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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Why would I ask someone else to manage MY online reputation? Part 2

Welcome to Part 2 of a 3-post series – Online Reputation Management (ORM) is more than just damage control. Simply entrusting the job to PR professionals especially in the Social Media world is a sure recipe for disaster. (Read on or go to Part 1)

ORM – Think about it. Does ORM mean managing the reputation of your ‘online’ business OR does it mean using online platforms and tools to manage your ‘offline’ reputation OR is it a bit of both … OR is it something else altogether?

Let’s look at recent examples of reputation toll that money couldn’t buy (in no particular order).

Last Edition of News of The World
The Final Goodbye

1. Bad News of The World: Death of a newspaper (RIP)
Speculation about whether this could have been avoided is futile. Jane Wilson, CEO of the U.K.’s Chartered  Institute of Public Relations, wisely notes that the closing of the News of the World – œis a great example of traditional and social  media working together to produce a staggering outcome.-

Google Search – Results

2. The 2G spectrum allocation scam: All stripped and nowhere to hide
India’s political invincibles are cooling their heels in Tihar. Corporate fortresses have not been spared either. The much revered Tata brand is a surprise casualty, least for the way Ratan Tata literally ‘asked for it’.

I’m not sure if PR could’ve saved the day for them and others who haven’t yet realised that their currency of ‘information asymmetry’ has been hopelessly devalued.

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Remember the story – the one-horse town that had 2 barbers; — one dishevelled and the other not a hair out of place — the dishevelled guy was the better barber. I’m not saying that PR, Advertising, MarComm or other communication professionals don’t know communication. The scary part is that while they seem to know the HOW of communication; they do not want to even acknowledge or take responsibility for the more critical WHAT. I’m worried about their understanding (and acceptance) of the realities of today; it simply isn’t yesterday once more guys!

Online spares none!!

And the speed of technology evolution isn’t helping either. By the time you get to figuring out how to exploit one wave, another surges from right behind it. Conversations are the new content; structuring them into content bins (databases) is a sure way to diminish value. We know that reputation is

“the way others see you and what they think of you“.

Your reputation is about your WHOLE personality, the good with the bad (and the indifferent), not just the good parts. So there’s a chance that if you say what you mean and do what you say, they’ll trust you a whole lot and more.

Now, there’s a bunch of reputation management companies offering services ostensibly using tools that can look for all instances of mentions of you or your company across the Web and strip the negative comments/mentions and whathaveyou. Automated scavenging … hmmm. Funny they have a hard time managing their own reputation though. ;-). See this post about Reputation.com (formerly ReputationDefender). And not far behind is a creed of ‘experts’ hustling you into trying some form of automated social media or other. Automated Social Media?? Gimme a break!

Be careful of all the jargon out there. Take responsibility for your end of the deal. Too many clients “outsource” their own responsibility of defining what they need to the agency. It is key to determine what you or your company stands for, not just what the doctor ordered. Pardon my use of the cliche but don’t, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

From blogpost on Reputation Mismanagement:

Consistency will always get you better “rankings” online and offline:
While the Internet has become the choice for many to evaluate a product or service, getting positive reviews with traditional word of mouth trumps all else. When you’re at a restaurant checking email on your Blackberry and someone is doing the same on their Droid, any comparison with intuitive features shared in-person and then verified online will be a powerful brand and reputation builder.

By the way, the barber analogy fits nicely with the way today’s content ‘virals’ itself through communities. Word of mouth is a great viral that’s unflatteringly labelled gossip by some. Your reputation does not lend itself to virality (if such a word exists) despite what the new media department of your advertising agency tells you. And Word of Mouth (WoM) is replacing the credibility (read reputation) of the very folks who claim they can manage yours!

<< (go to Part 1)

 (go to Part 3) >>

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Why would I ask someone else to manage MY online reputation? Part 1

Either I have a reputation or I don’t. And reputation is not something I can buy off the supermarket. It’s not just my brand, personality or product; my reputation is my identity. It’s really all I have and it took years of sweat to build it.

Reputation has a huge problem. It is invisible; however hard I try looking even in the mirror I just can’t see it. The only way to know it even exists is listening to who’s saying what. Yeah, you experts will give me reasons why my reputation isn’t okay or how some rumour eroded it or how, for a “small” fee you can give me good advice. Dammit, I already told you it’s all I have and I’m not letting someone else use it to experiment with their theories.

We accept as a verity* of capitalism that someone (usually an expert) knows more than someone else (usually a consumer). But information asymmetries everywhere have in fact been gravely wounded by the Internet.

Information is the currency of the Internet. … The Internet has accomplished what even the most fervent consumer advocates usually cannot: it has vastly shrunk the gap between the experts and the public.

The above excerpt from Freakonomics says it all: the message is loud and clear that the experts – PR agencies, Advertising folks, Media Publications, the new breed of Social Media ‘experts’ – and all the erstwhile keepers of information asymmetry have to learn to play the game by the rules of our times. The rules do not allow for you to build your business by taking advantage of my ignorance or by hiding the source of your information. Are you game? No? I thought as much.

Which is why I had a huge problem with this Economic Times story: Social Media Entrepreneurs are transforming companies virtually. Read my lips – “by simply affixing the label ‘online reputation management’ on CRM techniques and tools, you just fell back to your old ways of creating information asymmetry.” Fortunately, this time around your white-labeling tricks couldn’t fool too many.

So here’s the thing. Reputation management is not like any other technique or methodology that you can learn in a B-School. Reputation is the ‘perception’ of a person, company, institution, nation whatever.

Reputation is about the personality of the entity as seen and felt by all those who come in contact with it directly or indirectly. And personality is not only about how you look in the photoshopped version of your picture on the cover of Vogue.

Personality is who you are and nobody but nobody can present you to the world without knowing the real you. Not even the experts.

Question I’m leaving on the table:

1. Who do you think is managing Airtel’s online reputation? They are doing a great job, don’t you think.

a) PR agency
b) Internal MarComm guys
c) Advertising folk
d) All of the above (Social Media ‘Expert’) 😛

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*Something, such as a statement, principle, or  belief, that is true

Note: This is the first part of a series of 3 – hopefully I have been able to give the reader some sense what reputation is. More importantly, I hope you have your own understanding of what it isn’t. Feedback welcome.

(go to Part 2) >>

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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.

Google Streetview Mashups

Seeing some nice pictures people have taken through Google Street View from around the world, roused our curiosity  and we decided to read up more about it. The first stop was the Street View site by Google. On the site, Google claims that Google Maps with Street View lets you explore places around the world through a 360-degree street-level imagery. You can check out restaurants, visit neighborhoods, or plan your next trip.

They even have a technology page on the site where they have described in detail the process, techniques and equipment they have used to gather all the street view data and have stitched it together for viewing. Quite impressive. You can read more about it here.

So of course the next question that came to mind was (we have seen quite a number of examples of very useful mashups that were created using Google Maps over the number of years), whether the same has been done with Google Street View. Below are a few examples we liked.

1. Stweet – Google Street View convenes Twitter

Stweet as the name suggests is a mash up of Google street view with twitter. It shows the exact location from where the tweet originated against a panoramic view of the location using Google street view.

Once a user selects a destination, Stweet shows the tweets from the selected location and as the user moves around in Street-view, it shows more tweets from those locations.

Stweet refreshes automatically when a new tweet is found in the destination that the user is viewing. Currently only available for some cities of US and Europe.

Created by: We Love The Net

Link: http://www.we-love-the.net/Stweet/

2. Zombie attack on Google street view –

Streetview Zombie Apocalypse developed by Wonder-Tonic

is a game using Google Street View. The user can choose his location and can fight the zombies and“œmoving pins” against the street view of that location.

You can play the game here: http://wonder-tonic.com/zombie/

3. World Cup Soccer 2010 Venues – Step up on Puyol’s playground

If you’re a sports fan, you probably came across this mashup developed for the Soccer World Cup – 2010. You can take an inside look at the various World Cup venues, pan around and check out the videos and images from that location and read up more about the location. It was early days yet for Google Street View but this was quite a nifty little tool developed for those who are fans of Soccer and Technology both.

Link: http://www.mibazaar.com/worldcupsoccer/venues.html

4. Globe Genie –

And now you can roam the streets of London and take your own short vacation while sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of your office. Globe Genie is mashup using Google’s street view technology with which you can teleport yourself to your favorite destination. You can view street level details about almost any place and it feels like actually you’re there.

Just select the continent and hit teleport, experience a whole new level of possibilities.

Link: http://web.mit.edu/~jmcmicha/www/globegenie/

5. Street Traveler –

A mash-up to virtually travel around the streets of some of your favorite cities around the globe. Roam around the streets of Sydney, Prague, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Barcelona, Madrid and London using Google Street View. It lets you read about your favorite destinations, visit your favorite landmarks, and tour around in the panoramic view.

Link: http://streettraveler.blogspot.com/2009/08/list-of-places-in-rome.html

(If you’re in the mood for a few laughs, you can also check out these funny sights captured while taking some of the street views http://www.streetviewfunny.com/streetviewfunny/index.php)

However, looking at these examples and more, it’s pretty clear that it is early days yet for Google Street view and it hasn’t yet been tapped for it’s full potential. We are not sure whether it is because Street View by itself imposes some technical constraints (it could be that it’s just not as handy as Google Maps yet) or whether it hasn’t been explored as an option by people yet. We are definitely interested in exploring this further and discussing ideas on how Google Street View can be used to create more valuable tools. If you have some ideas and feel that you would like to discuss them with us, do feel free to reach out or share.

(Incidentally, Google has already started capturing Street View images for India and Bangalore is their pilot.)

source : http://ibnlive.in.com/news/google-launches-its-streetview-project-in-india/156060-3.html

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Should we let them walk all over us?

Small in size but in the news always for the right reasons, Ideafarms maintains that it follows a partnership model of engagement with its clients as opposed to a traditional client-vendor relationship and we have also successfully lived the model over a period of 8 years (2002-2010) with Continental AG. One of the key ingredients of any partnership is “trust” that the parties have to invest in each other to be able to successfully derive mutual benefit from the engagement. While we believe we did more than our share to establish a successful partnership with Continental AG, we feel we have been dealt with the short end of the stick in this case.

In the news – For all the right reasons

‘Should Government Support Davids?’ was a very pertinent question asked in this Economic Times article (dated 28 April 2011) which raises important issues about protecting overseas, the intellectual property created by India’s Small & Medium Enterprises. We know that it has perhaps not been a cakewalk for us to sustain a legal battle against a blue chip European multinational and we can understand the plight of many others like us, some of whom may not be able to afford fighting for what rightfully belongs to them – their intellectual property – being flouted brazenly by companies that least need to do so.

Quoting from the article –

“While Indian information technology companies should, indeed, be encouraged to diversify into software products whose intellectual property they own and license, what recourse do Indian companies have, particularly the small ones, in case foreign parties , particularly large ones, violate their intellectual property? Is it possible for the government to fund the legal expenses of Indian companies defending their intellectual property abroad, once initial screening shows a viable case?”

Ideafarms would love to hear your views and looks forward to starting a debate on this important and relevant issue.

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