Category: software

All Good Things: SXSW Will Die Someday and So Will You

iris plans home page

Let’s talk about dying. Like being born, we all die.

I, for one, don’t expect this fact will change anytime soon, despite what Ray Kurzweil and others hope.

That’s why I’m eager to tell you about Iris Plans, a new startup that is officially launching at SXSW Interactive 2016, although it’s founding team have been working on the venture since late 2015. I’m an active advisor for the company.

The team has developed a way to combine a variety of technologies and services to make a highly tailored form of personalized medicine — known as Advance Care Planning (ACP) — to nearly everyone in the US who would want it, no matter where they are located or when they are available.

The best way to understand a real life situation for ACP may be to watch the video (produced and directed by my son, Andrew Guengerich).

 

UT-Austin CAET Gives Us Some STEAM

UT Ctr for Art and Ent Tech (CAET)I attended the launch event for UT-Austin’s Center for Arts & Entertainment Technology this evening. The Center (or CAET) is a new program of the College of Fine Arts.

As Dean of Fine Arts, Doug Dempster explained, it’s been a few years in the making. But, now that it’s here, the CAET figures to quickly become a significant magnet for UT-Austin’s Fine Arts school.

Why? Because, the CAET’s new Bachelor of Science degree in Arts & Entertainment is the quintessential Gen Z major.

It is the true expression of STEAM – Science Technology Engineering & Math (or STEM) education, with the fundamental integration of Arts, be it performing, visual, digital, or more.

Congratulations to Dean Dempster, Bruce Pennycook (the CAET Director), long-time Austin colleague Paul Toprac (Assoc Dir of Game Design & Dev at UT-Austin), and all of the other faculty and staff for the program.

I, for one, look forward to vetting some of the first crop of BS in AET students, in 2017 and 2018, for internships with our new ventures…the CAET program is fine-tuned to produce future great product, tech strategy, and creative directors, ready to unleash some innovation on the world – can’t wait!

I Want An App That [Changes The World]

It’s New Year’s Day 2016. And, in the spirit of this symbolic fresh start, I’ll offer a perspective for a fresh start to problem selection for software. Stay with me here…it gets less geeky…

A few weeks ago, as I was browsing my twitter feed, my eyes fixed upon a rapid series of tweets by a tech writer/speaker named Scott Berkun.

I’ll confess, I’ve never read any of Berkun’s books, nor heard him speak. But, he was among the earlier people I followed on twitter and I’ve enjoyed many of his posts since.

Anyhow, I’ve captured the series of tweets below, because they got me thinking about a topic that I would normally dismiss as bordering on nonsensical. (NOTE: the best way to read them is to scroll to the bottom and then read to the top.)

They first appeared as one of those rants that you sometimes see people fire off, due to anger, frustration, sadness, etc. So, when I read the first couple, my internal dismissive voice said “yeah, right.”

It was quickly followed by my internal logical voice which said “technology is just a tool; those kinds of changes only happen due to the actions of people.”

But then, a third, internal voice of challenge said “but, wait a second; why can’t we demand of our tools that they contribute in a substantial way to these kinds of desirable social changes?”

As the rant illustrates at the beginning (bottom): too often, our design & development efforts are focused on improving the speed or effectiveness of imperfect solutions to problems.

Or, they are focused on applying an “X of Y” adaptation (i.e., the “Airbnb of parking spaces”).

But, we tend to think that problems concerning social innovation and behavioral change are outside of the province of technology. When, perhaps instead, that’s the next frontier of app development.

So, as you plan out your 2016 today and in the coming days, think about how you can help bring to life an app that can change the world.

berkun rant

Translation Experience

translate-lettersOne of the things I’ve learned from working with global startups like BSG Corporation, Agillion and Appconomy is best practices for marketing communications language translation.

In my experience, there are 4 levels of translation:

  1. Basic comprehension
    • you can get this level from translate.google.com, Microsoft’s Skype Translator, or other similar tools
    • this is sufficient for about 40-60% comprehension
    • translate-skype
    • using these tools is ok for quick chat app translations and other headlines or phrases from non-native websites
    • but, I’ve found trying to use them for anything else is quite cumbersome and unproductive
    • avoid using them for document or web page translation. It’ll look like a 5 year old translated it to the native speaker
  2. Rough draft
    • you can get this level from application providers, like bablic.com, transperfect.com, and other similar tools
    • this is sufficient for 60-80% comprehension and 80-90% spelling/grammar precision
    • they are useful for a head-start on large volume translation, but they aren’t a replacement for people…yet
    • the providers of these tools tend to imply that higher quality results are possible over time with statements like “the more you use the tool, the more it will become tuned to your favored phrases and words”
    • indeed, some possess what appears to be basic machine learning capability, but it remains inferior to the judgment of a human translator
  3. Finished, professional copy
    • for this level, you need a live human being (preferably a team) who is expert in the source (“starting”) and target (“ending”) languages
    • this is sufficient for 80-90% comprehension and 90-95% spelling/grammar precision
    • most people typically use a fluent, bi-lingual employee, a translator from a university that has students majoring in foreign languages, or an online service with independent contractors like upwork.com (formerly Odesk) or elance.com
    • translate-appconomy
    • I highly recommend testing two or three of these providers with the same 3-4 sample work products, at the same time. Once they finish translating all samples, then have a trusted individual, fluent in the target language, review and score the results. (If possible, have more than one person do the review, so they can compare notes.)
    • before you give them the test – which you should pay them for, BTW – require that they provide you their pricing structure, both for the test as well as the full project or long-term assignment you have for them, so that you can do an “apples to apples” comparison of cost v. quality
  4. Localized, native-equivalent content
    • for this level, you need a fluent, bi- or multi-lingual speaker AND reader, either highly familiar with the target region or a native of it
    • this is sufficient for up to 99% comprehension and spelling/grammar precision
    • the difference between this level and the prior, “professional” level is like the difference between an English-language news release written by an Australian-based translator for US target audience versus the same news release written by an American-based translator.
      • the former may choose to include “ue” at the end of words like “catalog” or “dialog” or use “s” instead of “z” for words like “categorize” or “digitize”
      • they will also have a different understanding of idioms and colloquialisms that indicate a truly, locally-appropriate translation
    • providers for this level of quality are usually from the top translating agencies in the target countries, for example, in China it would be companies like Linguitronics and Real Idea
You probably noticed that I only scored the level of comprehension and spelling/grammatical precision at 99%, even for the highest level of translation. In my experience, that last 1% will only come from having a professional copywriter from a PR or marcom firm do a final, editorial pass through the translation.

Yes, an additional pass adds time and money to the cost. But, if you want to achieve the highest level of quality, that’s what it takes. I can assure you that you want to avoid the alternative – embarrassing translations like the one I received just today.
translate-mox
[NOTE: for the record, the correct words are: “focused” “of” “markets” and “platform”]

Whether due to poor translation or general sloppiness, the multiple mistakes in the English-language translation in this example diminish the message and perception of the initiative – an outcome no one wants.

Designing a Chinese Logo

…or,

How an American Software Startup Chose an Indigenous Australian Marsupial as the Logo of a Chinese Mobile App

I know, right? Truth is better than fiction, most of the time.

But, indeed, that second blog title is the more colorful description of the actual process from 3 years ago, when I oversaw the creation of the logo and name for Appconomy’s first mobile app in China.

bbv-brand slideshareNOTE: The brand design example in this post is drawn from a larger presentation – Brand Element Basics – that is available on Slideshare.

Here’s what happened.

Our first app was designed to be an “every man’s” version of the Starbucks loyalty app, primarily for small-footprint, food & beverage (F&B) locations, like small tea shops or food stands, but also for other retail merchants, like  jewelry stores or mobile phone kiosks.

It is very common for Asia-Pacific mobile apps to have mascots or other anthropomorphic features (like eyes or hands) integrated into their branding.

So, we began by studying and evaluating the branding of various competing apps that were broadly in our category, as show in the example below.

bbv-logo 1

From that initial survey, we chose a lengthy set of shape/color/font combinations, each with one or more referring sources.

We had already gone through an initial app naming process, settling on the working name of “Jinnang.” 

A jinnang is a special kind of man-purse, if you will, that is a key element in Chinese fairy tale that nearly everyone in China knows, kind of like the magic beans in Jack-in-the-Beanstalk, from Mother Goose in the US.

bbv-logo 2

From the large set of options, we worked through pros and cons and down-selected to a smaller set of concepts that we wanted to further develop.

For the next round, we focused more on shapes and narrowing in on simple, unique, original imagery.

To help, we kept to a mostly black & white palette, to keep attention on the core visual composition.

bbv-logo 3

As you can see, by this stage there were 2 macro-design concepts emerging, with one purely emphasizing the magic purse and another incorporating cute animal mascots.

The kangaroo was a natural option because of its pouch, which was kind of a built-in jinnang, and because it had friendly, yet strong character attributes.

And, it was a mascot that was still available, unclaimed by any other major software competitor, as far as we could tell.

Next, we undertook yet another round of narrowing on images, with the addition of color and fonts to the options, to give them full character.

At this point, it was TIME to CHOOSE a final concept!

bbv-logo 4

Winner: the kangaroo!

From there, we advanced to a round of micro-tailoring of the concept elements, e.g., mouth, headwear, neckwear, color and more.

bbv-logo 5

As you can see, we made him skinnier and gave him better posture, in the process!

Eventually, we settled on the finalized logo, both symbol & wordmark.

bbv-logo 6

You may have noticed that, in the process, between the 4th round and the 6th & final round, the brand name changed from Jinnang to Jinjin.

The simple rationale was that “jin jin” was easier for English speakers to say and, as a meaningless set of morphemes – similar to the “goo goo or ga ga” of babytalk –  it would be easier to trademark.

There’s more to it than that, but I’ll save that story for another time.

The Media Monetization Cycle

The media monetization cycle (MMC) is something that I’ve come to observe, experientially, from more than 30 years of working in information and communications technology.

In short, as the chart shows, experience has shown that new media go through three cycles of value creation: content, community, commerce.

bbv - MMC hand-drawnAnd, while all three are essential at some level, to the medium’s success, the quest for media companies and those that build on top of the medium (like the web) is to see how quickly they can reach the commerce curve.

Knowing that all new media go through the MMC, your strategy should be to anticipate the commerce curve and build a platform for facilitating the transition from content and community as easily as possible.

For applications development and infrastructure planning, this has broad implications for everything from user ID management, to client- and server-wide applications payloads, to schema development and database distribution, and more.

Ideally, you want to build all of those things, knowing that the medium will eventually get a place where commerce is a principle driver of activity across it, if the THE principle driver.

Understanding the MMC is more important than ever, because the pace of technology adoption has become faster than ever, as reflected by the chart from Singularity.com.

bbv - tech adoptionIf you are in a profession, like I am, where you are in the business of seeking to launch innovative new ventures that leapfrog or even transcend (a nicer way of saying “disrupt”) incumbent technologies, then the more that you build – from the very beginning – towards the inevitable maturation point of the MMC, the better positioned you will be.