Monthly Archives: August 2010

Checkmate for Foursquare (for iPhone) Release!

My second iPhone app, Checkmate, just got approved in the Apple App Store last night. It’s an auto-check-in app that runs in the background. You select your favorite venues, and Checkmate will check you into them when you get close enough, even when the phone is still in your pocket! I wrote this app because I got annoyed at forgetting to check into places on foursquare while there.

If you’d like to get Checkmate, you can buy it here for the low price of $2. For more info, check out the official website I made for it. And follow Checkmateapp on Twitter for news on the app.

Stupid Data Tricks: Facebook Names

Like a good data nerd, I downloaded the list of publicly available Facebook names, dumped into text files. I was trying to figure out a neat way to use them. It’s always weird when people have the same first and last names, so I wrote a quick regex to find people with names like “John John” and “Laura Laura.” I used /^([a-z]+) \1$/, but maybe there’s a better one. I think mine left out the middle names.

Apparently there are a lot of people with the same first and last name. 14,495 in my list, to be exact. But that’s out of a 100 million or so (I only did unique names). Here’s the list for anyone who might care. I’m trying to figure out a more useful application for this dataset. Any ideas?

What Happened to Yahoo (and What Could Happen to iAd)

I recently read an essay by Paul Graham on what happened to Yahoo. In it, he describes how Yahoo acted like a media company when it was really technology company, and how funky management made it into what it is today. One quote struck me as relevant today:

By 1998, Yahoo was the beneficiary of a de facto Ponzi scheme. Investors were excited about the Internet. One reason they were excited was Yahoo’s revenue growth. So they invested in new Internet startups. The startups then used the money to buy ads on Yahoo to get traffic. Which caused yet more revenue growth for Yahoo, and further convinced investors the Internet was worth investing in. When I realized this one day, sitting in my cubicle, I jumped up like Archimedes in his bathtub, except instead of “Eureka!” I was shouting “Sell!”

Having just integrated iAd into one of my iPhone apps I’ve noticed that pretty much all of the ads are for other apps. Most of these apps are “free,” and I assume that they could potentially be using iAd for revenue as well. This is a result of low fill rates for iAd and Apple wanting to offer developers a way to advertise their apps. It makes sense, but one has to wonder exactly where all the money is eventually going (Apple gets a 40% cut of iAd revenue), and who has the incentive to keep that system running.

A while ago I wrote my predictions for iAd. I didn’t foresee Apple opening iAds up to developers who wanted to advertise their apps. That’ll help the fill rate, but I can’t see it helping CPMs when developers have something like a $0.25 CPC and it was reported that the larger media campaigns like Dove were closer to $2 CPC. Seems like another race to the bottom, just like paid app prices.

Hung Truong on The Radio!

A few months ago, when I was living in Seattle, I went with my .gf and friend to a tour of Theo Chocolate. It’s a chocolate factory about two blocks from where I used to live that does organic chocolate. On the day of our visit, a news reporter was doing a radio spot for NPR on the factory. She asked to follow us around and we told her that was cool.

I looked for the spot for a while online, but I couldn’t find it. Just now, I was looking at searches on how people get to my website, and I found one misspelled query for “Hung Troung” that I followed and led to this blog post. It’s the news report that I appeared in so long ago!

I guess the lady didn’t have a lot to talk about because she used a lot of my random quotes. One of the funniest things that happened on the tour was this little kid (maybe 8 years old?) who kept on spewing non-sequiturs like “My uncle has a tree” and “I like pie” when asking questions. He reminded us of the I Like Turtles kid. I wish the reporter had gotten him in the story.

I also remember the tour guide being a little over the top. Like in terms of being dramatic and stuff. I remember hearing someone say that she just got back from doing some audition, so maybe that was why.

When the factory found out that the reporter had been following us around the whole tour, they felt sorry for us and got us some boxed confectionary candies. That was really nice. I think they were like $20 each or something and we got one each. Score! Thanks, Theo!

Oh, and I think it’s kind of apparent that I mumble a lot, or maybe I was just nervous. I should work on that. Here’s the audio of the story and the transcription (Fair use?):

[audio: HungTruongRadioTheo.mp3]

Remember Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Where four lucky kids win a tour of Willy Wonka’s secretive candy plant? Well, Theo Chocolate isn’t that exclusive—but you better call ahead.

Just one measure of its success; it’s tours are booked solid.

Hung Truong: “Make sure you call ahead because the tour’s so popular. I think I reserved like four weeks or something in advance? That’s really early.”

Hung Truong came to Theo Chocolate to see where the candy he buys is born.

Hung Truong: “Oh wow the fig one is good.”

Kate Kraay, leads this tour of about 20 visitors. Buzzing about each step of the chocolate bar’s creation.

Kate Kraay: “It’s this process of slurping up the chocolate from the bottom, spraying it up and around the sides; this is the closest thing that we have to Willy Wonka’s waterfall of chocolate.”

How did a company just four years old navigate through the recession? Vice President of Sales and Marketing Deb Music says one factor is the price.

Theo bars run about $3 a piece. That’s proven to be not too high and not too low. Another ingredient to success is that Theo bills itself as the first organic, fair trade chocolate factory in the US. That plays especially well in the northwest.

Music says founder Joe Whinney’s decision to relocate to Seattle from the east coast has been a golden ticket.

Deb Music: “I think our values at this point are very progressive and in line with a lot of people’s values here and I think the company is inspiring because we’re really trying to effect positive change in the world.”

Music says overall the company grew by 21 percent last year, despite the rough economy. And for the first part of this year Music says Theo has seen significant growth – around 25 percent – over 2009.

Curtis Vreeland is a confection industry analyst from Pennsylvania. He says while the chocolate industry isn’t recession proof, it is recession resistant.

Curtis Vreeland: “The overall premium chocolate market is struggling, but they’re layers in there which are doing well. And those would be where Theo is and those companies that are sort of in the gourmet section, but not the high-end.”

Another sweet spot for Theo is its identity.

Curtis Vreeland: “Once you’ve bought into the ethics of those kind of bars – organic and fair trade – you’re not going to shed your ethos in a recession. You may buy less. I think when the country comes out of the recession they’ll be buying quite a bit more.”

Back at the tour at Theo Chocolate, Hung Truong says it’s worth the price.

Hung Truong: “There’s like a psychology thing there, where you might not be able to afford the best things all the time, but you can afford something that’s really nice some times. And it’s just like what $3 for a bar? You’re treating yourself, and you’re not breaking the bank.”

By the end of the tour Truong is left with only one worry.

Hung Truong: “I think those little kids disappeared. It’s oddly like Charlie and the chocolate factory. Did one turn into a blueberry? What happened to them?”

I’m Chantal Anderson reporting.

SXSW 2011 Panel Proposal: “Quitters Always Prosper” Please Vote!

I submitted a panel proposal to SXSW again this year entitled “Quitters Always Prosper: The Iterative Career Process.” Here’s the proposal as seen on the official panel picker:

Quitters Always Prosper: The Iterative Career Process

You just graduated from college and started your first real job. But it isn’t what you thought it was. Somehow, somewhere along the way, you made an error in judgment, or your company flat out lied to you about your job. What do you do?

Hear from a panel of young professionals who were in this same position and quit before they hit the one -year mark. They’ve since moved on to greener pastures and have found their true calling, or are at least a step closer. They are part of a larger movement who believe in an iterative career path.

Disillusioned employees: share your pain and ask the panel how and why they made their decision to quit. Learn the warning signs of a bad fit during the interview process and in the first few days on the job. Know that you aren’t alone, and there’s something you can do about it.

Employers: learn how to decrease new employee turnaround. Discover the best incentives to retain great talent. Learn when and when not to hire.

When the going gets tough, quit!

Questions Answered:

  1. What are the warning signs before I accept a job that it is not a good fit?
  2. What alternatives are there for reconciliation before sending in my resignation?
  3. What should I do before quitting (e.g. securing a new job, etc)?
  4. How do I explain my short stay to a potential new employer?
  5. What should I learn from my bad experience, and how should I apply it to the next job?

As many of you know, I quit my job at Microsoft after about 6 months. There were a lot of reasons why, and it boils down to the fact that it just wasn’t a good fit. I’ve noticed a disproportionate number of my cohort from grad school who also left their first jobs after graduating within one year. I thought it would be interesting to do a panel on the subject and try to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.

I think It’s of interest not only to people who aren’t happy at their jobs, but also employers who struggle with retention rates, especially among younger employees. I think it’ll be an interesting panel. While I moderated a SXSW panel at this year’s conference, I was thinking that I could either moderate again (it’s very fun and stressful) or be a panelist, since I’ve experienced it myself.

I’d really appreciate it if you could take the time to vote for my proposal, leave a comment, and spread the word! As with my last panel, I think the subject is something that people think about, but often do not talk about. If we can get a room of like-minded people together, I’m confident that people can be inspired to make tough decisions and get more out of life!