Be a social super hero with Dynamic Signal’s VoiceStorm

I use the VoiceStorm mobile application powered by Dynamic Signal to share content throughout my social networks by scheduling posts a few days in advanced. Watch this video to learn how I use the application and how IBM uses it to amplify content throughout the social networks

Top 5 things that make a SaaS product great

Screen Shot 2016-10-03 at 12.57.47 PM.pngSelling software can be really easy or really hard and the harsh reality is it depends on the product. Great sales people use to say “I can sell ice to an Eskimo” but today, with the internet, the level of global competition, and a more educated younger generation, the products  have to sell themselves. In a world of instant gratification with zero patience, and almost no tolerance for faultiness, the world of continuous development and value-add is here and it is demanded. I will not include what I consider the number one element in the list: it has to be simple to use and easy to navigate because that should be the golden rule for all software. I will focus on the “other” areas that make a product great not only to the customer but for the creator.

Here are my top 5 elements that make a SaaS product great:

1 – Platform, Availability, and Scale

In almost every discussion I have, availability and scale is always a number one concern and “is it a platform” frequently comes into question. Many times the platform question may be for API interfaces or extensions from other platforms since micro-services based architectures are the “in thing”. Questions like:

  • Do you support in place upgrades with zero down time?
  • Are you distributed and support a world wide content delivery network?
  • Can I scale up during peek times?
  • Are all the API’s REST based?

Those questions and more are almost always asked. Remember, eople are putting the IT tasks in your hands and they know the pains of their business and you better be able to answer their questions in their context.

2 – On-boarding

On-boarding needs to be dead simple. A few fields on a form, a verification email, and you should be up and running in minutes. That is the expectation today. If your SaaS product works with data, images, or videos, then uploading those assets need to be just as simple. Searching and managing those assets need to be as intuitive as using a Microsoft Office Application or using your iPhone. If it’s not, you have failed.

3 –Video Library/Training Webinars

Almost every company has a YouTube channel of some sort. But do you have self paced videos showing off your products best features? Do you have videos of your products solving a business user problem? Those are the videos customers look for. This generation searches for videos to figure things out more than ever before. Video is the new encyclopedia and that includes webinars.  Webinars play a big part in building a community around your product. It brings your customers together while giving out the latest and greatest information for how your product can help solve their problems. Recorded webinar videos are also becoming a popular reference for education and should be included in your library.

4 – Self-paced tutorials and gamification

The last two generations, mainly because of online gaming, are conditioned for being rewarded for their accomplishments. From the almost certain participation awards in AYSO and Pop-Warner to ranking systems in games like Call of Duty it is almost expected. Having self paced tutorials and badges for completing work benefits you in two ways:

1 – it entices your customers to really learn and understand your software while getting rewarded and

2 – their badges, certifications, and rewards can be posted to online social profiles like LinkedIn, an instant resume bonus!

5 – Know exactly what your customers are doing

Analytics are so critical in software today you simply can not be competitive without it. Data and the internet of things is quickly proving that big data really is BIG. So big in fact most companies have no idea how to handle the amount of data or make heads or tails of it. This is where having cognitive assistance will differentiate you from your competitors. The companies who can understand this data are the ones with the competitive advantage, they will be the winners. More and more augmented intelligence systems are coming into play – you are probably thinking, don’t you mean “artificial intelligence”? No, I really do mean augmented. I say augmented because as it stands today you most likely won’t let the computer fully make a decision for you. I am talking about serious business impacting decisions like sending out a million emails of $20 off coupons – that could get rather costly. So essentially what systems do today are suggest actions to take and a human makes the final decision – augmented intelligence. Understanding how your customers use your software is extremely important to your success. You can optimize click paths, find best/popular practices, understand customer journeys, and most of all know which features are used most and understand where to further your investment.

Three out of the five items in the list directly impact your customer. The first one directly impacts your customer and potentially their customers. The last one affects your overall product growth and strategy. I could have picked very different topics for my top five but after much reading I think these five are definitely at the top of the list. I know there are many more out there and I would really like to hear what you think should be in the top five!

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Why IBM adding SWIFT to the cloud is a huge game changer.

IBM + Swift

Long ago we use to dream about writing server software in the language we write the client software in. Then came Java, the end to all arguments, Java everywhere, etc. The only problem was there were a few camps that didn’t totally buy into Java everywhere and in some cases banned the virtual machines existing on devices, like the Apple products. Similar to what happened with Adobe Flash. I do believe this was a huge step in killing Java, in the end, people are going to choose the popular language but having a strong ecosystem on both ends is critical for programming languages. I have to mention .NET because it really has achieved this nirvana for the Microsoft world. The .NET platform is certainly a platform to be reckoned with, it even runs on Linux. The biggest problem for .NET is according to WinBet.org Microsoft’s market share in the United States is only 2.8% for mobile devices – if this was a Presidential candidate they would be bowing out by now.

So then came a technology called Node.js. Once again a proper stab at using the same language in the client applications as you use on the server and in this case it’s JavaScript. The only problem was language enthusiasts still debate whether JavaScript is even a full language. Here is a really nice article for the uninformed about JavaScript. I personally believe Node.js is great; everything I have done in Node has been dead simple and easy. But I also noticed a problem, a shift in the market per say, in mobile applications. Companies began moving away from hybrid applications and began investing in native mobile applications. Specifically almost every vendor I work with asks about the Apple platform support for business applications (not really customer facing). I am talking about check out terminals, store associate applications, inventory apps, pick and pack, check-in/check-out devices,etc. I never hear the Android discussion come up for these kinds of devices.

So now we have a dilemma, we are back to different client and server languages. Interestingly enough, the IBM BlueMix services are REST base so you don’t really care what the server platform is, however, if you are developing the server and the client facing application you do care what languages are used. So I started seeing myself creating Node applications in BlueMix and Swift based applications for the devices – two very different languages and skill sets needed; and I am still not a good Swift programmer even after a couple of apps.

Now comes what I consider a huge announcement:

Apple just gave IBM a huge leg up in the cloud wars with Amazon

IBM’s partnership with Apple bears even more fruit today as theIBM Cloud becomes the first cloud computing platform to support the smash hit Apple Swift programming language.

 

We can now take an awesome full featured language like Swift and use it in both server and client applications. And most will agree Swift is an amazing and fun language to program in. Think of Swift as the language of the best of the rest. Swift brought in the best features from many languages all rolled up into one.

The question is how long will this last? Will it grow the Apple marketshare? Could this be the nirvana we are looking for? I am very interested in hearing others feedback on this.

So now all of you Apple iOS developers should go over to the IBM Swift page and check out what Swift you can do on the BlueMix servers!

Bob’s review of the Apple Watch

I wasn’t sure if I would ever get the Apple Watch but when my health plan offered one at an amazing price I had to give it a go.

First off, I researched the size of the watch I should get. After watching a video on YouTube I realized I should get the larger 42mm one and boy was I correct. I am an average sized guy and as you can see from the picture my wrists are not huge. The 42mm ended up being perfect but I did opt for the smaller band that came in the package. So basically if you are a man you will most likely want the bigger face.

My favorite thing about the watch is the activity monitor and sports application. Because I bought this through my health insurance I am actually reporting all of my activity to their application. This will then allow me to receive my rebate at the end of the year without manually entering work outs. So the problem is, I am basically addicted to the statistics now. I find myself going for another walk or working out just to get the next medal or achievement. It is also interesting when I was sitting all day watching the NFL playoffs I was told multiple times by the watch “Time to get up!”, reminding me of how lazy I am – at least on a Sunday. It is interesting that I could run for 3 miles and workout for 40 minutes (lifting weights) and this records as a Light Workout! Anyway, looking at your actually physical activity is very interesting to me and being pushed to do more than I did the day before actually works.

My next favorite feature is the remote camera. This is where you can set your camera down somewhere, walk away and take the picture by looking at your phone. Below is a picture of my Apple Watch connected to my phones camera:

Apple Watch Camera

It wouldn’t be a review if I didn’t review the battery. I have been wearing my watch daily for about 3 weeks. It looks like I average about 50-60% usage a day. I could probably go two days if I really stretched it or knew I wouldn’t be able to recharge for a bit I might be able to go three days or more. I really wanted to monitor my sleep with a sleep application but I didn’t see any app that does motion plus sleep time. (I want to know how restless I am between times). So given the battery basically uses 50% or more juice a day I just put my watch on the charger each night.

Using my phone for navigation on business trips is great!  I just set my phone up, start the navigation and my watch takes control from there. I get reminders (audio and physical) for every turn and its very easy to quickly look down on your wrist versus holding or grabbing the cell phone. It is much less distracting and keeps both hands on the wheel. You can even start navigation right from  your watch:

Apple Watch Navigation

Lastly, I don’t hold my phone as much any longer. I get notified for text messages, emails, etc and instead of picking up the phone I just look at my watch to decide if I need to respond. This has really changed my cell phone behavior, basically if I am in the house I no longer carry my phone around. I have even texted via the audio translation to text feature and I think it has worked better than the iphone! If you can get passed the fact you look like Maxwell Smart (a.k.a. Agent 86), this is a pretty nice gadget addition.

Should Facebook and other social sites implement a “graphic content” warning before auto-playing videos?

smAfter the barrage of posts about the live shooting of the news anchor and her camera man and watching videos of the shooting it made me think of a feature Facebook and other social media should consider having. There is nothing worse than being around family, co-workers, or my kids and scrolling through my Facebook feed and see videos with questionable content just start playing.

As much as I hate a big brother attitude or punish everyone for something a small percentage of people do, the world we live in is changing rapidly and the content and videos being posted about the many tragedies happening in this world are becoming more and more prevalent.

I think when posting a URL or video on social media there should be a couple of options to flag the content as “graphic” or “not for work” – which then disables auto play with a banner ad warning. I know many people, including myself, simply do not watch many of these videos at work or when the kids are around and something like this might help out just a little.

What do you think, is this a crazy idea?

Afraid big brother is tracking your online activity? Then check out Tor …maybe

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 9.56.59 AMWith all the worries that big brother is looking at your online activity something like Tor may just be the answer to online anonymity. The announcement that Verizon is planning to have a perma-cookie tracking ID placed on your phone – even when in private browsing mode – is pretty disconcerting in my opinion and clearly shows big companies are moving in the direction of eliminating anonymity. Tor is 100% open source and works on pretty much all operating systems. Facebook recently announced support for the dark network (link). Tor must be raising eye-brows because even the TSA is interested in this technology.

TOR’s privacy enabling software is designed to mask the source and destination of internet traffic. Originally funded by the US Navy as “The Onion Routing protocol” to help government operatives and employees working in potentially hostile areas, it has come to be used by a wide range of activists, dissidents and journalists around the world. – link

I am not sure I will be installing Tor yet but I plan on following this project on its site and in the news. There are also many articles exposing Tor as a trojan horse actually funded and created by the government to spy on anonymous users of the internet, check out this article where Michael Reed claims Tor was created by the US government (link).

In that same article it also states the TorFAQ explains how “exit nodes” can in fact eavesdrop on activity – all be it encrypted:

The TorFAQ clearly states that exit nodes can eavesdrop. “Yes, the guy running the exit node can read the bytes that come in and out there. Tor anonymizes the origin of your traffic, and it makes sure to encrypt everything inside the Tor network, but it does not magically encrypt all traffic throughout the internet.” – link

Another really good article posted on pando.com really highlights the origins of Tor and complexity around why the technology is good or bad for the average person. It also explains what Onion Routing is and why and whom funded the original project (and apparently still does).

Onion routing was like a hustler playing the three-card monte with your traffic: the guy trying to spy on you could watch it going under one card, but he never knew where it would come out. – link

I am very interested in any opinions on this browser as I am already seeing many articles about TSA “marking you” as an extremist if you install or market Tor – doh!
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