A few days ago I tweeted:
Later that day Google announced embedded email actions to give Gmail users the ability to interact with products or services directly from their inbox. With a only few clicks you can RSVP to a birthday party, review a film you watched last night on Netflix, add an article to your Pocket queue, check-in to a flight, add the new Daft Punk album to your Spotify queue, follow a recommended user on Twitter, or reply to a friend’s Facebook post.
That’s right. Email just became another product interface.
Traditionally, a user would have to:
- Open the email
- Read and interpret the message
- Click a link
- Navigate to a webpage
- Perform action
Now with embedded actions, they simply:
- Click embedded action button
- Perform action
Embedded actions reduces friction, increasing user’s ability to perform the behavior desired by product designers and marketers.
And as ability increases, so does usage.
This Isn’t New
Several products allow users to perform similar actions by sending or replying to an email. Examples:
- Publish a post on Tumblr.
- Share your daily to-do’s on iDoneThis.
- Reply to a comment on Dispatch or Disqus.
- Record expenses using The Birdy.
- Post photos through attachments with Olapic.
What’s been missing is the interface and a clear call-to-action that “normals” can understand and easily engage with. Yes, you could review a movie by replying to an email using a standardized syntax (e.g. “rate: 4 stars”), but how many people will actually do that?
I’m excited to see how product designers and developers especially Email-First Startups) use this new functionality to drive higher engagement and new habits by attaching to an existing daily routine: email.
How might you use embedded actions within your own product?
P.S. Sign up for my email list and I’ll send you a FREE copy of the upcoming book, Hooked, by habit-design researcher and blogger, Nir Eyal, in collaboration with myself.
This is a follow-up to my essay, Habit Startups.
To recap, Habit Startups design a product using an existing behavior as leverage. Many of today’s most successful consumer products are designed around a specific behavior to attract users, attach to existing routines, and provide value.
But how does one build a Habit Startup?
Opportunities lie within nascent behaviors; emerging behaviors that no one else sees.
An interface change, cultural shift, or unexpected use of an existing product can lead to new behaviors.
Identifying these behaviors early is the key. Once users form a habit and association with an existing product, it is difficult to replace. As Boromir stated in Lord of the Rings, “one does not simply walk into Mordor.” And neither do startups competing against incumbents that have already formed habits through these budding behaviors.
Here are a few examples of Habit Startups that have capitalized on nascent behaviors:
Zynga - Facebook is a part of millions of users’ routine as they visit the site multiple times per day to interact with friends. Pincus saw an opportunity to insert games within this growing trend, using Facebook’s communication channels for distribution and re-engagement.
Sunrise - Schedules are by definition a daily routine and for many, becoming increasingly more difficult to manage as invites are scattered across multiple channels (e.g. Gmail, Facebook). Sunrise entered the market to make this just a little better. It doesn’t do anything extraordinary (yet) but its simple yet elegant improvements to a frequent activity (viewing and managing ones schedule) has driven its success.
Instagram - As smartphone adoption increased and mainstream audiences became equipped with an always-accessible camera, more consumers began capturing and sharing photos. Instagram identified this increasing behavior and built a product to make photography more beautiful and easier to share.
Foodspotting - Foodspotting observed foodies continuously snapping and sharing pictures of their meals so they created a product to do exactly that. For many, Foodspotting is as routine as their eating habits, as the delivery of a delicious meal becomes a queue to use the service.
TalkTo - Many people, especially “digital natives”, hate talking on the phone, preferring the brief, asynchronous communication of text messaging. TalkTo extends this behavior beyond communication with friends and family to businesses. Rather than calling a restaurant to book a reservation or a retail store to see if they have something is in stock, users simply send a text message and TalkTo does the heavy lifting, replying via text 5 minutes later.
In retrospect, these behaviors and the tactics used by these startups may seem obvious but at the time, they are not. It takes an insight, a prediction.
Those that build a product to attach to nascent behaviors have an opportunity to form a habit and association before anyone else. This lead can make all the difference in success or failure.
In the next essay of this series, I’ll share some examples of nascent behaviors I’ve identified BUT I’d love your input! What nascent behaviors do you see? Let me know on Twitter (@rrhoover) or drop me an email.
P.S. if you’d like to be notified when the next essay is published, sign up for my email list. In addition, I’ll send you a FREE copy of the upcoming book, Hooked, by habit-design researcher and blogger, Nir Eyal, in collaboration with myself. :)
Photo credit: Corey Templeton
Side projects are a great way to learn, innovate, and as some argue, a replacement to the resume. But often side projects are perceived as an activity just for technical people.
You don’t need a GitHub profile to have side projects.
Here are some ideas that are great for everyone:
- Write a Book
- Draw, Paint, Sculpt
- Host a Meetup
- Start an Email Newsletter
- Curate Content
- Do Standup
- Advise, Mentor, Teach
Creating something from scratch is intrinsically and extrinsically fulfilling.
Find your side project. Create. Ship.
What are your side projects? I want to hear about it.
P.S. I’m working on a side project of my own. Send me your email address if you’re interested in hearing more about it.
This was originally published on the iDoneThis blog on 5/10/2013.What changes would you like to make in your life?
Each morning, my mother would hand me my daily Flintstones chewable vitamin before I left for school. But now that I’m an adult, she can’t tell me what to do — Mountain Dew and Starcraft all night!
Well, and less vitamins. Since moving out of my parents’ house long ago, I’ve also moved away from this healthful routine. Sometimes it takes effortful self-control to do things we know we should do. But not always. Habits can function as a force, shaping our behavior and negating the need for self-control.
So months ago, I purchased a jar of multi-vitamins and placed it in my cupboard to get back into my healthy vitamin habit.
It sat there. Unused. Lonely.
I’m responsible. I’m a grown-up. I knew I should take my vitamins. Yet it was hard to do so regularly.
So I made one small change: I took the jar out of the cupboard and placed it on the countertop. Since then, I haven’t missed a day of taking my vitamins.
The visible jar is an unavoidable reminder, a trigger to take my vitamins. Removing them from the cupboard also made it easier, increasing my ability to do so. Sometimes the tiniest friction can make the difference between action and inaction.
BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model describes this best:
“[T]hree elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger.”
By simply increasing my ability and creating a trigger, I’ve been able to reinstate this habit. Sometimes it doesn’t take all that much to change behavior that feels so difficult to start doing regularly. For example:
Here are a few triggers and friction-reducers to start:Want to eat healthier? Pre-prepare individual meals and place them toward the front of your fridge for maximum visibility and accessibility.Having trouble focusing at work? Remove notifications, which are triggers that kill productivity, and access to non-essential applications, which increase friction against distraction. (Check out Information Diet’s excellent list of tools for managing digital distractions.)Want to blog more? Make an effort to write the first thing that comes to mind each morning as you prepare your morning coffee. As soon as the kettle sounds, stop and move on with your day.
Reflect on your daily behavior.
Which are destructive? What changes would you like to make? Consider how these simple concepts be used to change your daily habits and improve your life.
What habit hacks have you implemented in your life? Please share with me on Twitter @rrhoover
or in the comments!Subscribe to my email list
and get a FREE copy of, Hooked
, a book written by habit design researcher Nir Eyal
, in collaboration with myself.
I thought it would be interesting to extend the #throwbackthursday meme to the blogging community, encouraging fellow Quibbers to join in.
The idea is simple: look into your archive and re-share one of your old blog posts using the hashtag, #ThrowbackThursdayBloggers.
I instrumented the powers of the Wayback Time Machine to dig up my old blog “halfwaynerdy.com”. I’ve copied an essay written nearly three years ago below. You can also view the actual post here.
Warning: it’s kind of embarrassing. :)
Is the Next Gaming Movement Heading (back) to Your TV?
Posted: September 11th, 2010
Over the past few years we’ve seen exponential growth in mobile and social gaming. In comparison, traditional console and PC gaming adoption has remained relatively stagnant; however, that is likely to change with the introduction of Google TV and Apple TV later this year.
Ironically (or naturally), both Google and Apple have expanded into the TV domain, mirroring their ongoing competition in the mobile space. The iOS and Android battle is moving to the big screen and their games are coming with it. Similarly to their mobile counterparts, Apple and Google’s all-in-one, consumer-friendly devices have the power to bring gaming to the TV’s of mainstream consumers on scale that consoles could never achieve. Here’s why:
Everyone is a TV viewer, not everyone is a gamer
If you ask the average person if they watch TV, 98% of the time they will respond with a “yes”. If you ask the same sample if they play games, many will refute it. This isn’t necessarily because they don’t play games – they may be a level 55 in Mafia Wars or rank toward the top of the leaderboards in Bejeweled Blitz Mobile. Most mainstream consumers don’t identify themselves as a gamer and therefore they will never purchase a gaming “console” (in the true sense of the word). This audience stumbles into gaming through the devices they use every day.
Buying boxed games takes work!
For a majority of traditional games, purchasing a console or PC game requires the consumer to leave their house to purchase it at their nearest game store (if it’s in stock). Digital distribution is obviously where we’re heading but this transition is extremely slow going in the console space. The simple process of purchasing a game introduces so much friction that many mainstream consumers don’t care to overcome.
Consoles are expensive and are largely perceived as serving one purpose – to play games. While gaming PC’s serve many needs, they are multiple times more costly than consoles. Games for these platforms are also very expensive, especially if you compare them to free-to-play social or $.99 mobile games. This rush to $0 and commodification of games introduces a valid concern for game creators but it has greatly expanded the gaming audience, leading to a new resurgence of the industry.
Yet another device
Consoles are yet another piece of hardware, separate from the devices most consumers use throughout their day. The simple requirement of having to change your TV’s signal input, turn on a console, and wait for it to boot up takes time and considerable friction. This transition can take 3 minutes or longer before the user can begin playing the game. This is an awful user experience for players that want to take a quick, 5-10 minute divergence to harvest their farm or play a few short puzzle games. With games being integrated into the TV viewing experience, consumers will have the ability to make quick transitions. In many cases users will have the ability to continue watching the TV program via picture-in-picture while they play games.
It won’t be long before we see middle-age women, children, grandparents, and families gaming on their TVs as frequently as they watch them. What do you think about Google TV and Apple TV? Will these new platforms help or hurt the video game industry?
Last night I logged into my Google Analytics account, curious to see where my traffic came from.
I navigated to “traffic sources > sources > all traffic” and noticed Buffer on the list. I drilled into the source to view campaigns and noticed several identified by individual Twitter users.
They do this by simply appending parameters to URL’s shared on the service. This tweet by Dan Martell, includes a link to a post of mine a few days ago. You will notice the non-shortened URL looks like (underline and spaces added for emphasis and formatting purposes):
ryanhoover.me/post/49363486516/connect-the-dots? buffer_share=f694e&utm_source=buffer &utm_medium=twitter &utm_campaign=Buffer%253A%252Bdanmartell%252Bon%252Btwitter
This is not only useful for blog and site owners but a useful tactic for creating free exposure to an audience of content creators. Clever.P.S. if you dig product design, you should join my email list.
One of the hardest challenges in building an audience blogging, is retaining and engaging with readers.
Blogging often feels ephemeral. After publishing a piece, I often share it on Twitter, Quibb, and occasionally HackerNews if the topic’s appropriate. Sometimes it catches on. Sometimes it doesn’t. But in either case, the majority of those readers never engage return to my blog. That’s right, I have a leaky bucket problem.
So I started pushing my email list, teasing upcoming blog posts and a free copy of a book I’m working on. It’s only been a few weeks but here’s how I’ve approached it.
Each time a new subscriber signs up, Mailchimp sends me a lovely email notification. Within 24 hours, I send a personal email to each and every person, thanking them for subscribing and attempting to engage them in conversation.
Thanks for subscribing! Btw, any blog posts you’re most interested in reading about?
It’s short, succinct. About 70% reply, some of which prefix their response with, “this is probably just an automated message but…” which always amuses me.
This isn’t the most scalable or efficient but these interactions have formed new relationships and extended existing ones. I enjoy it and it’s a great way to get feedback.
Most bloggers have a script that simply rebroadcasts their blog posts to their email list. This is lazy and uninteresting.
IMHO, email lists shouldn’t just be a rehash of your blog. We already receive enough “newsletters” (how many of them do you actually read?).
Instead I “talk” to subscribers. Here’s what I sent out last week:
I only just started so my sample size is small but thus far my emails have a reported ~60% open rate and ~30% click-through rate. Not bad.
If nothing else, I enjoy chatting with my followers and will be experimenting and testing different approaches in the coming weeks. Subscribe to my email list and I’ll let you know how it goes!
So let me ask you:
Bloggers: how are you engaging and retaining readers?
Readers: what creative uses of email lists have you seen?
Let me know on Twitter (@rrhoover) or via email (of course).
P.S. Andrew Chen has a great essay on the death of RSS and benefits of building an email list. Check it out.
Photo credit: Sean Loyless
I sent an email to Len Kendall yesterday with a link to a soundcloud clip I recorded the previous night. Here’s a reblog of his post on my audio clip (how meta).
A short but profound sound clip from one of CentUp’s community members. The question Ryan Hoover raises here is how can small exchanges in real-life translate easily into the digital realm?
Even though we’re building CentUp to be ONE of these solutions, we genuinely hope more emerge. The web has become a ubiquitous part of our lives, and hopefully we can all work to keep it as, “human” as possible.
Have a listen.
Last night I watched a video recording of TechCrunch Disrupt NY’s panel discussion with Naval Ravikant, CEO of AngelList. The following statement (at 1:59:05) is so true that I had to share:
It’s the nature of successful companies that become iconic that they’re non-consensus.
People don’t believe in them when they first start out either because they seem frivolous or the market’s too small. It’s easy to sit up here and shoot holes in people’s ideas as being too small and say go after the bigger trend but the reality is that what you want to focus on is something that you have a deep conviction and belief [in].
And most of the times you’ll be wrong. That’s the nature of the beast.
But you don’t want to go into something where you came up with the idea you just brainstormed with a friends a month ago because that means the first time it hits a hiccup, you’re going to drop it or you’re not going to have a deep enough insight to pick the right approach on the market.
So I think you should look at your company as an extension of your life to date. The dots should connect moving forward and that way you’re more likely to stick with it and more likely to [have] proprietary insights.
This essay is part of a collaborative blogging experiment to answer the question, ‘how do you invest in yourself?’
My #1 priority is to learn as much and as quickly as possible. I’m selfish. I need to be put into positions of discomfort, challenged and I expect to be held accountable. If I’m not getting that, I will leave.
This is what I told my boss (paraphrased) several months ago.
Learning is the most important investment one can make. Jobs come and go but you only have one ‘self’. Every investment made in education will pay lifelong dividends.
And since we have finite time, it’s important to maximize your learning every step of the way, selfishly or otherwise.
Selfish ≠ Disloyal
Don’t get me wrong, being selfish isn’t disloyal. Being honest and transparent is.
Companies and its employees need to align expectations and goals to build a sustainable business and positive culture. Investing in oneself is incredibly important, not just for your own personal growth but for the growth of the company.
We spend a majority of our time and focus on our career so make sure it’s empowering you to learn and grow as an individual.
After Hours Learning
Of course, work isn’t the only opportunity for growth. I also learn by:
Reading - I’m constantly learning from other’s shared knowledge on Twitter, Svbtle, Medium, Quora, and Quibb. There’s a wealth of information out there and I’m grateful for those that share their stories and wisdom.
Blogging - Reading has inspired me to write more frequently; the best decision I’ve made in the past six months. Blogging has led to numerous insightful conversations and new relationships. It has enabled me to refine my ideas and become a more analytical thinker.
Meeting - Reading and interacting with smart people online doesn’t have the same fidelity as face-to-face conversation. Meeting with successful, experienced entrepreneurs is an exercise in serendipity. These conversations have lead to unforeseen learnings and sometimes a transformational, new perspective.
I’m going to learn too
I’m going to get super smart, so I to can die without money
But I’ll be the smartest dead guy
Who has that?
Kanye West, Lil Jimmy Skit (College Dropout)
Knowledge is worthless if unused. Employing this investment is the best way to build on what you’ve learned.
Write. Build. Teach. It’s of no use once you’re dead.
Remember when you were a kid and your parents asked, “so, what did you learn today in school?” You may have replied with the common response, “oh, nothing.”
This isn’t fault of children’s nascent intellect. It’s difficult to self-diagnose one’s learning.
To help recognize and measure this, write down what you’ve done each day and ask, “what did I do today that contributed to learning and what did not?” Don’t let mindless tasks, constant distractions, and operating at capacity restrict growth.
Not everything you do can or should contribute to learning, but if you find an overwhelming majority of your time invested in non-learning activities, make a change.
Take an honest look at yourself and ask:
- Am I in the best position in my career to maximize learning?
- What am I doing outside my job to learn?
- How am I using these learnings?
For some these may be frightening questions to answer but remember, fear is healthy and selfishness can be a good thing.
What are you doing to learn?
Let me know on Twitter (@rrhoover). :)
Read other great posts on this topic at QuestionClub.