drivers from competitors by calling up and canceling cabs (thus acquiring the driver’s number) and then offering them a job with them.
How wrong was this? I’m not sure. Marketplace ethics are a grey area.
The rest is here: 7 things you can (legally) steal from successful companies
Facebook is purchasing messaging giant WhatsApp for $16 billion in cash and stock, according to a regulatory filing. The deal is being cut for $12 billion in Facebook shares, $4 billion in cash and an additional $3 billion in RSUs for employee retention.
A termination fee is attached to the deal that would cost Facebook $1 billion in cash and $1 billion in shares if the deal fails to pass regulatory muster.
Facebook has posted on its blog, detailing the reasoning behind the acquisition, as well. The post notes that WhatsApp will continue to operate independently and retain its brand. In addition, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum will join Facebook’s board.
Facebook notes that WhatsApp has over 450 million MAUs, with 70 percent of those active each day. In a staggering comparison, Facebook also notes that the messaging volume of WhatsApp approaches the SMS volume of the entire global telecom industry — and that it’s adding 1 million users a day.
“WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO in a statement.
“WhatsApp had every option in the world,” Zuckerberg continued in a post to his Facebook page, “so I’m thrilled that they chose to work with us. I’m looking forward to what Facebook and WhatsApp can do together, and to developing great new mobile services that give people even more options for connecting. I’ve also known Jan for a long time, and I know that we both share the vision of making the world more open and connected. I’m particularly happy that Jan has agreed to join the Facebook board and partner with me to shape Facebook’s future as well as WhatsApp’s.”
Jan Koum, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO, said, “WhatsApp’s extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide.”
Facebook specifically calls out its deal with Instagram as a template for how it will deal with WhatsApp:
Facebook fosters an environment where independent-minded entrepreneurs can build companies, set their own direction and focus on growth while also benefiting from Facebook’s expertise, resources and scale. This approach is working well with Instagram, and WhatsApp will operate in this manner. WhatsApp’s brand will be maintained; its headquarters will remain in Mountain View, CA; Jan Koum will join Facebook’s Board of Directors; and WhatsApp’s core messaging product and Facebook’s existing Messenger app will continue to operate as standalone applications.
In a post on the WhatsApp blog, Koum elaborates on that:
Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.
WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently. You can continue to enjoy the service for a nominal fee. You can continue to use WhatsApp no matter where in the world you are, or what smartphone you’re using. And you can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication. There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.
The note about no advertising is interesting, as that’s obviously Facebook’s primary method of monetization on its main platform — and now Instagram. WhatsApp will also keep its subscription fees, which amount to $1 per user after the first year of use.
WhatsApp investor Sequoia has also posted some information about the acquisition, specifically its very large valuation. The company notes that it only has 32 engineers — making the ratio 1 engineer to every 14 million users. It processes 50 billion messages a day across seven platforms.
The image above is a note that Koum keeps on his desk, outlining the focus of the company on building a ‘focused messaging experience’. Sequioa’s Jim Goetz says that founder Koum’s time growing up in a communist country shaped how he developed WhatsApp.
“Jan’s childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped. When he arrived in the U.S. as a 16-year-old immigrant living on food stamps, he had the extra incentive of wanting to stay in touch with his family in Russia and the Ukraine,” says Goetz. “All of this was top of mind for Jan when, after years of working together with his mentor Brian at Yahoo, he began to build WhatsApp.”
Goetz also calls out the 450M user number and the fact that it has spent exactly $0 on marketing and doesn’t even employ a PR person or marketer; its growth all coming from users.
WhatsApp only employs around 50 people total. At 32 engineers, that’s $500 million per engineer.
Facebook currently boasts 556 million mobile daily active users, and WhatsApp alone already has over half of that at 350 million. One particular reason Facebook could be purchasing WhatsApp is to bolster its International footprint — as exemplified by one very telling chart. TechCrunch had previously heard about some abortive acquisition talks between Facebook and WhatsApp in late 2012.
Facebook is currently down in after hours trading.
View original post here: Facebook Buying WhatsApp For $19B, Will Keep The Messaging Service Independent
The interfaces in modern cars are, with rare exception, awful.
It’s almost absurd, really. The car is one of the most expensive things that people buy for themselves. It’s massive. It’s got a power supply that lasts for days… and yet, it’s one of the least “smart” devices in our lives. A three-year old tablet headed for the recycling bin puts the stock interface in most cars to shame.
The operating systems are slow, and often bug-riddled. If there’s a touchscreen, it’s almost certainly a crappy, low-res screen using yesteryear’s touch technology.
Worst of all, they’re dangerous. Over the last few years, touchscreens have become fairly standard in many new, mid-range lines. Which is great! The problem? Manufacturers didn’t really go about it right. Rather than seizing the opportunity to design something entirely new around touch, they just took all of the physical, oh-so-pressable buttons they once splayed across the dash and crammed them onto a touchscreen. Haptics? Sensible, spatial design? Whatever, we’ve got a touchscreen! Shiny!
As a result, actions that once required but a pinch of muscle memory (like, say, changing the station) now require you to take your eyes off the road entirely, lest you blindly jam your finger into the wrong button in that flat sea of glass.
Voice control is a strong contender here — perhaps more so than in any other space, really. But that’s yet another place where cars are lagging. As Google’s voice recognition approaches an almost terrifyingly accurate level, I’m still finding myself angrily shouting at my 2014 model car while it fails to figure out which of six possible commands I’m saying.
Thankfully, both Apple and Google have realized the massive space to be won here, and are actively working to take the manufacturers and their terrible design work out of the mix. It won’t happen overnight — but in just a few years, interacting with our cars should be a whole lot less awful.
In the meantime, let us all drool over this just-posted concept video by Matthaeus Krenn, whose LinkedIn profile lists his last job as being a product designer at Cue — the team behind the titular Cue personal assistant app that was acquired by Apple back in October.
Is it perfect? No. Amongst other things, it requires users to learn and memorize how to control an interface, rather than working in a way that they can discover naturally. Is three fingers A/C control or audio source control?
But we need more of this. We need more smart people thinking about how we interact with our cars, especially as touchscreens become more and more common. When we’re steering what is essentially a 2-ton metal missile down the street, skipping to the next song shouldn’t be a dangerous decision.
The rest is here: Dear Car Makers: Please Hire People Like This
The shift toward more private and anonymous sharing continues, and today another new application called Shortwave (or Shrtwv, as they’re now abbreviating it, to eliminate confusion with another Shortwave) is officially debuting its own take on the trend with an app for anonymous sharing of both photos and thoughts.
The difference between Shrtwv (pronounced “Shortwave”) and something like Secret or Whisper, which are also focused on anonymous postings is that the thoughts, photos and activities are tied to a location, where they’re then left behind for others in the current vicinity to see.
The company refers to the app as “an anonymous diary for your world”; however one of the larger use cases could be posting those “overheards” to Shrtwv instead of to Twitter as an “OH:..” tweet. It could also make sense for when you have something to share, but don’t want to be involved in the guessing game that Secret permits with its “anonymish” identification of users as either a “friend” or “friend of friend.”
The posts in Shrtwv, called “waves,” can be read in real-time by those nearby.
Leaving a wave is easy enough to do. On the app’s home screen, you just swipe up and share your thought or photo. Users can like or flag the waves they see to give you feedback.
“Have you ever been at a coffee shop and you overhear something that sticks with you for a long time after? In a nutshell, that is what Shrtwv is about,” explains co-founder Muneeb Bokhari of Digiplastic Industries, the company behind Shrtwv.
“We believe that anonymity is really about commenting on and taking in experiences without any direct judgment by others,” he adds, noting that in the coffee shop example, you couldn’t respond directly because you don’t know the person saying it, and it’s weird to walk up to a stranger and just tell them your thoughts on the matter. But you can post the “overheard” statement and share it with others, as people tend to do.
But not all waves have to be about the “overheard.” One of Bohari’s favorites, he says, was of a person in the NY area who posted they were stressed about expecting their third child. A second user later responded to give them encouragement. This sort of use case is more similar to Whisper’s, where it’s about expressing personal thoughts, sometimes of a darker or more embarrassing nature.
The Shrtwv app, which went live into a public beta of sorts at the end of December, saw over 200,000 waves posted in its first month on the App Store, reaching users in over 52 countries. Twenty percent of posts have photos attached, but surprisingly, Bokhari says that so far, people have not been spamming the app with adult content – something that most social services that gain traction eventually have to deal with.
“People have been taking pictures of pets up for adoption, writing about the crushes they have on their classmates, and, generally, sharing moments of beauty that they see in the world around them,” he says (probably too optimistically…the porn will come, man, the porn will come).
However, because each Shrtwv post is geo-tagged with a physical location, abusing the app from, say, your sofa at home, is discouraged by default as location is involved which is, notes Bokhari, “the equivalent of me writing something completely offensive on my front door.”
Shrtwv is an interesting twist on anonymous sharing by nature of connecting thoughts to locations, but it fails a bit in its execution as it’s not entirely self-explanatory how you’re supposed to interact with waves, or what gestures do what. You might be tempted to swipe left to see a new wave appear, for example, but this only pops up the “leave a new wave” screen, which is confusing. (Apparently, waves just load automatically.)
And despite Shrtwv’s emphasis on location, waves are oddly not tagged with an exact locale. I’d like to know if waves were posted from a local hotspot, coffee shop, someone’s workplace, or just down the street from me, and Shrtwv doesn’t help with this.
It’s also limited by its use of location in a way because if you’re not located in an area that has a lot of early adopters, you’ll get stuck seeing the same waves over and over again until more users get on board. It’s a shame that Shrtwv, like Secret, hasn’t thought to surface the best posts on its service from anywhere, and mix those in with local waves to get the app a broader appeal.
But the app is only two months old, and still has room to improve in time.
Shrtwv is a free download here on iTunes.
At Cluster, we’re big fans of iteration and experimentation. Since we launched publicly in February 2013, we have rapidly iterated the product on both iOS and Android. In the first eight weeks of being live in the Apple App Store, we launched 10 updates. On Android, there was a week that we pushed out five releases in five days while we did some heavy A/B testing.
While rapid iteration is wonderful, at times we also slow down and make more deliberate decisions about larger changes. When this happens, we tend to make rapid prototypes and then test them in front of different groups. Most of these tests are fairly informal, but occasionally (admittedly not often enough) we run full-blown user testing where we recruit and bring in potential users to walk through the app and give us feedback.
We are working on a big update, so we recently ran multiple sessions for different prototypes. When talking about it with fellow entrepreneurs, they asked us for details. Here is our ever-evolving playbook.
Because this is fairly lengthy, this will be the first of three parts:
User tests are extremely valuable and require a lot of work to get set up. It takes a significant amount of one person’s time over the course of a week to set up the tests and run them well. So make time to do it correctly.
The setup process is divided into the following sections:
We were recently lucky enough to do a sprint with the exceptionally talented design team from Google Ventures (entire post on that coming soon). Over the course of five days, we identified core opportunities with Cluster, brainstormed improvements, built several simple prototypes, and tested the prototypes with potential users. The result of this process was a clear idea of what new concepts were working and which weren’t.
With the list of successful ideas, the team then rapidly built a single functional prototype based off our current app. With this working prototype completed, it was time to show it to users and see if all the insights gathered from the design sprint worked in the context of our actual app.
I was scheduled to be spending a week in Nashville, which gave us a great opportunity to run our test outside of the Bay Area. This is incredibly valuable because the Bay Area tends to be filled with tech-savvy, early adopters. Nashville has its fair share of them, but technology isn’t as core to the community there, so we felt like this would give us an opportunity to meet more “real” users.
It’s also important to pick a quiet, private, and neutral place. As tempting as it might be to use your company’s conference room, I’d recommend not bringing users into the corporate office. Use a friend’s office or co-working space. All advice we’ve been given is the more neutral the location, the better.
The privacy and quietness is important because you’ll be recording the session, so you don’t want to do it in a coffee shop where there’s a lot of distraction and background noise.
When I was in Nashville, I rented a conference room from the Entrepreneur Center. It worked out perfectly.
Decide what type of users to study
This is a very important part of the process. Before recruiting users, you need to decide what type of people you want to meet with. We had done this during the Google sprint, and because our app involves sharing photos, we asked these types of questions:
With these questions in mind, we created a Google Forms survey that would help us clearly identify whether the potential tester fit our target profile. It’s not worth user testing if you’re not testing the right type of user, so take some time and do this step properly.
Since the user is going to have to physically be somewhere, it’s also useful to get their availability. We did that by starting with the question saying “Which of the following times are you available on Thursday February 6 to come to downtown Nashville?” with five options for time slots.
About a week before we planned to do the user testing, we posted a job opportunity to the jobs/et-cetera section of Craigslist. In this relatively short post, we give very little information, except that we were looking for people to participate in a usability study, they’ll need to be okay signing an NDA and being filmed, and we were willing to pay them for their time (in this case, a $75 Amazon gift card for a 60-minute meeting).
The post did not let users email-reply. Instead, there was a link to a Google form we built above. That made it super easy for us to consolidate and organize everyone’s responses.
Usually, we’ll get between 60-200 applicants within a few days. We try to pare that down to five. This happens over several rounds of editing.
For this study, the first big cuts happened with device type. Because of the small amount of time we had to build the prototype, we only could test with iPhone users that had iOS 7 installed, and ideally one of the iPhone 5 models because we didn’t have time to optimize for all screen sizes. Although this skewed the users a bit, we were able to rebalance it by looking at the other info.
We then eliminated anyone who didn’t take photos with their phones. Although it might be interesting to talk to these users eventually, we were looking for people who would have an immediate reason to use our app. If they didn’t take photos, it was unlikely they’d be the type of user we wanted anyway.
With the remaining candidates, we looked at their age, occupation, and a couple other data points and put together a prioritized list of the people we were most interested in talking to. At this point it became a scheduling exercise, slotting our top pick for each time slot and choosing a backup if that person couldn’t make it.
Each candidate was emailed saying they’d been selected for a time slot and they needed to write back within a certain time frame to confirm, or their slot would be given away. The backup list was emailed saying they were on the backup list and to let us know if they no longer could make it if picked, otherwise they would hear by a certain time if they were needed.
As a warning, people are very flaky. Out of the five top candidates, only three confirmed, and one of them cancelled the day of. It wasn’t a problem because we were able to fill in the slots with our backups, but it’s a bigger pain that you’d expect. It’s even wise to have multiple backups just in case.
We were testing a mobile app, so it was important to record the user actually using the app. Although you can do this by plugging the app in and watching a screencast on the computer, it’s much better to actually see them touching their phone. We purchased a $100 camera for this, and it’s well worth the investment.
The only other thing you’ll need is a way to record the audio and video of the session to your computer. For this, I recommend an excellent app called Screenflow.
You’ve got the goals, the users, and the equipment. Now it’s time to show up and run the tests! The next post will cover setting up the room and running the tests with live users.
Please feel free to reach out to me at @mulligan on Twitter and ask any other questions in the meantime.
Read this article: How To Run Live User Testing, Part 1: Setup
Here are the do’s and don’ts of wearing Google Glass. Right from Google.
Apparently — and I know this might be a shocker — you’re not supposed to stand in the corner of the room and record people with Google Glass. That would make you a glasshole, according to this list.
At this point, Google’s challenge is not building the Glass platform, but training the general public to welcome Glass wearers into society. Glass’s future rests largely on the public’s acceptance of the technology. If, like Bluetooth headsets, it’s deemed nerdy or, worse, if Glass is lumped in with the NSA privacy scandle, the technology will be an also-ran. A lot is riding on Google Glass Explorers.
Google introduced Glass with a bang, but the company has not advertised the technology to the general public. For most people, their only interaction with the device is with a random person wearing Google Glass. These so-called Explorers, for better or worse, are Glass advocates. The “no glass allowed” campaigns clearly state that these advocates are not putting Glass in the best light.
As the last point in this do’s and don’ts list states:
Don’t Be creepy or rude (aka, a “Glasshole”). Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers.
Go here to read the rest: Google Explains How Not To Be A Glasshole
In 2013, AT&T received between 2,000 and 2,999 National Security Letters, impacting 4,000 to 4,999 customer accounts. Verizon, for comparison, received “between 1,000 and 2,000″ National Security Letters in the same period.
In the first half of 2013 (as The Hill notes, there is a Department of Justice limit on what they can disclose in this specific context) AT&T received somewhere between 0 and 999 requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for user data that impacted between 35,000 and 35,999 accounts. Non-data requests under FISA were fewer than a thousand, and impacted fewer than a thousand accounts.
Verizon and AT&T are quite similar in terms of the quantity of requests that they field from the government. AT&T had 301,816 self-titled ”Criminal & Civil Litigation Demands” in 2013. Verizon had “approximately 320,000 requests for customer information from federal, state or local law enforcement” in the same year.
In related news, the NSA is expected to report proposed reforms to its telephone metadata program this week. Also, James Clapper, current Director of National Intelligence, recently said the following:
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11—which is the genesis of the 215 program—and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”
Increased disclosure, reform ideas, and something close to contrition? Be still my beating Snowden. (Not that any of the above is sufficient. But progress of a sort is progress, and we’ll just have to win by inches on this.)
Update: Sorry folks, we spoke a bit too soon on this. The feature is a work in progress for Chromecast, so it will (hopefully) begin arriving in apps like AllCast soon.
There’s good news for Android device owners who also have a decent TV. AllCast — an app that streams content from devices — just added mirroring, a feature that beams content shown on screen to a TV that is using Google Chromecast.
That conjures up a whole range of possibilities, including Flappy Bird on your tele, as demonstrated by Koushik Dutta, the developer behind AllCast. (Koush, as he’s known, could probably use a little practice going on this video — but it’s good to know some people have stayed productive despite widespread Flappy Bird fever.)
AllCast is one of the first apps to take advantage of the new Chromecast SDK, which was opened up to developers at the beginning of this month. That means we can expect mirroring, and other goodies, to land in other apps in due course. That will also mean more reasons to buy a Chromecast, which is headed to the UK soon.