Flickr Badge

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Completion list for 2014

It's the end of the year, which means it's time for the completion lists for the year.


I only managed to complete 10 books this year. I was shooting for 12, so fell a couple short.

  • Nintendo 3DS - 8
  • Nintendo Wii U - 3
  • PC - 2
  • Nintendo DS - 1
  • Windows Phone - 1
Obviously Nintendo was the platform of choice this year, especially the 3DS. It is just more comfortable for me to play handheld. The Wii U's gamepad has generally been criticised, but I love the off-TV play feature. Most of the time was playing on the gamepad like a handheld, while others used the TV. This is an awesome, awesome feature.

Board Games

Crossed 10+ Plays this year
This was the year that I got into board games. Since I have a wide variety of genre interests, I selected one game of each type. Here is why I picked each of these games:
  • Dungeon Crawl - Descent 2nd ed
  • Filler - Love Letter, Hanabi
  • 2 Player - Jaipur
  • Party Game - Resistance: Avalon
  • Cooperative - Sentinels of the Multiverse
  • LCG / Deck Building - Star Wars LCG
  • Family / Gateway - Takenoko
  • Heavy Euro - Brass, Terra Mystica
  • Worker Placement - The Manhattan Project

Monday, June 03, 2013

Game Review: Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble

Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble. With a title like that, how can you not play this game? And more so when it has got an 81% average rating on MetaCritic and was nominated for Best Writing on the Writer's Guild of America awards in 2009 (the game was released in 2008) So my curiosity piqued, I decided to spend a couple of weekends seeing what the fuss was about.


You pick a girl to play as, and in the introduction – which doubles as a tutorial – you start by recruiting three more girls into your gang. After that it all about talking to other people and progressing the plot. Progressing the plot involves winning minigames: Taunt, Expose, Fib and Gambit (introduced later in the game). 

Taunt is an insult-retort game similar to insult swordfighting in Monkey Island. You win if you say an insult that the other person doesn't know the retort to, or if you correctly choose a retort for their insult. The catch is that you only learn new taunts and the correct retort when they are used against you for the first time. So a part of the strategy is losing a few games by learning new taunts and retorts on side quests, so that you are better equipped on the main quest.

Expose is a word game where you are given the thoughts of the person you are talking to, but every word is covered. You can uncover a certain number of words. After that you have to guess the remaining words from the context by selecting from six choices for each word.

Fib is a mostly luck based game, a cross between poker and bluff. You win if you either have a better hand, or you successfully bluff and call on the opponents bluff.

Gambit is a slightly complex variation on rock-paper-scissors.

Gameplay basically involves playing the minigames against people you meet in order to get information needed to progress the plot. At first it is quite repetitive as the story starts slow and you tend to lose a lot of the games, but as you go on the games generally get easier and story gets more involved. So even though you're basically playing the same minigames over and over again, it is not as annoying as it is while starting out.


That brings us to the story, which is really the main part of the game. The story in this game is top notch, and I can see why it got a Writer's Guild of America nomination for writing. There is a *lot* of dialog, but it is well written, so even those who don't like reading much might enjoy the game. You start out slowly, investigating a series of small accidents in the high school, but before long you're exploring justice, society, marriage, power and corruption. 

The overall theme is based on feminist movements in 1920s America, with your gang of girls rebelling against a male dominated and conformist society. The characters are all interesting, and have reasons for behaving the way they do. As you learn more your views on each of the characters also change. Sometimes the person you thought was the villain turns out to be the victim, or vice versa. In the end, every person has their own reasons and none of the characters are black and white.

Although the themes are serious, the story itself is light hearted for the most part, until the end when it gets quite weird and dark. 

If you like a good story-driven game,  then you should give DHSGiT a try.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 Completion List

The last couple of years I've been keeping track of the videogames that I complete. This year I completed the following games:
Here is the list from last year.

Update:  Managed to finish Kaptain Brawe with an hour to go in the year! :)

I also tracked the non-technical books that I finished this year. Here is that list:
I wanted to read twelve books this year, and managed to complete eleven. I'm pretty satisfied with that.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why you need to validate your assumptions

This week, our team had to submit the second assignment for the Stanford Technology Entrepreneurship online course. The assignment was to make a list of hypothesis to validate and then to go out and conduct interviews and surveys to validate them.

When we did our survey, it threw up a few surprises.

Here is what we learnt:

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Startups: How do you promote your company without being annoying

Most engineer founders are reluctant to actively promote their startup. We always think, "what if they find us obnoxious" or "will they just send our email into the spam" or "will we get a hostile response". So this answer on Quora is a valuable lesson to all of us engineer founders:
Read Quote of Russell Wallace's answer to Startups: How do you promote your startup without being annoying? on Quora

This post is a part of the selected archive.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Why you should attend the Unconference sessions at Nasscom Product Conclave

Unconference? What is that? And why should you attend?

Everyone knows what a conference session is:
  • A conference session has a pre-decided agenda, with pre-decided speakers
  • Sessions are typically one-to-many between the speaker and the audience
  • Interaction is only for a few minutes of Q&A at the end
Often times, an interesting session can leave you with more questions regarding the execution of the concepts. For example, the speaker might talk about key concepts in marketing for a venture funded US startup. But if you are a bootstrapped Indian startup, then what modifications should you do to apply these ideas in your company? And what are other companies like yours doing?

That is where an unconference session comes in. In an unconference session:
  • YOU choose the topics. The attendees vote on topics that they are interested in, and we select the top voted topics
  • Sessions are discussion oriented. Everyone participates and there are no silent observers
  • Sessions are based on peer-to-peer learning. You learn from the other attendees, who are all product companies like you
The Product Conclave will have four unconference sessions, and YOU can shape the agenda.
What would you like to discuss at these sessions? 

This is the process by which you can participate:

1. Take a look at all the questions posed in this Google Moderator -
2. Please look through over 20 questions. If you find a topic you like, please vote for it. 
3. If you do not see a topic you like, you are free to create one and describe it a bit so that others can understand it. 
4. We will allow people to vote till 6th of Nov (one day before the Product Conclave starts)
5. On 7th morning, we will pick the top 3 (most voted topics) and assign one session for each
6. If your topic comes up, be prepared to be co-moderator. Your job is not that complex. You ask some seed questions to get the discussion started and share what you know.
7. Typically we expect 20-25 people for each discussion. Every one should get a chance to speak and ask questions. There will be no formal presentations. Just a brief introduction. 

We really look forward to seeing you in these sessions. Learning from peers in your industry is a lot of fun and if you have not done this before, you are sure to enjoy it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Is there such a thing as a bad idea?

I'm doing the online Technology Entrepreneurship course offered by Stanford this semester. For the first assignment, all participants are grouped with random team members into teams of 10. The assignment asks the teams to brainstorm 5 good startup ideas and 5 bad (eg: selling ice cubes in Alaska) ideas and create business models for both the good and the bad ideas. The second assignment asks the team to choose a bad idea created by another team, and make a compelling commercial for it.

The second assignment description says:
In entrepreneurship, it is very difficult to tell a bad idea from a potentially very good idea. The differences are quite subtle or even non-existent and it's often much more about the team and what they do with the idea. A creative, hardworking team can turn a bad idea into something with a lot of potential. Some go so far as to say that there are no bad ideas. Creativity is a constant resource that your team has that can be applied during the startup process to improve on business models and generate new even better ideas.

In fact, when browsing through some of the bad ideas, I was struck by how many actually have potential. Here are some ideas submitted in the "bad ideas" category that I came across which may turn out to be good ideas:
  • Selling umbrellas in summer season: The person who submitted this idea is from Europe, and I can imagine how he thought obviously what a dumb idea this was. But come to India or other equatorial countries and see how many people use umbrellas to protect from the summer heat.
  • Disposable paper T-shirts: Not exactly paper, but Lyocell is a fabric derived from wood pulp, just like paper is. And there is demand for cheap, disposable, single-use fabrics in the medical industry (See slide #30 here [PDF]).
  • Spicy ice cream: This was one of the bad ideas selected by my team. But, it turns out that spicy ice cream is a popular flavour with many recipes online.
So what do you think? Do we throw away many "bad" ideas which could be great ideas with a little creativity?

This post is a part of the selected archive.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why are so many entrepreneurs embarrassed to want to make money?

I don't get it.

Many people who attend Chennai Open Coffee Club want to start on an idea or a business. But when it comes to figuring out how to make money, so many people get embarrassed and say "I dont want to run a business to make money, I just want to [insert noble cause here]", where noble cause may be something like "help the poor", "assist the farmers", "improve the quality of education" etc. Or they say that they want to become a "social entrepreneur", whatever that means.

Why are we so conscious about wanting to make money? Why do so few people say, "there is huge problem X, users with problem X are willing to spend money, and we want to solve that problem X and collect all these pots of money". Somehow a lot of people feel insecure about phrasing things like this. It makes them feel like unethical money grabbers.

Listen, there is nothing unethical about it. You aren't getting money for free. You are getting it for solving problem X.

And even if you have some noble scheme in mind, remember that without money coming in, you'll soon close down, and your noble scheme will die with it. And if you are thinking "I'll start an NGO" then remember that the same economics are in play for NGOs as well: End of donations equals end of vision. Which is why many NGOs actually spend more time and money on fundraising than their actual activities.

So, don't be embarrassed about making money. Search for an idea that will make you rich. Then work back from there.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sequence - Start acting on user insights

This weekend was in50hrs Chennai edition, and Kausik and I decided to make a small app for SaaS developers called Sequence [until we come up with a better name]. For those unaware, in50hrs is an idea-to-prototype event where you have to code a product from scratch over a weekend. (Somewhat like Startup Weekend)

Sequence allows you to create rules that match against user activity in your app and take appropriate action.

  1. If a user signed in, and was then inactive for 2 days, send a notification to the sales guy to call the user and follow up [Simple follow up action]
  2. If a user has not used the product for 30 days, send them an email with a discount code [Simple re-engagement]
  3. If a user has signed up from facebook referrer, then show them facebook integration features. If they signed up from a twitter link, show them twitter integration features. [Simple segmentation]
  4. If a user is highly engaged, send an email explaining the benefits of upgrading [A mistake the many web apps do is to send this message based on time. For instance, a week before the trial expires. That is the wrong time, you want to send it when the user is at the peak of usage. If they are highly engaged on day 7 of the trial, then send this email on day 7]
  5. If a user has started using the app a little, and has not yet liked the facebook page, send them an email asking them to like the facebook page to get 100 free credits [Timing the message when they are starting to get engaged and are most likely to perform this action to get free credits.]
  6. After the user has done the basic activities, send them an email highlighting an advanced feature [Holding off emailing about the advanced feature until they are somewhat comfortable with the basic feature]. Bonus: Integrate with Tour My App to show a tour of this advanced feature.
It's pretty straightforward really

So, how does Sequence work?

1. Integrate with Analytics

Most apps already have user activity data with one of the popular analytics tool - Mixpanel, KissMetrics, Totango etc. Sequence integrates with their export API to pull in daily (could be hourly too) raw data, process it and store it. We simply reuse the data you have for analytics instead of building a clickstream data repository ourselves. The advantage of this is that your don't have to do any integration on your page - no Javascript, no backend calls etc. Just hook Sequence up with your analytics account.

For in50Hrs we integrated with Mixpanel, since that is what we use in our other products.

2. Create rules

Once you have your data processed and stored in Sequence, it will match it against a series of rules that you can create, like in the picture above. Variables start with $ and special functions start with #. Variables are application specific and can be custom defined as per your application needs.

3. Link rules to actions

Once you have the rules in place, you can link them to actions. Actions can be anything - displaying them on a dashboard, sending a particular email to the user, sending a notification to the sales team etc. For the minimum viable product that we demoed at in50hrs, we displayed them on a dashboard.

That is it

That is all there is to Sequence. Link your analytics, create rules, automatically let the system take appropriate action whenever a user's activity matches the rules.


If you would like to become an early customer of Sequence, then fill up the form below. Note that this product is exactly 6 hours old, so its raw. Be prepared to rough it out.

Fill out my online form.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why did VCs/angels miss investing into Interview Street at an early stage?

Recently Y Combinator selected TapToLearn and Plivio into their program. This is after they selected Interview Street in an earlier batch.

I don't know TopToLearn and Plivio personally, but Vivek from Interview Street was pretty active in the Chennai startup scene for a long time before moving to Bangalore and finally into YC.

He bootstrapped for many years while pivoting on several themes. Apart from Morpheus, who bought into his idea, why didn't any other Indian investor buy into it?

I'm sure a lot of VCs and angel networks would be kicking themselves now. They had a chance to invest early into a global startup that is now going places, and they missed the chance. Instead they will invest millions into the next shaky e-commerce, travel or deal site.

It's embarrassing when they have these companies growing right under their noses, and it takes YC to recognise them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sharon Lee

Sharon Lee
Originally uploaded by Siddhi
Model shoot. The dress is a modern version of the cheongsam.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bathing Pool

Bathing Pool
Originally uploaded by Siddhi
This is an image of the Roman bathhouse at Bath. It was built around 50 AD by the Romans and has been preserved until now. The water is an unusual green colour because of algae growing in it.