Opinions



Why I’m Done With Jailbreaking

 by Mohan Ramkumar  on   25 Feb 2013

Forbes reported that over seven million people opted to jailbreak their iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices. And, that was two weeks ago. This makes Evasi0n the most popular jailbreak ever. I wasn’t one among them. You could call me a jailbreak fanboi who until recently waited with bated breath for a jailbreak after every major iOS release. But, I’m done.

I have loudly supported jailbreaking, canvassed people to jailbreak and have helped a few of my friends to free their iOS devices. After eagerly embracing all the jailbreak releases for over three years, this time I gave it a pass. There is no major incentive in jailbreaking anymore and I think that Apple has done a great job filling the gaps that existed in iOS.

I jotted down a few issues that drove to me to Apple’s fold again. It’s interesting to see how far the iOS ecosystem has come!

Tethering and Do Not Disturb

For years, iOS didn’t allow tethering the mobile internet connection. This was as ridiculous as not supporting basic copy paste or the ability to take screenshots of your mobile screen out of the box.

Back then, I used to travel a lot and not being able to take advantage of mobile broadband didn’t make any sense for me. I have gotten used to tethering since the Symbian days and it was one of the first things that drove me to jailbreak.

The amazing MyWi app from Cydia helped me stay online when I was out and about. After the launch of Personal Hotspot though, tethering has become a non-issue. Features like Do Not Disturb and better notifications are other examples of Apple bridging the gaps in iOS.

Cydia

Without mincing words, I’ll admit that Cydia is a groundbreaking achievement in indie mobile distribution. But, I’d say it’s also the digital equivalent of a bullock cart when it comes to performance, usability and load times.

If I remember correctly, Cydia existed even before the iOS App Store. But, I wonder how much of it has changed over all these years in terms of user experience. I loved the Rock app store and it was fun till it lasted. Forgoing Cydia for iOS app store wasn’t painful at all.

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Wrangling with API

 by Mohan Ramkumar  on   13 Jul 2012

Developers getting the boot for API infractions isn’t anything new. Such things happen quite regularly and if the developer doesn’t have a high profile, those incidents hardly get a peep from the tech community. In the past few weeks, Craigslist and Dropbox kicked out PadMapper and Boxopus respectively for violating their terms and conditions.

Craigslist gives out licences to mobile apps to use their data, but they don’t allow other websites to use it. There is no reason for them to allow some other website to put together something cool for a change (you should check out Craigslist to understand what I mean!), gain traction and steal their users away. So, that decision is justified.

Boxopus is a service that enables people to download torrents directly to their Dropbox account. After approving the alpha build, Dropbox folks banned the web app post launch, stating that the app encourages users to violate copyright. Then why approve it in the first place? It’ll take you less than thirty seconds to point the uTorrent client to use the Dropbox folder to save downloaded files or drag and drop copyrighted files into the Public folder of the app and share with others.

It’s all about perception. Dropbox wants to go with the “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” policy and clearly doesn’t want people to shout from rooftops about taking advantage of the gray area. That’s totally understandable, but, in the process they ended up wasting hours of productive work and money of the developers of the app.

Around the same time, Twitter posted a cryptic post asking developers not to “build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” Sure, it’s their firehose and they built it out of hard labor. But, the real question is, why weren’t they as brazen, outspoken and daring when Friendfeed and Plurk were in play?

I’m not saying all API vendors will end up treating developers shabbily at one point or another. But, there is always that possibility. The knife is always hanging over the head when living under someone else’s shadow.

Suggesting people to lay off from leveraging APIs to build stuff would be foolish and that’s not what I’m putting forth. It’s just that it isn’t wise to bet your career and livelihood on something that you have no control over. For making a quick buck or to come up with a steady revenue on the side while you are working on a cool idea of your own, API based apps are Godsend. They make cool additions to your portfolio too. If your app doesn’t fall under any one of these categories, it’s time to rethink your game plan.

All said and done, developers should treat their API based apps as an oasis in the dreary entrepreneurial desert. A stay at the oasis is nice and dandy, but one cannot live there forever. That would defeat the whole purpose of the journey!



It’s been a little less than 9 months since I started working as a Marketing Coordinator at Tenmiles. And, it has been a very interesting journey so far. My internship commenced early third quarter last year, when I was succumbing to the boredom of my monotonous college routine and was looking for something ‘interesting’ to keep myself involved.

I was doing my final year Bachelors of Computer Science from Loyola College, Chennai when the notice for the position of Marketing Coordinator caught my attention. Words like “Mac”, “Android”, “Food” and “Conversation” in the notice made me curious enough to check out what it was all about.

I applied for the role; the response was immediate with a short casual telephonic round, followed by a personal interview at the Tenmiles office during which my analytical and communication skills were put to test.

Tenmiles follows the startup culture and there’s no dress code, no hierarchy and lots of freedom to do things the way you want to. At Tenmiles, we love creating great products that help make people’s life easier, just like Apple.Another great part of my experience was that I could closely observe and understand the process of building a product right from scratch.

My first project was to expand the customer base for DoAttend across various verticals and geographies. While working on the project, I had the opportunity to learn more about the events industry and how it operates. Later, I was involved in keyword research for other Tenmiles products and later assisted in the marketing of our first iOS app Wonderful Day.

The marketing team is the most happening team in the office filled with a bunch of young and dynamic folks with whom I had the opportunity to work with and have countless memories which we would ever cherish.

At Tenmiles ideas and suggestions are welcome from every quarter. Even the interns get the freedom to voice their opinions. Free exchange of ideas and constructive brainstorming have for sure helped me groom my ideas into more mature ones. Getting a hands-on experience in Internet marketing helped me to better understand the dynamics of selling a product online.

Be it the iOS app Wonderful Day, or the SaaS apps DoAttend and Happyfox; understanding the market positioning of these products was a challenging task. Doing marketing for such great products helped me to understand the process of creating a brand identity all the while beautifying people’s life with smart products.

Thanks to all the challenging tasks I was entrusted with, I have become a better and confident marketer. Interning at Tenmiles is one of the smartest decisions I have taken in my life. It’s been a pleasure being a part of a vibrant company with a diverse set of products. Looking forward to cover more miles with Tenmiles.



Dropbox – The Master of Freemium

 by Mohan Ramkumar  on   22 Jun 2012

Freemium is win-win. However tiny it might be, the customers are happy that they are getting a freebie. Companies get a captive userbase to spread the word, with a great shot at converting them into paying customers over time. Usually, businesses limit the size of the free tier and it doesn’t change over the years.

Initially Dropbox started that way too. Users got free 2GB storage space and 250 MB for each successful referral. It’s wasn’t a groundbreaking idea and they didn’t reinvent the wheel or anything. But overtime, they have added so many accessories to the wheel, it now is capable of powering itself!

Except for maybe mentioning the word Dropbox in a sentence, the company is doling out free space for every reason possible. Refer a friend? Grab 500MB of free space. Tweet about Dropbox? Get 500MB free space.

Follow Dropbox on Twitter? Like it on Facebook? Link it to Twitter? Auto upload images from iPhone? Auto upload from Android phone? You guessed it right, it’s raining free space. Then they hold an annual scavenger hunt online and winners are awarded with, big surprise, more free space!

There are so many ways a user can get free space, Dropbox has a dedicated page to keep track of all the tasks and the respective free space that’s up for grabs. One of the Dropbox competitors offered 50GB of free space for all iOS and Android users who downloaded their mobile app. There wasn’t even a dent in the Dropbox armor.

It’s a simple trick. There is a sense of gratification that accompanies whenever you accomplish something. Instead of dishing out all the rewards upfront, the company keeps customers engaged and pampers them every step of the way.

That isn’t all. Dropbox gets the attention of it’s customers by offering incremental rewards in return for performing simple, but operationally critical chores. For a paltry sum, they’ve successfully crowd sourced product marketing and scalability testing (via image auto uploads).

What Dropbox has mastered in an art – getting the undivided attention of customers. How ingenious is that!



5 Amazing Things about The Startup Culture

 by Mohan Ramkumar  on   08 Jun 2012

Startup is a fluid concept. Number of years in business or profitability or the number of employees on role hardly count as a criterion anymore for a startup. 37signals is in business since 1999 and they are making money hand over fist. If it weren’t for them, the Rails framework – the engine that’s behind the most popular startups of the day – might not have come into existence. So does the Angry Birds maker Rovio. I could go on.

Pre IPO Groupon employed thousands of people and Facebook had close to a thousand before the public listing too. Currently, there are around 140 people working at Twitter. But the newest cool kid in the block with a billion dollar valuation, Pinterest has only about 30 employees. Clearly, it’s the nature of the business that determines the headcount of the workforce.

Then what defines a startup, you ask? It’s the culture, which again is fluid, changing with the times. The most common customs of which are:

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Let’s Talk About Bad Design

 by Shalin Jain  on   04 Jun 2012

Bad design is all around us. We interact with bad design everyday. Be it software, hardware or even glassware, there are more bad designs in the market than good ones. It doesn’t take much expertise for a designer to spot bad design, all it takes is some common sense.

Yesterday, I was on a Jet Airways flight from Chennai to Delhi and to my delight I was upgraded to business class. One of the perks of travelling business class besides a spacious seat is food. The food tastes better, it’s presented nicely and they are served in good looking crockery.

The guy sitting next to me worked for a company that deals with ISO and BSI standards. His job is to help companies achieve those standards. We got into smalltalk sharing info about what each of us do. Few minutes later, we were served our food and he pointed to me how bad the glassware design was. He said, “This glass could so easily slip out of anyone’s hands”.

The glass was fat and wide at the base and was really narrow towards the top. He added, “It should have been the other way around”. I felt the same way too, but at the same time thought he probably is right only on theory. So, I just nodded my head in agreement.

Twenty minutes later, a stewardess carried the glasses back to the cabin. They usually carry a tray to clear the cutlery, but not this time around. She wouldn’t have crossed even a row and the glass slipped from her hands. It made a loud thud in the otherwise quiet cabin. The passenger seated in front of me was an ex-chief minister and he woke up from his nap hearing the noise.

The stewardess was flustered and apologized profusely. The co-passenger and myself just looked at each other. Now, let’s talk about bad design.