We submitted Ravejoint and today we were notified that we are in! Here's some information on the search taken from their site at http://www.youthmalaysia.com/youthsearch/

The Malaysian Dotcom Youth Search is the hunt to identify the hottest and most innovative website, made by youths. With thousands of Malaysian websites including blogs and portals emerging daily, we are on the lookout for owners of super cool sites, giving them recognition for their work. If you’re aged below 30 and fall under this category, submit your site today!

To vote, visit Ravejoint and click on the image at the top right corner. You will then be redirected to their website. Note that you can only vote once every hour. Thanks for your vote!

16 Nov 2007

We listen, seriously

by John

One of the characteristics of a successful product is to listen to the people using it and improve it based on their feedback. There are some exceptions to this rule ( obviously only take feedback that makes sense ) but generally that principle holds true. Over the past 2 months of beta testing, we’ve added some improvements based on user feedback, complaints and observation on how users use the system.

1. We banished account ‘activation’

Yes, its annoying, we know it but it’s a necessary feature to ensure that you actually put in a valid email address so people cannot steal your identity! (oh and to weed off spam bots). After receiving some complaints of not being able to login after signing up ( are the information messages flashing at you not enough to catch your attention ? ) because only activated accounts are able to login. Yes, there are some better ways of doing activation but might as well scrap it because we believe you all are good people :P We might reimplement this feature (with improvements) in the future when there is a need

2. Finally there are half-star ratings’

Yup, we hear you. Sometimes the meal was almost perfect but you cant simply give your precious 5 stars away. 4.5 stars would be perfect but the system wont let you. Now you can finally rate your heart out without feeling the guilt. The lowest rating you can give now is 0.5 star, instead of 1 star. Just as a guide, we have added some mouse over descriptions to each rank.

0.5 star Ewwwww
1.0 star Is this food?
1.5 stars Barely edible
2.0 stars I hate it
2.5 stars Missing something important
3.0 stars Its ok
3.5 stars Quite Good
4.0 stars Love it
4.5 stars Almost perfect
5.0 stars Its perfect

3. The food collage looks yummy

We figured 3 recommendations are not enough to get you salivating. Plus, who in the right mind would keep refreshing the page just to see more random food. Yes, you needed something more exciting, more artistic. Therefore the collage is born.

4. There is a help button

Press the help button, it wont bite you. We added a features page so new users would have a guide on what they can do in Ravejoint

5. Numb3rs, its sexy even without David Krumholtz

Whether in life or in RPGs (Role Playing Games), everyone likes to look at numbers. People are proud to be in the hall of fame and brag about the number of ravings you have. There are stats all over the place. See if you can spot them all. We’ll keep improving the system so it gives credit where credit is due.

07 Nov 2007

Ads vs Classifieds

by TS Lim

In newspapers, there are classifieds (also a form of advertising) that are categorized under different sections (e.g. automobile, rentals) and usually printed on the same pages everyday. Then, there's also advertisement that appear here and there ranging from small ones (but expensive) beside the paper's heading or those full page full color ads (also expensive) promoting the latest mobile package deals.

We are currently looking for a way to monetize Ravejoint and it seems the model of classifieds fit in well. Here are some reasons why.

1. Focused and targeted

Classifieds are grouped into categories. When you are looking for a second-hand car, you know instantly where to look. What you are looking at are also relevant to what you are looking for. Similarly, we want to serve advertisement which are relevant to food lovers. They want to know about the latest promotions in restaurants near them. Not the latest rates for your mobile plans. (at least not most of them).

2. Permission Marketing

A term first coined by Seth Godin in his book of the same name. This type of marketing requires the advertiser to gain permission from their prospective customer before they can market to them. Because classifieds always appear in the same section, you can skip it entirely if you are not looking for something. This puts you in control on whether you want to see them. The advertiser will have to gain your permission before they can market to you. We want to be the place to look for the promotions on restaurants. But it's up to you if you want to see them or not.

Another nice effect of this approach is that every customer you gain are worth a lot more. They gave you permission to advertise to them as long as you keep the other end of your deal. Getting permission is easy, but keeping them is a lot harder.

3. Non distracting

Well, I have a confession to make. We do plan to show advertisement on some pages randomly. (e.g. restaurant's information page) But we will apply some traits unique to classifieds here to make them not as distracting as normal advertisement. Classifieds have a standard size they must fit in. This not only makes it easier to arrange them but also give reader a familiar feel to it. You can instantly know that you're looking at a page of classifieds. This allows you to either skip it or pay attention to it. (permission marketing baby) So our ads will have the same look everywhere, appear at the same place and clearly marked.

Another interesting property of the classified is that they are mostly textual. Since there's limited real estate, advertiser can only put information of utmost importance. This helps in not distracting the reader with flashy graphics or redundant marketing gimmicks and get straight to the point. Similarly, our ads will be in text format and should convey its message in the shortest and fastest way possible.

Isn't this adsense?

Well, it is and you can call it adsense for restaurants. But it doesn't really need to sense anything since we only serve one type of ads and the context is always the same. In the coming weeks, you will be seeing some restaurant related advertisement on Ravejoint and hopefully you find them useful and if you don't, you should be able to ignore them easily.

P.S. Somehow I managed to sneak in the word 'sense' again. Darn I'm good at 'making sense'.

What would you do if you were a Malaysian professional climber, and you had the choice to either set the record in climbing Mt. Kinabalu or to make an expedition up Mt. Everest? The obvious choice would be to choose the one that is the greater challenge, one with the most fulfilling reward.

What if I tell you, that even if you choose to climb Mt. Everest, there wont be any extra funding, specialized gear, tv coverage, training by experienced climbers and still maintain a team of 2. You just have to make do with what you have. Will your answer be different?

To start off, watch the interesting video below about a Nescafe® KickStart contestant being interviewed by the MindValley people ( the company behind Blinklist )

Common sense would tell you that as an internet business, you can easily reach the world. Who in the right mind would limit their reach to their own country? This question bothered me when we were trying to decide if we would only focus on Malaysia or open RaveJoint to the world.

Seth Godin said in The Dip that being #1 gives you ten times the benefits of being #10. The chart below shows the Top 10 flavors of ice-cream as an example of Zipf’s Law.

Realizing that we currently only have the resources (manpower and bandwidth) to serve a market, we rather give Malaysia our best than to be just another mediocre site that needs to be bought over by Google just to survive. I’ll talk about sustainability and monetization once we find out how. :P

Focusing on the niche now gives us the advantage of being able to fulfill the personalized needs our market, not just mass produce general functionality. We could be able to think of ideas and offer services only feasible in a smaller market and then expand from there. That’s how Starbucks did it.

Will we ever take on the world? You bet!

16 Oct 2007

Things we learned

by TS Lim

It has been more than a month since we first put up Ravejoint for beta testing. Before I continue, John and I would like to thank all of you for your feedback, support, criticisms; and last but not least, the ravings. But the most valuable thing to us, was what we learned from you guys during the past month.

1. You guys really love food

When we were baking this idea, we knew people were passionate about food. They love talking about it and they'll go anywhere looking for good food. But we underestimated that passion. There are actually people like Massy and Melissa that not only talk about food but practically live just to eat. They try everything and anything. They not only take pictures of the food but also touch up the photos. Food just look sooo much better when they are raving about it.

2. Pictures really do speak a thousand words

Speaking of photos, the first feedback we got was about the size of pictures on Ravejoint. Isaac said to us that it was way too small and he couldn't tell what he's looking at. So, we decided to make them bigger. A lot bigger. Originally, we resized the photos to 150x150 pixels. Now it's 500x500 pixels. You can now see what kinda toppings they put on this cheesecake or what in the world is an Onsentamago. Someone need to get the point across to Rum though.

3. The 80/20 rule is true!

The 80/20 rule (another name for the Pareto Principle) states that 80% of the effects comes from 20% of the causes. Now that is definitely the case for Ravejoint. Over the month, we had almost 300 ravings, 200+ food and 100+ restaurants added into the site. We have around 40+ users where only half (or less) of those actually raved more than once. In fact, the top three ravers ( Massy, John, Melissa ) contributed more than half of those 300 ravings. Amazing don't you think?

4. Tag can get really really longggggg

We know that tagging is something pretty new to some people. But we never would have thought this would happen. However, it's definitely not wrong and those that wants some cheesy gravy now know where to look.

And a lot, lot more

The great thing is this isn't the end. We definitely going and hoping to learn more from you guys. We hope that you all will continue to rave, create useful tags and post those incredibly tasty food pictures. Remember, snap before you snack.

02 Oct 2007

Do more, fail fast

by TS Lim

Most of you probably only heard of us (Flexnode) through our food-review site, Ravejoint. Surely to some, it would seem that we formed this company to pursue our goal of cataloging the best food in town. However, we only stumble upon the idea by chance around 2 months ago while struggling on how to save another idea that had failed completely after working on it for months.

Those that participated in the private beta of the original Ravejoint might remember that initially our plans was to create a site to profile things you like. It could be our inexperienced execution that the idea failed or the overly optimistic assumptions that we had on the usage of the site. But two thing was clear to us and it might as well be the most important thing we learned.

First was execution. No matter how great you think your idea is, it is worthless until you act and do something about it. For someone who is creative or an opportunist ideas are basically free. That means 2 things, that everyone could have thought of your idea and the one who act on it wins (or fails).

That lead us to realize that failing is just as important. When you act on something, you are heading towards a conclusion, an end result. Failure is by far the most common one. Everyone has heard of the saying, failure is the road to success. So the best way to move along this road is to fail fast. It is absolutely alright to fail as long as you get up and move on. The hard part is knowing when to quit and what to quit from. That you'll have to learn from experience and maybe from the book The Dip by Seth Godin.

Many of us forget that learning is a life-long process and for us, the best way to learn is to Do more and fail fast. What are you waiting for now? Start failing on your world domination plans. If you're lucky, it just might work.

13 Sep 2007

What are we working on?

by TS Lim

RavejointIt has been awhile since we last posted something here. We were (and still are) working on something really cool. It's called Ravejoint, a site for food lovers. If you're hungry or want to find the best restaurant in town, check it out.

That's all for now. We will be posting more info on Ravejoint in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

21 May 2007

Why the pan is important

by TS Lim

Fish & Co. Recently, I visited Fish & Co. for lunch. I've never been to one before but the seafood related decor looks interesting so I decided to give it a try. The theme of the restaurant is serving seafood in a pan.

I find that the whole experience is worth talking about. The seafood is served in a pan as shown in the picture. The servings are large and taste good. There's even special treatment for kids. They get a cute looking menu that's shaped like a fish. A kid even wanted to keep the menu! Their cup is half the normal size and they get colorful plastic utensils for safety.

Service was good and they had the courtesy of providing you mints after you're done. It's to freshen your breath after all the seafood. Are all these extra services, gimmicks, pans and candies important? You bet! It helps define and differentiate the whole experience. Where else can you eat seafood in a pan? Kids will get their parents to come for the fish-shaped menu and the colorful spoons. And you get to tell your friends about the mints they gave you after your meal.

Today, building a good product and providing excellent support is not enough. It's the whole experience that counts. The warm fuzzy feeling you get when you know they are walking the extra mile to make you feel satisfied. That's what we call a remarkable product. Try to experience your own products and figure ways to make it fun and unique. Throw in a pan if you need to.

toilet flushHave you ever used one of those flush toilets where you have to pull really hard? Ever wondered why it was done that way? Basically what they did was to use a string connected to a lever to pull the plug that is stopping water from being released. Squat toilets have then been designed with a string or a lever to flush it and not much has changed since then. This led to a dirty string and a lever that's hard to pull (with the risk of breaking it). Have you ever thought there should be a better way of using this? Well someone did, and worked out something that finally makes sense

This toilet flush is designed to overcome the weakness of the lever system, and replaced it with buttons that require no effort to push, and is easily cleaned. There is also minimal risk of damaging the button due to pushing too hard as there is a limit on how far it can go. Surely there has to be some cost involved in redesigning the internals to make this happen, but that sure beats selling another toilet that leaves a negative impression to its user.

The lesson learned today is that you should not let the internals of a system influence how you want the customer to use your product. Building a product where you would say, “Ah, that makes more sense” requires effort and forces you to think out of the box. It is a process of discovery where you consciously try to do things differently for the better instead of just accepting whatever you see as the norm. Flexnode is built on this principle, where we want to walk the extra mile in ensuring our software is as intuitive as it can be.

17 May 2007

A sense-making journey

by TS Lim

making sense Welcome to our blog about making sense in software development, interface design and everyday life. To us, sense-making is a way to create something truly remarkable. A Purple Cow like how Seth Godin would call it.

It is also our mantra in developing applications for our users. Every function we introduce and every placement of buttons should make sense. Making sense is about simplicity and usability. Making sense is also about intuitive design and meaningful features. It's about putting the customer first and world-class support. Making sense it's about bringing back common sense into the world of software.

I hope you can join us on our sense-making journey and share your thoughts on it with us. We will occasionally post about things that makes sense and things that don't.