This week I returned from a 2-week trip through 4 cities in China. I was born there, spent a fair amount of time there growing up, and I also lived there for a year on a Fulbright fellowship after college. Today, I work as in San Francisco at Carbon Five as a product manager, helping startups and tech companies turn their ideas into software.
Although the purpose of this trip was family-based, and though I’ve been there before, seeing China’s adoption of mobile technology completely blew my mind. The growing differences between U.S. and China mobile applications made my stay pretty difficult in ways I hadn’t experienced or expected. While I missed my American apps, the sophistication of extremely powerful Chinese apps also took me by surprise, with just a handful of many-featured, multi-purpose apps dominating my usage.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
Some of the apps that – straight up – will not work:
- Facebook (blocked by the government for not censoring content and providing access to user data after the 2009 Xinjiang riots)
- All things Google (including web browsing, gmail, drive and google maps)
What do I mean by not working? It’s not like you’ll see a notification like this:
It’ll look more like this:
Never have I ever upgraded so many Apple native apps out of my Appleware folder as I had to in China. But let’s move on to the good. Continue reading …
As a full-service software consultancy, we at Carbon Five get lots of questions from clients past, present, and future. We’re passionate about sharing our industry knowledge, so we sat down with our leadership team and got some advice for aspiring founders and product leaders as part of an ongoing 6-part series. You can see all the interviews here.
Here in part four, we asked Partner and Director of Design David Hendee to talk to us about costs, operations and the big brand.
Should I work with an outside design agency? Do I need a branding firm?
Carbon Five is an action-oriented consultancy. We are passionate about putting product into market, not just having great ideas. The question does come up: how much design do I need to get started with Carbon Five? The real answer is none. You can come with just an idea. On day one, we’ll talk about the people your product solves a problem for, what you think the problem is, and how you think you’re going to solve it. That’s a great starting point for working with us, because we can do both design and the first version of your brand. Our clients work with our in-house designers, but sometimes we’ll partner with outside agencies, which can be great as well.
More important, I think is do you have a team that can solve a problem and has the grit and wherewithal to take the money and actually do something effective with it?
Continue reading …
As Carbon Five grows, we experiment with different ways to define, elaborate, and communicate our company culture. One thing we do is organize semi-annual retreats, we call them summits, that rotate between our two main offices in San Francisco and Santa Monica.
These events are, first and foremost, about people. They are a way for our employees to establish a more personal connection with each other even though our offices are geographically separated.
The summits aim to be fun, light hearted, and not take themselves too seriously. We aren’t looking to hand down a set of values, guidelines, and rules that Carbon Five employees must follow. Instead we encourage people to discover and define our shared values by talking with each other: What is going on in the different offices? What is emerging across our design, development, and product management practices? What are the things that make coming into work every day enjoyable and inspiring?
We’ve been organizing company retreats for three years now. We thought it was time to share what what’s worked and what we’ve learned.
Continue reading …
As a full-stack software consultancy, we at Carbon Five get lots of questions from clients past, present, and future. We’re passionate about sharing our industry knowledge, so we sat down with our leadership team and got some advice for aspiring founders and product leaders as part of an ongoing 6-part series. You can see all the interviews here.
Here, we sat down with Courtney Hemphill, partner and technical lead, to give us some insight into keeping your startup lean and functioning smoothly.
How can I find great developers to hire?
There are a couple things that I’m seeing right now that I feel like are smart plays to finding great developers. I think great developers are not people that are created in 12 weeks at a Bootcamp, I think they’re people who are really interested in solving problems, and they’ve just found that their modus operandi for solving problems happens to be in code. The equivalent holds true for design. They’re just solving problems through a visual experience versus code. Finding those people is what you want to do. That doesn’t really answer the question though so I would say that code languages are something that people get really interested in. Meaning that new languages are coming out and each of those languages can solve specific problems.
I think great developers are not people that are created in 12 weeks at a Bootcamp, I think they’re people who are really interested in solving problems, and they’ve just found that their modus operandi for solving problems happens to be in code. The equivalent holds true for design. They’re just solving problems through a visual experience versus code.
Continue reading …
Our client, Iron Gaming, announced the release of Rezli today at the 2050 Events Daytona Conference. Iron Gaming is a major player in eSports tournaments, offering live streaming of gaming events that have developed a massive following in the gaming community. They came to Carbon Five looking to develop an online product that would suit the needs of their existing user base. Rezli fills that gap by connecting gamers to each other and gaming organizations, much like LinkedIn does for job seekers.
Continue reading …
Several members of the Carbon Five team were in St. Louis this past weekend (9/24-26) for Strange Loop. The conference focuses on the intersection of computer science and industry. As usual the conference is committed to delivering tech-focused, fantastic content which has all been made available online.
Before you start wading through all those videos, however, we thought we could offer up a few of our favorites to share.
Propositions as Types by Philip Wadler
Dr. Wadler gives a lively overview of the history of computation and formal logic. Using this history he showcases how a deep understanding of the nature of the universe can be used to discover new programming language designs.
Continue reading …
It’s rarely too early to instrument a web or mobile app with user and event tracking services. Sure, it’s ideal to only track the metrics needed to answer specific questions, yet it’s not often the case that those questions are known during the early stages of product development. It’s been our experience that we can manage problems associated with having too much data (analysis paralysis), but we can never go back and magically collect data that wasn’t tracked.
Over the course of a few projects, we’ve come to rely on a core suite of four analytics apps for their flexibility, ease of use, low startup costs and ability to adapt and mature with the product or business. It might seem like four tools is a lot, but the tendency in the analytics business has been for specialization, with countless vendors offering extremely niche products to cater to very specific needs.
Because of the proliferation of offerings, it can be difficult to make a final choice on analytics platforms when you are starting up a product, as you may find your needs changing over time. This brings us to the first product:
Segment’s main purpose is to be the single layer of code implemented in the product which allows data to be pulled out and then handed off. Segment enables hand-offs to an incredible number of other analytics-type products without having to write or insert any additional code, typically allowing non-technical business users to add or remove analytics products without the need for dev and test support.
Heap is the next product we’ve implemented. Heap is a great general purpose analytics platform; tracking both users and events. It allows a user to visually tag parts of the site for analysis and setup funnels to measure these tags. Beyond the ease of use, Heap’s other big selling point is that it can do this analysis retroactively. For example, if Heap has been implemented in a product for three months and one day you decide you want to look at the click through on an untagged CTA you can tag it in Heap and see the data from the previous 90 days. This is very powerful tool as product development ramps up, as the business may not know 100% of everything they want to measure up front.
Intercom is a user-centric analytics and messaging platform. They present a lot of the same data as a general purpose analytics platform, but they do so by showing activity clustered around individual users. Moreover, they provide an unobtrusive messaging tool which enables the business to communicate with users for customer development and support. Intercom is great for understanding the behavior of users across their lifetime, tracking engagement, retention and strategically communicating with users.
Optimizely is a great product for quickly and easily setting up A/B/Y tests to test all kinds things, and is especially well suited for testing UI and content. For products with a small number of users, Optimizely can be used for rapidly iterating on user interfaces to gain qualitative feedback. It really shines when the product has enough users to run tests at scale. Like Heap, Optimizely tests can generally be set up without the involvement of a developer which reduces the barrier and cost of running tests.
We’ve found this suite to be a great starting point for a new analytics implementation as it reduces time to set up and enables the business to easily slice and dice their application usage data in ways that produce insights – which is the true goal.
In the next chapter we’ll take a look at how we’ve used three of these tools on our product Stickies to quickly scale tracking users and events.
This workshop is an opportunity to improve your coding skills by pair programming on an open source project. Every student will be paired with a volunteer who has prior experience with the language and contributing to an open source project.
We’ll be working on a federal government open source project, the Open Data Maker from 18F — the perfect opportunity to become a better programmer and code for your country!
@Carbon Five SF
585 Howard Street, Floor 2
San Francisco, CA 94107
Tue 7/14/2015 6PM – 10PM
At Carbon Five, we work with developers of all experience levels. One source of fear and uncertainty I’ve seen at all levels is Git, the primary source control system used by our teams. Fear of losing work due to mishandled merge resolution, resetting branches or interactive rebasing is keeping developers from using some of the more powerful aspects of the tool. I believe this fear to be unwarranted and hope to show that it’s much harder to truly lose code in Git than most would guess. Here’s the high-level overview of what you need to know:
- If you want to keep any bit of code, commit or stash it
- By default, anything you commit will be accessible for at least 30 days and anything you stash for two weeks
- Merging and rebasing are always safe
Continue reading …