Will chatbots really kill the app store?

By | enterprise, Enterprise Collaboration | No Comments
bot bender smokes stooggies

chatbot hype?

I recently came across the following article: Chatbots will soon kill the app store. In a nutshell the author states:

Messenger apps are huge already

Granted, we also believe this, that’s why we are investing in building Kezmo, a customizable messaging platform that can be setup on premises, so Enterprises can get the best of both worlds.

Chatbots are going to be huge (yyuuuuge)

We believe that chatbots will play a major role in the future of human computer interactions, and yes we think they are going to act as the trojan horse for the arrival of artificial intelligence. Still, the hype around the subject does not quite match the fundamentals. I don’t on a daily basis use or interact with any chatbot. The people I know don’t. Every chatbot interaction I’ve had has been in the context of toying with a new technology. I have not adopted it in any scenario yet, and I don’t know anyone who has. So, while I’m bullish on bots, and Kezmo will serve as the foundation for the deployments of bots either the technology is not quite there yet, or otherwise

The app store user experience is a mess

Indeed, to our dismay the app store has proven to be zero traction marketing channel. The fact that the majority of mobile apps are zombies is something we’ve experienced first hand.

Today 83% of the apps in the App Store are zombies

It doesn’t seem that far ago when free apps were able to generate hundreds of downloads per day just by the mere fact that they were free, and the app store was new. This dynamic is dead. If you are publishing anything to the app store, make sure to generate traction for it independently, relying only on the app store for marketing an app is not an option anymore, no matter how much app store search optimization time you put in.

Closing thought: are we comparing apples to oranges?

We can all agree the app store user experience is a mess, and both Apple and Google need to make changes asap to inject some life back in the app ecosystem. On the other hand chatbots seem like a promising investment despite imho the lack of true traction yet. To what extent are these two phenomenons related? Are we comparing apple to oranges?

What to expect from TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley?

By | Kezmo | No Comments

So you are thinking about going to TechCrunch Disrupt, maybe even exhibit at the Startup Alley and you are wondering… is it worth it for my startup?

We’ve just returned from our TC Disrupt trip to San Francisco last week. We were there to launch Kezmo, our enterprise chat and team collaboration tool. We had a table at the startup alley, as part of the Uruguay pavilion, so we can tell you exactly what to expect.

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What to expect from TC Disrupt

  • I see startup people. People, thousands of them. This 2016 edition had somewhere between 3000 and 4000 attendees. Most of them startupers. Fellow startup founders, desperate to be noticed, which sets the stage for a hard competition for attention.  Beyond the numbers it’s important to stress the fact that you see people from all around the globe. TC Disrupt has country pavilions, as part of the Startup Alley which adds to the cosmopolitan vibe. It’s good if you want to get a feel of how your product resonates with different cultural backgrounds.
  • Venture/Vulture Capital. You will talk to some VCs representatives, and some VCs wannabes. The latter are dangerous as they can be tire kickers and will suck time and focus out of your brains. Be warned.
  • Tech Journalists. If you exhibit you get a list with a couple of hundred journalists that will be there. You can email/spam them with very low chances of getting a response back. You will get to talk to some of them during the event…but unless you either know somebody who knows somebody and can introduce you to a journalist, or if your startup is somehow related to one of the darling topics of the moment (this year it was all about AI & Virtual Reality) getting coverage will be pretty hard. So low expectations there, and start moving those connections, or talking to those PR agencies.
  • Students. Hackathon winners, university students, MBA graduates, you name it.  They are not the majority but you will come across them. They will listen to your pitch with a lot of attention (maybe too much?) only to let you know later that they have just finished this career/course and are looking for a job. But hey, if you are running a startup outside the US. and are looking to expand your operations in that country it can be an opportunity, right?
  • Talks. If you follow the startup scene, you will notice that people you admire will be giving some cool talk. Unfortunately you won’t have time to attend to most of them. Unless there’s three of you tending to your booth, and you can just leave. For insance in this edition Neil Stephenson was signing books, and I loved Seveneves, but I really couldn’t make it. It was rush hour at the booth and before I noticed they day had finished.
  • Business Development Opportunities. Among the army of startups presenting you will come across some interesting companies. Competitors for once, but also startups whose business could be a good complement to yours, and it’s in these cases that you have an opportunity to discuss some kind of arrangement that may server both parties.
  • Interesting contacts. I came back with +50 business cards, of various degrees of relevance. There are probably 5 of them that could prove to be valuable contacts in the future. From other tradeshow experiences I was expecting to come back with more like 200 hundred cards. Maybe it was just poor hustling on my side, but those are the figures. On the other hand I know I delivered hundreds of my own cards, and was left without any by the second day.
  • Trends. You don’t have to be go to Disrupt to stay on top of trends, but it never hurts to be there and get a feel for what’s trending in the startup scene.

What NOT to expect from TC Disrupt

  • End users. Unless your end users are specifically startups, and startup founders, but even in that case, they will be probably too busy to pay meaningful attention to you at least during the event. If you expect people to hear about your product and register that same night you will probably be disappointed.
  • Enterprise. Large corporations do not have a big presence at Disrupt. With some exceptions that send R&D representatives to spot trends, most large corporations are just not there. So if you plan to connect with these type of companies, or if you are looking to connect with CIOs or CTOs you should start looking somewhere else, maybe the Gartner events?
  • Secured Coverage. In my opinion TC could do a better job at providing exhibitors better coverage. As an exhibitor you get listed in a lousy dynamically generated page that’s very hard to find & navigate. It does not appear in search engines, and where you are listed along with hundreds of startups within a collapsible accordion (I dare you to find Kezmo). For days I was expecting to have some kind of public url I could use in tweets or blog posts, if only to make a statement with local investors that our presence at Disrupt was real but what they provided arrived late and was pretty poor.

Final thoughts

We tried to make the most of the event by launching Kezmo to the public at Disrupt. To some extent this did provide some news coverage,  from media we were not expecting in regions we did not foresee.

Our previous experiences in tradeshows and conferences came from the Microsoft world, in SharePoint events, such as SPTechCon. In comparison that type of events are more enterprise oriented, have more CIOs & CTOs attending and offer a more focused audience for the type of products we develop.

In a couple of weeks I will know for sure if the event really paid off. For now it’s a close call.

Should you go? Sure, provided you have the right expectations.

 

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Kezmo is finally available to the public

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

We are proud to announce that Kezmo is finally available to the public.

Kezmo is an enterprise chat and collaboration tool for managing projects & teams. We believe one of the main problems with most enterprise chat tools is that everything is a message and after a couple of days of having a conversation with your team you forget what were the agreements, actionables and who owns what.  Kezmo is a slack alternative that enables enterprise conversations while providing means to easily transition to more actionable structures such as: tasks, issues, notes, etc, that have their own life cycle and tools to interact and manage them independently.

You can get started by registering online, and you can get the mobile clients available in the iOS app store, and in the Android play store.

We’d love to have your feedback.

Kezmo is going to TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016

By | Email Alternative, enterprise, Enterprise Collaboration, Kezmo, Knowledge Management | No Comments

We are excited we are going to TechCrunch Disrupt
Yes, we are going to silicon valley’s mecca event TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco 2016!!

We will be showcasing Kezmo to the world, in the startup alley, in the Uruguay pavillion. Kezmo is an enterprise chat and collaboration platform to help teams get things done. Yes, we too are trying to to kill email, but we will succeed were others have miserably failed. We are experimenting with visual ways to navigate contents which we believe is critical for handling and prioritizing large volumes of interactions.

Kezmo is available in the cloud or you can set it up on premises. It’s localized in several languages, which is not a minor thing when fostering adoption of these type of tools in the enterprise environment.

While Kezmo is still in a closed beta phase, if you stop by our booth we just might hand out an invitation to you :)

Getting ready for TechCrunch Disrupt

We are working hard, jumping through hoops and loops to have everything ready for the event. So if you are at the TechCrunch Disrupt please do stop by the Alley to say hi and get some of the gifts and surprises we are given out!

How to create a Kanban board with jquery

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What is a Kanban board?

Kanban boards are a visual and intuitive way of laying out cards in a board, across different columns, in such a way that a team can collaborate in the management of a business process. Cards can be used to represent things that need to get done. This can mean an inventory item in a supply chain, or a task in the context of a project, or an issue that needs fixing in a product, or a client that needs to be visited. Kanban boards appeared in Japan as part of the Kanban system.

Kanban boards have become popular in software development, as part of agile methodologies that promote teams to focus on the work actively in progress as part of a sprint. Kanban boards are a very useful tool to visually represent knowledge about the state of the current activities. For instance cards representing tasks can go from a TODO state, to an In Progress, and then Done providing a very quick way to check on the status of each activity for the current sprint. Very useful in team management, and project management scenarios.

Prototyping a Kanban board with JQuery

As a proof of concept for our upcoming team and project management tool Kezmo I set out to prototype a Kanban board in such a way that would allow me to:

  • Display cards in four lists displayed vertically, corresponding to the following states: TODO, In Progress, Waiting for Verification, Done.
  • Drag and drop cards from one list to another, in such a way that when this happens an event is triggered that I can react to.
  • Add new cards to the initial backlog state.

If you are in a hurry and want to check how the end result works, you can check it out here. Try drag and dropping the list elements.

Starting point, basic html lists

So I started with an html like the following:

It looks something like the following image:
HTMLKanbanLists

I styled the different lists with different backgrounds, and named the cards with different letters to make sure the elements are moving across columns. I also left the Done list empty to make sure the empty list scenario is also covered by the POC.

The question becomes then how to add behavior to this DOM structure so that users can move items from list to list.
After doing some JQuery research into draggable, and droppable interactions, I came across the sortable jQuery interaction, which can be configured to have connected lists. Awesome I thought! This covers points one and two, I just needed to confirm whether I would be able to listen to elements being dropped to be able to react to that event. Checking out the jQuery api documentation I could confirm it’s possible. I implemented a simple background color change on the item dropped event as a proof of concept.

I enabled the jQuery interactions with the following code:

With this I have requirements one and two covered. In order to add the ability to create new cards in the Kanban board I added an input text, and a button, with a corresponding jQuery click handler so that a new li element is added to the TODO list.

You can check the resulting html kanban board here, and the final html code here:

Conclusions & final thoughts

I was able to put this example running in very little time with jQuery. It seems to perform well in Chrome, and Safari while in Firefox the animation every now and then becomes a bit laggy as the number of cards in each column increases. HTML5 provides native support for drag and drop so there might be space to make a more efficient implementation doing without the jQuery layer, and assuming a bit more from the browser.

Why email based enterprise collaboration is broken

By | Email Alternative, enterprise, Enterprise Collaboration, Kezmo, Knowledge Management, Near Real Time, Work Life Balance | No Comments

email_is_brokenEmail collaboration is broken, still to this date a lot of companies base their online digital collaborations on email. Typically for external collaborations, but sometimes even for internal ones. Even if it’s not THE technology sponsored for that end it coexists with a number of email alternatives in the organization, and it usually works as the fallback enterprise collaboration technology.

The good things about email

While a lot of people have been prophesying it’s death the truth is that email has some very good points going for it. It definitely has some advantages, such as:

  • It’s simple and widely adopted. It’s a very basic paradigm based on the notion of sending, replying and forwarding messages. Additionally it’s among the most widely adopted technologies of the internet. Everyone has an email address. So there are network effects at work here, an example of a technology whose value increases with it’s rate of adoption, and in this case almost every internet user has adopted so go figure it’s value.
  • It’s reliable and relatively inexpensive. Email messages arrive regardless of the distance involved, and setting up a mail server is a very documented procedure. There are several open source, and off the shelf alternatives, both on premises, and on the cloud.
  • It’s an open garden. Provided you have someone’s email address you can message with him, you don´t have to provide further personal information, there are no registrations involved, no setups, no hassles. While there´s a dark side to this, for beginners and spreading adoption is great.
  • It enables work/life balanced time management. In terms of managing expectations for turn around times common network etiquette allows you to wait a few hours, or even days before replying an email. It’s not real time. Plus you can turn auto respond for vacations. Point being that from a work/life balance and time management perspective it allows for a much needed wiggle room to put work stuff on hold.

What’s broken about email collaboration?

Among email shortcomings when it comes to enterprise collaboration are:

  • SPAM. The same open garden quality mentioned above enables strangers to contact you for whatever reason, such as trying to sell you something. It’s like a cognitive tax you have to pay to sort through all the messages you get to filter and categorize. It’s such an issue that a whole industry of spam filters was born to attempt to fix this problem, but at it’s core is still present. Anyone can pass along your email address to another stranger allowing them to contact you without your consent.
  • Email is really a bad fit for conversation type of interactions. Particularly among several people. Before you know it you have tens of unread emails, some of them which are one liners, with “Me too” responses and it can take really a long time before you figure out where’s the substance, or agreements that were reached as part of the exchange. It’s just not a good medium for conversations, and that sucks because team collaboration is to a good extent a ongoing conversation.
  • You don’t have confirmation of delivery and read from the other part. Unless the recipient is kind enough to reply with some form of acknowledgment message, the sender does not know whether the message has been read or if has fallen through the cracks of spam. Sometimes in corporate scenarios it’s not just a nice to have feature, but an audit level required by the business process.
  • It really is horrible for team collaborations and document collaborations. For instance if several people have to collaborate on document, it’s normal for everyone to send their version of the modified document, sometimes including previous work from someone else, but sometimes not. Leading to a number of email threads all with attached versions of the document in question. It can quickly become an nightmare to determine what’s the latest version, or what are the differences between these versions to consolidate everyone’s work.
  • Turn around time is awful for remote teams. It’s not real time, or close to. In some contexts, specifically for remote teams that are not in a call conference that requires constant interactions, but they are working on the same thing. It’s good to be able to exchange perspectives, and shoot quick questions and get a yes or no answer within minutes, in “close to real time’ time frames.
  • No support for complex types. Everything is a message. Why typing content is important you may ask. Well, different types of content involve different presentations, and enable different behaviors, and actions. Different types enable different life cycles. For events you need a reminder and will probably want to see it in a calendar. For tasks you will want to see who it is assigned to, it’s due date, and will probably need to be able to mark them as completed. For purchase orders you will want to approve them or reject them, etc. A lot of vendors have implemented applications attempting to attach, or meta morph an email message into something else, and had to cope with the fact that at it’s core that remains an email message which you can reply and forward.
  • The inbox as a sink for everything. The email inbox as the sink where all content flows no matter it’s nature can be a problem. Even if you try to have different email accounts for different purposes, you can only separate things so far. In most companies you will only get one email account, which will act as an inbox of all work related communications. Jokes from your workmates, with me too one liners, with important client exchanges are all in the same place. If the amount of emails arriving is high, it is a matter of time before you miss an important message. Because the platform does not make it easy to separate the wheat from the chaff, to separate the signal from the noise.

What’s next for enterprise collaboration? There has to be a better way

Well collaboration in the workplace is changing. A number of new consumer technologies have appeared over the past years which have generated different use patterns. While email is not dead yet, young generations are less ready to write page long emails and more prone to have spontaneous chat interactions. It’s the facebook, whatsapp & snapchat generation.

There’s a new wave of business applications that attempt to address this challenge by leveraging a conversation centric paradigm for collaborations in the workplace. Among them applications such as HipChat, and Slack.

We are building an email alternative of our own design. It’s called Kezmo, and it’s designed to achieve the best of both worlds. Conversation based (near real time) interactions while enabling good expectation management of turn around times. For instance providing feedback on whether or not a message has been delivered and read. Allowing users to structure content with different types, enabling different displays and behaviors for them.

It will be launched in a private beta within days. Feel free to register in this link so that you receive an invitation and give it a try!.

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Enabling messaging and file transfers between nearby iOS and Android devices

By | Bluetooth, CloseNet | No Comments

It´s 2016, 21st century, mobile phones have been around for some twenty years, and smart phones have become ubiquitous in the past ten years. Still if I´m using an iPhone and I need to send a digital message, or file to anyone that’s standing right beside me using an Android my best bet is to send him an email with an attachment, or rely on some file sharing platform that goes through a number of servers on the internet, making the bits travel potentially thousands of miles, only to be routed back to the same physical location.

From a user standpoint in some cases this is of no consequence, other times it’s a hindrance, and at times it can be a real pain. If both users have good network connectivity to the internet, and contents are not sensitive in nature it may not be an issue. If just one of them has connectivity problems then it can become at a minimum a hindrance (ie: can you write down the password to your wifi, please? coz I got it wrong for the third time) making the exchange experience less fluid. Finally in some cases it´s a real business pain.

Scenarios where peer to peer connectivity can save your day

For scenarios where:

  • Internet connectivity is bad or not an option at all.For instance:
    • Tradeshows, and conferences. Connectivity in these cases is typically very bad, and there’s a lot of email, and twitter handles exchanges going on which must be spelled out, or provided through a paper card (it’s about time we improve that). Not to mention digital brochures that vendors could hand out from booths.
    • Transit zones when traveling (specially abroad). From airports, to airplanes, to hotel lobbies. What do you do if you need to collaborate with a colleague, while on the go, on a document, a spreadsheet, a presentation? Work separately, wait until you reach somewhere with connectivity, and only then share through email. Leaving the risky consolidation to the end that you might have to pull it off in hurry on the client premises.
    • Disaster zones. In the unfortunate event of an act of God, such an earthquake or a tsunami teams must have alternatives to rely on other than wifi, and internet, in order to communicate a location quickly regardless of network conditions.
  • Contents are very sensitive in nature. In the recent past years we’ve learned that government agencies actively record communications. Not only that, but news of large corporations falling victims to hacking attacks are very frequent, with the stolen data becoming available for sale on internet. There are scenarios were you’d prefer not to leave any traces in any server infrastructure.

There has to be a better way. Well, there is. Wireless networking technologies such as: Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, Wifi direct offer alternatives, allowing to create mesh, peer to peer, nearby networks, where the exchange of information is possible regardless of access to internet.

CloseNet, a free cross platform peer to peer messaging app

CloseNet Radar View
It is with a desire to make possible digital collaboration in these types of scenarios that we implemented CloseNet. By leveraging technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy, and Wifi-Direct, we are able to enable users to discover, message and share files across mobile platforms.

CloseNet is available on iOS, and Android. Users that download the app will see a radar view that enables discovery of peers. CloseNet scans the nearby area, and selects the best supported networking transport given the capabilities of the devices involved.

Users with CloseNet can create loops, like virtual collaboration circles, that enable multiple users to exchange messages, files, tasks, links, etc.

CloseNet supports offline data entry, that will be synchronized automatically with the rest of the users in a loop once the communication is reestablished.

Communications in CloseNet are secure, since they are encrypted with point to point encryption.

We look forward to your feedback!!

Opportunities in the enterprise messaging and collaboration market segment

By | enterprise, Kezmo, Knowledge Management | No Comments

After over a year of effort we are approaching the release date for our enterprise messaging and collaboration application, which we have named Kezmo (how and why that name could be the topic for a couple of posts on itself).

There are a number of reasons why we believe we may have something to add of value to the enterprise collaboration and content management market segment, among them our experience as consultants implementing SharePoint solutions for years, and later implementing leading mobile client for that platform.

The enterprise collaboration market is huge and is going through massive changes, which spans risks and opportunities. Some of the conceptual foundations we’ve been building on are the following:

  • Group chats are ubiquitous. Whatsapp has managed to change how the world communicates, it’s become a game changer. User experience expectations in the workplace are changing accordingly to their consumers day to day experience.
  • The group chat dynamic has been proven useful in the work environment. There are several high profile collaboration applications, Slack, and HipChat among them, that are making clear that the conversation centric collaboration model is here to stay.
  • The pendulum is swinging far to the chat side of things. Currently in most systems everything is a chat message which creates a number of challenges, such as: finding content, avoiding misunderstandings, staying up with the latest status of things.
  • Offline and nearby support is being overlooked in most collaboration solutions out there. Data entry and even collaboration capabilities without connectivity is key to a lot of business scenarios. The technology is slowly getting there for nearby networking.
  • There’s a backlash to the massive migration to the cloud based on security concerns. Corporations need more control over where and how their data is storaged. A cloud only application does not make the cut for big companies.
  • The information overload is such that we need new, more visual ways to navigate shared content.
  • Mobile has taken over the world. Enterprise information systems must be mobile first, and have mobile clients as first class citizens.

About a year ago with these ideas in mind we set out to build a state of the art real time messaging platform for the enterprise. We are about to launch it, initially in a invite only private beta. If you would like to try it feel free to subscribe.

We are looking forward to having you on board.

We are hiring

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It takes a great team to be able to create awesome software. We are in the process of putting such a team together.

We have open positions for programmers. Experience with Objective-C, or Android SDK are a plus.

If you think you have what it takes, send us an email to jobs [@] orangeloops.com

We look forward to having you in our team!

We are OrangeLoops

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This is a story about a couple of passionate software developers that at some point during 2009 decided to join forces.

After developing enterprise information systems with Microsoft technologies for corporate clients for more than 10 years they started a software company attempting to leverage years of experience, and a desire to develop a product based business model.

That initial software house prospered. Thanks to an amazing team, a share of good timing, and a bit of luck the company delivered a winning product that achieved global recognition, to the point that it was acquired in 2011.

This is the second endeavor of the same team of founders.  A company focused in delivering mobile first products for the enterprise segment built on the same foundations, and fueled by the same desire to develop awesome software products for a global audience.

We are now OrangeLoops.