Monthly Archives: October 2012

Habit

My husband and I went to a Mongolian Barbecue restaurant for dinner tonight. For those not familiar with the concept, it’s like a small buffet where you fill an empty bowl with raw meat, vegetables, various condiments and sauces, and the chef cook the food for you on a large round iron skillet. According to Wikipedia it traditionally does not involve any starch, but these days most restaurants include choice of noodles to be stir fried with the rest of the ingredients.

I was surprised to find a big bowl of rice when I brought my food back to the table. My first thought was this seems really unnecessary. Sure a handful of customers do skip the noodle, but when I looked around virtually no one else has touched their rice, and those who did got a spoonful or two just because it was there. How much rice the restaurant must be wasting every day!

The point of the story isn’t just about food wastage, but how often people or businesses get into the habits of doing things a certain way without asking the important question – Why. Perhaps the rice was essential before they introduced the noodle. Had they pay attention to their customer lately,  they should have realized it’s no longer the case. We see similar patterns in tech – features that exist because “they were there since v1”, even though data shows no customer really uses it. It’s true that unused feature does not cost a company the same way wasted rice does to a restaurant, but it could make the UI clutter or worse, gets in the way of simplifying the overall UX.

Of course one also has to be careful of the opposite issue – taking away features/options that actually delight your customers. So it’s crucial to really spend the time to understand your user base. In the restaurant’s case my guess is it wouldn’t make any difference to its popularity if instead of giving rice by default one has to ask for it. They might, however, lose some customers had they hid that self-serve ice cream machine. At least it got my attention.

Blog vs. Diary

As a kid, I’ve heard many times from adults the importance of keeping a diary. Memories are short lived, they said, but written memories are forever. I remember buying myself one of those diaries with locks and making grand plans of updating it everyday for the rest of my life. Being the lazy (or busy) kid I was it didn’t last very long. After several moves I’m not even sure if it still exist somewhere in my parents’ apartment.

My first blogging experience began with Xanga (does anyone still use it?) which I updated intermittently from 2003 to 2009. There was no particular reason for starting it other than it being the “it” thing at the time. While blogs tend to be public and interactive, mine was a completely private blog filled with some of my most cherished memories through high school & college which I shared with my closest friends, sometimes even only myself. It was no more than a digitized diary with absolutely no value to a stranger. I didn’t think it was a problem, as I had an inherent distrust of sharing on the internet. Why would I want to put my private life out there for anyone to see, or my own thought for everyone to hear? This also explains why even though I’ve been an avid Facebook user since 2004 (my boss joked that I flood his newsfeed everyday), it took me two years to post my first two tweets on Twitter.

Then something changed in the last year – I went back to school for an MBA. Being away from Tech actually made me want to follow tech news more than I did when I was working, and I found Twitter to be a pretty good platform for following tech blogs and influential people in the industry. Several months later I started recruiting for my internship. Being forced to recruit again meant I had to update my LinkedIn profile, as well as scouring the web (i.e. searching for myself) to make sure I have a professional presence (not that I expected to find anything bad, but you still want to be extra cautious). This process made me realize how much information about myself is already on the web. Where I went to school; where I worked; conversations I left in public forums for my previous job. I thought I was being extra careful with my private blogs and locked down Facebook account, but in this day and age you just cannot be a digital citizen and stay completely anonymous on the web. There’s private information (e.g. password, birthday, relationship), and then there’s personal information. You may not be able to easily connect me with a social security number (a form of US personal ID) by piecing together my personal information from the internet, but you can absolutely build a proxy of who I am with those data.

I blogged and tweeted for my company as part of my internship this summer. It was pretty fun to pick up the pen again, but also slightly unsatisfying given I was writing for someone else instead. The thought of blogging for myself again started to take shape. Given my recent discovery on how little privacy I actually enjoy on the internet, I figured maybe it’s also time I give public sharing an honest try. Better build your own image than have someone imagine it on their own, right? I haven’t quite decided what I would post on this blog. It could be Tech, life as an MBA student, or my latest cookie recipe. I do not, however, intend to discuss topics of no social value (i.e. my private affairs). I may share bits and pieces from my life, but only if I believe that a reader of no relation to me could still benefit from reading the blog.

If you have any suggestions on what I should write about, would love to hear from you. It would also serve as an encouragement for me to actually keep up with it this time round. Maybe no one actually reads this post, which is also fine. Hopefully many years later I will look back at it and laugh at how naive I once was.