DuckDuckGo

A few weeks ago, I switched from Google to DuckDuckGo as my search engine. Google has been tone-deaf for a while now towards privacy issues in general and I was wondering if I could wean myself of Google’s services. I thought I’d start with search.

DuckDuckGo’s main selling point is that it is not tracking you. Even though they’ve been around for a long time, it’s refreshing to see a company who doesn’t track you. Apparently they’ve been cash flow positive for a long time. Clearly, you don’t need to track people to build a viable business in search.

I’ve tried DuckDuckGo in the past though and I wasn’t impressed with the search results, but that was a long time ago.

Today is different and I can report it’s good enough. I’ve switched over my iPhone, iPad and laptops to use DuckDuckGo by default.

It took me a while to get used to the results of DuckDuckGo. I can’t really quantify what it was, but I found myself reverting back to Google for 1 out of 2 searches. DuckDuckGo makes it real easy, just add !g to your search and it refers your browser to Google. It might have been a confidence thing, but in the second week I found myself reverting to Google less and less. This week I’ve barely touched Google’s search at all.

Next up is Google Maps. Let’s see if Apple Maps has improved since the embarrassing introduction back in 2012.

Facebook “unbundled”

Around two years ago, I deleted all my social media apps and just visit through their websites. I stopped posting or otherwise engaging with any of them. This also changed my visiting behavior. I settled for once per week for Facebook and Instagram and just use Twitter and LinkedIn when I want to look up something. Typically that once per week is on Friday.

Because of my relative low frequency of my visiting, it’s easy to recognize changes. Back in January, Facebook announced it would prioritize personal moments over public content. Today, when I visit my timeline indeed only consists mostly of personal moments – photos, personal statements and memes. The click-bait articles are gone and the amount of silly personal tests has gone down dramatically as well. The quality of the feed has gone up significantly. It almost looks like Instagram now. Instagram cross-posts are now also first-rate citizen’s on Facebook where they used to be buried like the Twitter cross-posts from the past.

It hasn’t changed my behavior and I don’t think I’ll become “active” again on Facebook, but certainly has a place right now and that’s good.

Twitter used to be awesome, but today I’ve really no clue what to do with it. The signal-to-noise ratio is very low. I really wanted to like it, but gave up on it because of that. Somehow Twitter never scaled very well. The bigger it became, the less interesting it was.

Snapchat is for “kids”. It’s the only reason I have it and all people I know who use it, use it for that reason – to communicate with their “kids”. I’ve never received a snap from an “adult”. It’s also the only social media app I have installed since Snap doesn’t have a web interface. I think it also falls into the chat category.

I do wonder what’s next for social networks. It looks like that Instagram is the place with all the action right now. Chat has taken over for personal sharing. It’s also the most diversified area right now. I routinely use 4 to 5 different chat apps on a given day.

It almost looks like we “unbundled” Facebook by accident.

Laptop and traveling

I find technology and how it influences and changes human behavior very interesting to observe. I’ve been doing some heavy traveling lately and I noticed that I’m actually not using my laptop as much as I used to do. My laptop and me used to be tied to the hip, but nowadays I sometimes notice that I’m carrying it around but not using it. I’ve taken trips without my laptop and I felt “naked” even though in retrospect there wasn’t any reason to feel like that at all.

The main reason for this is that my smartphone has become so good that I really don’t need a laptop anymore when I’m on the go. The only reason to bring it along is for those few use cases where a bigger screen is essential like working on a spreadsheet or presentation.

Nowadays my laptop goes in the suitcase (when I’ve a carry-on) and I leave it in the hotel room more often than not. This was not a conscious decision, it just happened. It’s a testament how far mobile phones and apps have gotten. It’s impressive.

10,000ft captchas

Every time I use Gogo inflight, I’m puzzled by their use of captchas. Are hackers bored enough on flights to try to circumvent their authentication system? There are gazillion other and more consumer-friendly ways to solve that problem like introducing progressive increasing cool-off periods after failed login attempts.

They even let you solve a captchas for accessing Delta’s free inflight messaging service which doesn’t require an account. I’m very puzzled by this.

5G

Last week, Verizon announced the launch of their 5G service in 4 US cities. There has been discussions around if it was really 5G or the “world’s first” which I don’t really find that important – it’s just marketing.

What makes me excited about it, is that it’s the first step to an all wireless world. Fast-forward a decade and I expect that internet will go all wireless without wifi. I’ve always regarded wifi as technology as transitional. The deployed wifi technologies always been one or two generations behind what’s deployed in either telecom networks or satellite communications. It is basically a poor man’s wireless network. In that regard, it’s tremendous successful and rightly so, but at the same time it’s not how a wireless world can look like.

The balancing act for wireless providers has always been spectrum, cell size and silicon. Silicon is limited in processing power and battery usage. More advanced coding schemes require more battery power. Cell size is limited by many factors like zoning and capital expenditures to cover a geographic area – the US is huge. Spectrum is a limited commodity. Lower coding schemes improve battery life and range, but reduce the available bandwidth on a particular slice of the spectrum.

Since telecom is a highly capital expensive business adoption of new technology is slow. Combined with zoning regulations managed by individual commissions in all areas, it slows down roll-out even more.

But this is a step in the right direction. I can’t wait for the day, I open my laptop or phone anywhere in the world and I’m connected to the internet. 5G technology brings that one step closer and it’s coming. I’m excited.

Weekcal

One of the first apps I install on any IOS device is Weekcal. It’s a calendar app which has  all the features you’d ever want and more, but it also has this unique week calendar layout which I absolutely adore. Here’s a screenshot:

No other calendar app offers this option. I like having a good overview of my week. It’s also a good visual ‘queue’ to create balance in my schedule. If I’ve trouble managing meetings in this view, I’ve scheduled too many meetings and I need to slow down.

People who are as old as me, might recognize this view from the Palm Vx PDAs back in the late 90s / early 2000s. I’m glad someone had the good insight to turn it into an app. Weekcal offers other views, but I’m always using this one. I could not live without it.

To upgrade or not

iPhone X(s) [Max]

The annual refresh of Apple’s iPhone line-up makes me think of what I think of my current iPhone – I currently use a iPhone X. Before I upgrading, I rocked a iPhone SE – the most iconic iPhone in my opinion. When I got the SE, it was also the first time I skipped a generation. I skipped the 7.

The big reason for me to get X was FaceID. TouchID never worked reliable for me on the iPhone. I think the button was too small for my fingers. I never had a touchID problem with my iPad. The screen was a good bonus.

One of things that changed is that I used to bring my iPad Mini on long trips, but since the iPhone X I don’t do that anymore. Apparently the screen is big enough. It’s interesting to notice subtle changes in behavior when dealing with technology.

I do still use my iPad Mini for reading (Economist / Kindle). I’ve tried it a few times on the iPhone X, but the screen is too small. Maybe the Max is big enough?

This is also the first iPhone I use with case. The X is very slippery and fragile. It looked worse after 4 months than my iPhone SE after 2 years. It feels like it is designed to be used with a case. I don’t like how the case changes the look and feel of the phone, but without it I would’ve destroyed it by now. This has never happened to me before, but it kept falling off my couch or out of my pocket.

I really like wireless charging, it’s the only thing I use now. It’s nice not to fiddle with cables anymore. I also like that it gives the phone a specific place.

I still think the iPhone X is too big and heavy to carry around all the time, but that’s just me. I’m a Macbook, iPhone SE and iPad Mini type of person, it’s not where the world is heading – I’ll adapt.

Sitting here, writing this post, I was trying to think of a single feature I liked about the S, but I can’t come up with a single feature besides the obligatory processor and camera upgrades. I think the Max was the big feature this cycle.

I won’t be upgrading this time around.

Cold emails

Yesterday, Hunter Walk wrote about cold emails and that they can be better than a luke warm email. It reminded something a friend told me a while ago. We were talking about cold emails from various SaaS companies offering their services. I told him I routinely just deleted them. He had a different strategy. He always responded in a nice way and told him he wasn’t interested. He said the response was always positive and they actually went away. Moreover it saved him dealing with the endless follow-up emails.

I took notice and decided to try it out. And you know what? It actually works. Nowadays, when you sent me a cold email, I always respond. Somehow, I actually have the feeling it reduces my incoming cold emails in total. I guess that sharing you’re not interested and have a good reason updates some “magical” sales database letting others know that a particular type of service is not relevant for me or my company.

Of course there are exceptions where they can’t take no for an answer and then I click “spam” and Gmail auto-filters them for me in the future.

And yes – of course – sometimes I respond positively and want to learn more.

Marketeers’ relentness efforts for your attention

Notification spam

One of my pet peeves is notification spam. Yesterday, I got one from Apple TV reminding me to watch a baseball game. I don’t watch baseball and never watched a game on TV in my life. I’ve no idea what prompted Apple to send me that, but I immediately disabled notifications from the TV app. It’s so annoying.

I forgot to make a screenshot because I was traveling and it actually interrupted something I was doing, but I’ve been collecting them for a while. Here are some examples of useless notifications.

Nowadays by default no app will get notification privileges. I never expected spam from Apple so it got through.

Growing your startup

Ownership

Yesterday I had a good discussion about how to manage teams and people inside fast-growing organizations. One effective way I favor is making sure every team and person has clear ownership in their own domain.

Assuming people are onboard and aware of the mission and vision of the company, ownership gives everyone – person, team and manager – clear starting ground to discuss goals and budget. It also gives people the freedom to make the best decisions to further those goals. Of course, people will make mistakes too. Tweaking the size of the domain of ownership to the person combined with good management will minimize that risk, but tolerance to mistakes is important. You can learn valuable lessons from mistakes too.

Ownership also helps teams and people work together and foster an environment of clear communication and decision making processes which always a challenge in a fast-growing company.

The biggest challenge though is how to adapt while growing. The best way is to constantly re-evaluate. If you need a reorganization, you’re really too late. This was how that discussion started last night. Though the most painful sometimes is dividing ownership over time. People dislike giving away responsibilities. They see it as a personal failure. This is another reason to move quickly. It is inevitable though any growing organization.