Archive for the ‘Ninja’ tag
Hello! I’m Graham Allcott, founder of Think Productive and author of How to be a Productivity Ninja. I specialize in personal organizational systems, strategies to deal with information overload, and ‘action management’. Naturally I’m a ‘too strategic to be organized’ person but have trained myself to be productive through the development of personal workflow systems and the power of good habits. Have questions for me? I’m here for the next hour! More »
There’s no love lost between Android and Apple users, or at least among the fanboys and fangirls. The flamewar between the passionate adopters of the top two mobile operating systems has persisted for awhile now, even in spite of our pleas for a detente. Luckily, one startup is on a mission to bridge the gap between the Open and Walled Gardens, so that we can all join hands and walk off into the sunset.
At Google I/O today, BlueStacks staged a mock wedding between Android and Apple as the backdrop for the launch of its Android App Player for Mac — software that aims to bring 400K+ Android apps to iOS.
BlueStacks’ alpha release, which is available for free on the startup’s website, gives Android users the ability to run their favorite apps on a Mac, so that they can download Angry Birds, Temple Run, Evernote, etc directly into BlueStacks, or sync apps they already have installed using the startup’s “Cloud Connect” app.
The Mac release follows BlueStacks’ release of its platform for Windows, which allowed users to download and play their apps on any Windows machines. The PC version went like hotcakes upon its release in March, reaching one million downloads in just nine days. As we said at the time, the real key to BlueStacks’ success was its “ability to run graphics-intensive Android apps on desktop PCs, using its patent-pending technology called ‘Layercake’ … allowing Android apps to run on x86-based PCs, including apps written for the ARM processor,” like Angry Birds Space or Fruit Ninja, for example.
Shainiel Deo, the CEO of Halfbrick (the makers of Fruit Ninja) also said at the time that, while BlueStacks’ tech has plenty of appeal for everyday users, there’s a lot of appeal for developers, too, because they don’t have to port or modify apps to run them on a new operating system — meaning that those who’ve already developed apps for Android don’t have to go through the typical heavy lifting.
The same holds true for BlueStacks’ Mac release, and the company pushed its launch today featuring a number of new developer partners, including HandyGames, Creative Mobile, and Pulse. The startup said that its next release, which is coming soon, will expand its partner roster further, and the team has been in full force at I/O wooing developers.
Google has added customizable backgrounds to Gmail so you can finally set whatever picture you want as the background, the company announced today in a blog post.
Gmail has offered a small set of colorful backgrounds since the addition of themes in 2008. (I’ve been partial to the “Planets” and “Ninja” backgrounds myself.) But now Gmail users will be able to add whatever photos they want for the background of their e-mail accounts, creating a much more personal experience.
Google software engineer Greg Bullock writes on the Official Gmail Blog:
When we unveiled Gmail’s new look back in November, we introduced a number of new, beautiful HD themes. We also heard that many of you wanted to bring an even more personal touch by setting your own background. So over the next couple of days we are rolling out a new Custom themes section with two options, Light and Dark where you can do just that.
You can upload your own images directly, select from your Google+ photos or simply paste any image URL. Or, if you don’t have a particular image in mind, you can browse our searchable Featured Photos section to find one that speaks to you. With so many great options, it may be hard to choose, so to get a sense of the images available, try searching for ‘hdr scenery’ or ‘bokeh wallpaper’ in the Featured tab.
No word on whether or not Google Apps users will also get personal backgrounds, but we’ve contacted Google to find out.
Check out the personal backgrounds in action in the video below:
Filed under: VentureBeat
It feels like it was just yesterday that I was downloading Fruit Ninja on a review unit of the iPad, swiping away at juicy watermelons and nearly-invisible kiwis.
But the app has been around for a while — two years to be exact. And over the span of 24 months, Halfbrick’s deliciously addictive game has become so popular that it is now installed on 1/3 of the iPhones in the United States.
The app has surpassed the 300 million download mark, with 1.5 trillion pieces of fruit sliced. But the crazy stats don’t end there. Every day, the cumulative time we spend playing Fruit Ninja over the course of 24 hours tops 100 years. Who knew slicing flying fruit would be such a sensation?
That said, an update to the app is available now in the App Store, offering a few new features, fruits, and a virtual currency: Starfruit. Gutsu and his merchant cart are now acting as a marketplace, from which you can buy power-ups that let you add time, explode, or swat away bombs in exchange for Starfruit.
In other words, expect to see both scores and in-app purchases go up in Fruit Ninja.
Check out the video introducing Gutsu:
In this, the second part of our short series on boosting conversions on your blog, it’s time to look at your conversion funnel.
Yesterday, the Blog Tyrant showed us how to review our offer of a paid or free product or service. Through that analysis, you should be able to pull together some detailed and valuable information about your product. That’s great, but the other aspect that the Tyrant touched on was your conversion funnel.
I want to take those ideas a step further today.
Understanding your conversion funnel
We’re talking in this series about conversions for any product or offer—so that could be a product or service you’re selling, or it could be a free subscription you offer on your site.
Whether it’s free or sold for a price, your offer has a conversion funnel. The Web Marketing Ninja showed us this one in his article, How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel for Success:
The key is that at each point in your conversion funnel, you’ll lose potential customers.
As the Blog Tyrant explained yesterday, you can use your blog stats package to review where, exactly, those losses are occurring.
And as the Web Marketing Ninja explains in How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel, the best thing to do is put measures on each point in the funnel so that you can understand what, exactly, is happening at each point in the conversion process. He says that looks at as much data on each point in the sales process as he can—and that includes bounce rates, time on page, entries and exits through the page, traffic sources, and so on.
So the conversion funnel review process might look something like this:
- Go through your site, and map each step in your conversion funnel.
- Look at your analytics work out what you’ll measure at each point in the funnel.
- Put numbers against the metrics you’ve decided to measure at each step.
Understanding the data
Once you work through this process, you’ll find yourself armed with a lot of data. How you interpret that data will go a long way toward boosting your conversions.
For example, finding that you have a high exit rate from a page in your funnel means people are leaving it—you’re losing potential conversions at this point. That’s good to know, but that information alone doesn’t tell you what you can do about it.
In working out implications of that information you may need to also look at bounce rates for the page, and where the traffic it receives is coming from, for example. This information can be a big help in making the right choices when it comes to tweaking the funnel.
Most visitors go straight from that default page to Amazon or B&N. But let’s imagine that a significant percentage click through to the About page … and then exit without clicking on one of the Buy buttons, or subscribing.
If I look at the data, and all I see is that this page has a high bounce rate, I might be tempted to try a range of different strategies to fix that. But what if I look at the traffic sources and notice that a large percentage of users are arriving at the About the Book page through search engines?
The About page doesn’t have any Buy buttons above the fold, so if users are coming from a search engine, where they’ll likely also see an Amazon or B&N link in the results, they may immediately think, “Oh, this is just marketing information. I’ll click back and look at the details on Amazon—I know I can buy the book there.”
In this case, my strategy for tweaking the sales funnel will differ from the ideas I had when all I noticed was the high bounce rate. My efforts might also include improving the search rank of the default sales page for the book, if it’s appearing below the About page in the SERPs, but converting better.
As you can see, understanding the data as a whole is very important if you’re to make decisions that will have the best likelihood of positively affecting your conversion rates.
Focus on key points of loss
As you review your funnel, you’ll also need to consider where to focus your efforts to improve it.
While the data may reveal a number of areas for improvement, you’ll likely find that some will produce a much bigger bang for your buck—as the Ninja explained in this recent post. If your time is limited—and whose isn’t?—you’d be best to focus on these pages, if not exclusively, at least initially.
As you’re looking at those pages, don’t limit yourself to considering one or two factors. Often, we can become fixated on things like button size or placement, and forget about other considerations that might be negatively impacting conversions. These could include:
- headlines, sub-heads, and scannability of the content
- how we’re using images and where they’re placed
- whether the language on the page resonates with users
- the strength of your calls to action
- links to other content, including navigation links
- use of testimonials
- offers of samples
- the page’s purpose in the conversion process, and whether it meets that from a fundamental, usability standpoint.
These are just a few ideas, but consider them broadly. For example, reviewing the strength of your calls to action is on that list—but that doesn’t just mean the calls to action to buy your product.
The ProBlogger Book sales page includes subscription box. Should that remain on a low-performing page? Should it be removed? Is it likely to be diffusing the strength of my call to action or is it providing a valuable mechanism by which I’m capturing new subscribers who may not be ProBlogger regulars?
My analysis of the data, coupled with my strategy for the page and goals for the conversion funnel, should help me determine the answers here.
Match the changes to your users
A quick final point: you’re not in the dark when it comes to trying to work out what tweaks you’ll make. In a later part of this series, we’ll find out how to conduct split tests that will help you to test various incremental changes so that you can see which ones work best, and use those.
But even before you get that far, the audience research that the Blog Tyrant was talking about yesterday should give you some insight into how you can alter points in your conversion funnel to match the needs, characteristics, and expectations of the audience you’re seeking.
He mentioned, for example, that video can be useful for certain audiences—perhaps that’s something I should consider adding to my book’s About page? I know from my other data and reader feedback that my regulars love video content, so it seems like it could be a good idea…
Ready to act?
Once you’ve finished reviewing your sales funnel, you’ll have a pretty clear idea of the possibilities before you for boosting conversions. It’s time to act.
Tomorrow, Tommy Walker will step us through the changes he actually made to his own website in an effort to improve conversions, so that we can get a first-hand account of how all this research feeds into practical alterations to things like page layouts, calls to action, images, and more.
But in the meantime, I’d love to hear your tips or extra advice for reviewing conversion funnels—whether for a paid or free offer. Have you ever done it? What secrets can you share from your experiences? Let us know in the comments.
Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Unless you’re a kitchen ninja that can plan and measure out the exact portions for every meal you make it’s likely you find yourself wasting good food because you didn’t plan right, you forgot about it, or you just had no idea what to do with it. Thankfully, it’s not too difficult to cut down on your kitchen waste. Here’s how to do it. More »
This video comes from Google’s Matt Cutts and attempts to answer a pretty big question in a very short period of time.
Part history lesson, part education in the indexing process and pretty well done, it’s worth a look. Of course, if you are a “rock star ninja maven master guru ” of the search world you may find this beneath you. Oh well! For those who want to take a look, enjoy.
Gmail is amazing. It’s chock full of more shortcuts, settings, and features than you could shake a stick at. Even if you consider yourself a Gmail ninja, though, there are quite a few tricks you might not know about (and some that Google didn’t even intend). Here are our top 10 clever tricks built right into Gmail. More »
If you’re an Android and a PC, you should check out BlueStacks — before hackers catch on or Chrome sneaks in this functionality, take advantage. The startup’s software has been going like hotcakes over the last few months, as it’s offering a much-needed service for Android and PC users, having developed software that allows Android users to run their apps on all Windows PCs, tablets, and laptops — without any modifications.
Thanks to this appealing concept, BlueStacks lured $7.6 million in venture funding pre-launch, before adding another $6.4 million a few months later — all from investors like AMD, Citrix Systems, Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Ventures, and more.
The startup finally released its public beta on March 27th, and so far users have been eating it up. In the first 10 days after its release, BlueStacks’ App Player racked up more than 1 million downloads, with over 12 million apps collectively being run by its users. It’s on the heels of this early traction that the company is today announcing it has found yet another investor — this time from global telecom giant, Qualcomm.
Acting through its venture arm, Qualcomm Ventures, the chipmaker invested an undisclosed amount in BlueStacks, but from what we’ve been hearing from those familiar with the matter, the round was in the seven-figure range.
The startup now has over $15 million in outside investment, which is notable both in size (relative to the age of its product) and for the fact that BlueStacks has been able to bring together (at least symbolically) two of the biggest semiconductor/chipmakers on the market — Qualcomm and AMD. Not two names one typically finds side-by-side on a startup’s roster of investors.
“Consumers are increasingly looking for computing experiences that enable them to access their apps across different platforms,” said VP of Qualcomm Ventures Nagraj Kashyap. “We believe BlueStacks is well-positioned to capitalize on the marriage of mobile and PC.”
Again, for a recap for those unfamiliar, BlueStacks’ App Player is a free software download that gives Android users the ability to get one-click access to their apps on any Windows PC, including full-screen viewing. In turn, the startup’s Cloud Connect lets users push apps from their phone onto their PC easily and remotely, turning PCs into extensions of any Android-based mobile device, using their own personal cloud-based app channel.
Obviously, the big goal for BlueStacks is to bring the some 450,000 Android apps to those billion-odd PC users out there. If done right, it’s a fairly sizable market, to say the least. The other key to the startup’s beta release was the new ability to run graphics-intensive Android apps on desktop PCs, using its patent-pending technology called “Layercake.” Essentially, as we wrote at the time, Layercake allows Android apps to run on x86-based PCs, including apps written for the ARM processor, like Angry Birds Space or Fruit Ninja, for example.
The beta release leverages the PC’s graphics card to enable apps running graphics-intensive engines like Unity to process without hiccups, and also offers accelerometer tilting and pinch-to-zoom smartphone UI features to the desktop via mouse and keyboard prompts. Users can also now download apps from within BlueStacks even if they don’t have an Android phone, and can send and receive SMS messages on their PCs.
The company partnered with the developers behind apps like Fruit Ninja, SliceIt!, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Townsmen, Evernote, Defender and StumbleUpon for its beta release. Shainiel Deo, the CEO of Halfbrick (the makers of Fruit Ninja), said that the appeal of BlueStacks’ software is that developers don’t have to port or modify apps to run them on PCs, meaning there’s no heavy lifting for those who’ve already developed apps for Android.
Of course, Android fragmentation could be a problem, as some users of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in particular have complained of trouble in syncing app data between devices and PCs — beyond simply syncing APKs — something which will be crucial for its long-term viability. It will also be interesting to see how BlueStacks deals with security, as some users pointed out that the software could become a victim of having to make repeated security upgrades as hackers catch onto loopholes.
But, in the meantime, BlueStacks could offer Android users a great way to avoid using data-time on their smartphones, reducing bills across the board. It also offers Android developers of all stripes access to the billion-user PC market, something which has previously only been offered for a select few, like Rovio and Cut the Rope.
In that sense, BlueStacks wants to become a developer platform, by which developers can build for Android and get a PC app version for free. It’s without a doubt a smart play, and with big money from Andreessen, AMD, Qualcomm and more there’s reason to believe its product will continue to improve, though it will certainly be interesting to see how sustainable the company’s concept can be in the long term. If Windows 8 tablets take off, long-term viability could be within reach.
For more on BlueStacks, check ‘em out at home here. Below you’ll find a demo video of Fruit Ninja fullscreen on a PC using BlueStacks software:
If you tweet a problem or complaint about your Sprint mobile service or device, you’re likely to hear back pretty quickly from a Sprint Ninja, an employee volunteer who will work to resolve your issue. While some Ninjas engage in this kind of customer support, others are brand evangelists. They all undergo training, and the effort has resulted in a measurably improved reputation for Sprint.
In this FIR Interview, FIR co-host Shel Holtz speaks with Sara Folkerts, who works in internal social media at Sprint and is heavily involved in the Ninja program. She discusses the origins of the Ninjas, what they do, how they’re trained, the results it has achieved, and where the program is heading.
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About our Conversation Partner
Sara Miller Folkerts is passionate about sharing, communicating, transparency and being open-minded. This has led her to her current job as a community manager and social media evangelist at Sprint. In addition to her role as community manager, Sara leads the Ninjas program at Sprint. The Sprint Social Media Ninjas is a group of empowered employees who want to connect with customers and spread the “gospel” of Sprint in social media.
Sara has presented on internal social media strategies at several conferences and at other companies. Where can you find her? On Twitter, of course! @saramiller.
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(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)