Tag Archives: iphone

Happiness Lies in the Absence of Choice

Every once in a while, I find myself going back to lectures on YouTube and Ted.com, remind myself that I should do this more often, and then completely forget about doing so.  Tonight is one of those nights.

This is a 20 min (21:20) by Dan Gilbert called “Why are we happy?” based on his book Stumbling on Happiness.  [Given how we waste so much of our time, this is a precious 20 minutes indeed.]

Dan talks about choice and the concept of synthetic happiness.  Synthetic happiness is when we didn’t get what we want.  Here’s an example I just made up:

You’re at a ice cream parlor and ask the server which ice cream to get (let’s pretend you can’t try them).  The guy recommends peach or pecan.  You pick the pecan but are wondering what the peach tasted like.  You’re happiness level is influx because you’re doubting your choice.  On the other hand, you ask the guy the same question, and he says peach or pecan but we’re out of peach.  Well, you say, get me the pecan then, you eat the ice cream, and you think, hmmmm… that was pretty darn good.

We learn in marketing that there is a balance between giving people choices & giving people too many choices, and there is an optimal number of choices but we can’t always control the market… or platforms.  What immediately came to mind, especially because I work in the social gaming industry is this:

Compared to the number of games on the iPhone, there are far less choices on Facebook, both in terms of genres & choices in each genre.  Giving people a select number of choices, it’s easier for them to choose.  Facebook has the top 20 games (you can go down by genre if you like, but I’m guessing most people don’t).  However, iPhone gives users top 25 and 50 in each genre.  That’s 19 subcategories under gaming and 20 if you count the “all games” category.  Holy smokes.

Is there a correlation between the limitation of choice and how much game developers are making/users are spending?  Zynga was valued at over $3 billion this year.  Playfish was bought for ~$400 million.  Playdom’s last valuation (in November, aka eons ago in interweb time) $260 million.  Top iPhone developers?  Confession: I don’t know.  I’m taking an educated guess in that none of the iPhone devs are getting such an astonishing valuation.

Yes, lots of factors play into this analogy, and I’m completely over-simplifying things.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong.  The influx of choice is a major determining factor in how popular a game stays, how well it monetizes, and how many downloads.  [It's one of the reasons, the majority of iPhone games have such a short shelf life; they're constantly being replaced.]

Okay, we’ve looked at ice cream.  We’ve looked at gaming.  Let’s zoom out.  To life.

This thought leads to my bold statement: if a poll was taken of the self-described happiness level of people in China and people in the US, I bet more China would have a higher happiness rating (and as it continues to expand, that rating will slowly drop down to meet that the United States).

Why?  There are fewer choices in China (well, not in current Chinese cities but on average).  In types of food.  Politics.  Parking spots, if you’re one of the rising middle class with a car (horrible idea).

Because, in sum, there are less choices to be made, there’s also less buyer’s remorse.  The absence of this increases the overall happiness quotient.


So. Without physical limitations to our choices, is there a way to artificially create boundaries in our lives that will help increase our ability to control our own happiness?  Do you believe choice is the evil villain in the pursuit of happiness?

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Hello World!

My cousin and me

My cousin and me

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging (in case you haven’t noticed).  I’ve taken a break from life as well.  Since the new year, I parted with SHIFT, which is still an amazing PR Agency; took a long, needed trip to China; popped by New York for a long weekend, more like almost a week; and am working with some cool guys on a new start-up.

Birds Nest in north Beijing

Bird's Nest in north Beijing

You can click on my Facebook badge to see my pictures from China and New York.  Those are all taken by my Canon.  The iPhone pictures are buried a couple of pages down in my Tumblr.

New York Public Library, Main Branch

New York Public Library, Main Branch

As for the start-up, we’re hoping to launch in the next few months.  I’ll be posting more about it, when we’re further along.  Totally ping me for the private beta.


Chinese Ugly Betty (on upper left)

Chinese Ugly Betty (on upper left)

Just in the last two months, I feel like I’ve grown years.  My finances are finally somewhere near the normal rate (I actually went to New York for 5 days and bought nothing!).  My food intake is healthier and more punctual. I’ve bonded with my relatives and cousins as an adult. I just feel more settled.  For the first time since I turned 19, I’m ready to face turning 25 later this year.

My 3 week trip to China sparked some of these changes.  China, in its adolescent years, is a completely different experience.  It’s like 1950s US, with thriving suburbs and more private cars, huge consumerism and still a nacent marketing culture to boot.  One of the most popular shows is the Chinese version of Ugly Betty, really cute.  But what’s astounding is that the entire show is sponsored by Dove, with (it’s an ad company) Dove commercials and a Dove logo at the bottom of the screen during the entire show.  And it’s totally accepted.  Would something like this fly in the US?

BTW, having an iPhone has been a huge life saver internationally.  Sure, I had to pay 50 cents per text and $2.29/min phone time, but when in a pinch, it definitely worked.  And it’s how I found out that my older cousin had his first child a week after I returned home.  It’s a girl.  I’m officially an aunt, or as close to one as I can be. :-)  (I’m bugging my cousin for pics now.)


Setting off 100K fire crackers to blast away the bad luck from yesteryear

Setting off 100K fire crackers to blast away the bad luck from yesteryear

It feels really amazing to write again.  I’ve missed it.  Didn’t know how to restart.  And finally decided to start writing.  Hi again! :)

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From God to Godless to Godfull

Three thoughts:

“San Francisco is godless.”

I paraphrase but that’s what my friend told me over dinner last night.  Why?  SF is hugely liberal, progressive and largely accepting and non-religious.


“Apple evokes a similar response to a religious experience.”

Again, I paraphrase.  It’s from the book Buyology, about marketing, marketing research and buying habits by Martin Lindstrom.


“As people evolve, the characteristics of ‘God’ change with them.”

You know what I’m about to say.  This is one point from History of God, an exploration of the three major religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


So does this mean consumerism is the new God?

Okay, okay.  We’re in a recession.  Stores are closing its doors left and right, and brands are scrambling to mark prices down since before Thanksgiving in an effort to sell sell sell during the Holiday Season.

Well, first of all, we’re talking about strong brands, brands like Apple and Coca-Cola, etc.  Sure, they hurt during a recession too, but they’re not likely to go away.  Also, let’s think in the long term.  This economy thing isn’t going to last forever (knock on wood, salt over the shoulder and all that).  What about in the long run?

More and more, I’m seeing that the younger generations are identifying more with brands than religion.  Instead of going to church, we’re waiting for the new release of our favorite labels.  It’s not just about the technology or design; it’s about lifestyle, self expression and social standing.  Why pray to a grand being who’s become bogged down in religious politics and causing strife worldwide?  Brands speak directly to who we are and where we live.  Islam and Christianity segregate but can’t everyone enjoy a Coke?

Maybe that sounds pretty extreme.  We’re probably not going to have Oprahism or Bartism (remember that Simpson’s episode where Bart become a religion?).  No, we can’t use 20th century traits to define the new religious experience.  But we can draw other parallels.

Waiting in line for the new iPhone, the people around me felt a bond.  We were all freezing, all impatient and yet all energized at the prospect of the new shiny box from Steve Jobs.  Getting the 3G iPhone isn’t about utility but about 1) our lifestyle, 2) our social status in getting one first- okay, exclusivity wasn’t based on social standing but still, and 3) the white glow of the Apple store and its products is bordering on seeming heavenly.  The Apple fan boys act more like a religious cult than just any excited fan base.  (You can read more about it in Buyology, but I’m not here to peddle, and these are only loosely based on what I read.)

It seems that we’ve evolved from God is angry, which is why our crops fail and our wives die from childbirth.  To God is merciful and rewards good deeds.  To God is a bureaucrat and if you can’t read, you’re really at least 5 layers from God with the priests and cardinals and so forth.  To God is democratic and everywhere.  To God loves you unless you’re Muslim or gay.  To God like whatever.  To God?  Oh, btw, did you hear about the new Adidas line?

We’ve gone from “godless heathens” to “God” to “Godless.”  Now will brands be the new gods?

If the answer is yes, don’t worry.  All the major designers carter to all price points by sub-branding, Marc Jacobs, Marc by Marc Jacobs… soon Target by Marc Jacobs?

(Not-so-secretly, I’m praying yes because that means I’ll still have a job and career years down the line. )


Filed under just life, politics, pr/marketing, social, stuff, tech

Making My Ears Bleed

My friend (err whose URL I can’t find right now) was telling me that having just moved from the east coast, BART makes his ears bleed, and I should invest in some non-iPhone-standard earphones.  The ones he uses are pretty much ear plugs with a hole in the center, allowing the music to flow in.  A pretty smart investment, seeing how I have to turn my volume all the way when I’m on BART.

I may not be getting those, but I’m definitely getting these:

or these:

from SkullCandy.


I’m kind of sick of being an iPhone sheeple.  I mean I like the machine itself but can’t stand the whole fanboy thing that comes with it… My life is a bit more grunge and dirty than the pristine, sterile design of the iPhone.

Changing headphones would do really well in helping with that image.  In any case, my hearing’s starting to get really bad.

… What?

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Ridiculous Bag Addiction

Okay, obviously, I’m a consumer and shopaholic, but paying $6,000 for a bag is RIDICULOUS!  Even if it WAS retailing for $16,000.  Who has $16,000 to spend on ONE bag?  It’s a BAG.  You can buy a CAR with $16,000.

There’s a limit to which a rational human being shouldn’t ever cross for luxury goods.  I understand if the bag had Picasso’s last work grafted onto the leather or something but not for the sake of artificial exclusivity.  I don’t care if some designer only made 6 of them and recently died of a tragic suicide after being scorned by her lover (I made the last part up).  It’s not worth it.

Yes, I’m fully aware that this is just my opinion, and some people thought I was nuts to spend $500 for the Asian version of the LG Chocolate (it’s prettier/sleeker/unlocked) or $650 on the iPhone last year.  Yes, I realize that according to Save the Children, I could have sponsored 4.5 kids for a year (or 1kid for 4.5 years- which makes more sense than sponsoring half a child).  But even with different opinions, I’d like to believe that anything over $5,000 for a bag is beyond rational comprehension for most people.  In fact, I’d say more than half of the US population (because I don’t feel like setting a global consumer price index) would agree that $500 is too much. The only exceptions I can think of are 1) for fine art- yes, it’s subjective, but fine art is not a bag you carry around every day; 2) for the 2% of the population who are billionaires times over.


Read the description for the bag above:

Live For Vivier!

Authentic Roger Vivier Limited-Edition Handbag—ONLY 6 WERE MADE! Comprised of a green alligator, this heavenly handbag also features golden metal logo engraved hardware, three exterior zippered pockets, Lampo zippers, and bucket style tote shape.Fully lined with smooth brown leather and sports one interior zippered pocket. Originally retailed for $16,000 and priced at $5995. Box & dustbag not included.

Or take this bag for instance.  I thought the company put an extra “0” at the end of the original price. Then, I realized that this Jimmy Choo alligator bag really IS going for $5,500 and was originally $14,000.



P.S.  This is the conversation I just had:

Boy: stop buying stufffff

Me: whyeeee??  it makes me happy

I’m so going to hell…


Filed under stuff

Duct Tape Not Included

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die is my favorite recent read, and I’ve read a bunch in the last few weeks.

Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz explains how to spread ideas, while Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good by Sarah Lacy tells the fall/rise of Web 1.0 and 2.0 through eyes of those entrepreneurs.

But Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick, is the foundation of it all: how to successfully express your ideas in a way that’s memorable and inspires others to act. Their main framework (which like most communicators/marketers comes in a kitschy acronym) is SUCCESs.


Simple: Your audience isn’t going to remember 10 take-aways, but they will remember one that’s simple enough to recall and to survive repetition. The trick is to find the ‘right’ one, and it’s not as ‘simple’ as you may think. Idea creation goes back to your core message. Problem? The ‘Curse of Knowledge.’ It’s the inability to think from the recipient’s POV, if you already know what information you’re trying to convey.

Unexpected: Your message needs to surprise, provide more information or otherwise break the audience’s established paradigms. Most Web 2.0 savvy participants have seen dozens of logos/buttons with rounded corners, beveled 3D shape and a nice, shiny reflection. So making yet another rounded corner, beveled 3D box and nice, shiny reflection won’t get your logo noticed. See how much faster you read through the description the second time? Go back. I changed a few words, but I’m guessing most of you didn’t notice/care.

Concrete: Counterexample-

Ideas need to be concrete enough to understand and digest. The example above probably makes sense to math majors and engineers, but I have no idea how tay^rolf has anything to do with “peanut butter, jelly time.” The book has some lovely examples; mine comes from the 3G iPhone launch:

The lines around Apple & AT&T stores last week were bordering on ridiculous. You’d think the main goal was to “quickly and efficiently sell iPhones to everyone who wants one.” Nope. Because the two companies had different goals and seemingly no communication during the actual launch, customers complained. There was miscommunication (you can’t activate if you’re ‘flagged’ as a business customer but neither customer service staff knew that beforehand), long waits and server outages: both iTunes and AT&T activation. Apple wanted to drive as much demand through their stores are possible, so they had an incredible supply of 3Gs, while most AT&T stores only had a paltry 100 units or so. On the other hand, AT&T wanted everyone to sign up for service (and charge the $200 markup for those not upgrade eligible), so they bottlenecked purchase at the activation phase. If both companies could agree on a set of goals and convey them effectively to staff on both ends, hours of waiting and frustration would have been minimized.

Credible: The source affects if and how viewers accept ideas. You’re more likely to believe your comm professor than the Nigerian guy who’s emailing you about the millions inherited from some assassinated dead uncle. More intriguing is that ‘credible’ can change per circumstance. We ask for suggestions from friends but may rebuke endorsements from paid celebrities (are you really going to buy Lindsay Lohan’s new tights collection?). Conversely, we still read Perez Hilton to find out what celebrities are wearing, eating, dating and snorting as their drug of choice.

Emotions: By tapping into emotions, you can motivate people to listen and act upon it. How many of you feel a pang of guilt/pity when you see the adorable child on a Christian Children’s Fund commercial? How many even blinked when the news anchor told you President Bush attended the G8 summit to discuss poverty in Africa? I’m guessing the first generated more yes responses. Two reasons:

1. One vs. Many

  • We can build a stronger bond with a single person than 12 million because we can’t quite grasp 12 million people. Is that 20 football stadiums? 200? They’re so far away. That one picture of a starving child really ‘drives the idea home’ and makes poverty/starvation a reality.
  • It’s hard to imagine our $24/month helping 12 million people, but if it pays for school supplies, food and toys for a 8 year old Filipino child, sign me up (already done it :-) ).

2. Emotions vs. Analytics

  • Emotions bring people together by drawing empathy, while analytics cause us to reason and drive debate/argument. It’s a lot easier to get people to agree with you through emotion… on average.

Stories: Themes and story telling help engage and give context to characters. Great stories are often unexpected (David vs. Goliath), concrete (problem, solution) and emotional (go green! boo oil companies!).


You’re probably thinking, why did I just reveal the entire book? I mean, didn’t I just write that I wanted to do a proper book review?

Well, I didn’t exactly write a review, more an abstract. Two, most of what I just wrote was covered in the 1st chapter! Turns out each concept is not so elementary, and finding an idea that covers all your bases? Even harder.

My goal is that you could just read this blog and walk away with some basic knowledge to start slightly altering how you communicate- emailing, calling, blogging, texting or otherwise. OR you could buy the damn thing and find out a lot more. Be entertained by the case studies (another term for stories) and use the handy outline in the back, when you need to reference something. (God, I sound like a saleswoman.)

Hope I did somewhat of a decent job. :-) Now, it’s bedtime and then BlogHer tomorrow!


Notes: Thanks to my amazing boss, Parry, who lent the book to me. Uh… it might be a while before I get it back to you, since I already have 2 other people interested in borrowing. :)


Filed under pr/marketing, social



To the 3G iPhone: 2 days, 9 hours, 2 minutes


To the Beijing Olympics (on 8.08.08 @ 8:08pm… yeah, we like our 8s): 30 days, 6 hours, 10 minutes with the time difference.


Right now and more important to me, the iPhone. Gizmodo, like last year, came out with a useful guide with all the necessary information.

What you need:

  • Credit Card
  • Social Security Card (What the eff?)
  • Government Issued ID
  • Wireless Number & Pin (If you’re new to AT&T)

When to buy:

Starting 8am this Friday morning.

Where to buy:

  • Apple Store:
    • Rumour is that 750-1,000 units available. However, the Mac fan boys will surely be there, camping out with Red Bull cases; 2 week supply of beef jerky; the white, pulsing screen of their Macbook Pro; and a pristinely kept ‘old’ iPhone.
    • You should check stock at your local Apple store the night before. The site will be functional after 9pm this Thursday. Also, try driving by early in the morning to see if there’s a line outside, and check your other options.
  • AT&T Store:
    • Stock is said to be anywhere around 50 to 250, although numbers still seem vague. Luckily, the fan boys will not be there. Of course assuming the AT&T stores will have less people might fail, if everyone assumes that. So… we’ll see.
    • If you’re absolutely dying for the white iPhone, you might want to opt for the Apple Store because supplies at AT&T are sketchy at best.
    • You can only pick up one unit per person, and you MUST activate your cell phones before you leave. Also, expect to make the trip to an AT&T store, if you’re signing up for an enterprise plan.

If all else fails:

Steve’s not going to allow the rest of the nation to go empty handed. Therefore, you’ll get your iPhone in the next few days. That could mean waiting the whole weekend, but you’ll get it.


Hopefully, I can get one Friday morning… hopefully. :-D


If all else fails, I’m 90% sure I’m going to get a kitteh this weekend! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!


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