The Power of Habit

Creating products that would keep users interested for the longest time is probably the most difficult task entrepreneurs have to face, and unfortunately, it is not just a one time task. It is a concern that will always be there in the product’s lifetime, because ultimately, that probably determines the success of the product.

So the big question is, “How shall I get my users hooked?”

We all look at fortune 500 tech companies and think , “Wow!, how in the world do the manage to stay on top for years on end, what is their secret to global domination?”  After research here and there, I realized it may be as simple as creating products that become habits, but then again, probably not so simple. What does that mean you may wonder.

Think about any social media app. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. In a day, how often are any of these apps opened? First thing in the morning after turning off your alarm, when stuck in traffic, while waiting in line, while in a boring class or meeting, literally any time and all the time, and the thing is, we don’t need a notification to remind us to check Twitter or open Instagram. This process of scrolling through endless feeds in our timelines has become so ingrained in our daily lives that if it was taken away, we would feel like something is missing.

The Hook Model.

Nir Eyal’s hook model describes what is needed to create a product forms a habit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll use my all time favorite app to explain how each step works.

  • Trigger

The first step is what prompts the user to take action and it comes in two types. External and Internal triggers. An external trigger tells the user what to do next by placing the information within their environment. For instance, the  huge login or signup forms on pinterest. This information is extremely clear on what I should do to either create an account or login to an already existing one. Or the pinterest app icon that’s on my phone screen.

Internal triggers however, work a little bit differently. We can’t see, touch or hear them. They instruct users on what to do based on conditioned memory and they sometimes take the form of negative emotions like boredom, lonliness, frustration, indecisiveness etc. I always go to pinterest probably whenever I need an outfit idea, or hairstyle idea, or a recipe, or when I am just bored. I aimlessly scroll though the infinite amount of feed that’s available on my timeline. These internal triggers are what forms habits and influence our daily routines. Figuring this out is probably the golden goose to a successful product.

  • Action. 

Behavior in anticipation of a reward. A trigger determines the action. However, one must make sure that the action is extremely easy to perform. Action is determined by three motivators;

  1. Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
  2. Seeking hope and avoiding fear.
  3. Seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection.

and it is influenced by time, money, brain cycles, physical effort, social deviance and non-routineness. I do not have to check pinterest at a specific time of day, and all there is to it is just sliding my finger on my screen either up or down, right or left. And for as long as I keep scrolling, new pins appear on my timeline without having to lose time. This is a typical example of gaining reward from very little effort, mentally and physically. Its simplicity increases the intended behavior.

  • Variable Reward.

This comes in three forms, the tribe, the self and the hunt.

Rewards of the tribe are the rewards that make us feel accepted, important or needed. Usually triggered by FOMO (fear of missing out). With every pin, or post on social media, the user would highly anticipate some form of social validation, a like, a re-pin, a comment, exposure as a good player in the gaming community, etc and these rewards cause the need for more, hence constant pinning or tweeting or gaming.

Rewards of the hunt is the search for information while rewards of the self is the search of mastery, competence and completion. Like being a pro at a video game.

  • Investment.

The investment stage comes with anticipation of rewards in the future. Following a recipes page on pinterest, or following someone on social media. This stage is determined by the variable rewards. I’d follow someone with the anticipation of seeing or knowing what new thing they would post next, and I assume that’s the same with everyone else. When someone’s pictures and videos are stored on a site over time, he/ she becomes personally invested with it and finds it difficult to leave. Or collection of weapons and points in a game.

Another example of how investment affects how often a product is used is The IKEA effect: when labor leads to love. Investment then loads the next trigger and the whole cycle begins again.

What to aim for.

An entrepreneur should aim to build a product that users want to use. Not one that he/ she wants the users to use.

Habit forming products have a great advantage over competitors because once a user becomes hooked and invested in one thing, it would be difficult to convince them to try something else, because not only is that trying to change what they have used for a really long time, it is also trying to make them break a habit.

Good habits or bad habits?

It actually may be easy to get users hooked, but it is also very easy to abuse this power. Use of some products may lead to bad habits then end up having a negative impact on their users like, unhealthy need for users’ validation, addictions, etc. . Ask yourself would I use what I am creating? Is it genuinely benefiting the life of a user? Am I just exploiting my users? Do I believe it can improve’s people’s lives?

Profits and revenue may be the key drive to businesses, but also having users trust and is a core in the success of a product.

Harness your creative side and get to building.

Ciao!!

Resources

 

 

Women’s Circle DevC Nairobi….. are female-only developer meetups necessary?

I attended the Women’s Circle DevC event at ihub Nairobi on the 17th of this month, which was quite interesting to say the least.

 

 

iHub, Nairobi.

Topics of discussion included stories from women who have been in the software development industry for quite a while and I must say, I was inspired, and talks about some commonly used resources in the developer’s world; React, a javascript library for building user interfaces, React Native, a framework for building native apps (applications that have been developed for use on specific platforms or devices) and GitHub, a tool that allows you to keep track of all versions of your work and collaborate with others, or as one of the speakers called it, “Instagram for code”.

Devs at Women’s Circle DevC.

 

Towards the end, something sparked up a very involving discussion. Are female only developer meetups necessary? The best way to come up with an answer is by thinking about why they are held in the first place.

Developer meetups are held very often here in Nairobi and quite a number of people attend them, unfortunately, ladies are very few every time. Organizers of these meetups have always wondered why this is the case. Is word not spreading widely enough? Are ladies not interested in meeting other people in the same industry, or could it be due to the feeling of intimidation that comes from being in an industry whose majority occupants are male? My money is on the latter.

I’d be lying if I said I am not intimidated by being a girl in the software development world. Just like may female devs out there, I always wonder whether I am good enough, whether I should ask question and risk sounding “stupid”, whether I should go on, or just quit while I still have time… and the emotional and mental turmoil goes on… however, I think the biggest mistake is to let all this show. I mean why would anyone take us seriously if we do not believe in ourselves?

During the discussion that happened on the 17th, the argument that caught my attention was that female devs need a “safe space” or “safe haven” to express themselves. I think because we believe that, then it is a sign we do not fully believe in ourselves as developers, and we are stereotyping ourselves in a way in this world that is starting to warm up to female developers.

Women started programming as early as in the 19th century with the pioneer being Ada Lovelace, the first person (notice I said person and not woman) to write the world’s first machine algorithm for an early computing machine. Someone had to be the first, and it happened to be a woman. She worked alongside Charles Babbage in inventing the Analytical Engine.

Ada, Countess of Lovelace.

Another pioneer of computer programming is Grace Hooper, a computer scientist in the early 1900’s. She invented one of the first compiler related tools, popularized the idea of machine independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL, a high level programming language that is still in use almost a century later.

Computer Scientist and Navy rear Admiral, Grace Hooper.

Some women have also risen to leadership roles of giant tech companies, like Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprises from November 2017 to February 2018 and Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo from July 2012 to June 2017.

Between the 1800’s and now, very many women have left a mark in the computing world, and have faced the same challenges and worse than we have. But if they did not take and own their stand alongside their male counterparts, then no one would be talking or learning about them now. Maybe even programming would not be as we know it now.

Female programmers need to let intimidation be what drives them to leave their comfort zones and believe they are equal to male developers, and I don’t think that will ever happen as it should if we accept to be a stereotype that mostly exists in our heads.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained” -Marie Curie.

Cheerio 😛

2018!!

2018 is here with us and this post is already long overdue.

I try making resolutions every new year but for some reason, (and I know I’m not the only one), I always forget about them, or lose the book I had written them in. This year however, I decided to do things a bit differently. I decided not to write them down and not to call them resolutions, but goals instead, because for me that reduces the pressures a bit 😀

One of my goals this year is to maintain consistency in my blogging which I found really hard to do last year. I used to think content is key to blogging, but then with consistency, content just comes automatically.

So definitely this year I’ma shift gears and work on my my consistency.

Cheers and happy belated 2018. 😛

Behind Snapchat’s Inane Filters.

All Snapchat users are aware of their hilarious, scary, cute filters. Just recently I decided to try them out and was truly fascinated by how they recognized my facial features in real-time. Many people may find them silly, ridiculous or cool but the architecture and engineering behind these filters or lenses as Snapchat calls them, is no joke.

The technology that made all this come to be is Looksery, a Ukrainian startup that snapchat acquired back in late 2015 for a booming $150 million. Snapchat’s filters are tap into the largely growing field of Computer vision (Applications that use camera pixels to interpret objects and 3D space.), which in layman’s is how Facebook knows who is in your photos, or how self driving cars know how not to hit people or objects and of course, how you give yourself bunny ears.

 

Computers don’t exactly “see” like the human brain does.

How my face appears to a compute
How my face appears to the human brain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Viola-Jones algorithm is the tool that computers use to detect faces, The theory behind this tool is looking for areas of contrast, for instance the eye-sockets are darker than the forehead and the middle part of the forehead is lighter than the sides of it. If these tests find enough matches in one area of an image it concludes that is a face, which is why cameras put boxes around a face.

However, in order for the filters to be placed appropriately on a face, the app needs to do more than detect the face.It should also locate facial features. According to Looksery’s patents, this is made possible by a statistical model of a face shape that has been trained by people manually marking the facial features on thousands of images. The algorithm uses this trained data as a “template” because it is never a perfect fit.The algorithm adjusts the points of the template to match those of your face.These points are used as coordinates to create a mesh, which is a 3D mask that can rotate,move and scale along with your face as the video data comes in for every frame. Once they’ve got that, they can do a lot to the face mask like change the face shape, eye-color and trigger animations once you open your mouth or raise your eyebrows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This technology is not new, but setting it to work in real-time on mobile devices is pretty recent. I have to say as much as these filters may seem inane, they are pretty impressive form a technical point of view. 🙂

Can’t wait to see the next step in Computer Vision.

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Cheerio:)

iOS VS ANDROID

 

It’s been a while, but here I am again.

Change is something that scares many people, because no one is always willing to go for something with so much uncertainty or give up something that they have been used to for a long time. Sometimes it’s a willing decision while other times it’s because we don’t have a choice.  A different school, different neighborhood, a different job, moving to a new city, all these can get really scary, the idea is even unappealing sometimes, though there’s always a silver lining.

I recently switched from something that I have been used to for so long, to something completely different.  Though reluctant, I thought “Why not? I might end up liking or even loving it, who knows?”.

I have used an iPhone for quite some time and I just recently switched to an Android phone. I was so attached to apple devices that one of my friends even called me an “iSheep.” To be honest, there are moments I am tempted to switch back to iPhone. If you’ve ever been home-sick, then you can almost relate because the feeling is close to that.

Anyways, I have been asked by a few people what it has been like to switch, how I find the interaction with android, is iOS better, etc., so here goes. But before I continue, lemme say that this is not meant to be an exhaustive review and does not delve into the technical aspects. It is an opinion.

USER FRIENDLINESS.

I’ll start with the one thing that we do over a million times in a day. Picking up the phone and turning on an app. The iPhone is the easiest phone to use. Some people might complain about the lack of change in its User Interface (UI) over the years. It has remained the same since the original iPhone to the iPhone 7. I for one consider it amazing that it pretty much works the same as it did way back in 2007.

apps-2

A comparison between the UI of the iPhone 6S of September 2015 and the iPhone 4 of June 2010. The icons and the feel of the UI are exactly the same. So for those who are not very enthusiastic about change, I’d advice you stick to iPhone.

dialer

Even the dialer still looks exactly the same.

It’s always just a simple procedure, “pick it up, turn it on and open an app”. I feel like Android has too much going on with the app drawer and the annoying overlay.

 

APPLICATIONS. (APPS)

Both android and iOS have millions of apps in their stores, but from what I have discovered iPhone has always been favored by developers when it comes to the platform of choice of launching the hottest Apps.

appstore-vs-playstore

And speaking of apps, when I was on iPhone, I never got the annoying problem of ads like I do now on Android.

I am not being biased but yeah, I said it, iPhone will always be the best when it comes to apps.

 

 

AFFORDABILITY.

I must say though, the affordable price of Android phones with good designs and amazing specs is quite impressive, and to add to that, there’s sooo many to choose from. Phones, phones, phones,

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unlike the iPhone with its exclusive factor of going all out when it comes to pricing and a very shallow pool to choose. Actually, there’s no variety, just one phone, the iPhone. It only has different developed versions.

Almost anyone can afford an Android phone that would fit their needs. When it comes to affordability and variety, android takes this one home, no questions asked.

 

CUSTOMIZATION.

Being able to change the look of your phone according to your own preferences is really cool, I have to admit. A strong point of android is the level of customization it allows. While Apple prefers to keep control of literally everything to maintain a uniform software and hardware experience, Android allows you to customize your phone however you want, from live wallpapers, unique keyboards to custom ROM installation.

For the creative and artsy people out there, I bet you’d enjoy this customization freedom. Go crazy!!

creativity-wallpaper

 

It has been just a few weeks since I stopped using an iOS phone and added an Android phone in to my daily life. Yes, there are moments I am tempted to switch back, but then, like I said earlier, there is always a silver lining. Android has its advantages, so I can’t really say one is better than the other. They both have their yays and nays.

 

For anyone out there who wants a new phone but is going through the dilemma of having to decide between android or iOS, (which i went through by the way), so from experience ,

dilemma

I’d say list the pros and cons of either, and follow your heart, neither is a wrong choice 🙂

Cheerio, till next time:D

GET INSIDE INTEL

 

There’s something about an event that gets people excited, from its infant planning phase to when it’s finally happening. Maybe it’s the fact that no one can accurately predict  how the day will turn out, how the weather will be, or if it will be interesting or not. Or maybe it’s the fact that a whole day has been set aside just for one specific reason that people are looking forward to.

 

I recently attended a Get Inside Intel event that was on the 11th of June 2016 at Africa Nazarene University.

 

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It was my second time but I was still excited because I’d get to interact with Intel technology again.

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One of the things that made the day really cool was the fact that everyone present had the chance to build whatever they wanted using Intel IoT technology (which happened to be my favorite part of the day actually). Actually, it was more like as soon as I lay my hands on the Intel Edison kit, I suddenly got all these cool ideas and wanted to try them all out at once, and I was not the only one excited about it.

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Working with Intel Edison and Galileo kits is not only fun, but it gives young minds the chance to become innovative, creative and come up with fun ways to try and bridge market gaps, or come up with solutions to some current problems around the world. So far, Intel has targeted learning institutions giving this opportunity to students and the fact that it’s fun and hands on makes it more captivating.

 

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That wasn’t the only segment of the day. Also, we got the chance to learn about how Intel RealSense technology is used to build immersive and intuitive applications, that include hand and finger tracking, facial analysis, speech recognition, augmented reality and 3D scanning.

 

One of us gave a brief overview of how RealSense is used to create games. I’m not much of a gamer myself but the fact that some games could actually be played without having to use any sort of controller was really cool.

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After the brief presentation there was an open session where guys came up with crazy and awesome ideas of the things they could do with RealSense. Imaginations were running wild.

And finally, there was the Intel XDK, which is a set of development tools that lets people create mobile and tablet applications using HTML 5 and JavaScript. Maybe when most people hear about creating functional applications the first thing that comes to mind is having lines and lines of code, what language one is supposed to use, making them shy away from even trying to build one in the first place. But with Intel XDK, it’s less tedious since it works with HTML 5 and JavaScript which are some of the least complicated coding languages. Any programmer, developer or even just any IT enthusiastic boy or girl would love seeing an app they’ve built being used and enjoyed by many people, and making it work among various Operating Systems. Actually, I don’t see why not make it something to do when you’re bored at home or in your room, when you don’t have a movie to watch, etc. or even a hobby.

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All the things that we get to do with technology these days are just endless, from as little as coding a “Hello World” program to programming a 10 foot crane to be able to perform its tasks reliably and efficiently without having to be manually controlled. Several students use Intel technologies for their projects. As much as projects take up most of our time since everyone would want a good grade from something they have been working on all semester, why not make it fun since you’re literally building something. According to me, most people like hands on stuff, something that gives them the chance to come up or build almost anything, and make changes along the way. For instance, kids love Lego toys, I personally played with them almost everyday of my childhood since I got to explore my imagination and then put it down for people and myself to see. I was always proud of myself whenever I built something.

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There were actually several Intel giveaways though it would have been cooler if it was  Intel device giveaways instead.

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Despite that I was very grateful I got to attend Get Inside Intel again and can’t wait for next time.

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WORDPRESS ON HEROKU VS ON AMAZON (AWS)

Some say it is human nature to go for options that avoid incurrence of charges, or preferring to try out something first before being charged for it.

Blogging has sort of become a way of life in this world. It is how people all over the world share their thoughts, ideas and opinions on any topic they could think of.

New blogs come up every day and most likely a new blogger would not want to always incur monthly hosting charges (which is common for most hosting sites) for his/her site, and good thing is, they actually don’t have to, thanks to Heroku and Amazon (hosting sites popular for their reliable free tier of at least a year). Among the many advantages of word press, it can be deployed on both but either has its pros and cons.

 

Heroku pros

  • It has a free tier (probably the best pro 😛 )
  • Zerigo provides an excellent DNS service for custom domain via the Zerigo DNS add-on

 

Heroku Cons

  • Out of every 24 hours, the free tier has to sleep for 6 hours (So a site would be down for a continuous 6 hours)
  • Installation of themes and plugins is abit tedious because they have to be installed locally then manually pushed to the Heroku file system.
  • As much as its free though, it is not as powerful as the paid version and there are some features that the paid version has and the free one doesn’t.

 

 

Amazon pros

  • (As usual I’ll start with what we’d want to hear) It’s free for a year.
  • Installation of themes and plugins is not manual. It can be done via the admin panel. (another one of my all-time favorites)
  • The site is always online 😀

 

Amazon cons

  • Manual set-up of php, MySQL and WordPress (done only once though so it is not such major con).
  • Handling of software updates
  • Server maintenance (which is actually not as hard as it might sound because the server is virtual).
  • Amazon’s free tier is also limited in performance compared to the paid version.

 

Personally I’d go for AWS (amazon). Its pros outweigh its cons and it doesn’t require so much handiwork, so someone doesn’t really have to be an IT guru to use it. I’ve used it and so far so good, it has not disappointed.

So for any new/ upcoming bloggers out there, there’s a really cheap and reliable way to begin.

Hello World!!!!!

Anytime I decide to try out something for the very first time, be it a new book, a new recipe or a new coding tool, I experience a whole bunch of emotions at the same time, more like an adrenaline rush actually because I’m not sure what awaits me. I even doubt myself sometimes, more times than I can count and yet I decide why not? There is always a 50-50 chance I might end up loving it or hating it but I’ll never find out if I curl up and stay in my comfort zone.

 

As a computer science student, I get to discover and try out something new everyday. Few times because I have to but most of the times it’s because I want to. I want to be the girl that changes the perspective of Computer Science from something that seems so complex and intimidating to an experience or a journey that is exciting, fun and jittery (in a good way). I want to share my Computer Science journey that has so far rocked me to my core, my perspective from where I’m standing (as a girl in the tech world); all the wonderful moments that come when I get to launch a website online, when an app I’ve been working on is finally working and even the frustrating moments that come when I can’t figure out where a bug in my code is.

So here’s to the beginning of a new tech blogging journey:)

Cheers!