12 reasons why we are happy in 2014!

This is not one of those existential Thought Catalog kind of post. Its just a quick 12 points summary of why we were happily grinning like monkeys on 17 April 2014.

Reason 1 – Ideafarms came into being in 2002.

Reason 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 … we continued rocking and doing kickass work.

Reason 12 – WE TURNED 12 THIS year!! And yes just like any discerning on-the-brink teenager, we enter our adolescent years kicking, screaming and very unaware of what the future has in store for us (well not quite. We’re smarter than that 😉 ). If the year so far is anything to go by, we are already on our way to having a lot of fun. This year we got the opportunity to make our very first game on Android, in affiliation with a upcoming movie called Yeh Hai Bakrapur. The game is called “Kaun Banega PM?” and you can read about it here. More on that in another post and lets bring back the focus to more mundane things like a party etc. :-D. Have a look at how we had a small celebration at work to usher in the big Thirteen in Fourteen.

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Well there was cake of course. And it was del-i-cious!

 

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Here’s our enthusiastic HR waiting to greet the founders.
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Greeted in the Indian Traditional way.
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And accepting the blessings
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Hungry tortured citizens of Ideafarms

 

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Good wishes came forth once the cake was finished!!

This was just the trailer of the celebration that is in store, a big party is under wraps and you are already invited! Watch this space for more action!!

Social Apps – the small ideas, BIG Difference

We hope you had an opportunity to read our previous post on Social Apps. Carrying on from there, we thought we’d share with you some examples of Social Apps (apps using new-age digital technology and mobile apps to offer aid for emergency situations or Social causes) we came across and really liked.

These are three examples in three very different contexts. What qualifies them to be a part of this list together is that they are simple and relevant enough to make you wonder – “Hey why didn’t I think of that?!” – and have the potential to really make a difference. Or as we like to call it – #smallideasBIGDIFFERENCE.

So without further ado …

1. The Casserole Club

Arguably most might think that sharing food with those who can afford to order it out does not qualify as a Social Cause. But the potential of this idea combined with its simplicity is what makes it a part of this list. In their own words –

Casserole helps people share extra portions of home cooked food with others in their area who might not always be able to cook for themselves.

Casserole was born out of a desire to help bring communities together. There are a lot of people cooking food and many others who would greatly appreciate a home cooked meal. Our goal is to connect the two.

You can read up more on their website – http://www.casseroleclub.com/about. How it works is, you simply update whatever you’re cooking for the day on their website. The site builds up a menu of the various food updates for the day and anyone looking for a home-cooked meal can take their pick and order from the site. Eliminates food wastage and helps people staying away from home get a simple home-cooked meal. If this isn’t a neat Social App idea, then what is! If you’re from India you can just imagine the potential of something like this for the thousands staying by themselves away from home and craving “Maa ke haath ka khaana” – Mom-made food!

[Incidentally and its funny how these things work – came across this tweet just before posting this article :-) ]

2. Notfound.org

Another very simple and very brilliant idea. Which site does not after all serve up a 404-page every once in a while. And when there is no way you can control that, why not at least donate your 404 page for a greater good and donate it to notfound.org!

Across the European Union, thousands of children go missing every year. Thanks to the NotFound project, you can make a difference. Install our application and a picture of a missing child automatically gets published on every ‘page not found’ of your website.

The idea can be extended to so many different social causes. Wish it were applicable in India too. We would’ve gladly donated our 404 page! Dear Satyamev Jayate team, are you listening?!

3. Babajob.com

This one is a start-up operating right out of our own country – India – where understandably the need is greater. A focused job portal aiming to connect people from the middle and lower income group with employers looking for trustworthy, qualified workers. Job information in the informal sector usually spreads through word-of-mouth and technology intervention here helps job seekers find out about jobs they could not have known about otherwise and for employers to increase their range of finding trustworthy workforce. A great idea which helps people from lower strata of society find livelihood and improve their living standards!

Babajob.com is a web and mobile start-up dedicated to bringing better job opportunities to the informal job sector (cooks, maids, security guards, office helpers, etc.) by appropriately connecting the right employers and job seekers via the web, mobile apps, SMS, the mobile web and voice services.

Babajob was born as an experiment by Sean Blagsvedt, his step-father Ira Weise and Microsoft colleague Vibhore Goyal, to leverage the web, the mobile and social networks to accelerate the escape from poverty. It is an experiment — a possible solution to provide all levels of job seekers more with job opportunities while efficiently helping employers find suitable employees.

One look at their site though and you can see people using the site even for some more main-stream jobs like Sales and Marketing. The site provides a mix of web and mobile technology with ample human intervention to enable even the uneducated. We have not used the service ourselves yet but do plan to whenever we have a suitable opening and urge you to do the same. Do share your experience with us.

There are also other sites like “Rozgar Duniya“, “Village Naukri” and “Rojgar Mantra” we came across that help people from villages or Rural India look for employment.

[Translations for non-hindi speaking readers – Rozgar/Rojgar means Employment ; Naukri means Job ; Duniya is World]

Do let us know what you think about these ideas and share with us any other that you came across and found interesting or are working on yourself. We’d love to know more about them! We are especially interested in ideas where smart phones and smart apps are innovatively being used to provide help in the social sector.

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The Case for Sales Mobility – an interactive thought paper

Have you equipped your Sales Team with the iCollateral advantage?

Current technological platforms and devices like the iPad with their mobility and multi-touch capability are redefining the potential of the customer’s interaction with your Sales team. Organisations are realising the value added by these devices in personalising the client-sales team interaction and are equipping their Sales Teams with these smart devices. While devices like the iPad are one piece of the message delivery puzzle, the real magic can only be added with the use of dynamic, interactive content that fully exploits the interaction capability of these devices.

 

Operating at the intersection of Design, Technology and Business, Ideafarms understands the value of an interactive experience. Our extensive experience in crafting  Sales Configurator solutions across different verticals also affirms our belief that your client values an intuitive experience that is contextual to her needs.

Our thought paper “The case for Sales Mobility”  [PDF] is intended to be a trigger to start a discussion with your organisation on how your Marketing and Sales functions can maximise your existing investments as well as provide your Sales team with the right tools and applications to win that next deal.

View and Download the thought paper.
(Interactive document Containing videos. Please wait for it to download completely before viewing.)

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Pho2Greet – Bringing the charm of Picture Postcards to Android

Picture yourself standing on top of a mountain peak, completely in awe of that breathtaking view, wishing that somehow you could share this moment with your loved ones – Show them the view, tell them how you feel. We know how that feels, which is why we came up with the idea of a personalised photo greeting application.

Timed nicely for a Friendship Day launch, Ideafarms very proudly brings to you our first Android application – Pho2Greet. Just a day old and we are already overwhelmed by the response we have got. A big Thank You to all of you for that :-).

With Pho2Greet, we hope to bring back the old-school charm of sending picture postcards. What’s different is that now you can personalise the picture and the message in the greeting. Simply click a photo right then and there, or select an existing one from the gallery, add a message on top of it and send it to your friends. The beauty is in the speed & simplicity with which you can share a personalised greeting with your friends.

Pho2Greet – Simply click a picture, add a message and share with friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pho2Greet also has a live editor to customise the color, size and font of your message.

Live Text Editor in Pho2Greet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The application has also been architected beautifully for you to be able to save your greetings to edit later. You can share the same greeting with many friends, customise the message for different friends and/or even change the picture while keeping the message the same in each greeting.

We would love it if you will share with us any interesting greetings you make using the application. Do share the greetings on our facebook wall –> http://www.facebook.com/Ideafarms or you can twitpic them to us @Ideafarms

We also hope you will keep sharing your feedback – both good and bad. While the encouragement keeps us going, the critique helps us improve.

The application is available for download through the Android Market and is absolutely free. Have fun Pho2Greeting! :-).

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We too used Google+, and how!

Inspired by this post on Gizmodo which urges you to use Google+ for the main feature that it offers – sharing a post with only a select group of people – I got an idea to use it to get feedback for our latest Android App (more on that later) within a close group of trusted folks who I knew could offer valuable inputs.

For those who are yet to use it, what happens in Google+ is that you can add people to circles (and people can add you to circles too of course.) The USP is that you can choose to share your content (post, photos, rants, etc. etc.) with only a select few and so then only those people can see it or can comment on it. A little more digging around and of course with the help of the very good folks on Twitter, I discovered that you can also disable these few people from sharing it further with more people. So there, your secret is safe! Yay!

Safe with this knowledge, I shared the link for the Android App (which still needs some kinks worked out of it before it can be shared with people at large) with my Circle on Google+ called ‘Ideafarmers’.

Knowing I was sharing this with people who are working at Ideafarms or have worked here before, tech nuts and some even Android junkies ( 😉 ), definitely people with good ideas and who understand the value of the kind of user-experience Ideafarms tries to deliver, I was not disappointed. Within minutes we were bombarded with encouragement (which felt really nice) and very useful suggestions, most of which is already being put to good use towards improving the application. We all know how important early user-feedback is for any application. And if you are able to use a social network to gather it.. well it kind of validates the value of a social network beyond the ‘likes and +1s’. The benefit that Google+ adds here is that it allows a conversation to build around a topic – which was perhaps not as easily achieved over Twitter or Facebook earlier -which facilitates easier participation through which people can bring in their collective experience and expertise.

Infact we were so pleased with the result that now Ideafarms too has a Google+ account which we definitely plan to use for collaboration over our future projects / products and sharing information about all that interests you and us. You can search for Ideafarms and add us to your circles and if you think you would also like to participate and help us test and improve the early releases of our applications, do drop us a line and we can add you to our ‘Tech Fun’ group :-).

Also, if you have also used Google+ in any such interesting way, we would love to hear about it! Do share your experience and ideas.

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Revisiting – The Original Sin

The Original Sin (image source: IT Magz – October 2007)

RT @AnubhavSharma: Why is ‘save’ icon still a floppy? <— This question recently on my Twitter timeline prompted me to dig out from our archives this old article by Sunil Malhotra for IT Magz back in 2007, titled ‘The Original Sin‘.

The article had also mentioned the same issue and I post excerpts from it here –

Continuous and aggressive improvement is not as easy as it sounds. There are aspects that we technophiles must make ourselves additionally accountable for. Things that go so far unnoticed that they become absurdities. Here’s a simple provocation:

Who in today’s world would even know what a floppy disk is! The “Save” icon has lost its context but Microsoft does not seem to have even noticed its extinction. This illustrates how oversight or short-sight can create habits; even users stop noticing things that were meant to help them in the first place. The suggestion that emerges from the above example is to design interfaces that communicate at higher levels of abstraction so that their meaning is not lost when products of everyday use become obsolete. To think things through instead of either immediately imitating “œfamiliarity” or rushing into applying our existing skills. Imagine having the graphic of a dinosaur as a signage for a wildlife sanctuary in today’s world.

I can only suggest that we, the IT community, take a higher degree of responsibility for the total software experience – simply, that from our current focus on functionality and performance we must move up a notch into sustained usability.

Definitely something to think about. I love the term ‘Sustained Usability’ used here. Something you don’t get to hear of much, especially not from Experience Designers.

You can view the PDF of the entire article from here or access it from the IT Magz website.

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Neutralising Applethink

Neutralising AppleThink
Watch out Apple! App publishers choose to go the web-app way instead.

In my previous post about the Smartphone wars -“ Android vs Apple – I had touched upon the point that some people feel that Apple may have adopted a rather restrictive approach when it comes to their devices and the app store.  While consumers have to get used to downloading apps from the Apple store, the deal is not so sweet for the app publishers.

This is what a recent HBR post says –

An interesting battle is looming over Apple’s newspaper and magazines subscription pricing for iOS devices (notably the iPad). Apple’s offer to publishers is simple. They can offer an app that allows consumers to buy individual issues of their content or to subscribe to it from within the app; the publisher sets the pricing. But Apple will take a 30 percent cut of the revenues and it will also require the publisher not to undercut the price offered to iPad app users.

Which is why we now see newspaper and magazine publishers – the likes of Playboy and Financial Times – coming up with an interesting way of bypassing the Apple App Store. These gutsy app publishers have chosen to make iPad optimised websites rather than apps that are downloadable only through the Apple app-store. While for Playboy it might be that they do not qualify for Apple’s strict no-nudity policy, for FT, in their own words –

Firstly, the HTML5 FT Web App means users can see new changes and features immediately. There is no extended release process through an app store and users are always on the latest version.

Secondly, developing multiple ‘native’ apps for various products is logistically and financially unmanageable. By having one core codebase, we can roll the FT app onto multiple platforms at once.

Well Playboy’s and FT’s reasoning does seem to be sound from the user’s perspective too. While with the use of HTML 5, there is close to no compromise on the experience of the app – you can still touch,  swipe and flick your way through the app – the user is also not forced to get tied down to a medium and can access the same content on any device via the mobile web app route. This is also perhaps clear writing on the wall for Apple on exactly what they are doing wrong by having such a strong control over their app store. Clearly where Android seems to be scoring higher points.

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Smartphone Wars

Wanting to buy a touch-screen smartphone, I asked the good people on Twitter for their help in choosing between an iPhone 4 and a Galaxy S 2 and was overwhelmed by the number of responses in favor for Android! There is no denying the kind of support / backing Android has managed to get over such a short period of time. Surely they must be doing something right. Was discussing this with boss-man and I got a smile as an answer. He had of course, yet again predicted this a while back.

So what is it that Android is doing so right, or Apple doing so wrong? The 2 very strong viewpoints I got were –
1. Android is much more configurable. It gives the power in the hands of the user. AND it’s cheaper! “Why throw away your money on iPhone when you can get something just as good much cheaper.”
2. While there is no denying the User Experience of the iPhone devices, a lot of people seem to find the Apple way of working rather restrictive. Even the store manager at a store in Saket said (and I paraphrase) – “iPhone does not give you the flexibility of sharing data. No bluetooth. You can only transfer data to your device using iTunes. And you can sync your device with only one pc at a time or risk losing all your data.”

The restrictiveness of the Apple-way also comes to the fore when we see their strong control over the app store and their continued resistance towards Flash (Adobe). App publishers like Playboy and Financial Times are now coming up with innovative ways of bypassing Apple’s restrictiveness – which may also be quite beneficial for the end users actually. I will try and cover that in another post though.

Lifehacker has also compared the 2 OS from the perspective of a ‘Power User’ in this post.

Apple vs Android (source: Lifehacker)

While the Apple vs Android debate may continue, Ideafarms is backing Android for now. We also welcome your opinion on the topic. Do let us know which phone / OS you prefer and why. You can also join the discussion here –> https://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=179127528783537&topic=568

[As for me, I might still end up getting an iPhone but that’s because it’s an old itch I have to scratch. Although I must admit I almost changed my mind 5 times while writing this post :D]

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Use of Augmented Reality for marketing – still a long way to go for India

At Select City Walk (A mall in Delhi) in the main atrium where the regulars would know that they tend to have cars on display, yesterday the car that was displayed was the Ford Fiesta. But there was something different this time and what caught my attention were these big round red booths with an iPad attached to each. Excited to get a first-hand taste of Augmented Reality, all thoughts of meeting my waiting friends escaped my mind and I decided to give this a shot, only to come out extremely disappointed.

Ford Fiesta iPad Booth at Select City Walk – No magic happening here!

So the red booths were spread in a circle around the car displayed in the centre and the iPad in each was pointing towards the car. The so-called iPad app in the car was nothing more than a website adapted for the iPad’s interactions [iPad 1.0 if I may] which was in no way whatsoever utilising the vehicle kept right in front of it. The maximum extent of interactivity available in the app was that you could rotate the car 360 degrees. (I wonder which genius thought that one up since the car was right there in front of you to walk around.) The feature listing was again in a very website format and I was very disappointed because what I had imagined was that you could walk around the car with an iPad in your hand and some “magic” would happen. I asked the guy who was helping you interact with the app there (can you imagine an iPad app that someone has to help you use?!) if the iPad had an Augmented Reality app. He goes, “Ma’am I’ve never heard the term!”

Wondering which company had developed this app, I headed to Google and what I found instead was this video link to another Ford Fiesta iPad app.

Now even this app (not AR) by the same company, is far more interesting and better executed than what I saw yesterday.

And of course we have all seen the oh-so-many marvelous examples of how Augmented Reality is actually used to boost the experience at a car booth.

A few thoughts that come to mind with which I will sum up –

1. Marketers need to understand the real potential of the devices and the technology they are using to be able to come up with truly valuable ideas. Anything else is just a gimmick and more often than not would leave the user feeling irritated thus negating the entire experience that you so painstakingly created for them.

2. India still has a lot of catching up to do as far as tech innovation is concerned – especially in the advertising and marketing space. Infact I wonder if we will ever get there. I don’t know whether the blame lies on the “idea guys” who are pretty much still clueless or the marketing folk who remain tight-fisted and are not willing to part with the moolah. My guess is that it’s a bit of both.

A quick summary from Navteq Developer’s Day

Back from attending the Navteq Developer’s Day with my colleagues Pranav and Ashish, this post summarises some of the points that stood out for me during the entire event.

Location-based Advertising

First things first –

  1. The grub was amazing.
  2. I won a USB stick during the developer’s special part of the event, while (ahem) my “techie” colleagues looked on. And you don’t want to know for which question but it was a very proud moment for me. I would like to thank my mother, my father…

Alright I will come back to the real deal. So Navteq is an organisation which supports application developers in building ‘Location-based Applications’ by supplying Maps data and also helps them in bringing their apps to market. They are currently expanding their reach with Indian Map data and thus the event. During the course of the day, they touched upon the type of services that they provide of which what stood out for me was:

  1. They will be providing Destination Maps – which will cover Map information beyond the final Destination. Destination Maps can actually provide information for how a market place or mall is laid out and which shop is on which floor. This definitely opens up opportunities for a number of interesting app ideas.
  2. 3D Map views.
  3. By the end of 2011, they may also be providing traffic information.

I can already think of a few Augmented Reality app ideas just by combining the last two points.

The most interesting part came during the later part of the day when a panel of industry experts discussed the trends and future for location based applications. Some very interesting trends and ideas were discussed during this session like-

  1. Applications should be able to learn from a user’s habits and provide him location-based services accordingly.
  2. In the future there may be an app that is able to study a person’s appoinment calendar and map it to the traffic conditions to alert the user in case he needs to reschedule or plan an alternate route.
  3. In the Indian context, the routes and timings for DTC buses are already being mapped to be able to provide real-time information to commuters. A gentleman in the panel raised an interesting point that real-time information for the Indian Railways would also be helpful for commuters and which doesn’t exist presently.
  4. One of the questions raised during the discussion was, which are the existing services which could be enhanced with the use of LBS.
  5. Location as well as context/POI based advertising was touted to be a big thing in the future.
  6. Enterprise level Location Based Services is an area which probably needs attention and could have a lot of potential. Anyone else thinking logistics here?

All in all, it was an informative event. As a side note, what stood out for me the most was the ease and humor with which Steven Citron-Pousty (the presentor from DeCarta during the developer’s hour and the giver of the free USBs) presented. He kept the audience engaged the entire time, even non-techies like me. Oh and the grub of course ;-).

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