Sunday, April 17, 2011

Technology Trends: Square and UI innovation

I personally think Square ( is doing a good job building an attractive product. What are they doing? Changing the way people pay (or receive money, to be precise).

I've been seeing the product many times on news and few times in real life, and seems that it's getting some traction. It is now processing more than $1M every day as of Mar 2 2011.
And why do I think it's cool? There are three things.

1. It's a User Interface innovation for the payment world
People usually don't associate user interface or user experience innovation to the payment. Payment doesn't sound sexy. But, take a look at the video below. You plug in a small gadget to the earphone jack of your iPhone/Android, enter the amount and swipe a credit card. It's a super-easy, sleek way for making transaction with credit cards. Recent hits in tech world show that UI/UX matters a lot. Very intuitive, easy-to-use, sleek interface attracts people. Square is making personal credit card transaction an order of magnitude easier.
Also, I think the physical interaction of swiping the card makes a lot of difference. Unlike paying online by pressing buttons, the experience is intuitive and feels real.

2. It's enabling what was impossible before
If I (an individual who doesn't have a cash register) want to accept a credit card payment, what option was possible a year ago? Nothing. I could use paypal, but it's a lot of hassle for the payer. What if the payer doesn't have an account? What if the payer doesn't have a smartphone?
With Square, you can make the transaction right there immediately. This opens up tons of new possibilities for individuals.

3. Unique idea of using the earphone jack as the hardware interface
Inventor of the stereo audio jack would never imagined that the interface will be used for processing signals for credit card payment. The audio jack is ubiquitous. All smart phones have one, and all of them work in the same way. Using it for interfacing a hardware is a very smart idea.

Having said that, I'm not using it for my personal transactions yet, because the transaction fee of 2.75% is too much for personal use. Still, I think it's quite useful for really small businesses or receiving payments at conferences etc.

As the last note, we could think beyond this particular case. Thinking about making experience drastically easier in something currently painful is one way of creating a new idea, I think.

# This post shares my personal view on technologies, and does not represent opinions of any organizations I belong.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Food and art - a restaurant in Taiwan

During the last business trip to Asia, one of the most impressive restaurant was the one in Taiwan. The restaurant is in a very remote place, about 1 hour from Taipei. It is literally in the middle of mountains. It's so remote and hidden that even a cab driver got lost on the way...

But once you get there, you'd be amazed by the beauty of the place. It has a beautiful garden (you can see fireflies there in the summer), and the rooms are modestly decorated in a unique oriental style.

Of course, the food was DELICIOUS!
The whole experience of sitting in the quiet room surrounded by tasteful decorations and enjoying dinner that's tasty and visually pleasant was quite memorable. I wouldn't be able to have the same experience in other place, I think. The whole package of this experience is an art.

I definitely recommend to go there if you go to Taiwan.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Beautiful new UI for Blogger

The new experimental UI for Blogger is very attractive. (you need a modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, latest version of IE.)
Since my blog has lots of photos, "Mosaic" view looks really good. I love it! I wish I could set it as a default for those browser that support it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan Earthquake Info Sources (English/日本語)

Summarizing info on the disaster / how to help people suffering from Japan Earthquake.
Seems that there are relatively less multi-lingual info sources, so hoping that this list helps. If you have friends who need such info sources, please let them know.

Multi-lingual information sites

Google Crisis Response site



NHK World News


NHK Radio

Reuters live blog

Disaster info on Twitter in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Korean, Italian and Dutch

Japan earthquake how to protect yourself (not latest news, but useful tips)

Donation sites


Japan Red Cross via Google Crisis Response

American Red Cross:
you can text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to Japan's emergency relief.

Links to donation sites:



災害情報 (Google)

災害情報 (NHK)

Save Japan!

Twitter info







Yahoo 基金

Google Crisis Response (日本赤十字)

Groupon Japan



Saturday, March 5, 2011

City Photos: Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Climbing

March 2011, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House

Sydney has lots of remarkably beautiful architectures. Two of them are the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. They are next to each other, and you can enjoy magnificent view created by the combination of those. Especially, boarding on cruise ships is a good way to enjoy those from lots of different angles. The photo above is one of those taken from a ship.

And the Harbour Bridge has something very special that no other bridge has. You can climb on the bridge, to the top (where the flags are in the photo above)!
It was by far the best thing I did in Sydney. The great view from 134 meters (440 feet) above is absolutely amazing. Being at this height in open space, the experience is totally different from normal observatories. Especially in the twilight climb that starts from 5:30pm, you can see the gradual change of the color of the sky and the city in daylight, dusk, then night.
It is an experience that you would remember for life.

I couldn't bring my camera to the top of the bridge (it's extremely dangerous if people drop their cameras. There are cars and trains running below), but I took pictures of climbers from the pylon later.

You can see people on the right edge of the bridge

Walking through the structure

The top of the bridge

Monday, February 28, 2011

City Photos: Beautiful Sydney

Feb 28th, 2011. Downtown Sydney in sunset with rainbow

Rainbow over the Sydney Harbour Bridge

This is my first trip to Sydney, or the southern hemisphere.
And now, I'm totally fascinated by the city. There are lots of interesting architectures both old and new, and the atmosphere of the city created by combination of those buildings and the sea is just beautiful.
And I was very lucky that I got a magnificent view of the city in sunset, along with two rainbows.