Episode 18 On Information Triage and Wearables

In last episode, we ended our talk with a new topic: how wearables are helping users to better manage information? How do people feel about wearables that are always on? We continued the discussion this time.

Sometimes I feel the talk we are doing here is not about getting the answer to questions, but instead generating more questions from the talk. If you share similar interests in whatever we are talking about, feel free to share your thoughts with us.

01:00 Bo got his first Echo last Tuesday, and he’s been using it for a week. The first part is like a how to use Echo for dummies. Another interesting question came up is about how voice assistant like Alexa will be able to create some type of “TL;DL” of podcast.

15:00 How do people process information? Or narrow it down a bit, how do people prioritize information? For Bo, the solution is using Apple Watch to help him set the boundaries of notifications. What interests me most is the idea of watch face switch. What if the face switch relates to mode switch, setting different scenarios for notifications?

36:00 As I read somewhere in the news that kids are competing their parents’ attention with mobile phones, that worries me. And thus we have the discussion whether wearables are taking people away from pocket computers, which might be some improvement.

46:00 What do you think about wearables that are always on? Now that we have smart phones on 24/7, it seems we are so used to have all these gadgets around us without thinking about how they’ve been listening to us and collecting data all the time.

Episode 17 On IM and “Pocket Computer”

Apologies for skipping one week. We actually recorded the talk, but it didn’t go well. We had a fight, because of lack of preparation and miscommunication. The talk has always been casual conversation between two friends, but knowing there are actual listeners makes us feel stressful. We both get more concerned about whom we are talking to and how listeners are going to understand the show. Still, we are going to be who we are and talk about what interest us, but we do need to spend more time for preparation and setup better structures of the talk. We are working on it!

Till now we have no idea who have been listening to our podcast, we want to thank you for the attention, and we hope to hear from you for any feedback.

1:00 We start slowly by talking about Slack has been down for a while and people complained about it on Twitter. Bo’s company has been using Slack and it works pretty well for a 60-person company. In China, most companies communicate over Wechat groups. It’s interesting to see some new mobile apps have designed hidden surprises for users, like Slack and Snapchat.

9:00 The problem this time that we are interested in is working IMs (instant messenger) has been blurring the lines between work and life. We are receiving emails or work-related notifications 24-hour a day. Bo thinks it’s not because of the IMs, but because of the smartphones, or pocket computers, as Bo spontaneously coined the word.

16:00 We dive into some features in IMs that make us stressful, like “typing”, “have seen the message”, etc.

32:00 While it’s quite common for users from the West and the East to have multiple IMs installed on their phone, users in China seem rely mainly on Wechat for communication for social and for work. This might be because of the heavy-feature nature of apps from Asia. We side-tracked a bit and discuss the cost of living in the Bay Area and Beijing.

50:00 As we returned to our topic, we also realize how it relates to wearable, a topic that Bo has always enthusiastic about. We discuss the notion of information triage and wearables that are always on, which we will talk more about in the next episode.

Episode 16 On Coffeeshops and Co-working Space

We were out for two weeks, mainly because of technical issue. Last week, it took us half an hour to start the conversation. By the time we started to talk, we both felt exhausted because of the on-and-off calls. It was frustrating and discouraging. So we continue the conversation about coffee shop this week.

01:00 How do you like coffee shops? They are part of our lives, and we are curious about coffee shops as a product. Why has it been so popular internationally, and how is it going to evolve into the future? We discuss the topic from the location, the interaction in the coffee shop, etc.

17:00 “The future of coffee shops might still be coffee shops. The new future space is actually co-working space”, according to Joy. Coworking space is mainly about the network and supporting infrastructure. And there’s more connection between coffee shop and co-working space –– Starbucks has great potential in becoming the giant network of coworking space.

36:00 If Starbucks expand their business into coworking space, how does it work? How do they make money? Bo said, by renting out lockers instead of charging customers by the space they are taking. The reason that Bo thinks Starbucks can be coworking space is that they offer good experience for customers, which is essential for coworking space. Then we got into this really interesting question as to the globalization of coffee shop –– why it became global trend that people start hanging out in coffee shops nowadays?

49:00 So would the next trend of globalization is the co-working space?

Episode 15 On Content Monetization

Have you ever tipped someone on the Internet, for an article you read, or for an answer you get? For me, it’s always interesting why people pay for the content, while majority of the information on the Internet is free, Wikipedia, Quora, or articles on New York Times, Buzzfeed, you name it. So what we are actually paying for? What do you think about the tipping model?

01:00 Have you heard about Jelly? It’s a platform that you can ask questions anonymously, and get answers from users on the platform. The company brand the product as the new way of search on mobile. We started with Jelly, the online Q&A platform, and then slowly get into the topic of content monetization. Bo talks about his main point: nothing on the Internet is free. We talked about soft advertisement, sponsored content, Instagram and Medium.

24:00 An interesting feature that I’ve been interested in is tipping articles on Wechat. I am interested in why people decide to tip articles they read, and how people feel about paying for information on the Internet. Bo explains the rationale behind it in his nerdy way – calculate how much every minute worths when you read the article if you decide to tip something online.

40:00 Another perspective that I am interested in is paying to get answers online. Products like this includes Quora’s new feature: Knowledge Prize.

50:00 We also look into the subscription model vs pay by each piece of content, like membership on Spotify vs buying individual song on iTunes. And we reached the conclusion for this episode: when looking at content monetization on the Internet, one should go beyond the content itself, but think about the cost of the content producer, the server, and etc. Those are what we are actually paying for on the Internet.


Episode 14 On Warby Parker and Casper

Warby Parker is an online eyeglasses retailer, and was named as the most innovative company in the past years by Forbes. Casper creates award-winning mattress for the decade and also new ways to deliver and sell mattress, renewing the traditional industry. We like both companies a lot. Bo is a loyal customer to both companies too. He bought the mattress and a pair of glasses, and talked about them all the time. It’s a fun talk, as we started from this two companies and extending into other topics.


1:00 Instead of calling Warby Parker one of the most innovative companies of the decade, Bo thinks its business model is similar to old-style mail-order catalogue model.

10:00 As I was researching on the two companies, I came across Amazon’s retail shop in Seattle. We discussed if there’s any connection between this move and the two companies.

17:00 Bo points out one thing the two companies share is how they address privacy. Trying out eyewear and trying out mattress are something pretty private. People would like to try by themselves instead of being exposed in the public to feel how the glasses look on them, or how the mattress feels.

22:00 Then the topic extends to subscription model. We try to draw the comparison between some monthly clothes subscription model to Warby Parker.

32:00 At some point, we digress and start talking about Wikipedia, because Bo think Wikipedia has not been mentioned enough lately. It's interesting to think about this question: if you can re-innovate wikipedia to make it more modern, what will you do?

43:00 If Wikipedia exists as a non-profit organization is based on the assumption that information is free on the Internet, then why there's a new trend coming up that people have to pay for information on Quora or Facebook?


Episode 13 Santa’s Little Helper –– On Chatbots

Everyone is talking about chatbots lately, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. We’ve looked into this realm since last year, so we think maybe it’s a good time to revisit the topic.

1:00 Why all of a sudden does it become so popular? Facebook, Microsoft and Wechat all have started to become a platform of chatbots. To some extent, they are like the new little “Internet sitting on top of the Internet”. Partially it’s because of mobile as the new form factor and new way to interact.

13:00 The limited screen space seems the main limitation from a designer perspective. But chatbots are not limited to text messages, sending videos, or sending red pockets on wechat can also be considered as bots.

25:00 Still, as there are more and more bots coming up, there remains the question: how do you find out what bots to follow? Bo compared that to the history of website and google, saying it’s going over the same cycle.

34:00 When talking about conversational design, one thing that we haven’t talked about is voice. It’s interesting and seems have a lot more potential in interaction. Another approach in built-in search on mobile is through keyboard, like Slash and Input. Besides sending out silly gifs, people can also search videos or location right in the input area. Though it takes some time to switch between keyboards.

44:00 How about Luka? We’ve noticed Luka since it first launched last year. And we noticed they’ve pivoted a bit lately after another round of investment. It’s still a bit premature at this point. I got lost and not knowing what to do while trying the app.

Episode 12 On Snapchat

Bo has been talking a lot of good things about Snapchat. I never understood that until I start using it. I learned to use Snapchat for a week. It was fun, but also confusing. That’s how we start the conversation.

0:00 How does Snapchat actually work? I learn to add friend on it, or to watch live event, but still it’s confusing to use it. Bo draws the comparison between Snapchat and the old Facebook when news feed was not live.

13:00 The main difference between Snapchat and Facebook is about the time. Snapchat is more like day-to-day conversation, in which you say something, and it disappear. While on Facebook, it’s like a digital gallery that stores everything you post. We talk about the editorial or curation on Snapchat.

28:00 Another thing about Snapchat is how casual users communicate with others, like how I text message with my friend, or how Everlane communicate with their customers.

33:00 Bo emphasizes that what makes Snapchat unique is that it captures people’s attention. He shares his experience after watching the interactive film, the Room.

43:00 Why is there only handful of channels in Discover? Why doesn’t it provide personalized channels like other services do? Is it good design or bad design? We had a fight over this topic.

Episode 11 On Copy China

0:00 Starting from the last issue of Wired Magazine. The cover features Lei Jun, the CEO of Xiaomi, and the title of that issue says “It’s time to copy China”. Xiaomi’s success is because of its business model and marketing strategy.

13:00 The Internet got lost somewhere, and we didn’t record part of our conversation. So we started talking about other things related to the Chinese market. The new batch of companies from YC 2016 Spring some similar business models from China. Bo says cities in China might be the model of future cities, because they have the most and best resources.

30:00 Given the fact that China is so different and unique in so many ways, it seems impossible to copy the O2O business models from China. Bo argues that if the trend is that more people are moving to the cities, big cities like NYC, SF will learn something from the Chinese companies in how they serve large population.

41:00 I mentioned Indonesia couple times, and Bo spots that, so we start to talk about emerging market as big opportunities for Chinese companies.

Episode 10 VR is the face tattoo

We started talking about VR and related devices again.

0:00 Bo thinks VR is not going anywhere, because people are pretty cautious of what to put on their body. He draws comparison among VR,  Apple Watch and Google Glass.

14:00 There are other devices that we are wearing now that people are pretty comfortable with, like watch, headphones. These might have bigger potential in the future. Start from there, we start to imagine the future of smart headphones.

26:00 When talking about wearables, Bo thinks that style is really important to think about. It’s part of the appearance, and people pay attention to that. And wearables with specific purposes are going to be more popular than wearables with general purposes.

34:00 People like to associate themselves with the brand image. From there, we shift gears and start to talk about new trends in men’s wear is getting much smarter.

40:00 Speaking of fashion, Bo talks about one of his favorite brand, Everlane. What amazes him is their marketing strategy, especially on Snapchat and Instagram. He then explains how Snapchat works for me. He compares today’s Snapchat with the old Facebook when newsfeed was not live yet.

46:00 This is the part when the conversation gets interesting. Though I always know Snapchat is interesting, I still don’t have the motivation to use it because I am already using Wechat. Bo explains how he has six messenger apps, and why he needs all of them.

54:00 No one shares their real feelings on Facebook. What we both realize is that most people are just sharing posts or photos on Facebook now, but not that many people share their feelings or stories. It’s interesting to see something that used to be so addictive turns into something more like news platform. Maybe that’s why we have new social networks every year.

65:00 Bo’s prediction/understanding of the future of social networks and we end up with our title for this episode: VR is the face tattoo.


Episode 9 On Optimization

The part that was not recorded is this: Bo was hanging out with a bunch of new friends, one of which works in a hotel as a manager. So Bo asked her if she knows a new app called “Overnight”, which is kinda like “Airbnb for hotels”. And to Bo’s biggest surprise (which I still don’t understand why), she heard about it. He is surprised because he always believes himself to be the first person in his social group to get hand on new information, like new companies, new products or new technology. That’s how we started the show.

03:00 From Overnight, “Airbnb for hotels”, to the trending term in China, O2O (online to offline). We spend some time discussing the on-demand valet service in San Francisco, Luxe. How the business runs, or how the service works for customers?

13:00 Services like Luxe is going to compete with Uber, Wash.io, and other services on human resources. So Bo proposed the idea to provide a service for the freelancers to maximize their income by helping them schedule their day for on-demand services. 

25:00 But will people be willing to do several services at the same time? Joy described how Didi Dache (Chinese version of Uber), and deliver service work in China. Bo argued that if the services help freelance workers make more money, people will use it.

53:00 More and more services in the future will not be using flat rate any more. Like Sprig, they are charging differently at different time in a day. For busy hours, they charge higher delivery fee.

P.S. Apologies for the choppy voice, the slow Internet is the one to blame.



Episode 8 On Backpacks and etc.

We started with backpack. Bo has always been interested in backpacks with high quality and great features. At first, I think i would just be quiet and let him do the talk, yet, we started talking about customization, VR, 3D printers, drones and other things. And in the end, we ended with smart suitcase. It’s an interesting talk.

01:00 How we switched from talking about backpacks to customization of software.

11:00 Bo started talking about the value of mass customization. If it adds value to users, then making the interfaces customizable to every user will be on the top priority to companies. But the reason why customization is not popular is that people are too lazy to do that. Bo drew the connection with the popularity of VR. We extended the topic a bit further to include 3D printer and drones.

24:00 A lot of products from the beginning are toys.

34:00 We returned to the topic of backpacks again. Bo raised an interesting question: there are so many new design of backpacks on Kickstarter, why is that? And also we started talking about a smart suitcase from Kickstarter. We mainly discussed about the use cases of the product.

55:00 A better suitcase of better Internet of things of products require better battery in the future. And we also talked about beacon and QR code for a bit.


Episode 7 On HoverBoard

What is hover board? Why is it important? While Australia, the whole nation, banned hoverboard, Bo thinks that hoverboard is the future of transportation.

04:00 The safety concern: hoverboard on fire in several places in the States and other parts of the world; and it doesn’t seem to be safe riding outdoor.

15:00 Bo quoted Ben Thompson’s predictions on the future of transportation: electric powered, self-driven, sharing the ownership of vehicles.

21:00 The skateboard or hoverboard is to solve “the last mile problem”. But to me, it sounds like a “first-world problem” –– everything is about efficiency. Why the rush?

34:00 What if the hoverboard becomes a robot, it follows you when you are not stepping on it and your hands are not available to hold it?

41:00 Then we extended a bit into the delivery service in China, drones, etc. All future transportation tools now are still toys, but in the future, they might become something crazy.


Episode 6 On New Models of Furniture Rental

The recording started with a choppy "hello", due to my crappy connection at home. But as we started talking, things got better. The topic we discussed was furniture rental: how it became a problem to modern people, who have to move couple times before they finally settle down somewhere; and how new approaches can be applied to solve some problems in the process. In the end, we got into a small fight about users. It was a bit embarrassing to listen back, but I decided to leave it as it is. Well, it's part of the communication process.

Side note: We’ve tried several recording tools. Cast.fm is a great tool, but too bad the connection in China doesn’t support it well. So we switched to Skype Recorder, and so far it works great. My voice has been so much clearer!


Episode 5 On Personalized Search (Part 2)

We continued the topic on personalized search. In this talk, surprisingly, both of us sound so calm and chill.


01:00 We started with Slash the Keyboard. It allows users to search while typing while use some symbols “/” and the channels to search in. It works like coding.

08:00 From technical perspective, how does Slash the Keyboard work?

17:00 We continue digressing on the topic and started talking about “How Apple is Giving Design a Bad Name”.

28:00 As we slowly get back to the topic, Bo asked us to take a step back and think about the right context for mobile search. We spent some time talking about the trust issue of searching results: results from people you know to strangers from the Internet, or from Magic the service.

39:00 How do we envision the future of mobile search?

50:00 Bo mentioned the concept “opinionated data” and how difficult it is to collect data from users to get insight from it.



Episode 4 On Personalized Search (Part 1)

Bo and I have been working on Umi Search, a personalized search related product, for about half a year. It didn’t turn out well in the end, but we realized it would be helpful if we can talk about the idea from the very beginning, and visualize how it could be in the future.


05:00 How Bo started the idea from four to five years ago. He sold everything to start business in China, and met Umi, his wife there. Without phone or Internet connection, she became the source of information to him.

13:00 The problem can also be rephrased as how to do mobile search more efficiently. Umi Search try to solve it by searching within your social accounts, like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Wechat.

21:00 If the search results are most often UGC, some results might be redundant or of low quality, how could Umi Search solve that?

33:00 Technical problem might be one aspect that we were not proceeding with Umi Search, but it seems from the conversation, there are more issues to it, like the definition of personalized search.

49:00 We talks about Slash the keyboard as an interesting approach to the problem. It seems interesting if some shortcuts can be applied in the mobile search process, just programmers use code lines to create actions.

53:00 If the search product actually comes out, the user group might be pretty limited.



Episode 3 ½ On Random Stuff

Before actually getting into the topic that we were ready to talk about, we spent almost an hour talking about random “first-world problem”: hot water heater, smart water cup, tickle machine, etc. Though the two items sound really random and low-tech, but if you really look for it, people are actually working on them.

And there are snippets of how we made this show. Most of the recording is just crazy laugh sound. Just for fun.

Episode 3 On Senior Care (Part 3)

What can we do? In this episode, we discussed some of our proposed solutions. 

0:00 We share the research results from asking our family and friends on how the seniors use mobile phones. The use cases in the senior user group are pretty diversified and different than people at our age (late 20s to early 30s). The major apps that the seniors are using (in China) include Wechat and some games. 

07:10 As usual, we digress a bit and get into the discussion of Wechat as a platform for new products.

11:00 Three directions on the possible new products:  Information-related, service-related, and technology-related solutions. We propose some ideas and criticized on it. 

23:00 Joy talks about most of the current mobile design is not friendly to the senior users.

27:00 How about creating an integrated app specifically for the seniors, with completely new technical writing, new iconography, like a stripped-down version of Uber? We had back and forth discussion on the approaches, which is how sometimes product manager or engineer argue with designers. 

37:00 What is the problem we are targeting? And who might be our target audiences?

47:30 How about the need for looking for caretakers? There’s difference among China and the US. Then Bo suggests how about getting on-demand tech support like you call an uber?

01:00:00 What’s the next step? 

Episode 2 On Senior Care (Part 2)

What have been done for the senior user group?

03:00 Recap from last episode: we’ve discussed about the problem, the situation, and came up with our own solutions.

04:35 Joy shares her research on existing products, like wearables, and apps. But everything seems designed to protect the senior groups instead of letting them to leverage the technology to learn and to grow.

07:55 The copy in apps is written for the younger generation, which is a higher level of accessibility than font size or font color. 

09:40 Community level senior care in San Francisco and other places, like Japan, China, and Hong Kong. 

16:50 Existing apps seem focus more on the physical wellness of the seniors, and it seems more can be done to help connect the senior users together.

23:20 The concept of an app might not be a good solution to the seniors, because they have to jump between apps to accomplish tasks. So what are the services that needed to provide?

31:00 How about a joint account for the kids and the parents? It seems rather confusing for the senior to manage different accounts and passwords. 

49:00 We talked about business model of startups and then we digressed. Bo got the idea that we can work on a project for certain topics and talk about it in the podcast, like a scum meeting. 

56:30 Wrap-up of the episode. 

1:05:00 We digressed a bit further to discuss the format of podcasts (with the eternal call for sponsorship).

Pilot Episode On Senior Care (Part 1)

In the pilot episode, we talked about a problem that we, and friends around us are facing now or soon: How to take care of your parents when they are far far far away? How to leverage the technology nowadays to better communicate with your family? Is video call enough? Is on-demand caretaker the solution? 

Let's find out!


Show notes:

02:40  Let’s talk stuff.  –– That’s how we started the podcast ITiL.

12:41 Questions to explore: how to take care of parents when they are far away (not in the same city or the same country)? The question arose from Bo and his friends’ experiences. 

15:00 Building communities among seniors might be a solution to approach senior care, such as religious communities.

23:21 But the problem might be bigger than what we are facing. It’s a global issue, it’s a wicked problem that some people have already started solving by creating apps or building new services, like Honor (Bo made a mistake here saying the service called Honest).

31:01 The senior users are not tech-savvy, so it might be better to leverage traditional communication channels, like phone calls instead of emails or text messages. (We kinda took a side walk and talked a bit about innovation in China. ) 

41:10 How can we make changes? Joy is looking at the big picture and Bo suggests how about finding an aspect of the problem and thinking about the possible solutions. We discussed wearable solutions, meetups for the seniors, assistant account for seniors in apps, etc. But one thing for sure, the product is not going to solve everything for the kids, but to remove the frictions in communication with the seniors. 

01:00:00 What’s next? Drill deep into one topic and talk more about in three to four episodes. And the name for the show? We decided it to be ITiL. You will find out the meaning of it if you can listen to the end. 

Music Credit:  "dodge thisss" by Tenacity

How the podcast started

The podcast started as a Skype chat between Bo, a developer based in San Francisco, and Joy, a product designer based in Beijing. We used to share thoughts and information on products, and apps when we were both in SF. This August, Joy went back to China and started working in a startup. The two think that podcast might be a way to keep the conversation going, and also to keep in touch.  

Since it first started, we have no idea where it's heading. It's this kind of uncertainty that keeps us excited about this side project, though there are certain issues we have to deal with. Firstly, the time zone difference. We have to record the call in the early morning in San Francisco and late night in Beijing. And second, the technical issue. We came across a lot on-and-off during the Skype call. It might be the unstable network in China or the old laptop that Joy has been using. 

 The name ITiL came from a book that Bo likes, The Importance of Living by Yutang Lin. Since we are going to pick a topic that we are both interested in, and then talk about it, we decided to call it "ITiL". Using an acronym is for open explanation: it can be interpret as Important Things in Life, Impossible Tornado in Louisiana, etc. 

Have fun!