shoto 2.0 pre-release notes :)

2013 has been the year of wanting to get back memories, private sharing and private conversation… we’ve been working tirelessly to build a comprehensive yet simple offering and with their guidance I present our next version – by no means perfect but thanks to the feedback of our early users (shotoSky) we believe we have a good starting point.

IMG 2357shotoGrams

So here is what is new:

COMMUNICATE WITH FRIENDS AROUND SHARED MEMORIES

Now you can send albums to your friends and loved ones from your Christmas Party or New Year’s Bash, and all in a few seconds! This coupled with the auto-private sharing will mean you have those precious memories available to you all the time.

You can also now have private conversations, called shotoGrams, with users who you’ve invited to an album or users who are already contributing to it. Maybe tell someone how nice their Christmas tree was??

IMPROVED REGISTRATION, INVITING AND SIGNUP

Overlays on TimelineNew Welcome Screen

We listened – you said you wanted it to be smoother and faster so we reduced registration to 3 screens, and added hints to make the first experience more intuitive.

We’ve also added some photos from us, a default notification so you know how it works and a default friend (us).

There is also a big invite button that allows you to invite friends into an album, and once you’ve invited them into an album, other moments where you’ve been together will come up automatically!
The call-back option lets you use an iPod or iPad – we just ring your regular phone – whichever it is with a code.

ALL PHOTOS NOW READ

Many of you asked us if you could have older memories that you had downloaded come onto shoto – now you can. Just fire up iTunes and back up the photos to your iPhone and voila – they will get uploaded asap as long as they have location.

NEW NOTIFICATIONS

As an iPhone user you now get either an SMS or a Push Notification for important updates like “New Photos from Old Albums” or a “Memory you’ve not seen” once a day around lunch. We also send timely push notifications for things like new friends joining or a shotoGram.

I’m super excited about this release – the team has worked tirelessly over the last months to bring alive.


Techie in translation – Vipassana – breath + sensations are the gateway to true happiness

This is a change from the usual posts put up here but having been asked about my 10 days of “silence” I thought i may just be easier to do a quick write up.

As 2012 comes to a wrap – one thing that I would have said if you asked me 3 weeks ago is that – its been a helluva year – quite a roller coaster; but that’s good material for another post; what’s more important is now I’d say the year has ended with a sense of calming and an element of serenity that I have probably never been accustomed to.

Some of you may know (others may not) but I finally stepped down from operational duties at nivio in October to work on our next adventure (shout out to Saurabh, Jiten, Nick and AC from theTokyoProject) and having sprinted for the last 15 years I suddenly found myself having time that I never had before (3 months off) – it was simply surreal and scary all at once. Thanks to Rishika and Laura I got given the idea of trying meditation – something I probably would never have had the inclination for before – I probably intellectualised so much of what the Vipassana stands for that I stood at a cross roads of thinking I understood it… sadly I didn’t!

Things to keep in mind…

  • Mind and Matter
    • One of the most important principals behind the vipassana is that it teaches you that mind and matter are connected – each one of our 6 sense doors (thought + 5 senses) is linked to a sensation in our body – subtle or feeble. This is critical to understand.
  • Misery
    • Our misery is created through three things – craving, clinging and aversion – this is critical to know – as every one of the sensations we feel in our body are linked to these sensations.
    • We create our OWN misery – we can alone stop it.
  • Breathing
    • The breath is the only thing that we do consciously and subconsciously – it is therefore the only tool we have that connects our conscious and subconscious mind.
  • How our minds work
    • 4 steps
      • Cognize (cognise for my british friends)
      • Perceive
      • Sense
      • React
  • Our minds control us today – not vice versa
  • We are always thinking in the future or in the past and never in the “now”
  • Every sub-conscience reaction creates a sankaras (emotional responses) that are then stored in the body. 
  • Annicca
    • Everything is impermanent

The art of living (dhamma) was originally conceived by Siddhartha the Buddha – but was instrinsically non religious non dogma non chanting based. It was then lost to india around the time of Ashoka (the guy that killed everyone and then after being introduced to dhamma he started loving everyone!) and was saved in in pure format only in Burma –  where it was kept for 2500 years as buddha said it would be until Goenka ji took it back to India and then to the world (there are so many centres popping up everywhere see http://www.dhamma.org).

So Dhamma is based on three founding principals –

  • “silla” which is morality (don’t kill, lie, be addicted/headlessness drinking, rape nor steal) – this is the foundation / platform.
  • “sammadi” is about mastering the mind – i.e. taking control through observation of breathing – taking control of your sub-conscience.
  • “pania” is wisdom from within through sensations felt in the body only.

The 10 Days

This has to be the hardest and most frightening thing I have ever done – and as I speak to more and more people I realise that others share my trepidation with the usual “not the right time” “maybe the year after next” type responses. I know the saturday before I left I had a sinking moving stomach feeling. 10 days of silence is no joke its like open brain open heart surgery with no anaesthetic – nothing can save us from our thoughts….

The first three days focuses on anapana – observing (not regulating) the breath; which nostril is inhaling, is it hot or cold, can you feel any sensations. On day 3 you also feel sensations between your upper lip and your nose. Why do this? Its about trying to get your puppy mind to follow instructions and about breaking the conscience / sub-conscience barrier – and trust me its so hard – every 5 mins it wonders to the future or to the past. At day 3 the rate of the images slows down.

The next 6 days is about getting into the Vipassna itself and feeling sensations across the body, inside the body. And learning one key philosophy of truth – that everything is impermanent (annicca) and that you must remain equinimous with the sensations good or bad so that you do not create more sankaras. During the Vipassana you sit for 1 hour in adithana (one posture) 3 times a day – for those of you who are used to moving – at 45mins this i excruciating win but here is where you try “annicca” out and suddenly you experience the truth (And not just intellectualise it) – that the pain disappears (and yes it will come back). As the days went on you got pains all over and these were sankaras of the past as your body stores the responses we make in your muscles – so when you stop generating new ones (because you are equanimous and not reacting to the sensations just observing them) it starts to open pandora’s box of old ones – and with that comes images from your past, videos in full stream in your head.

On the last day you go through metta bhavan – as Goenka ji says – this is the balm. Feel love and compassion for everything around you – and its such a strong feeling that you feel re-born. Energy and positive emotion coming out of every knock and cranny of your body.

In conclusion

This is not about intellectualising a life changing 10 days – its about trying to piece through some of the philosophies – it would be impossible to explain Vipassana – its somewhat unique to you. I for one – went in scared and sceptical and have come out calm and re-born for all intents and purposes with a toolkit to manage life. One thing to note – this is not meant for monks or people who will not be in business, startups, industry etc – this is hyper rational, hype practical and as an analogy – it will take you from seeing the world in colour to full HD.

Minimum Resource Constraint – the Anti-Dilemma

It’s one of those things that you keep thinking about “how much to raise”. Having sat with my cousins (I sit on their board at http://www.getbrandid.com) again this week I realised that we often look at how much to raise in the wrong way. In the last few years, a recurrent piece of advice I was told was “raise as much as you can when the opportunity presents itself”. Whilst it seemed rational, it is actually the anti-thesis of what young startups should do IMHO.

Our own example showcased this – I for one believe we raised too much money and actually thinking back to the earlier days the difference in what we produced when we had $100k or $500k or $2m in the bank never moved the needle by the proportionate quantum; in fact not even close. Having spent time in the last couple of months thinking over this and having read Eric’s “the Lean Startup” I think the biggest mistake any startup can make especially first time entrepreneurs; is take too much capital. Inadvertently you lose focus…

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Why?

I have a simple example – you have three things you can do; each thing will cost you $1 to do. If you only have $11 you will be so much more focused and you will only have ONE priority. Now imagine you have $3; what will you do – 3 x the one thing? Probably not… you will actually split your focus / attention and rationalise it buy saying that you NEED to do this.

Also – the less you need to raise the less you focus on building a business for VCs and you spend more time building a business and solving real problems; intrinsically this will attract investors!

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Hence the title

A lot of us have been told about resource as a “negative” constraint but I think it’s worth looking at Resource Constraint as an Anti-Dilemma (its a good dilemma!) of sorts – (obviously you need some resources). The less you have; the more frugal you are and the more focused you are as your survival depends on that one decision. The more you have the more you are likely to “diversify” and “branch out”; you end up juggling a lot more and actually reducing the “importance” of testing one thing at a time.

Everything being about a young company is about being lean…

Paul Graham – hiring is obsolete!

I read this and think it is great… here is a snippet with a link to Paul’s site.

 Hiring is Obsolete – http://paulgraham.com/hiring.html

May 2005

(This essay is derived from a talk at the Berkeley CSUA.)

The three big powers on the Internet now are Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft. Average age of their founders: 24. So it is pretty well established now that grad students can start successful companies. And if grad students can do it, why not undergrads?

Like everything else in technology, the cost of starting a startup has decreased dramatically. Now it’s so low that it has disappeared into the noise. The main cost of starting a Web-based startup is food and rent. Which means it doesn’t cost much more to start a company than to be a total slacker. You can probably start a startup on ten thousand dollars of seed funding, if you’re prepared to live on ramen.

The less it costs to start a company, the less you need the permission of investors to do it. So a lot of people will be able to start companies now who never could have before.

The most interesting subset may be those in their early twenties. I’m not so excited about founders who have everything investors want except intelligence, or everything except energy. The most promising group to be liberated by the new, lower threshold are those who have everything investors want except experience.

World Economic forum – Tech Pioneers Rule!

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Unbelievably people with a great leader – Gordon Brown

This September the World Economic Forum did its usual Summer Davos – the Annual Meeting of New Champions – seems rather grand especially as the Chinese Government and the City of Tianjin do a great job and a grand one at that (more pics to follow). Not written an update to my own blog in ages but somebody told me that these distinct dribbles would be of interest to some of you.

The great Tech Pioneers Community

The unsung hero’s as such (sung in some cases) – this is a very special community within the forum that are always pushing the edge and questioning the status quo. They are innovators and movers & shakers – founders, social, world changing – you name it someone is on it.

This year I was the “Alum” – short for older guy (and given I’m 29 thats a stretch) – the previous community has included Google, Slingbox, Dropbox, Facebook & Corel — and nivio!

This year was a really fun bunch (thanks in part to  Kevin (lookout), David (soundcloud), David and David and Raghu) – but hats of to the organising team including Silvia and Tessema who put together the best program till date including a special fireside chat with PM Gordon Brown.

Interesting Topics

– The discovery of the Higgs Boson Particle (yes I was like an excited 5 year old) when they did the presentation on this – but at last – 50years on they discovered it.

– The future of IT – included quantum computing, Linus from Linux Foundation and Kris from Infosys and finally the minister of IT from columbia

– Our chat with the PM – mindblowing conversation

– Regulating Private Data – can’t talk too much as its secret but it was so refreshing to see how the forum brings together many stakeholders to drive an agenda.

– Partnerships and Culture – I sat in the culture group within companies and had a heart to heart – deep and meaningful with Kal Patel (ex Bestbuy), Doreen from Frog and some of my new startup friends from TruCar, Lookout and Soundcloud.

The night life

– We have to admit that this year – the community was a lot more social and together. We had guys who had moved from Boston to Pune and Mumbai who were now in china (infact one idea on refrigerating milk using batteries not diesel generators in India was fascinating)

– We all met with the Young Global Leaders at the Astor hotel almost everynight – talked work, politics and ideas – mindblowing and refreshing but also super tiring.

Innovation – Buzz word. Change. Strategy. Radical. New paradigm.

We have heard it multiple times; eccentric consultants pushing change, change and more change. Thomas Stewart (Fortune Magazine) likened this to either a machine or a garden – if a machine, companies should design, build and manage it – if a garden, companies should create the conditions in which it can flourish and let the magic occur. What is this change? Intrinsically it is the product of innovation…

Innovation has become the ultimate buzz word for the 21st Century and beyond. With markets and environments changing at close to warp speed businesses feel that they have no future without a strong focus on this metamorphosing process. However, the fundamental question is whether this “buzz word” is a strategy or a new business paradigm? Does it signify improvement or fundamental change? Can it be boxed and planned or is it simply a radical and irrational phenomena?

There is no guaranteed master key that will turn your successful business into an innovative venture. Innovation, implicitly, is the growing garden; radical and in most part irrational – this is clear as it seems we have to accept failure rate greater than 50% as a road to becoming radical innovators. So why subject ourselves and our businesses to this kind of risk?

The consequential damaged caused by a lack of innovation can be severe; often clearly shown in economic performances – South Africa in the 1960s represented 6% of the world GDP- today the figure is closer to 0.5% – but year on year the South African economy has never shrunk – South Africa has unfortunately been out-innovated by other nations who saw the signs and made the decisions to act. Today half of America’s economic growth comes from products that barely existed a decade ago – the degree to which this happens has become a key measure of national success.

Innovation is an irrational phenomenon as it can lead to decisions and direction that are unpredictable and not forecast-able. Ever wondered how a venerable French water and waste management company transferred itself into a multinational multimedia conglomerate? Welcome to the story of Vivendi Universal. Originally called Compagnie Générale des Eaux, founded by Napoleon III, it grew to encompass everything from waste management to construction to transport to property to communications – all in just one and a half centuries. Then in 1995 it faced debt exceeding $9.6bn and was wallowing under the weight of its own bureaucracy. A change was about to occur. A distillation. A diversion of energies. CGE asked itself – “Water is the source of this company – who says it is the future” – and so from within CGE’s vast network of operations and interests a controlling stake in a small multi-lingual pay television was isolated, invigorated and exposed to the light of new possibilities. And so was born Vivendi Universal using the pay station as a spring board for an intricate series of mergers (the most being with Seagram for $23 billion – “Universal Studios”) and acquisitions, mutations and transformations (removing $25bn of poor-performing holdings).

power of the few- rules in the cloud

We were asked by the Government of India to write about what we think about regulation in the cloud – as we feel so strongly I thought it would be important to share it with all of you.

Final Paper – Regulatory Framework for Cloud Computing

The “power of few” is quite simply the main reason why governments around the world need to look at this phenomena, new industry and paradigm shift known as the “cloud” with a new set of eyes and a new set of values. It is here, it is changing and it will continue to re-shape economies from yesterday to tomorrow.

The power of the few outlines the change – movement from millions of individual units (computers) that are not necessarily linked nor controlled to the cloud where all of them are grouped and huddled… and controlled by a handful of companies. When a nation’s economic agility is thus controlled by a “few” they have power that needs regulation but one that does not cripple innovation or stifle growth.

Give me a shout on what you think…