Measure, analyze and optimize app experience
I come mostly from a web app background. I haven't done much work in the mobile apps except for dabbling with some sample code in React Native. Mobile has come a long way. Yes, it's built on the foundations of web app development but today it has a life and roadmap of its own. I was therefore glad to attend today's event organized by Flurry, which is a platform for mobile analytics. Flurry was founded in 2005 and acquired by Yahoo in 2014. The event this afternoon was attended by entrepreneurs, developers and marketing executives. There was so much information packed into one afternoon that I'm sure everyone took away something useful from it, even if they were experienced in the mobile space.
The format was a mix of panel discussions and focused talks. It was nice to see representation from a spectrum of Indian start-ups. It happens sometimes that events organized by US or European companies feature speakers who know quite well their US or European markets but nothing much about the Indian market. Today's event was quite different. With speakers and moderators from Paytm, Flipkart, CouponDunia, Wooplr, Bounty, YourStory and more, it was clearly and rightly focused on the Indian market. There were of course guys from Flurry, Truecaller and Branch Metrics who gave lot of additional insights.
The future of real-time apps
This afternoon I got to attend an event organized by Kranky Geek at 91Springboard, Bangalore. The topic of the day was WebRTC, an API and protocol that enables real-time communications without the pain of installing plugins, configuring devices or worrying about security. The event was nicely structured: an overview, a detailed explanation of a typical call setup and its API calls, a live coding demo, a look at multiparty complexities, and finally an insight into how a startup PiOctave is using WebRTC in its IoT product.
Real-time communications has always been a challenge on the web, although I must point out that the birth of UDP/IP/VoIP owes a lot to Network Voice Protocol (NVP) of the 1970s, perhaps the first real-time protocol of the Internet. The problem was that back then we were handicapped by low bandwidths and modem speeds. This is not much of a problem these days but true many-to-many media streaming is hampered by the architecture of the web. WebRTC is trying to overcome that.
Authors: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Publisher: Random House, 2010
Rework is a book about a different approach to work and running a business. It was authored by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson who are the founders of the web application development company "37Signals". Since 2014 the company renamed itself to their successful flagship project management tool Basecamp. The company was also behind the development of the web application framework, Ruby on Rails (RoR). RoR was subsequently open sourced in 2004.
Rework is for anyone thinking of starting a new company or changing the culture and practices at their current place of work. It is a condensation of their collective wisdom and lessons learnt from running successful businesses. Unlike other books that I have read of a similar aim, Rework does not read like an autobiography with a few punchy pieces of relevant advice and lots of padding otherwise. It reads more like a collection of anecdotes and opinions on how to run or manage different aspects of a company. The layout of the book is such that it is a very easy read; even pleasurable; and you can complete a few of its short yet to-the-point chapters in a single sitting such as on your bus ride to work or before you sleep.
An introduction and an opinion
Governments are typically not recognized as enablers of software creation. If at all e-governance is embraced, it's through tenders for which private entities will bid, deliver and maintain. Government departments are also notorious for being isolated from one another, which means that there's no possibility of sharing information, reusing code or coordinating actions. Systems operate in silos and often use different technologies. There's lack of standardization or guidelines for best practices. To solve some of these, the government has released OpenForge, a platform for developers to collaborate on open source software. The platform received coverage on news websites this week but it has been going through internal testing since last year.
Open source means that source code is open. Anyone can view the source code, file bug reports, improve the code and redistribute it. Of course, there are variations of this depending on the exact license that's used by the development team. For the moment, OpenForge does not seem to provide much information about what sort of license should be used.
Author: Leonard Mlodinow
Publisher: Penguin, 2009
This book is about the important role that probability and statistics play in our lives. It's title comes from the fact that the path traced by molecules are haphazard. In fact, it was first observed by Robert Brown, later analyzed by Boltzmann and Maxwell, and finally mathematically proved by Einstein in one of his papers of 1905. Just as random bombardments by molecules on a piece of pollen suspended in a liquid sometimes reinforce and give the pollen a visible nudge, so do random events in our lives sometimes shape our future more than we could have predicted.
There are in fact, two problems with accepting this. Firstly, our minds are not really built to either generate or recognize randomness. Our minds more naturally look for patterns and attempt to find the cause of things. Secondly, we like to be in control. We value skill and ability. So to say that our future is determined by chance is quite the opposite to what we like to believe.
Plus an exciting quiz on IoT
I am pleased to cover once again our quarterly IoT Project Day event, an event for demos and talks. More importantly, it's an event for exchanging knowledge, inspiring others and networking with peers. As usual, we are happy to have it at Microsoft, Bangalore, and we thank them for opening up their venue for this purpose.
Today's event was a mix of electronics, sensing applications and analytics. Because, in the world of IoT, one thing without the others is not all that useful. Collecting data is not useful if you don't analyze it at some point. Electronics is not useful if you don't drive it with intelligent firmware. Gadgets are not useful if you don't think about wireless connectivity. Finally, you need to use the right sensors to gather real-world data that suits your application.
JAM, UPI and related developments
Yesterday I had the chance to attend an event that focused on issues of demonetization, FinTech (Financial Technology) and digital payments. Held at Thought Factory, Bangalore, it featured speakers from Byte Academy and Nidhin George, a writer passionate about FinTech. While FinTech as a domain is well defined in the West, it's still nascent and evolving in India. There's been a lot of focus on payments but FinTech is much more: investment, lending, insurance, digital currency, and so on. This obviously means that opportunities for innovation are plenty and as yet untapped. Perhaps 2017 will be the year when FinTech really takes off in India, thanks in part to the recent demonetization that has given it a major push.
While the demonetization exercise of Nov-Dec 2016 is something that had high-profile coverage, the government has been building up the case for a digital and cashless economy more quietly for quite some time now. At least, the public and media ignore them because they didn't create an immediate impact like demonetization. In the Economic Survey of 2014-15, the government introduced JAM Trinity: Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile. Let's look at each of these briefly.
Author: Paul Allen
Publisher: Portfolio/Penguin, 2011
In this autobiography, Paul Allen talks about the early years when he joined with Bill Gates and co-founded Microsoft in 1975. While both Bill and Microsoft are fairly well known to the public, Paul has not had that much of a public presence, at least not outside of the US. This may have something to do with the fact that he left Microsoft in 1982, when the personal computer revolution had just begun to accelerate. This book tells us a lot about his contribution towards building Microsoft what it is today. It's also lays bare the complex relationship that Paul had with Bill. The book is also a quick overview of how technology has progressed through the 1970s and 1980s, which is something that will interest today's engineers.
It's true that sometimes success is being in the right place at the right time. If you're too early, the market is not ready or the technology is unavailable. If you're too late, you end up trying to catch up with others. Either way, this book makes one thing clear: it's equally important to be adventurous, be confident in your abilities and have a vision for the future. Quite often Paul mentions that many of the ideas he contributed were pivotal to the success of Microsoft, which explains the title of this book.