My first weekend with Uber - Areas of Improvement

I am late to the Uber party. I was in Denver this past weekend and decided to go “all Uber” to get the complete experience. (disclaimer: I assume everybody reading this agrees that the Uber experience is much better than the cab experience).

  • Timing on the pro-tips within the app. The useful tips seems to show up just after I use the app for that particular feature. Maybe the intent was to make sure I use the feature before I get the tip; but the execution was frustrating and left me feeling stupid and not pleased with the tip. (first rule of software: don’t make the users feel stupid. h/t Kathy Sierra)
  •  e.g. 1: I use Uber to get a ride from the airport. After I get into the car and the driver is on his way, the app informs me that “pros” would first get a quote before selecting the driver. Eh? is there any reason you waited till I was securely buckled in before I you gave me this tip Uber?
  • e.g. 2: uber-x ride back to the airport from the hotel. I get in, the ride starts and the app informs me that “pros are aware that in most major cities there is a fixed fee for rides to the airport”. I ask the driver if we are on a fixed fee ride and he says nope. Again, seriously? why not give me this nugget of goodness before I got into the vehicle.
  • Love thy customer. This was my first uber ride ever, so the driver said he had a $20 promo card for me. I took it eagerly, went to my hotel room and entered it —- BAM! “no soup for you”. Apparently since I have already taken exactly 1 ride, I am no longer a new customer and cannot qualify for that $20 promo. Seriously! Uber?
  • Surge pricing. Pass the sniff test. My guess is that Uber’s surge pricing is based on some heuristic around time taken to get a ride to the requester’s location. This can fail the reality sniff test. I wanted to see my experiment through, so I requested a Uber-X back to the airport. I was informed that I am facing surge pricing (1.75x) while right in front of my eyes, there were two yellow checker cabs idling. This is my choice and I get it. But I think Uber should find a more sophisticated algorithm for surge pricing. It feels wrong to gouge a loyal customer for being loyal. (yeah i am sort of whining here but I feel like I got ripped of) :-) The driver also told me that surge pricing sometimes appears and disappears within minutes, this is  disingenuous to customers.

Overall, I can absolutely see why this is such a freaking awesome experience though. I just hope Uber does not get too arrogant too soon.

Tags: uber denver
"Scott said these work-related lacks of confidence develop before we could even have a job. “If we’ve been raised in families where we were criticized and held to unrealistically high standards, we will have an emotional setting that said, ‘This is not good enough.’” In fact, Scott has experienced impostor syndrome herself. “I can still have a PMS day and be overwhelmed with emotion and think all my work is [expletive].”"

Impostor Syndrome in the Workplace—and a Few Ways to Overcome It




Sep Kamvar on the key to great technologies:

[T]he key to building great technologies is to first find your purpose. And you will not find it by polling your users.


The best surfers I know seem to have a sense of exactly where the next wave will be. They craft a style about their surfing and their life that seems to come directly from the water. Artists that I admire seem to be quiet and quiet and quiet, and then come up with something beautiful, as if the beauty came from some relationship with the silence. And the great programmers I know are always taking breaks from the screen to go walk in the woods, as if they receive the most difficult parts of their programs by osmosis, and then just go to their desk to type it up.

Not to be forgotten: walking in the woods makes you smarter

I think a lot about what I would teach the younger version of myself. How would I prepare her for what life has become decades later? I see her struggling, searching, working, doubting, stretching. If I met her, we would take a walk outside so I could explain how focus works. In order to see, you must not look. In order to focus, you must unfocus entirely. Choose a thing and turn your back on it. Walk outside. Walk a line in the direction of the sun, the rain, the surf. If only for a moment. And that in that opposite direction, in nature, you see yourself.

Natural technologies arise from the heart of the builder” and when one’s head is down, it’s hard to feel your heart. Work it. Walk it. And build the world that can be.

The entire set of essays are really great.


Defining Problems

(via My Management Lessons from Three Failed Startups, Google, Apple, Dropbox, Twitter and Square)
"Think I’m a conservative East Coast entrepreneurship instructor who’s behind the times? Last week when I was in San Francisco and chatted with David Bergeron of T3 Advisors and Cory Sistrunk and Ed Hall of Rapt Studio, they were right on the same page. “The MVP mentality has unintentionally taken us away from ‘user-centered design’ and a focus on the customer,” they told me. “We have to focus on the WHY before we can focus on the HOW and WHAT.” For the entrepreneur, stop obsessing about your MVP. Your first question, before HOW and WHAT, has to be “FOR WHOM?”"

Our Dangerous Obsession With The MVP | TechCrunch


VCs should absolutely use the products they invest in

Fred Wilson posted a note on the redesign of his personal blog. I think (eyeballing) somewhere between 30-35% of all the comments there are product feedback on Disqus; most of them in the context of disqus + mobile. 

This is engagement gold to a Disqus product manager. Of course you need a thick skin but the quality of the feedback and depth of thinking was amazing. Too bad more VC’s don’t assist their portfolio companies like this.



I posted a few days ago revisiting the inflation versus deflation argument. I provided a very brief comment there on

Then yesterday Marc Andreessen asked on Twitter about the arguments linking computers to deflation. I am sure others have data on this but here are some of the different…

Step 1: Stop denying reality.

Step 2: Stop the blame game

Step 3: Stop trying to fight change/entropy

Step 4: Figure out a way to help the world with change management.


Dropbox - lessons learned

Tags: dropbox

Satya Nadella and Steve Jobs

"What causes people to be poets instead of bankers? When you put that into products people can sense that. And they love it."  - Steve Jobs

From his interview with Robert X. Cringely - as seen in this post by Luke Wroblewski

"Microsoft’s new CEO finds relaxation by reading poetry, in all forms and by poets who are both Indian and American. “It’s like code,” he says. “You’re trying to take something that can be described in many, many sentences and pages of prose, but you can convert it into a couple lines of poetry and you still get the essence, so it’s that compression.” Indeed, he says, the best code is poetry.” - Satya Nadella

From his bio page on the microsoft web site.