Showing posts tagged SXSW
SXSW Interactive 2013 has officially come to a close and if you weren’t able to make it to Austin, you missed our very own, Lisa Kavanaugh speaking with neuroscience expert, Janet Crawford, on “Why Neanderthals Make Lousy Entrepreneurs”. Did you know that in terms of how it operates our brains haven’t changed much since our Cro-Magnon days. We’re social animals designed to live 10,000 years ago in small tribes, totally dependent on the relationships around us. With biological programming that equates social approval with survival, it’s obvious why so many companies fall into collective groupthink, struggling to surface new and innovative ideas. Simply put: no one wants to look stupid. But there are (unexpected) ways to trick your brain into chilling out enough to coax innovative thinking out from the shadows. The audience helped Janet and Lisa explain how the brain works and how applying improv exercises and techniques to the product development cycle helped us at Ask.com to unlock our best ideas yet.
Think applied improv might help you in your workplace?
- Suraya Akbarzad, Ask.com
As folks are packing their umbrellas for what looks to be a rainy weekend in Austin, we wanted to tell you about a visual polling app live in the Apple iTunes store today that should prove useful – if not super entertaining —at SXSW. No, it’s not expressly for SX, and will be integrated into the overall Ask Q&A experience after the conference, but we thought the cacophony of events, panels, brands and crowds at SX would provide a great opportunity to test it out.
So, what is “it?” Drumroll…
Pollroll is a new app brought to you by Ask that will deliver people quick answers to any question, while they’re on the go. It’s a lightweight app designed to facilitate the creation, distribution and sharing of poll questions and results. Field a poll, take a poll, or share a poll. And because Pollroll lets users include comments along with their vote, it combines the instant gratification of a poll with the answer depth and social context of Q&A.
Why Pollroll? We saw our users leveraging the Ask Q&A community as a polling mechanism and thought, why not make it easier to set up a quick poll, survey others about anything— from favored restaurants to the best apps—and then share those results? SXSW is a great testing ground for Ask to play with this polling functionality, leveraging things like social connections and location, and we plan to use these learnings to better integrate polling into our flagship mobile app and site.
Some of the features include:
- Visual polling: Create a poll around a picture you just snapped, or use the in-app image search to include with your poll
- Filter responses: View responses from anyone, or filter by your friends or those in a specific location
- Get context: See comments to understand why respondents voted the way they did
- Browse: Find, take and share more than 1,000 polls and counting. You can also browse user polls based on recency, popularity, location or social connections.
Download it now at http://www.ask.com/pollroll
See you at the Salt Lick.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting at the O’Reilly Web2Expo in NYC (thanks @brady!). My talk was entitled “How to Create a Location Aware Group Chat App in 6 weeks” and was based the experience of building Ask Around for SXSW 2011. I have to admit, the title was a bit misleading. While I certainly shared details about how we discovered the concept, organized the team, planned, built and launched – the real story was in the unexpected positive side effect this project had on the team and the company. It wasn’t my original intent to share that subplot. But, as the presentation took form and I relived the experience, I realized that this project impacted us as individuals and as a team in many more ways than I had imagined.Let me bring you up to speed first.
The Ask Around project as an unusual one for Ask.com for a few reasons. First, it was an experiment like none we’d conducted before. We had set SXSW as our debut event which meant we had 6 weeks to build & launch! Second, we were building an iPhone app which was something we were relatively new to, and third it was our first use of location on mobile. Here are the key ingredients to how we did it, some of which are extras I didn’t share at the conference. If you’re not into Cliff’s Notes - the full 20 min presentation can be viewed below.
- Know how much you’re willing to risk. We used a Freelance Developer found through tapping trusted networks as the dev lead and added members of our Mobile Scrum team as our confidence grew. This allowed us to rapidly prototype early with little (1 week slip) disruption to existing strategic roadmaps. We chose mobile to reduce risk to our entrenched user base and monetization model.
- Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. Agencies told us it wasn’t possible. Their priorities and constraints are different from yours – be persistent and find a way.
- Scrum – The team was used to daily meetings, releasing often, removing obstacles and pivoting quickly. This was key to being able to build a full feature chat service in 3 weeks.
- Inspire yourself – Setting an extremely challenging goal and fighting to hit it was motivating. The team shared a defining experience that bonds them to this day. Make it inspiring!
- Constrain yourself – The time and budget constraint forced us to focus on what was really important, be creative, make decisions quickly and be scrappy. Try it – see what happens.
The REAL lesson wasn’t learned until we got to Austin. We took 11 people, including the Scrum team, to SXSW with us. Best decision we could have made. Without them the after effect wouldn’t have happened. The team spent 4 days on the ground, using the product, face to face with users in their natural (well, as natural as sxsw can be..) habitat. It was like fast forwarding through months of usability tests! We saw how users search for apps in the Itunes store, what they think about before they sign up with Facebook (photo & name are ok as long as you don’t post to my wall!), how few techies were running the latest iOS, and most of all – how EASY it is to talk to users and gain valuable insights just by sharing a beer (and maybe some cell phone power…).
The best part was that every one of us there was touched in the same way by the time spent with people using the product with us. Everyone had a different story when we got back, a different nugget they’d learned or gotcha they’d uncovered.
That’s the story I wanted to share at Web2Expo. Sure, the tips/tricks about how to build something new quickly are valuable. But what I was really hoping for was to inspire just one person in the audience, to dare to take on a challenging experiment, and then launch it, as a TEAM, discussing feedback from the users – listen, and learn, and observe what happens to the team. Because for us, the real win wasn’t in the # of people using Ask Around, but in the ah-ha moment, the mental shift that getting developers closer to the end user is the secret to success. We’ve come a long way at Ask.com since March. We now have a 300+ Ask.com User Panel that we tap for feedback on upcoming launches and issues we struggle with. We also use tools like UserTesting.com and watch the videos as a team and in company wide meetings. And as I shared this story with the folks at Web2Expo I was reminded of the importance and that we can do even more to open our minds to creative possibility, take more risks in experimentation and find news ways to connect with our users for the sake of building innovative products for them.
I’m tempted to share early breakthroughs from an Improv Skills Program we’ve started here at Ask…but I think I’ll leave that for a future blog post…Until then – throw in some constraints, conduct an experiment, introduce a developer to a user and see what happens! I’d love to hear what you discover!
Lisa Kavanaugh, Chief Product & Technology Officer
SXSW 2012 may seem far away, but March 2012 will be here before you know it! The PanelPicker voting for SXSW 2012 is now open and we’d love for you to vote for our panel spotlighting an Insiders’ Guide to the Q&A space. This panel features some of the most influential leaders in the Q&A space. Joining me in the discussion are some of the leading minds in the Q&A space: Ro Cho of Formspring, Lenny Rachitsky of Localmind, Shawn Schewegman of Cha Cha and Dan Peters of Yahoo! Answers.
As we all know, there are plenty of places on the Web you can go to get an answer to a question, but it’s difficult to find an answer you can actually trust. We have been trained to turn everyday questions into search terms and in turn get low quality results due to content farms, keyword optimization, and a lack of understanding of what we’re really asking. With the recent rebirth of Q&A, there are now a multitude of models motivating users to ask questions and receive answers from real people as opposed to algorithms. However, getting that credible answer quickly still remains a challenge. In this panel, we will dive into the different flavors of Q&A sites available which models are working, highlight how to get the best answer you are looking for, and discuss why Q&A is different than search and how to unlock the potential of this exploding category.
Click here to vote and learn more about our panel. Voting ends September 2nd so vote now!
Hope to see you there!
Lisa Kavanaugh, Chief Product & Technology Officer