Let’s face it. For many of my readers I am the geek in their life.
I’m the nerdy friend you tell your IT guy about when you don’t know what else to talk about because you want to talk about the latest political news about Herman Cain or what happened on SNL and all he is knowledgeable about is Leo Laporte’s ugly shirt in his last episode of This Week in Tech.
You don’t even know who Leo Laporte is. And that’s OK.
So what do geeks want for Christmas? What are the things that will make us shout “sleigh ride” on December 25th? I’m glad you asked. Here’s my list of 14 geek toys that I will happily tweet about when the UPS man drops them off.
More than 1 billion apps have been downloaded from the iTunes app store. Believe it or not, there are lots of people who still don’t think of it as a serious marketplace. A billion is 1,000 million folks. That’s pretty serious.
Here are 5 things that the app store has taught me
Free is a legitimate business plan.
Financial success isn’t so much about profit margins, it’s about price point.
Traditional high margin businesses with complicated business plans can’t compete.
The one hit wonder is just as powerful today as it was yesterday.
Big business will always manipulate a free market system.
Some brief explanations to unpack the list above.
Free is a legitimate business plan
Would you have an account on Facebook, Twitter, or Gmail if it cost you $2.99 each to belong? Of course not. But how did Google, Twitter, and Facebook get to become some of the most powerful companies in the world without charging you a dime? TV has been doing it for years.
Financial success isn’t so much about profit margins, it’s about price point
When I developed my first apps for YS, the content was valued based on the retail price of the book. Consequently, they never took off. People aren’t going to pay the same $7.99 for an app version of a book that they’d pay for a hard copy because the perceived value is different. The question app buyers are asking is, “Will I get the free version or will I pay $.99?” Remember… all of Facebook, Google, and Twitter are 100% FREE! So your buyer wants to know why your app, compared to what they know is already free, has more value to them than that. To pay more than $.99 for an app you have to demonstrate ridiculous value. Consequently, if you lower your price point or eliminate the cost, you will access millions more customers and potentially make infinitely more money as a result.
Traditional businesses with complicated business plans can’t compete
Traditional media and brick/mortar retailers are struggling to figure out how to take advantage of apps. Look for yourself. Retailers apps aren’t really necessary but are just attempts to have “something” in the app store. An online catalog is pointless because of Google. A store finder is pointless because of Google Maps. Most traditional brands apps aren’t adding value– they are marketing. And people are extraordinarily good at sniffing out marketing thanks to the popularity of bloggers like Seth Godin. Companies with simple business plans are beating them in the app store because simple business plans have lower overhead, can take more brand risk, are more nimble, and will rely less on expensive “experts.” (If an app maker is an “expert” than why would they sell your company something for thousands when “experts” are becoming millionaires? Additionally, the counter-intuitive business strategy of free is nearly impossible for traditional business leaders to comprehend.
The one hit wonder is just as powerful today as it was yesterday
Angry Birds is to the app store what Don McLean is to the record business. Except we live in an age when a company that has a one-hit wonder in the app business will get a royalty checks from Apple for millions of dollars per month. Not bad for some college students from Finland, eh? Take that– Mattel or EA or any of the other major players in the game industry! Each of the original creators of Angry Birds will not only make a lot of money off of Angry Birds… they are now solid gold for life.
Big business will always manipulate a free market system
The editors at Apple have always claimed a certain level of editorial control of the app market. In other words the stuff at the top of the pile is at the top of the pile mostly because it is the best in the marketplace. But, in truth, they have allowed that to be manipulated by some levels of marketing of new stuff. Go to the app store today on your iPod, iPhone, or iPad and you will see ads for featured items. That wasn’t free and it is almost always big, publicly traded companies, who have bought that influence. Consequently, some of the biggest selling apps are not, indeed, the best apps in a totally free marketplace. There has been some manipulation.
I’ve got three quick apps for the Mac to share. All of them are free , freemium, or stinking cheap. Maybe they will be useful for you, too?
If you are anything like me– your work computer is a bit of a mess. I’ve got all sorts of work files mixed in with personal files, mixed in with stuff that I just used for a blog post or something like that. Keeping it all orderly and seperate is a big problem. But I think I’ve found something to help!
Dropbox basically installs a remote drive on your computer for storing files online instead of on your computer. There are other things, namely MobileMe, Mozy, or even a webdisk installed through your hosting service that can do the same thing. But I’ve found them to be either too expensive for what I need or cumbersome. (i.e. Not friendly to the Mac) But I like Dropbox because of its apps. Once you install the free software on your computer (mac or pc) and link your account it basically just runs in the background as a folder on your computer. When I put a file in the folder, it copies it up to the secure server, and copies it down to other linked computers. This all happens automatically, no tech skills required. If you are sharing an internet connection with people you can even throttle it. Once set up, I can access the file on another linked computer (like my home computer) or even my iPhone. I can even share files through the app… I just select the file or folder I want to share and it emails the person with a link. It’s a pretty rad little tool. Up to 2 GB of storage is free. (Plently for me.)
I need to show people screenshots all the time. Whether I’m updating someone on the progress of a design, or putting together a tutorial, or if I just want to show someone something from the internet… I’m doing screenshots all day long. Command-shift-3 has long been both my friend and enemy. I could screen grab easily, but I’d always have to open up PhotoShop to clip out stuff I didn’t want/need the recipient seeing.
I picked up TinyGrab as part of a recent MacHeist. This little beauty basically allows me to screen grab only what I want, and in the same action automatically uploads it to a server and gives me the link. By doing a command-shift-4 shortcut I get a little cursor that allows me to highlight what I want to grab. When I’m done it snaps the picture and uploads it. An instant time saver!
You may have noticed my recent fascination with time lapse movies. I think it’s a profound and fun way to capture the worlds movements. (more coming!) I’ve wanted to get software to do this with my Nikon for quite a while. But it was tough to justify spending $180 for Nikon Camera Control 2. It’s not like I had a real reason to do this… I just thought it’d be fun!
That’s why I was so stoked to discover Sofortbild. It’s essentially the same thing– and it’s free! (Sorry Canon freaks, this is just for Nikon right now. And it’s just for Mac.) Basically, I can set up my camera where I want to shoot, connect the USB cable, and then completely control the camera with my computer. When the pictures are taken (either remotely or manually on the camera) the images are transfered directly to a folder on my computer. You can shoot directly with your computer, manually, do a timed picture (like for a family portrait) or set-up intervals (time lapse). It’ll even import right to iPhoto! Now if it had an iPhone app where I could start or stop interval shooting remotely, that’d be crazy cool.
So, there you go. Three quick new apps for you Mac users to try out. They are all free, freemium, or cost just a couple bucks.
What are some new apps for the Mac you are discovering?
Last night I was listening to the latest episode of This American Life about origin stories of new industries and companies. Many well known companies have a myth that they started in a garage. Even if it really isn’t true, people want to believe that their company was created by someone with a crazy idea who invested her last $2000 on an idea and got started in their garage. For some companies, like Hewlett-Packard and Apple, there is truth to it and the garage has become a corporate icon for innovation. In the case of Google, they have tried to capture that feeling so much that in 2006 they actually purchased the garage which housed their offices for a few months in the early days.
It made me think of the virtual garage in which YMX was built. A few friends sat around in an AIM chat room one night and envisioned a new place for youth workers to hang out. That night the idea went from light bulb to a URL and was a big moment. Just 2-3 weeks later I pulled an all-nighter when we opened the site and in 12 hours went from idea to profit. For me, that was an iconic experience I will look back on for the rest of my life.
It made me think of garage start-ups right now. I thought of Bob Carter who started The Pod Drop in his basement. In just three years he has taken his small iPod repair business from his basement to franchises. I thought of Derek Johnson who started Tatango. In just 2 years he has taken his idea of a group texting service from his parents basement to hundreds of thousands of customers. We don’t need to think of the garage story think it couldn’t happen today. Today’s economy has forced the brightest minds on the planet from the board room to the garage. Out of this recession will come the next great innovations that shape the next 30 years. The question isn’t if it will happen. The question is, “Will I take my idea and run with it or will I end up working for the person who took his idea and ran with it?”
More importantly it made me think about the fact thatfor most people– there is never a garage. There may be dreams of a time when you are passionate about a new idea– about thumbing your nose at the man and going on your own— but for lack of something [money, time, guts] it never happens. Most of us, even leaders of great organizations, never get to be a part of it in the beginning. The garage is merely a legend. We get hired some time well after the good ‘ole days of wheeling, dealing, and turning heads. If you got hired today by Apple or Hewlett-Packard you would never be allowed the freedom to truly innovate in a garage to try to make something happen as it’s simply too complicated now. You have to make payroll, you have to mitigate loss, you have to protect the brand, you have to guarantee the shareholders a return, etc. Certainly these jobs require leadership, but a type of leadership that knows how to innovate in mature ecosystems.
My challenge for you is simple. Whether you a leader for a government agency, school district, church, non-profit, or even a small business– my challenge is the same. Spend some time in the garage. Ask big questions. Thumb your nose at the status quo a little. (Even the status quo for excellence you created.)
If we were to start a church today in this community, knowing what we know now, what would it look like? Where would we meet? What programs would solve the most systemic problems in our community? How could we manifest the Gospel best? What behavior would we thumb our noses at? Who would be the most crucial people to invest in? Who would we not care if we pissed off? Who is the most unreached people group in our town?
This doesn’t have to be about a church, does it? Make your own questions for what you are passionate about and go to the garage.
When it comes to customer service, it matters. It is one of those things that I have always been quick to notice… and lately I’ve come across some amazing examples of it.
In the past 30 days I’ve received remarkable, incredible, stellar…. unbelievable service from several companies I have new relationships with. Stunning!
Observation:Start-ups have better customer service because they have to. They see the connection between a happy customer and their bottom line. They know that a happy customer will tell their friends about a fantastic experience. Conversely, they know that a bad customer experience will spread like wildfire. Incredible customer service is a cheap marketing strategy!
But start-ups aren’t the only ones with great customer service. That’s what makes AT&T and Apple such a crazy combination for the iPhone! AT&T has has had horrible customer service for decades and they are so big they don’t care one ounce. They know for every 10 customers they lose to bad customer service there are 10 more who will create a new account. And Apple has created a culture of stellar customer service to the point where people will spend an extra 1000 for a laptop just because they know if they ever have a problem they can take it back to the store.
Southwest Airlines is another long-standing company with stellar customer service. I’ve purchased tickets with them before, not read the rules, and had to call to ask a refund… even though I didn’t deserve one. Not only have they given it to me, they’ve always done it happily even though it was my mistake!
Why does stellar customer service matter? In today’s marketplace a purchase is all about the experience. If you go the extra mile your customers will love you forever. They will wear your t-shirts and brag to their friends that they are your client.
Customer experience is the next great wave of marketing.
My family isn’t one that will likely go around the table and share what they are thankful for. But that doesn’t mean I am lacking gratitude this Thanksgiving. Here’s a few things I’m especially thankful for.
#1 I am thankful for my red hot smokin’ wife, who is a stone cold fox, and two kids, Walker and Texas Ranger. (Oh wait, that’s Ricky Bobby…) I am thankful for Kristen, Megan, and Paul. They bring immense, intense, wild, fight-club-worthy joy to my life.
#2 I am thankful for all things San Diego. From our neighborhood, to our new church family, to my friends at YS, to the beachy goodness, to all things Mexican food and sushi.
#3 I am thankful for getting to invest in the lives of so many youth workers around the globe. Marko expressed this much better than I could, check out this video.
#4 I am thankful for Youtube, who just started offering widescreen video and all the fun I will have with that.
#5 I am thankful for Steve and all my friends at Apple Computer, I’m glad I finally saw the light.
#6 I am thankful for Snickers. Dang they are good.
#7 I am thankful for Facebook and all of the old friends I’ve reconnected with.
#8 I am thankful for Andy Marin. I praise God that He has raised up a man willing to stand in front of 5,000+ people and proclaim himself, “The gayest straight man in America.” I’m happy to call him a friend and I join him in praying that the church would continue to love the GLBT community.
#9 I’m thankful for Free Speech, that I don’t have to worry about getting sued if I call someone’s ideas stupid.
#10 I am thankful the thousands of “mmm’s” I heard at NYWC this fall as speaker’s spoke truth into leaders lives.
#11 I am thankful for the genius feature on iTunes.
#12 I am thankful for the Chargers, Irish, Wolverines, Spartans, and any other sports team I care about in 2008 sucking so I could concentrate on other things.
#13 I am thankful for the dress code at YS.
#14 I am thankful for horchata.
#15 I am thankful for pretty things, like Gmail’s new themes, sunsets at Ocean Beach, and odd wildlife in our backyard.
#16 I am thankful for Wii Fit as there is nothing quite like watching your 5 year old do yoga.
#17 I am thankful for former students. They encourage me, join my crazy conversations, challenge me, and inspire me to keep going as I watch them stumble towards faith.
#18 I am thankful for a lot of things, big and small this year.