Butterfield “Slacks” every 10 minutes. When does he work?

I’ve been working remotely for almost 5 years now. With the bulk of the team in Chennai (India), and then a few people here and there on the other side of the world. I’ve come to realize that asynchronous communication is a big reason why email still rules business communication and it probably will for the years to come. I look at it as one of the greatest inventions of this century, after the Internet itself. And no, Slack is definitely not going to kill it, FastCo.

Yesterday, I stumbled on this post titled How Slack uses Slack (yeah, pretty late, I know. That’s why the Internet is so fascinating!) and this very quote disturbed me a bit:

I rarely in a working day go more than 10 minutes without looking at Slack. I mean, we’ve been in this room for an hour, and I’ve looked at my Slack instance a dozen times. — Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s cofounder and CEO.

A question popped out of my head – when does he really work? Of course, communication is important and Slack is a great tool for that, but that’s not where “real” work happens, right? Unless you’re paid to… well, just “chat”.

There’s Microsoft’s Yammer, Facebook at Work, Atlassian’s HipChat, VMware’s Socialcast, and a few others that are popular in the enterprise chat software market. Slack is probably the coolest of them all. The Slack bots are intuitive, and the company has done well for itself. Heck, they’re the poster child of the modern day work communication landscape. But hey, who works within the Slack interface? I think Butterfield has a habit of going over the top. Remember when he said Slack has no sales team and still does over 60M in revenue? OK, I’m a big fan of the memo that Butterfield shared with his team in 2013 – “We Don’t Sell Saddles Here”. But hey, come on. At that scale, eventually, everyone has a sales team.

Contrary to this, I like what Jason Fried said a couple of weeks in a post where he described how the teams at BaseCamp work. Quoting him,

Splitting work and communication and management across separate tools/products is 1. a highly inefficient, and 2. makes it very difficult for the whole team to see the whole picture.

Earlier this year he listed several reasons on why group chat does more harm than good for your team.  Is group chat making you sweat?

Group chat is like being in an all-day meeting with random participants and no agenda.

The biggest problem with chat tools is the expectation they come bundled with by default. That you’ll respond immediately. The “read notification” that some of them have doesn’t make it any better. It’s the form of the medium that I have a problem with.

When you send an email, you don’t necessarily expect an immediate response (I know some people respond to most emails the moment they see them in their inbox, but the medium doesn’t make you assume that by design). With chat, things change dramatically. When people see you online, they expect an immediate response.

My productivity peaks when I mute chat notifications. Well, all kinds of notifications. They’re probably one of the biggest distractions of modern day web workers. It does feel a bit awkward at times when I have my phone, computer, tablet, and watch all trying to notify me about my mom calling me on FaceTime. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong. There’s no way I could have survived as a remote worker, without a great chat tool. Btw, I  use Zoho Chat at work (dogfooding, of course). But I don’t like peeping into my chat application every 10 minutes. There are times when chat is the best way to communicate — be it catching up the team first thing in the morning, broadcasting a message in real-time, deciding on where should we go out for lunch, or even asking for a quick feedback (yay or nay) on a copy. But once I am set to doing real work, Slack my chat application is the last thing I want to see.

And no, I’m not alone. I’ve seen people breaking up with Slack, offering advice and guides on how to stay productive when using Slack, and calling it the Ultimate Workday Distractor.

One reason why I love Slack is the communities that I find running on it. I’m part of around 10 Slack groups including the MakerHunt, Product Marketing by Drift, and Buffer amongst others, and they all offer great insights from people outside of the organization but in overlapping domains.

Which tools do you use to get work done? Which ones do you find the most distracting? I’d love to hear from you on twitter.

 

33

All the threes. Knocking knees. Two little fleas. (yeah, I love Tambola!)

I turned 33 last weekend. I remember I was just 19 when I landed in this city. For some reason, it doesn’t feel so long. It’s been an awesome ride and I have the memories fresh on my mind — of the good, bad, and ugly.

I stumbled on this fantastic piece by Justin. If you’re into something that makes you feel out of place, or if you’re thinking of starting up, you must read it. It feels so serendipitous!

This article reminds me of the fact that most people do better when they do something that they love. Here’s how I’d picture it in a line;

Nothing is certain, but doing what you love gives you better stakes.

I’ve always believed that it’s not just about giving your 100%. It’s also about what is it that you’re giving it to. Unless you’re doing something you really enjoy doing, it’s quite likely that you won’t be able to give your best. Sometimes, it takes a while to figure that out. Back in 2008, when I was taking a plunge to start something of my own, I knew just one thing — this is where I belong. No, I didn’t know where exactly it would take me (who knows that anyway?) but I knew I would enjoy doing this. And I did it all through the years, until after I stopped loving it.

But it was completely worth it. I made some amazing friends, learned how businesses work, and carved out the first steps of a career path for myself that was based on what I love doing, not on my credentials. What else do you want from life, early on?

I want to take a moment and thank everyone who’s helped me come this far. It wouldn’t have been possible without my parents, friends, and dear ones. Thank you, one and all.

Until next time.

 

 

Happy Diwali!

I miss the 90s.

Not for the dial-up connection that took minutes just to log me in, but for the overall pace at which things moved back then. Following an online trend, responding to a tweet, or commenting on Facebook posts — none of these were possible. It was even OK to not reply to an email the same day (though email was the ZMOT for many of us!) Did I say no mobile phones?

But I could hang out with friends and loved ones for as long I was not done. Without interruptions. Without notifications.

Fast forward to 2016 – here I am, in my hyperconnected avatar, with a pair of ANC earphones plugged-in to cancel out the near-zero noise around me, with technology that’s competing to outbid itself, every year. (Have you upgraded to the iPhone 7, yet?) With 57 tabs on my browser, on my lighter than the Macbook Air laptop, I have 12 “spaces” – 6 on each of the two screens. Yes, the setup screams productivity. Or so we think.

There’s only one thing right now that takes me back to the 90s. This playlist I am hooked on to, this week. OK, I’ll be honest – there are two of them. 🙂

The 90s remind me of Kumar Sanu’s voice and Raveena Tandon running around the trees with someone. (And yes, Twinkle Khanna in Barsaat). Back then, the only sources of Bollywood music were the audio cassettes and sometimes, VHS tapes. I grew up in a town that didn’t have a movie theater. It still doesn’t have one. Imagine!

But, if I could go back, all I’d ask for is to be able to slow down and get some fresh air. I miss both. Oh and hours of sweating on the Tennis court — without checking notifications on my phone from people and groups I couldn’t care less about. But that’s evolution, right?

It’s Diwali today. Just like one of the many I’ve witnessed in the last decade. Honestly, what excites me more is the long weekend — good music, lying on the couch, sipping coffee, reading stuff … you get the picture. I wish I could tell you a different story, but for that, I should have stuck to the thought of spending this one in the hills and not here. :/

Have a good one, you all!

Until next time.

Photo credit

 

Your Mac is probably eating your Internet bandwidth (and you don’t know about it!)

Last week, my monthly quota with my ISP got exhausted much before the cycle got over. Yes, I was FUP’ed.

60 GB isn’t a lot when you have a 20 Mbps hose, but I seldom hit that mark at home considering I travel a lot, and home broadband is one of the many internet connections that I use to stay connected / work.

Driven by curiosity, I logged on to my account and noticed that I had used over 6 GB of data the day before. That came in as a surprise because I had barely used the internet that day — no big downloads and minimal music streaming — even though my computer was on for several hours.

I almost freaked out, thinking that someone else is latching on to my home WiFi network. Little did I know, it was Apple, not Pandey ji.

The next day at work, we were chatting about how the new Mac OS X El Capitan is a 6 GB download, and I offered my colleagues a USB drive that had the installable on it.

The conversation went on and our Rocket Singh mentioned about this creature called nsurlsessiond that he found is always on and keeps sucking the bandwidth. I looked up at the Activity Monitor (under the network tab) and boom! This little daemon was eating up a big share of my quota, and it didn’t seem to stop, no matter what! Here’s how it looks,

nsurlsessiond

A quick search and I found various hacks to stop this. The good news is, you don’t need any of those, nor do you have to read through the entire thread. Just check your spotlight preference and turn off Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Searches, that’s it. Don’t forget to click on the “?” at the bottom right corner of the Spotlight Preferences window.

Thank me later. 🙂

 

This food-delivery startup just got serious about social media marketing (​and why you should too!)

After we released Zoho Social last month, I’ve been talking to a lot of customers, replying to love and hate emails, helping them set up their accounts and what not. It’s fun helping small businesses get better at social media marketing!

Get serious about social media marketing

Last weekend, I was looking forward to meeting someone at my favorite cafe. No, this wasn’t about work. It was about food! A young entrepreneur who started a food-delivery business right after he graduated got in touch with me over Twitter. He said he was meeting some foodies in the city over the last couple of weeks and wanted to meet me to talk about my favorite food joints in the city. Well, that tells you a thing or two about me. 😉

He mentioned how his idea turned into reality, and he’s been growing his business month-by-month with word-of-mouth and zero ads. I found that it was commendable for a 24-year-old to bootstrap such a business and do well for himself. He keeps his regular customers happy in a Whats App group by offering special deals and discounts sent only in the group. Smart!

Soon after we spoke about Zoho and how we do marketing, he asked me how he can leverage “content marketing” and use social media to reach out to existing customers and their networks. Especially because social media is free!

Nothing is free though, especially not social media. There’s an opportunity cost to it, apart from the time and energy that you need to learn and do any marketing activity.

I asked him a question – “How do you think social media can help you?” He said, “it’s a medium to reach out and engage with existing as well as new customers”. What he said wasn’t wrong, just that I wanted him to think of the big picture. We left the coffee shop after each one of us had finished 2 Iced Caffè Lattes each, over a long discussion on social media marketing strategy for small businesses and, of course, food. 🙂

Businesses that are serious about social media don’t believe in gimmicks or discount codes and for their social media is a part of sales, marketing, customer support and other functions of the business. Like every other form of marketing, social media has evolved over the years. Even for large brands, it’s not just about buying Twitter trends or running a contest on your favorite social media network. Your target audience most likely won’t fall for it and you shouldn’t be doing it unless of course you’re crazy about absolute numbers alone.

Those who *get* social media right, listen to what’s being talked about them, their competitors and the industry. They follow and engage with customers, have a well-defined content strategy to drive relationship with those who matter (targeting is the key) and do interesting stuff which expands beyond the horizon of online engagement (social media has an interesting offline-online angle that I would talk about in another post). Social media isn’t just about broadcasting (well, even email marketing isn’t that anymore. Times have changed!)

From a mere follower count/page likes war to a full circle social media plan, today, social media is more strategic than ever before.

Social is personal. Think of it – your brand is intruding into my Facebook timeline where I am looking at pictures and messages from my friends and family. You better have something good for me to follow you, no?

At the core social media marketing is about 3 activities;

  1. Listening to what people are saying (about you, your business, your competition, your market)
  2. Engaging with those who matter on social networks (not by pushing your agenda or product information, but by offering value). It could be an invite to a closed-group event that the audience is passionate about, or a secret sauce that could help the reader, or it could even be a limited time offer for a relevant group of people).
  3. Having goals and measuring performance at regular intervals. The key is not to be crazy about numbers, but the quality of content that goes out and the engagement that it drives.

One can do this on many social networks, but you’re good if you start with the popular ones.But I run a very small businesses and I do not have the bandwidth to do ALL of this!

OK, start small. Consolidate your efforts. Use automation (and intervene periodically to give a personal touch). At least, get started. 🙂

I’m glad this discussion helped him revisit his social media strategy and streamline his efforts for social media marketing. It’s fun to meet passionate business owners, listen to their story and help them grow their businesses as we grow ours. What’s your social media marketing strategy? What’s stopping you from starting with the three core activities?

I’ll soon be talking about more ways to get started with social media marketing for your business. For now, you can start by signing up for Zoho Social and trying it out. It’s designed for and is being used by businesses just like yours. 🙂

Image courtesy: Darice Vuong

This post was originally published on the Zoho blog. Check it out for interesting stories around smart software for growing businesses.

 

iPhone cases from STM

I have a fetish for laptop bags and iPhone cases. Last I counted, I had a dozen bags and 15 iPhone 5 cases. Yes, you read it right!

While I *wish* to continue using a bag and an iPhone case for 6+ months, I often get bored with the one I am using and decide to lookout for something else. I know, that’s so stupid – I told that to myself, every single time I swiped my card. 😉

Talking about iPhone case brands, I’ve tried the famous BookBook Case (I <3 TwelveSouth), Griffin, Belkin, Case-Mate, Capdase, Speck, Incase, SGP and many more. Wondering why don’t I have Otterbox in the list? Well, I hate the bulkiness.

For the last few months, I have been using STM iPhone 5 cases. I already loved their bags and when I saw their cases at an Apple Reseller Store, earlier this year, I wanted to try using them. Fast forward 5 months and I decided to share my review.

I must say that the build quality and the eye for detail that STM is commendable. Harbour Case is has more rugged look and feel – something I am not very fond of, personally. I look at it as an Otterbox replacement, while being easy on your hands. 🙂

Here are some pictures;

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My favorite is the STM Grip Case. It’s one of the lightest iPhone cases I have ever come across, yet, it doesn’t have a plastic-y feel to it. The svelte design and texture makes it feel good in your hands. I was impressed with the choice of colors it comes in and I was crazy enough to try out the mint color. It looked pretty cool!

It’s been over 5 months and the case is still in good shape, with nothing more than the usual wear & tear, which doesn’t make it look any bad. I washed it once when it got dirty and it was shining as new, within minutes. One good thing about this is, it’s easy to take off and snap it back on to the phone – for days when you’d want anything between you and your phone. 😉

For 899/- it’s a complete value-for-money case. Here are some pictures;

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Which are the cases you’ve used and what do you have to say about them?

 

How does ‘Showrooming’ help eCommerce?

Have you ever walked into a store – looking for a pair of shoes, headphones or a microwave oven – and popped out your smartphone to compare the prices online? Well, I have started doing that way too often – experience offline, research and buy online.

My friend Annkur, who runs PriceBaba.com targets customers who research online and buy offline. But that doesn’t work for me, much. However, the fact that he’s doing well for himself shows that there are enough people who choose this route!

I am a fan of Tom Fishburne’s marketoons and earlier this year, he published one titled – Showrooming.

130121.showroomingThat’s exactly how I am when it comes to experiencing retail. I know it’s sad, but I look at it in a different way. It’s an evolution and retailers need to address this in a better way – offer a better experience offline, if not a better price. More than anything else it’s a marketing problem!

In India, it’s very rare that the in-store experience is good enough to swipe my card at the store, unless of course there is a dire sense of urgency, or a better price available (which is rare). For a lot of things including electronics, clothes, groceries and books (for gifts, I use a Kindle for myself – I prefer to shop online. The reason are pretty straightforward – better pricing, great return policy (esp. with Myntra and Flipkart) and convenience of ordering it online.

Additionally, one great thing about online shopping is the availability of discount coupons. I usually find them at one of the coupon sites. Recently, I tried Flipit for recharging a mobile connection on Paytm and I liked their interface. In the past, I got some good discount coupons for eBay on CouponDunia. There are bunch of such sites that let you save an additional 5-15% when you use the coupon.

Having said that, I still prefer to buy a Bose or an Apple product off the stores (In India, they’re apple retailers, not official stores but still!) – just because I like experiencing these products at the store and it’s difficult to resist the urge of walking out of the store with the product I am sold on. Ordering it online and waiting for another 2-3 days to get it is a clear no in such cases.

On a related note, here’s a nice deck on The Zero Moment of Truth

It’ll be an interesting trend to watch how offline stores save themselves from showrooming. What’s your take on that?