Rita Turkowski's Blog http://blog.sasfepu.org connecting polygons & vertices in the graphics & game industry marketplace... Sat, 13 Jan 2018 08:55:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 https://i0.wp.com/blog.sasfepu.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/cropped-512SqRitaforBlogFlavicon.png?fit=32%2C32 Rita Turkowski's Blog http://blog.sasfepu.org 32 32 The ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what’ of x-stitch.io under development http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=828 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=828#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 00:33:39 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=828 I started a questionnaire for gathering requirements from well-known x-stitch designers worldwide – to send this Typeform to: https://ritaturk.typeform.com/to/qGeHVh (still a WIP) and the completed preliminary requirements gathering one sent to a few top notch designers: https://ritaturk.typeform.com/to/NAlTUw.

But first, from the mind opening and inspiring TED talk by Simon Senek:  Why, How, What on Youtube:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy ‘why’ you do it” – Simon Senek

Why do we do it?  We understand someone’s sense of passion and desire to design cross stitch patterns. We do it because we love cross-stitch ourselves from design to implementation and we want everyone and anyone with an idea in their head to realize their design in cross-stitch – easily.

How do we do it? We do it by making a person’s time spent designing more efficient, with tools made more accessible and more fun; but overall, more effective.

What do we do? We make a cloud based cross stitch design tool within a responsive website portal that also includes a community with a public repository for designs.

Working on the 5th iteration of my design doc now, and hope to publish that here soon.

Stay tuned!

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Taking a break from 3D and starting a 2D cross-stitch design site! http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=807 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=807#respond Thu, 01 Jun 2017 21:34:06 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=807 A little known secret about me… after work, I love to go offline – usually pretty late at night, sink into my comfy couch, turn on my TV & DVR and stitch! Yes, you heard me right, I like to stitch, cross-stitch in fact. I find the tactile nature of the effort, and the slow but steady progression toward the finished work (not to mention that each stitch completed is like hand crafting a pixel…) really satisfying and particularly calming after a long day.

So, after some 20+ years of enjoying this off-line hobby, I have decided to try to make an online cross-stitch creation tool and website. It’s called x-stitch.io and it’s basically still in the design phase, which I will be sharing here frequently. We also have a prototyping area for designing cross-stitch pieces here.

My goal is to share the whole process from concept and requirements gathering, kept in Google docs, Trello and Typeform (did I say how much I love Typeform??) to screen shots of the  application either under development now or in the vetting process by volunteer talented *real* cross-stitch designers.

I hope you enjoy my journey to create a new online tool from scratch. I am the sole PM, marketer, “CIO” if you will indulge me, and my partner is the one and only full-stack developer. We are having so much fun, and hope to work on our little side project a lot this summer.

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Coding with Post-its (or solving Year 28 of Human Resource Machine) http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=784 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=784#respond Sat, 22 Apr 2017 03:11:18 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=784
Years ago, I had the good fortune to learn assembly language programming as one of the very first CS classes I took as an undergrad. I loved it and I aced the class, but after graduating in the late 80’s with an advanced degree in computer science, I ended up in research and coded only rarely. In hindsight, I now see that as a mistake, as women in tech especially benefit from their coding skills.

Fast-forward 25 years later, after a career spent mostly in graphics and media tech standards, product management and marketing, not only are my coding skills rusty, but worse, I’ve pretty much forgotten common computer science algorithms and systems architecture.

So, it was quite the experience working my way through Human Resource Machine’s 40 odd levels, called “years”. Humbling, and at times frustrating, I started the game in early January while on a flight overseas, and just finished this week. I found I mostly only had time to play while away from work/home/family obligations, needing at least two-hour blocks of time to think through the exercises without seeking online help. YouTube has many Human Resource Machine “tutorials” but they decrease a bit as the levels increase, as they generally get increasingly complex. You may be wondering why I wanted to even play (if you can call it play!) this particular “learn to code” game? I had already recommended the game to several non-techy friends who asked me what games to get to interest their kids in learning to code. But I said to myself: “Rita, you really shouldn’t recommend anything coding related until you tried it yourself” – as all too often, experienced developers find these coding exercise games trivial, but for some who have had no exposure to computing algorithms, and no experience writing code, even the simpler learn to code games can be off-putting, especially to children. This ended up being the case with Human Resource Machine, at least from my experience. My stepson, a straight-A high school student, for whom no subject seems difficult, said the game became just impossible for him after a few hours of playing and I know of others whose kids quit after around level 20 or so. Year 22, the Fibonacci Visitor, where you have to output the Fibonacci sequence up to, but not including the inputted number, is where/when the game starts to get challenging, at least in my opinion. From there, the complexity escalates with a few minor “breather” years in between.

I digress, and this post is really about programming with Post-its, something I had never considered before, but which worked out surprising well for me, especially considering the quite limiting assembly-language-like syntax of Human Resource Machine. The code is entered into a narrow vertical field to the right of the game scene, which gets frustrating to scroll through as the lines of code increase along with the complexity of the problem being solved.

So, by the time I got to level (Year) 28,I knew I was in a bit over my head. Enter the Post-it notes, which I think I got the idea from after sitting through so many meetings over the years where we would wall-paper Post-it notes to whiteboards during our scrums. Firstly (and for the first time since starting the game), I broke down and went online to find a sort-3 algorithm, quickly choosing this box-trick algorithm from the CS 201 class at Michigan Tech, just to wrap my head around the problem and try to solve it quickly in a way that made sense to me.

This image with the orange Post-it notes pretty much illustrates how I broke out the three subroutines for the sort from the main program, (one section each for whether A, B or C was the lowest valued number).

I ended up with 70 statements and went over the speed challenge, but at least my code was clean and made sense without crazily looping around itself. Designating smallest number “A”, largest number “C”, with middle number “B” I basically coded the six permutations of ABC, as you can see (if you look closely enough) at this Post-it: 

Note that I have used five Post-its, one for each of the mini-routines to test for each of the permutations above, except for A, B, C, which falls out neatly from the main program block.

My second biggest challenging level was Prime Factors, Year 40. I quickly got that 2 is the lowest prime factor, and considering how many inputs were shown, I tried to take a shortcut by simply dividing by 2 in a loop, and when I got to the first negative number, I dumped the number out as a number w/o prime factors. Of course, the game then presented me with the number 15. Bomb! Then, I rewrote it to try to find the small possible factor by cycling through, testing and recording the lowest prime factor (in 15’s case, it is 3 of course). I later discovered there are a number of solutions for this one online, but I’m pretty happy with mine.

At the end, I did a quick tally based on the game challenge thresholds given in the hints for each level, and I think I would like to refactor Years 11, 13, 14, 20, 24, 28, 34 38 and 39 if I ever get the time.

You can see all of my Years’ results (some good, some not so good according to the designer’s size and speed thresholds) on my GitHub page.

I would recommend encouraging students to play Human Resource Machine in a beginner high school computer science class, or as a warm up to an assembly language class, if they still exist ;).

 

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Best Practices for Developer Relations http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=758 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=758#respond Tue, 23 Feb 2016 06:37:31 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=758 Frequently when I speak with folks in the graphics industry about product management, questions about developer’s issues come up in conversation. Any kind of large-scale software development project requires support, so it’s not surprising we’re seeing the establishment and growth of developer relations programs in many tech companies.

This got me to thinking how they’re interrelated: in a very black & white nutshell, I see managing product a bit analogous to inbound marketing and developer relations as somewhat analogous to outbound marketing.

This is overly simplistic, but I think it helps frame the discussion for how to maximize developer relations’ success with the goal of shaping, shipping, and managing a successful product (for example, be it an API, a complete SDK, or perhaps even a game engine & editor).

It’s important to note that most managers involved with developer relations for software products hold a firm belief that anyone hired to work with developers on behalf of the company need to be as skilled (or almost as technical) as those very developers. I hold a slightly different view because I’ve had the fortunate experience to work with both sales engineers and technical marketing support folks in both software and hardware firms. Support from great sales engineers and excellent technical marketing people are as important to developers’ success with your product as your developer relations outreach efforts.

In my experience, I have not seen much in the way of formal processes in place around gathering customer information and requirements from developer relations engineers but I have seen plenty of process and even worked with some awesome applications for managing inbound leads as well as outbound marketing practices – many of which were inspired by developers using the product.

It may be worthwhile to apply some of the marketing industry’s best practices to engineering product management and good ole’ fashioned developer relations.

A keen awareness and repurposing of the various tactics, techniques, and tools from the marketing technology industry can help provide a framework for successfully managing the developer relations’ process in such a way that it effectively optimizes product. But first, let’s take a look at some key similarities and differences between the two fields: marketing and developer relations.

Establishing trust between company and partner/customer is first and foremost for both. In any relationship, be it born of a marketing outreach program or ad hoc developer-to-developer relationship, one must first establish trust.

I came across this great post on Quora based on the writings of “trust expert” Charles H. Green, who describes the 4 ingredients of Trust in (Understanding The Trust Equation). Here’s the conclusion, but I suggest reading the aforementioned Quora post if inclined, as the comments are also noteworthy.

Conclusion: Reducing perception of Self-Orientation is the greatest lever to increase trust in relationships.  Ask more questions.  Listen.  Don’t fill silences. Let the other person feel that their point of view, their feelings, their presence here are as important than your own. Charles Green also has a pretty cool infographics on trust on his blog.

Establishing a sense of trust and actually being trust-worthy are essential for any business to succeed, but seem particularly important in the sales and developer relation’s role. I think this is why marketing and marketers often get a bad rap from engineers: they are just too far away from actual customers, and therefore the trust variable may not factor in as seriously as in developer relations or business development. In fact, I do not think it’s too much of a stretch to say that I have seen many folks in business development with strong technical backgrounds take on the role of developer relations as well, especially in start-ups and smaller companies.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten trust taken care of – which may be the most obvious outlier that differentiates marketing programs from developer relations programs, let’s take a look at what they really have in common.

Key tenets both Marketing and Developer Relations share:

  • Opportunity to share your vision with the community that you think will either entice them heartily to engage with your product and/or solve their problems
  • Proactively listening to what the community needs and filling developer needs with concrete help and support via any conduit possible
  • Providing an easy to find, easy to use conduit for developers to offer you feedback, e.g., using social media’s ability to bring market feedback back into the mother ship
  • Analytics tools to measure outreach and feedback success. Note that marketing seems to have more tools at their disposal than developer relations. Still, any developer relations program can be strategically planned to take advantage of some great marketing and sales tools if architected thus.

Okay, now that I’ve drawn some hopefully useful parallels, let’s take a look at some of the better-known developer relations programs out there today from the likes of Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, just to see how they shape up in terms of “best practices.”

I’ll start with Google’s Scalable Developer Advocacy program:

From Google’s Reto Meier on Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-Scalable-Developer-Advocacy-team-in-Google-Developer-Relations:

Scalable Developer Advocacy is part of the Developer Relations team — whose role is to be the interface between developers and Google’s developer offerings.

More specifically, Developer Advocates on the Scalable Developer Advocacy team are engineers who operate at scale to inspire and teach developers about Google’s developer platforms, ecosystems, and APIs.

They are responsible for crafting a narrative based on developer and product needs and priorities; creating engaging, discoverable, and useful developer content (including trainingvideos,  blog posts,  social mediaweb sites, and conference appearances); and delivering and distributing that content at scale to as many developers as possible.

The team also receives and analyzes feedback from the developer community, and advocates on behalf of developers with Google’s product and engineering teams to adapt and improve the underlying platforms and APIs.

Google’s “content tsunami” pretty much sums up Google’s perspective on developer outreach, which while awesome in many ways, and certainly useful when searching for specific content help, may be a bit overwhelming to some. That said, a few years back, I was very happy to have the Chrome daily builds and plenty of blog posts about their new WebGL support around when testing some WebGL code.

As Google is well known for holding the bar of rigorous technical hiring standards very high, it’s probably safe to assume the content and support coming out of Google is best-in-class. Last June, Reto Meier also wrote a great post, “The Core Competencies of Developer Relations on this very subject. He says: … a thriving developer ecosystem needs a trusted Developer Relations team made up of engineers who are the interface between 3rd party developers and the engineering and product teams building the underlying platforms.” This perspective will surely enable experienced developers on their platforms, but it may be a bit intimidating to developers just getting started on their software and platforms.

Next up, let’s take a look at Apple’s best in class developer programs:

Apple’s developer outreach and developer relations are today considered by many to be best in class; just go to https://developer.apple.com/ to see how succinct, streamlined and efficient it is for developers to get the info they need – to a point. The point being their developer support ecosystem is deeply meshed to point developers straight to developing and submitting for their respective operating systems.

AppleDevSupportUI

Education is a bit buried but it’s still there, and their interfaces to information are second to none. I think Apple does a very nice job welcoming beginners and newbies as well to their platforms and OS’s.

Education is a bit buried but it’s still there, and their interfaces to information are second to none. I think Apple does a very nice job welcoming beginners and newbies as well to their platforms and OS’s.

And now Microsoft:

Microsoft’s generic website is a tad disappointing from the developer relations perspective, but a quick search for “Microsoft developer relations site” brings Microsoft’s top hit to Microsoft Edge, (screen shot shown below with my clicking on the drop down menu ‘Developer technologies’ at the top of the white bar).

To be blunt, outside of Microsoft’s deserved success for the Visual Studio IDE product line, crafting clever marketing terms such as “Edge Dev” when you really mean “developing with Microsoft for the Web” just adds unnecessary overhead for developers IMHO. Why not just call it “Microsoft Web Dev” or something easy to remember and find like that? I’ll probably never remember the word “Edge” again…

MicrosoftEdgepage

 

 

 

 

In any case, finding Microsoft developer support and information is not hard, and probably useful enough, thanks to Microsoft supporting developers for decades, as well as being fairly ubiquitous in the software industry, but it’s not something I’d want to model a new 21st century developer support program on.

Last, but far from least, is Amazon’s developer relations and outreach found at https://developer.amazon.com/public/solutions and from where I clicked on “Getting Started,” shown in the screen shot below.

AmazonDevGettingStartedPage

Amazon does a great job segmenting support portals for their various markets including platforms (e.g., PC/Mac, iOS, their own Android OS based Fire, HTML5, even game engines such as Unity), devices (e.g., Fire TV), to services (e.g., Alexa). Beyond that, but quickly findable from their developer home page, it’s easy to find resources such as API help, resources, and more support.

Extra credit for their Flipboard style home page:

AmazonDevSupportUI

But what about that framework I discussed earlier that takes advantage of marketing technology to support best practices for developer relations?

There is not much on the internet in the way of research on how to best manage your developer relations program but I did find this data focused article helpful from the London based agency Metia, because their report shows just how solitary is the work of a developer, how frequently they do the majority of their work from home, and how reluctant they can be to engage off-line, and if they do, it’s generally for key conferences and off-site training to enhance their learning. I have found this to be true in the game development world in particular.

Some of the marketing industry’s best tools can be put to effective use in the developer relations discipline if these programs can be repurposed to bring together connections and content to support your (developer customers’) code development process.

Thanks to the enterprise cloud computing era we find ourselves in now, many of these “marketing tech” SaaS tools provide the perfect test bed for in-house management of developer relations best practices. If an organization approaches management of developer outreach and relations similarly to how it manages product launches, this may enhance the developer’s experience with the supporting company, as long as there is no resulting marketing-like overhead to the developer.

What kind of tools can help?

CRM tools are of course now ubiquitous, but CRM is NOT DRM (repurposed here to mean ‘developer relationship management’), but… there are times a combination of a few great tools can be close to what is needed. Whether it’s community (forum, bug/issue tracking), or content (SDKs, code snippets, white papers, FAQs, etc.), “there’s an app for that” – and usually the one your developer end-user wants is open source and cloud based. Similarly to cloud-based applications such as Salesforce being nearly ubiquitous for business development professionals, applications such as Github, Bugzilla, Slack, Trello, Jenkins, etc. are where developers turn to for code access and maintenance, bug-filing and tracking, communication, build support, and twitter, StackOverflow, LinkedIn, etc. for community, education and help. You might even consider adding one or two good project or product management tools to the mix too if that makes sense. A nicely curated product management tools list can be found on Product Hunt but I think this Quora post has a more comprehensive list; still I found no applications really targeted at managing developer relations. There always seem to be plenty of project management tools as well. Capterra’s new 2016 list of top project management tools is worth a look.

From my own experience, CRM tools like Salesforce, Eloqua and Marketo can all be customized, to a point, to support developer outreach and developer relations programs, but I have yet to come across any marketing technology tools used specifically in a developer relations capacity (in practice). Finding, tweaking and using the best tools can help your organization create best practices for managing their developer relations team.

But what about hiring former developers as DevRel managers?

Too often (and with the best intentions), corporate managers tend to hire former and current developers for their developer relations team – and developers tend to do what they do best – write or tweak code. This is great and on the surface makes perfect sense, but it’s also important (even on a very limited HR hire budget) to hire at least one developer savvy marketing or business development professional. Today, many people in marketing or business have been working with engineers for years, and many have even dabbled in their own development projects. However, perhaps more important than technical ability or deep insight into the product is the skill to bring empathy and then trust to the table, coupled with the skills learned through years of marketing technical products. These skills, applied to developer outreach and relations, can be very valuable to the company’s stakeholders.

Experienced individuals who’ve worked in marketing for a while generally know well how to craft information in an engaging way, how to message it, and how to track results, but may not be as tuned in to the developer mindset as an experienced developer relations professional (with development experience). Joining the two together on a team can be very productive. A two-way symbiotic relationship between marketing and developer relations can bring out the best products for developers that are not merely self-serving the company’s bottom line – something we see all to often in marketing programs.

Marketing to engineers and software developers is growing increasingly more common as many new products entering the marketplace are for use online, in gaming or some kind of alternate or mixed reality space (e.g., AR/VR), all of which come with APIs/SDKs/ADKs and toolkits to access or enhance end users’ experience with the core product offering. Metia, mentioned earlier in this article, posted a blog on Venture Beat a while back that makes a lot of sense:Software CMOs, meet your toughest customer: developers.” Beyond documenting some of the obvious ways developers are more discerning from other non-engineering consumers, perhaps the best takeaway here is the fact that companies marketing to software developers need to be “… prepared for their enterprise-class expectations in terms of ease of use, documentation, service levels, and reliability.”

 Think of it this way: assume the software developer has a need to absorb your true value-add in a faster, more coherent way than what any traditional marketing campaign can deliver, delivered in a way that is counter-intuitive to the usual hype, rhetoric, or splash of a traditional marketing campaign. Work with actual developers both in house, and outside, to craft your messaging and deliverables. As the Metia blog post says, “The resources most highly valued by developers originated from product teams, including documentation, critical updates, SDK, sandbox, and test tools. The least valued — loyalty programs, vendor news, and product brochures — typically originate from marketing.”

Get developers what they need when they need it; use marketing tools to help deliver and manage your efforts but leave the fancy go-to-market plans for the end-user’s products.

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The Engineer Whisperer http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=737 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=737#respond Tue, 13 Jan 2015 01:21:38 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=737 Lately I’ve been asked a few questions about how to reach and connect with those developers who are so deep into writing and debugging their code, so dedicated to their own vision that they never ask for feedback once they’ve been tasked. Then, in the off chance late in the development stage they are asked to change direction, they either refuse, or become so difficult your job as product manager or program manager becomes a living hell. Sometimes, they even quit, which may be your worse case scenario.

To be frank, I’ve seen this happen many times on projects I’ve worked on, whether it be in product management, shepherding a specific program pre or post-launch, or just trying to help business development when they bring questions back to the engineering team. After many years working with software and hardware engineers, I’ve found three key ingredients are necessary to build a mutually beneficial bridge between engineer and customer. The first is empathy (for the engineers and their work), the second is trust and the third is respect. In fact, I have found them to cascade from one to the other. The second is actually a byproduct of the first, and if it continues in a productive manner, you are then able to build respect. Without their trust and respect, you won’t get very far with engineers.

Developing empathy, definitely a key soft skill, is easiest if the product or program manager has a keen sense of what needs to be done technically. Empathy is gained by focusing on mutual interests and a shared stake in the value of the work at hand, but is nurtured by listening, truly listening to the engineer first, and the customer second. I know this sounds paradoxical as the engineer is there to develop a product the company wants to sell, and the customer’s  (or stakeholder’s) requirement should come first, but if you don’t listen to the developer and the vision they have of the problem, you may miss some important benefit that perhaps even the customer hasn’t thought of and marketers are not even aware of. In fact, so many of the products we use today that enthrall us did not come from customer requirements but from creative people with a vision and the means to achieve their vision (through strong engineering followed up by great marketing). By listening closely and asking engineers questions about the technology, their work, their challenges with the project and what they perceive as their value to the product’s end use, you will learn a lot and you will be on your way to establishing the empathy you need to gain their trust.

Likewise, sharing your own vision and institutional knowledge with the engineer also helps as they often feel isolated due to the sheer effort of their own contributions. Sometimes you will agree with an engineer, sometimes you will not. When you do, and you act as their champion to key stakeholders, you have then won their respect as well. Do it repeatedly and you will win their trust. Conversely, you can still win their trust and respect even if you (or upper management) do not agree with them after you’ve established empathy by providing honest feedback followed up by supporting them in any way feasible as they cope with the challenge of working on something they do not agree with, or do not wish to work on.

You may be thinking, “easier said than done” but every real world software and hardware project has trade-offs introduced by the stakeholders or the creatives peppered with the temperaments of those who deliver said products. Many years ago when I was an intern at Bell Labs in N.J., a wise person once said to me “where there is talent, there is temperament.” This truth has not changed in all my working years. Sometimes the higher the temperament, the greater the talent, but sometimes great talent is meek. Regardless, everyone working on a product or program should to be heard, understood and represented. This is both a product manager’s and a program manager’s role.

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Thinking about GPUs as motor vehicles http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=732 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=732#respond Wed, 10 Dec 2014 05:12:51 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=732 Not long ago, I had a fun lunch with a former colleague (we worked together at two different semiconductor companies over the last seven years). Over some nice tea at a Chinese restaurant in Sunnyvale, CA we started comparing semiconductor corporate culture as it relates to vehicles. My buddy was better informed than I as he had worked (but no longer does) at the three distinct and best known semiconductor companies in Silicon Valley, although two of them now mostly operate their businesses outside California.

The analogy goes something like this: one company is just plodding along soccer mom style, going from point A to point B, mini-van style, not giving up, occasionally winning, with no real sense of urgency, but a good sense of commitment. Another company acts like a race car, everyone moving as fast as they can to win the race, with their eye on the driver, the owner of said race car. The last company is best represented by a big Mack truck, joining the race later than the other two, but winning by plowing down the competition.

Needless to say, I had a laugh as I thought it was a a great analogy and a fun story. I’m sure you can figure out which company is which vehicle.

Cheers,

Rita

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The Three Tenets for A Successful Software Product Marketing Launch http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=713 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=713#respond Wed, 12 Nov 2014 18:11:06 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=713 When I think about launching any new software “product” these days, be it for developers in the form of an SDK, consumers in the form of an app or application or enterprise in the form of a standalone executable or client/server application, I always first consider these three major “must-haves” or market requirements.

ProductTriangle

Every marketing plan for software (cloud based or otherwise) should include these three major tenets be fully addressed:

1) Platform: Platform coherency should be clearly defined
– Must be low friction for deployment and well documented for access (no excuses)
– Should be open source (if business feasible)
– Have a support ecosystem if the product encourages growing a user or developer community (aka: community forum, simple helpline email access, FAQ, newsletter, etc.)

2) Content: Content should always be included, even if the content is only code samples
– Content is what motivates adoption and sells the developer on using the platform
– Encourage user-generated content (especially if the primary goal of the application is UGC – think Snapchat and Instagram)
– Content can help you determine which distribution models may work best (the other way around is true as well).
– Content should help provide support for user acquisition, lead gen and more

3) Support: Support should be just as much business oriented as technical.
– Partner guidance (e.g., mobile platform advice, infrastructure tools such as Github, Bugzilla, etc.)
– Other possible synergistic partnerships (e.g., ecommerce tools, ecosystems apps and tools, support partners, etc.)
– May include co-marketing aids (if that makes sense for your product)
– Could be contract based and/or subscription based (or better yet, free!)
– If the product is technical in nature, such as an software development kit (SDK), expect to create developer forums, FAQs, and have someone on staff active in other internet channels where your developer customers may congregate.

I hope to write more about this soon, especially regarding content driving distribution choices.

Cheers,
Rita

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Why I love video game development http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=642 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=642#respond Thu, 16 May 2013 04:23:17 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=642 Do you remember your first video game? I’m talking about the one you made, not played. I remember mine like it was yesterday but it was more like 20 years ago. I couldn’t wait to learn how to make every aspect of it, it was totally addictive and I worked like 16 hour days to finish it. It took me three months. Alone. Thankfully I was being paid to make it. You see, it was actually a research project, and I was the young intern who “got multimedia” so I got the task as a young computer graphics researcher at a wonderful but now defunct research institute. So, what was the first thing I did? For me, it was learning how to do anything I could think of that would go into my game. In the early days, it involved everything from importing super simple art (never my own, often clip art like junk from the late 80’s or early 90’s) to crafting animation code so my characters would move in my simple scenes. After I had the basics (and it was very basic!) I then went on to think about adding some UI and interactivity in my game. I wanted to learn it all, and do it all, but I didn’t have a lot of patience. I was young (and probably stupid too). What I did have then was time. Now, I’m older, wiser, way busier but more experienced. I know I can’t do it alone and I know I would need a world class team. I also know the time to market for any game keeps shrinking, and the pressure to finish on time rising inversely.

The experience I’ve gained over the years has led me to a new understanding and appreciation of game development. When I think of a game I’d like to build, I immediately make a plan, even if just in my head. That plan always includes pulling together the best team I can find. I work on a storyboard and think about finding a great game designer. Whom do I seek out next? Artists, of course. And a bit later? Animators. The software developers and level editors come a bit later. And who do you think I would go to at the end? Right before publishing? The agency folks who find the right people to make a killer trailer. It’s always good to be prepared in case you want to go the crowd funding route, right?

Today, I wouldn’t think of doing all the art production in-house. I mean seriously, how few people in our world can create something like this amazing mythical bird from DeNA’s Chains of Durandal WhiteBirdFromChainsofDurandal
here?

I wouldn’t think of creating my marketing trailer in house either. Likely, you wouldn’t either. It’s just too expensive, too time consuming and too slow. Enter GameCo. They made this amazing creature for the good folks over at DeNA. I found these guys about six months ago and fell in love with their work, so much so that I offered to represent them at the Game Conference and GDC this year. They’ve already helped so many great studio’s get fabulous games out – on time and within budget. Look at Chains of Durandal by DeNA and Lord of the Dragons from KLab Games as just two awesome examples of game art by GameCo Studios. Now that I’ve moved on to new adventures in my life, I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out for GameCo. They are just THAT good.

Contact my friends at GameCo if you want to learn more about how they can help or contact me next time you hit the wall and art production is falling behind or worse, is just not going to cut it. I’ll make sure you meet the right people at GameCo.

They’ll help you get that art production done and it will look amazing. I promise you that.

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Five key lead generation strategies for game industry tech start-ups http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=549 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=549#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 20:39:01 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=549 Recently I was asked to pull together a simple “one-pager” on lead gen for a game industry start-up. While lead gen has been always been a big part of offline marketing (outbound marketing for sure), today any study of lead generation primarily focuses on online tactics (called inbound) lead generation. See HubSpot’s excellent ebook on the subject for instance and you’ll know what I mean. This said, I took it upon myself to think about what successful lead generation might look like both online and offline for companies providing tech solutions in the game dev space.

In my opinion, effective lead generation is a part of any creative, integrated, multi-channel marketing function that helps build brand awareness and reputation. It should provide a steady flow of qualified sales leads reflecting upon the effectiveness of your company’s marketing initiatives, both inbound and outbound.

Strictly addressing the problem from a marketing perspective, here are five ways you should address lead generation after determining the bait you are going to put on the hook to generate leads; in general lead generation offers are designed to motivate a response. The offer should provide a reason to act, or minimally, contact your organization for more information. It can be a consumer-like incentive with personal benefit to the recipient, or it can be related to solving a business problem.

Hare are my five key lead gen techniques:

  • Content marketing

Never launch anything without a blog, but your potential customers need to know the company, and especially the blog, exists, so you’ll have to work hard initially to get the word out.  Blog posts can be reseeded to analysts and game industry/enterprise industry news sites hungry for content. Start promoting your site and your blog on twitter, create a LinkedIn Group, or get very active in one in your area of expertise. Also consider answering questions on Quora as often as you can.  Write and publish white papers. Post your slide decks on Slideshare or Scribd or whichever site you like for publishing slide decks. Ask to get included in industry newsletters by writing some content. If you build any kind of tool, create repurpose-able content, or have an API or SDK you want to promote, try to get into any industry app stores, such as the Unity Asset Store  – minimally for market outreach (e.g., to send developers back over to your site to check out your product), or craft an SDK  to give away.

  • Live marketing

Do webinars. Often. Many services exist to support webinars, but if you want free ones, check out FrechTechTips.com 9 Best Free Webinar Software For Marketers And Businesses. More recently Google+ Hangouts has become popular. Everyone from the tech support folks to the CEO can and should participate, time permitting. Often the webinars flow well when presented in Q&A or interview form. Attend and speak at as many conferences as you can. Many gaming and game industry small conferences and meet-ups happen in big cities such as SF and NYC, so be prepared to travel if you don’t live in a bigger city. Have your execs and top tech guys do interviews wherever you can get them in. This is not hard if you have the connections. Cold call if you have to to make the connections.

  • Channels marketing

Seek out and take advantage of any and all possible partnerships. Bring on a few choice resellers. Research and make a short list for US, Canada, Asia, Europe, LATAM and Australia. Set up an affiliate service on or off your web site. Don’t totally ignore education channels. Have a presence at a few big universities so students are aware of the company. Good way to get good interns as well, and when they join the workforce they will promote your company.

  • Social media marketing
Gleanster Social Media Deep Dive Survey
Gleanster Social Media Channels used by Top Performers

Set up a LinkedIn Group or get super active on other groups and enhance your Facebook page, or create a new one for each product. Be on twitter every day, tweet and retweet often. Create a Pinterest page of any good visuals from games helped by your tech, fun “life at my_company ” photos and/or create and pin infographics about successful customer campaigns thanks to your tech’s help. Perhaps get active on Instagram as well. Go wherever game developers hang out. Social is easy and there are many paths to great social media marketing. I would suggest trying out a lead tool such as Lead Rocket to manage this in conjunction with any email campaign strategy you are already thinking of.

  • Traditional media outreach and PR

Put out Marketwire press releases from time to time. Work the analysts. Get on the radar of a few large analysts and hopefully get mentioned in their reports, e.g., IDC, M2 Research, Newzoo (Europe), Screen Digest, NPD, Jaffe, etc. which should lead to better, pre-qualified leads. Ask analysts, thought leaders and pundits to conduct product reviews for your product specifically. Good reviews are gold, less than stellar reviews will yield useful feedback. Take out a full-page or back cover ad in Game Developer or Casual Connect magazines if you have a catchy tag-line or clever ad, but user test it before spending the big bucks this requires. Consider traditional lead gen techniques such as buying mailing lists from IGDA, GDC, IGN, GBR, etc. if possible (and if desired). Obviously host game jams and contests. Charity:  consider contributing some tech developer time to Humble Bundle and maybe get a little exposure from this while contributing to a nice cause.

Lastly, make sure everyone in your company, from the admins to the CEO know how to state your value prop and your mission clearly and succinctly, as word of mouth is still your best (and free) marketing tool.  A value proposition is a clear statement of the tangible results a customer gets from using your products or services.

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The Promising Future for WebGL – Part 4: Obstacles to overcome http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=296 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=296#comments Fri, 21 Dec 2012 23:10:00 +0000 http://blog.sasfepu.org/?p=296 It’s no surprise that HTML5 has not yet delivered on all its promises. WebGL has some major dependencies on HTML5 issues being resolved before we’ll see many awesome games, efficient 3D content creation apps, or secure 3D enterprise apps. For simplicity, I’ve dumped the issues into two buckets, technical and non-technical.

Technical:

In the specific case of 3D interactive applications, there are several issues that currently prevent HTML5 to be used as a practical delivery platform. In particular 3D hardware acceleration (GPU) is still not available as a mainstream feature. While the specification for WebGL exists, unfortunately it has not yet been widely implemented on major mobile devices (i.e., no WebGL access on iOS) and on major web browsers (no WebGL in IE 6/7/8/9/10 where the market is still so fragmented it will take years for IE users to migrate up to 10, even if it did support WebGL!) Google and Mozilla (Chrome and Firefox) have been providing an ‘experimental-webgl’ canvas 3D implementation for a while now, but it still suffers from driver issues (see the blacklist/whitelist for WebGL capable drivers). More importantly, the WebGL 1.0 specification is providing a subset of OpenGL-ES 2.0 specification while native applications on desktop have far more capabilities through OpenGL 4.x or DirectX 11.

Pretty much everyone with any knowledge of HTML5 (in general) will tell you that the largest challenge HTML5, and hence WebGL, face is security. Beyond the many blog posts, many Khronos meetings and HTM5 related conferences, security remains the greatest obstacle to HTML5’s adoption, particularly for enterprise and business productivity applications. HTML5 has other obstacles to overcome before becoming mainstream, and those coming from 3D support not the least of them. None of the outstanding API issues such as those maintained by the Khronos Group public WebGL forum will matter much until HTML5 architects and experts finds solutions to more pressing concerns such as security, but also UX (including supporting push notifications), the ability to handle a C++ API (a la NaCL beyond Chrome) or even compute on the GPU (WebCL) for web applications. Another issue with HTML5 is that it is limited on access to device specific hardware. In particular access to file system is very limited due to security concerns, but also to other important device specific inputs – such as camera, microphone, GPS, or simply USD (devices). This alone is preventing HTML5 to be used to create web “apps,” limiting its use to only web pages.

Performance

In addition to pure graphics acceleration, performance in general is a major concern, as JavaScript is a bottleneck for any intensive CPU activity. While there has been a lot of progress made on this and more to come in the future, the path is not clear (Google Native App? Dart replacing JavaScript? Some serious improvements in Javascript?) on how it will all get resolved. WebGL does solve the plug-in issue, as JavaScript now has access to the 3D accelerated features without the need for a plug-in, but it only scratches the surface. For instance, physics, animations, AI and other CPU intensive operations have to be done in the JavaScript engine, which lacks the performance for that type of content now expected by the consumer. WebGL itself is also limited to generic 3D graphics features, and is available on a limited set of hardware and browsers. So for the time being WebGL applications will be limited to nice looking demos, experiments and 3D augmented web pages.

Non-technical:

When I look at the politics of WebGL adoption, browser providers such as Google (Chrome), Mozilla (Firefox) and Apple (Safari) all do a pretty good job supporting WebGL. However, Microsoft (IE) has yet to make a decision if they want to jump onto the WebGL bandwagon.  Whether they do or not, only time will tell if they lose market share for IE because of it, but their security concerns, and the way they look out for their enterprise IE customers, is admirable, if indeed that is their only true concern.

Mobile is a different story.

On mobile

You know WebGL for mobile has a way to go when one of the coolest things out there is actually a cute little platformer game that outlines the challenges of HTML5  game development for mobile. Look no further than the presentation game created by  Pascal Rettig on the html5gamedevelopment.org  site based on his own engine, Quintus, This said, the big takeaway here is the promise of  very efficient WebGL game dev that fully utilizes all the features of HTML5, paring a  small platformer game such as the one shown on Quintus down to just 60 or so lines of code! Beyond the write once, deploy everywhere mantra HTML5 developers espouse, let’s not forget that HTML5 and WebG should also bring developers greater efficiency and simplicity since HTML5 with WebGL will be providing so much of what they need.
Why have we not seen WebGL deployed on mobile, specifically for mobile apps. Why? Apple iOS lockdown and Google’s Android group’s aversion to all things WebGL, for very solid business reasons. Apple, (and even Google Android) garners no immediate marketplace advantage by openly and fully supporting WebGL for mobile, and what they provide for app developers in their iOS  and Android toolkits is not only sufficient right now, but also maintains their enviable profitable (and closed) mobile app development position. I suspect Google’s Android team will come around much faster than Apple will.

Regarding the competition

Adobe and Unity stand out as proprietary platform competition for WebGL. Adobe is not as much of a sleeping giant as one might think and Flash has nicely advanced to accommodate hardware accelerated 3D via Stage 3D. The Stage 3D platform   has also gained enough traction to have its own ecosystem of viable support applications such as Flare3D, Away3D, Alternativa and Minko, – all linked to from the Adobe Stage 3D website.

Unity continues to gain traction with significant software updates (Unity Pro 4.0 is now out, and includes advanced animation support via Mechanim) and a strong developer user base (1.5M developers and growing). It’s highly likely that for at least the foreseeable years, it’s proprietary platform will continue to be used by indies, non-game  developers, casino gambling developers and other kinds of developers who care more about using Unity’s easy to use editor (and/or require a cross-platform solution) than an open web platform 3D engine.

Standards

Khronos made an intelligent decision to open up the WebGL working group to stimulate and encourage open discussion, and their public WebGL forum – where most key discussions take place, was the right move for enabling the most comprehensive WebGL spec development. The other issue however is conformance. While Khronos has done a pretty good job with conformance test creation and testing for OpenGL|ES and COLLADA, they  did not initially a) make the tests freely available to be used informally by implementers and thus have their products improved upon because of such testing or  b) market the test suites to developers who may not also be Khronos members. Frequently I see complaints about COLLADA being too complex and that COLLADA’s complexity hinders the “adoption of the standard,” but if they knew they could conform to Khronos’ COLLADA conformance suites, they would be more successful adopting, implementing and supporting the standard. Fortunately, that lesson has been learned for WebGL and Khronos is ahead of the eight ball on this one, providing an implementer’s portal on Khronos.org from pretty much the beginning.

Summary

There is no doubt HTML5 will evolve into a fantastic standard framework for interactive 3D applications such as games, but it will likely take years for HTML5 tools to catch up to the quality we find today for proprietary 3D platforms. The entire industry is converging with the concept of HTML5, although this is currently a moving target with many different variations. Apple has rejected Flash (and it’s plug-in technology) in favor of native apps, or HTML5 content. Microsoft windows 8 will use HTML5 and JavaScript for their new desktop interface. Google is pushing HMTL5 technology, collaborating with all the web browsers such as Mozilla, Opera, Safari. The effort is on open source software (WebKit, chromium,..) and open standards to expose hardware to the web browser (not just WebGL, but also WebCL, streamAPI…).

HTML 5 is slowly but surely adding all kinds of technologies into the web browser and exposing it to web developers. Perhaps because of HTML5’s collaborative and open nature, as well as the complexity to create and deliver something that does not introduce security issues, it may take years before WebGL exists in a stable deployment environment. Also, Microsoft (IE) who still has a large part of the web browser market still has not decided if they will support WebGL in their browser, of if they will stay on the plug-in path with a proprietary solution, competing with Flash, et. al.

However, HTML5 is leveraging the web architecture, which provides technologies and lets the ecosystem decide how applications will be architectured between the client and the server. This is the strength of the web, the ability for the client(s) to collaborate with the server(s) and split where the data should be stored and processed for a given application, enabling content to always be up to date, and sometimes created on demand by the server. Because the server is visible to many clients, it also enables user interaction, made popular by social applications such as Facebook, twitter, etc.

 This concludes my 4 part blog post on The Promising Future for WebGL. I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to comment.

How to get involved

If you want to learn more about how to get involved making WebGL successful, check out the Khronos web site for all goings-on with WebGL.

Rita

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