Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My Time with Yeh Yeh

My parents often tell me that when I was born, my grandpa, or as I call him Yeh Yeh, was so excited that he rushed down from Oakland to San Jose where I was born only to realize that he had forgotten to pick up my grandma.  Once he remembered, he was too afraid to face grandma (I would be too) so he had my dad drive all the way up to Oakland to pick her up.   Growing up, he always exhibited the same type of excitement when he was visiting my brother Bryce and my cousins, and myself.  He was always so proud of each of us.  My grandparents would often take Bryce and me out and where ever we went, Yeh Yeh would often tell people, "these are my grandsons!  They are good kids."  He would crack a smile and then follow it up by saying "I have 7 grand kids and they are all very smart!"  Even over the past couple years when Yeh Yeh suffered from dementia, I would visit him and he would look to my dad with a sense of excitement and say "This is my grandson.  Have you met him?"  Even though it saddened me that he could not draw the connection between my dad and me anymore, I was touched that he still carried that same level of excitement when I visited.

I never understood why Yeh Yeh was so proud of us.  Maybe it's just one of those unwritten rules that states that grandparents must love their grandchildren unconditionally.  Personally, I hope he was proud of us because he saw a little bit of himself in each of us.  

When we were kids, our grandparents spoiled us.  They always sneaked us a red envelope every time we visited.  They would buy us toys when my parents wouldn't.  And they would take us to fun places like the zoo when our parents were busy with work.  They would call us "smart boys" and Yeh Yeh would tell us to eat our veggies "so that we can be strong like Popeye."  

As we grew older, he told us stories about when he immigrated to the States.  How he had very little and how he worked hard so that he could send money back to his wife in China.  For a period of time, he lost contact with her due to the Japanese invasion during World War 2.  During that time, he didn't even know if she was still alive but he remained hopeful that she was.  After the war, he learned that his wife, our grandma was still alive and he sent for her to join him in the States.  His loyalty and devotion to our grandma is remarkable.

He once told me how he put his children through college and how he helped them buy their first house.  I remembered at the time wondering why he was bragging, it was so unlike him. In retrospect, I realize now he was trying to tell me to take care of those that I care for most.  Our grandpa touched a lot of lives during his lifetime.  After he became successful in business, he sponsored others to come to the states.  He set them up with jobs at his stores in Oakland and sometimes he would provide housing for them.  He gave those families the same opportunities he received when he immigrated here and many of those individuals went on to become successful themselves.  

As adults, we still received advice from Yeh Yeh.  One Christmas, when my brother was still single, he told him that he should "go to church and find a nice girl."  We laughed it off but his intent was genuine. He was really worried about my brother even though there is never any reason to.

The past few years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's and Dementia my dad, my cousin Nicole and I spent most Monday evenings (his caregiver's day off) with him and we would visit constantly.  We saw him slowly regress into a state of constant confusion due to his dementia. Even though it saddened me to see a man who had once taken care of and looked after so many people require assistance 24 hours a day, I looked forward to every Monday.  It was my time to return the favor for all the times he took care of me growing up.  It excited me every time the caregiver told me that Yeh Yeh was happy that I visited.  Recently, the family took him out to Dim Sum for Chinese New Year and that evening, he kept the caregiver up to midnight talking about his day and how happy he was to see his children and his grandchildren.  

This past Friday, February 22, Yeh Yeh passed away at the age of 93.  He lived just long enough for my family and me to get back from dinner.  His breaths slowed and we realized this was it.  Bryce and I held his hand and we spoke the last words to him we would ever say to him.  I said, "Thank You for giving us so much"

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Open Letter to Reed Hastings

Dear Mr. Hastings,

I am probably one of the few individuals who actually agree with your recent price increases and your recent spin off of your dvd service.  Given the rise in licensing fees and the additional expenses streaming adds as you expand to new markets and acquire users, the price increases are necessary to maintain a sustainable business.  Further, the nature of the two businesses are so different that they each should be their own entity.  By doing this, you segment your business into a mature market (DVD) and an market that is creatively disrupting the way we watch videos (Streaming obviously).  The DVD business can operate with the correct processes in place to maximize efficiencies while the Streaming business can remain nimble and flexible to spur new innovations.  This is really important because its process efficiencies that that will inhibit innovation and creative thought (See Microsoft) but it's also process efficiencies that support long-term growth of a company.

But this is all super nerdy bologna that your user base probably doesn't care about.  They want to know why the price increased by 60% and I fear that this has not been communicated effectively to your user base. Your company has failed to communicate that rising licensing costs and additional networking costs has created an unsustainable business model.  Your recent apology was good but it addressed your business model rather than prices.  So now you are in a PR nightmare.  What do you do next?

Transparency (the right kind) - Customers want to know why their fees increased 60% so tell them why.  Or at least be apologetic about raising prices.  Say something to the effect of, "we wish it didn't have to come to this but we had to raise our prices."  If this isn't communicated with your customer base, they will make their own hypothesis and it will likely not be to too favorable on your company.

Tiered Pricing for Streaming- Create a pricing model that provides more affordable price points (ie prices before the 60% rate hike).  Maybe limit streaming for value customers and do a similar pricing model that you do for your DVD business.

Seamless Integration (even if you sell off the DVD service)- As a user of your service, I don't want to have to go to two different websites and this could deter some of us from using your services.  Right now it is easy to move between steaming and DVD and it keeps me engaged with both services.  If I want to stream a movie, I often check my DVD queue as well.  If you separate the services too much people may stop checking their DVD queue when they stream or vice versa.  This could eventually lead to additional lost account.

So these are my thoughts, Netflix is still one of the more innovative companies so I have no doubt you will survive this recent string of bad press.

Good Luck!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Buzzfeed's Quest to Distinguish Themselves

Buzzfeed operate in a web space where content is free and plentiful.  This creates two problems that can be solved through gamification.  First, free content creates many competitors because there are relatively low barriers to entry.  Second, it’s virtually impossible to plow through all the content being released on the Internet and determine what will be viral.  In order for these sites to be successful, they need to build a loyal audience and categorize the best content.

Buzzfeed is a social website that hosts many media partners.  They use an algorithm to aggregate and display trending content from their partners on their website.  Their partners can be as big as Aol and TMZ or as small as an individual contributor.  They also have a team of their own editors that build their own portfolio of viral content.   The company creates revenue through users clicking through to their partner sites and through other forms of advertisements.  Given their business model of using an algorithm to generate content from their partners they focused their efforts on growing their user base and building user engagement.  This increases the likelihood of users clicking on partner content, which grows revenue for the company.  The ideal user of Buzzfeed will regularly visit and view content, provide insights on the content and create a portfolio of viral content.   So we can define their business goals as building a sizable user base that is loyal and socially engaged. 

How they do it:
Leader board – Users can vote on whether they think content will go viral by clicking a “Will This Go Viral” button located on every article uploaded to Buzzfeed.  If the article goes viral, the button will be replaced with a “Going Viral” badge.  Individual user performance is translated into a leader board that lists the top viral predictors.  This feature builds loyalty by creating a level of competition among users and encouraging the users to return to the site often to view videos and vote on content they believe will go viral. 

Badges – Buzzfeed’s badges work differently from other sites that offer badges (or at least the badges I am referring to here).  Badges are listed under every article as “LOL,” “OMG,” “Cute,” etc.  From time to time, they will also list sponsored badges from advertisers.  For example, Mountain Dew once sponsored the “extreme” badge.  Users click on these badges to vote whether they think a video is cute, shocking or just plain odd.  This feature empowers users to quickly provide insights related to the content and categorize the content via crowd sourcing.  With enough votes, a badge will appear on the front page alongside the content, which pushes more relevant content to the forefront and helps build a viral lift.  Though I don’t have sufficient information to measure effectiveness, content with badges seemed to get a few thousand more views via Buzzfeed than content without badges.  With analytical information, an analyst can categorize badge content and compare it to similar non-badge content to measure effectiveness.  He can also measure the usage rates of each badge category to determine the effectiveness of each badge and badges that are used less can be replaced with more impactful badges.  

Awards – Awards are used very much like other sites use badges.  If a user posts content that gets 100 views, they get an award for their accomplishment or if they like content related something the audience deemed gross, they will get a “Grossed Out Award."  By picking up these awards, it encourages certain behaviors from users.  For the examples I gave above, the “100,000 Views Award” encourages users to post content they think others would want to watch and the “Grossed Out Award” encourages users to like content and click on badges. 

How they can make it better:
Bring Gamification Offline – Though it is hard to determine the lifetime of an average Buzzfeed user, at some point a user’s engagement will decrease and possible end, even with an effective gamification strategy.  Buzzfeed’s challenge is to determine whether it is cost effective to attain this user.  In other words, whether it produce an expected positive return on investment.  If deemed important to Buzzfeed, using offline gamification strategies can help increase the lifetime of the user.  Offline strategies may vary from awarding company branded items to monthly leader board winners to awards for user-generated content.  In order to build an effective online gamification strategy, Buzzfeed will need to build a profile of their most valued users and align their key attributes to an offline strategy.

Buzzfeed effectively incorporates their business objectives into their goals by creating impactful badges, leader boards and awards.  The badges create simple and easy ways for users to quickly share their thoughts of the content.  The Leader Board creates a level of competition that encourages users to come back to find viral content and the Awards reward behavior that allows the user to attain the full experience of the Buzzfeed site.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A plea to dog owners!!!

So my girlfriend loves the idea of dress up dogs in cute little outfits.  She will spend hours looking at pictures of dogs in batman suits or dogs dress as other animals.  She often makes me drop everything I am working on to view said pictures and act like I think it's cute.  Don't get me wrong, I love dogs and I love cute pictures but when owners dress dogs up in costumes, I cringe.  Based on the pictures that follow, I don't think dogs like this much either.  Please see my findings:

Exhibit 1:  Look at how happy the dog on the right looks.  Look at how unhappy the dog on the left looks.

Exhibit 2: What should be the happiest day of her life, this dog is indeed frowning.

Exhibit 3: Words cannot describe what is wrong with this...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How can Lego Drive Online Sales

Recently, my girlfriend asked me how can Lego drive traffic to their online stores and convert them into sales. Here is my response:

Lego provides products for both youths and adult enthusiasts and as a result of many years of building a loyal fan base through creating well-positioned and relevant products, Lego’s have become iconic within American culture. However, their fan base rarely visits the Lego website and purchases are usually made through other online retailers like Amazon or through brick and mortar stores, despite Lego offering exclusive products on their site. The company is therefore not able to capitalize on revenue and cost savings they would receive if customers bought directly through Lego’s website.

Unique to other product based websites, Lego has built a website with features such as games, product customization and an internal network. Though there is no social integration with Facebook or Twitter right now, the website is set up to be its own online community.

Company Analysis
The end goal for Lego is to drive profits. Whether that is through cost reduction or increased sales, they must find ways to achieve higher profit margins. By selling products from their web store they will increase profit margins by selling at MSRP and reducing supply chain costs. Lego’s comprehensive site features are meant to drive traffic to their site by bringing their offline community online. This should also increase sales made directly from the Lego web store.

According to Alexa.com, the typical lego.com visitors are female, ages 35-44, and with children and an average social gamer is a 43 year old female. Though not perfect information it is still an indicator that the site would benefit from gamification. Lego must use their customer analytics to better understand their visitor base and create a gamification strategy that align their user base to their goals through creating rewards that attract users and encourage web store sales.

Ways to Gamify
Social Integration – The first thing I noticed upon entering the site is that it isn’t socially integrated, which forces their social community to work independently from their website. Lego needs to leverage its already existing online community and create that link form social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to lego.com. By becoming socially integrated, Lego will create a viral loop and traffic to the site will increase. Lego can start with social sharing and eventually move up the value chain towards social context as they build their social infrastructure.

Leaderboards – Lego has a whole host of social games that are exclusive to their website. Yet there is no visible form of competition. Providing a leader board for these games will invoke a level of competition among the community and will encourage users to come back often to play these games. This effect is similar to what social games experience on Facebook. Monthly leader board winners can be given Lego credit to drive sales to their store.

Badges - Lego’s site is built with a lot of features that users may not be aware of. The site can use badges to raise awareness to these features and reward ideal behavior. The badges should award the use of all their features and build a focus around the web store. For example, create a badge to award creating and publishing a Lego robot that can be purchased from the web store. It should also be encouraged to share this accomplishment through various social media channels.

Lego has become a household name in current American culture. They have effectively built their brand and created a loyal following. They have also built an online platform that helps bring the offline Lego experience to their website. However, users of the website may not be aware of the extensive offerings on the Lego site. Given their strong existing offline community and their platform, Lego should consider using Gamification techniques to help transition their offline community to an online community and thus increase traffic to their web store and increase profit margins.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jeremy Lin

I must admit, I am really excited about this guy and a lot of it has to do with him being Asian American and that he is a Warrior.  He also went to Harvard!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I can haz cheezburger?

I know I should be blogging about Google's impending entrance into social media or Disney's acquisition of Playdom despite slowing numbers for social media. That will have to go on the back burner for now.

I want to write about my favorite burger places today. I just came back from Los Angeles where I had possibly the most tasty burger of my life at Umami Burger. But I dine for the overall experience how would Umami Burger stack up to other burger places I have been to? I thought about this for a while and could not come to a conclusion without quantifying it. For this I created a spreadsheet of my favorite burger places that took the my individual ratings for taste, presentation and ambiance and the overall Yelp rating that the restaurant gets. I weighted to topics in order of importance and averaged the burgers score. I also wanted to know what type of value I am getting so I divided the burger score by the price. My methodology runs deeper but I don't want to get bogged down too much in the process.

I also added my friend Kent's burger in for fun and projected a possible price for him as well.

  • 1 pound ground beef: 5.99
  • Buns and Condiments: 2.00
  • Total Ingredients: 7.99
  • Makes 4 burgers
  • Cost per burger: 2.00
  • Projected Overhead per burger: 5.00
  • Total Projected Cost per burger 7.00
  • @ projected 30% mark up: 9.09

Criteria for selection:
  • Burger cannot cost more than $15
  • Less than 10 locations
  • I must have devoured it
My Results:

Weighted Average = (Taste*4+Presentation*3+Ambiance*2+Yelp Rating*2) / 4

Despite my ultimate enjoyment of the Umami Burger, it appears that for the overall experience, Slow Club ranks higher. Good news, Slow Club is much closer, bad news, I will still miss Umami. Shake Shack is also a viable contender for those on the east coast. What I like about this place is despite lacking in presentation, you can take this burger down the street and eat in Central Park. My friend Kent's burger is also in the mix but you need a private invitation...sorry. There isn't really a big until Brickhouse, which is what I suspected, since that is really where I experienced a noticeable drop in taste. Gordon Biersch, Vals and Smokehouse lag significantly in overall experience and this tells me that I should avoid these places if money wasn't an issue.

However, money is an issue so I also want to know the value I am receiving.

Value = Weighted Average / Burger Price

Now the burger from Slow Club isn't looking so good anymore. In fact, Shake Shack's 7 dollar burger is overwhelmingly the best deal. Unfortunately, they are now 3,000 miles away. Smokehouses $4 burger pushes them into the number two spot, which makes a solid case to go out and have a burger from them. Kent takes third again, which means he may want to consider quitting his job and open a burger shop instead. In the mean time, I need to find ways to convince him to invite me over for more burgers. There are two sizable drop offs of .3 or more. The first between Shake Shack and Smokehouse. It appears that Shake Shack just has an awesome burger/experience. The second between Umami Burger and Father's Office, so whenever I am in the LA area, you can find me at Umami. Once again, Gordon Biersch is in the cellar so I will not be ordering burgers from them anymore.

* I used the McDonalds Big Mac as a reference because I wanted to see if there was really any value in going to a fast food restaurant. The answer is no!

What I learned from this:
  • Umami Burger although still very good doesn't offer me the best experience.
  • Kent needs to make more burgers
  • I should continue to patronize Slow Club, Umami, and Shake Shack when I want a good burger experience in each respective city.
  • I should continue to patronize Shake Shack, Smokehouse, and Umami when I want a good value.
  • No more Gordon Biersch, Fathers Office or Vals for me.
  • There is absolutely no case for going to McDonalds