Tag Archive | "language"

Duolingo Launches Its Certification Program To Take On TOEFL

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Relative Insight Wants To Help Brands Stay On Message

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,


#Love: Design For It

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Heroku Bets Big On PHP And Launches Native Support For Facebook’s HipHop VM

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


3 ways to immediately improve your Facebook mobile app install ads

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The app economy has grown exponentially in recent years. While there is still tremendous untapped potential in the market, the “app bubble” has created a number of challenges for app developers and publishers both in terms of discovery and monetization. With less than 1 percent of all apps generating significant revenue, and more than 1 million apps in Apple’s App Store alone, simply having a cool feature or great user experience is no longer good enough.

The lifespan of many apps can be remarkably short, making it crucial for app developers to quickly gain market share and to do so in a cost-effective manner. Facebook has become one of the leading platforms for app developers looking to acquire new users due to its huge user base (a billion-plus and growing) and relatively low barriers to entry for advertisers.

Thus, the app install ad has gained prominence. According to eMarketer, app install ads constitute between 30 and 50 percent of the mobile advertising market, excluding search. At the current rate of growth, app install ad spend in the U.S. will reach somewhere between $2.6 billion and $4.3 billion in 2014, and upwards of $11 billion in 2017.


Making sure your app install ad generates the desired level of user acquisition often comes down to the quality of creative used.

Below are three examples of innovative Facebook mobile app install ads and the lessons they offer app developers.

Lesson #1: Use Real People and Images, Not Screenshots
There isn’t a universal rule for what kind of imagery works best in Facebook app install ads. However, just showing screenshots of your app isn’t going to entice many new users. People want to see the real-world uses and benefits of the app.

For example: An app install ad for a language-learning add could show a person speaking into the app and getting feedback on their language skills. The use of real-world uses within the ad creative will help people visualize the benefits of the app. This is especially important when advertising a paid app.

In the below example from Hotels.com, note how the image of one of its rooms is displayed below the call to action to download its app to “start your vacation.” The creative, in this case a vivid and real image, engages the user to daydream about his or her dream vacation and the call to action drives the acquisition of a new app installation.


Lesson #2: Borrow Great Creative Techniques from Other Apps
As any marketer will tell you, the best ad creative often comes from someone else’s idea or technique. That’s not to say you should steal ad creative from other app publishers. Instead, study how other apps are advertised and pick a few best practices and techniques from those ads to incorporate into your app install ad unit.

Even if the ad creative is unrelated to your specific app, you can take the template of the ad creative — the images used, how the brand’s logo is positioned, where the messaging is displayed within the ad, etc. — and incorporate a similar approach for your app install ad.

Try this exercise: Spend 10 minutes studying three different app install ads on Facebook. Then hire a good freelance designer to create versions of an ad for your app based on the examples you pulled. In a relatively short period of time you will have a handful of creative approaches that have been optimized via millions of dollars of someone else’s advertising spend.

In short, don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to designing your Facebook app install ad. Make it unique to your app and appealing to your desired customers but keep it within the general confines of what is working at the time in your industry. This will ensure it resonates with a broad base of potential users.

In the below example, the financial management app BillGuard has wisely included a testimonial that sits above a photo of someone using its app. It has also embedded within the ad a screenshot of what its app looks like on a users’ phone. The real-world imagery helps make what could be a static, boring ad come alive with relevance and authenticity for potential customers.


Lesson #3: Embrace the New Reality of Performance-Based Facebook Advertising

Facebook’s ad solutions have changed dramatically in recent years. What was once predominantly an engagement-only ad solution has evolved to become an engagement plus performance-based direct-response ad platform.

New tools like Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences and Page Post link ads offer app developers a variety of ways to target specific user groups with relevant and timely offers. Late last year, Facebook introduced cost-per-action (CPA) bidding in an effort to improve the performance of mobile app install ads. Facebook has also made significant changes to its News Feed, decreasing the exposure it gives to brands’ text-based posts in favor of image-based posts.

In the below example, Fab.com has served a “Suggested Item” ad based on the prior purchasing habits of the specific user (in this case, me). Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool helped Fab.com enabled Fab.com to find a group of users like me who had made prior purchases with the company. It was able to serve up a specific ad with a specific offer based on that group’s demographics and purchase intent.

mobileads4 As the app install landscape becomes increasingly competitive, app developers and publishers need to be more focused than ever on using innovative creative in their ad campaigns. Applying a more focused approach to your Facebook ad creative, combined with a nuanced understanding of Facebook’s advanced ad targeting solutions, will ensure your app install ad campaigns generate the desired level of user acquisition.

Adam Lovallo is co-founder of Grow.co, a customer acquisition think tank and strategic advisory services firm. Grow.co is hosting the Mobile User Acquisition Unlocked conference June 10-11 in Las Vegas. 

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

Everplans Raises $2.1 Million To Help Users Plan For Their Final Steps

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


DailyThem.es Wants To Make English Writing Practice Fun

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

DailyThem.es is a social writing platform that wants to help English learners improve their language skills in an enjoyable and non-intimidating way. The concept behind the site is simple. Each day, users are encouraged to write 100 words about any subject they want, and then exchange feedback with other writers. Users also get access to analytics that tell them what language errors they tend to… Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Duolingo Raises $20M Series C Led By Kleiner Perkins To Dominate Online Language Learning

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


The popular language learning platform Duolingo today announced that it has closed a $20 million Series C round led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. As Duolingo’s founder Luis von Ahn told me, the company plans to use this new funding to continue on its path to dominate the language-learning market.

Duolingo previously raised a Series A round led by Union Square Ventured in 2011 and a $15 million Series B round led by NEA in 2012. Duolingo also counts Ashton Kutcher and Tim Ferris among its investors. The company’s previous investors also joined in this new round.

Von Ahn told me Duolingo now has about 25 million registered and 12.5 million active users. That’s up from about 10 million the company reported by the end of last year. This means that more people now learn a language with Duolingo than in the U.S. public school system. Von Ahn attributes at least a part of this growth to Apple choosing Duolingo as its iPhone App of the Year, which marked the first time the company choose an education app for this honor.

As for why the company decided to raise a new round, von Ahn told me that he received quite a bit of inbound interest from venture capital firms. While he talked to a few, Kleiner Perkins felt like the ideal partner, not in the least because Duolingo will work with Kleiner partner Bing Gordon who will also join the Duolingo board as an observer.


The company also plans to use the additional funding to ramp up its hiring. Duolingo currently has 34 employees — most of them engineers and designers — but plans to get to 50 in the near future.

Duolingo will soon release a groups feature that will make it easier for teachers to use the service in their classes (and track their students’ progress). Duolingo also expects that large companies, which now often use Rosetta Stone and similar tools to train their workforce, will start using this groups feature.

Von Ahn has a track record of building successful products based on these hybrid approaches that bring together human collaboration and technology. With reCAPTCHA, which he sold to Google, he turned CAPTCHAs into something useful by combining them with OCR technology.

With Duolingo, he is building a language learning and translation tool that is based on these same principles. The service teaches you a language, but at the same time, you are also using some of the practice translations to translate real sentences for paying customers.

Last year, the company partnered with CNN and BuzzFeed, for example, to translate some of those company’s articles into Spanish, Portuguese and French. The company is working on similar deals with other publishers and both CNN and BuzzFeed have renewed their original contracts.

Going forward, this will obviously be a major source of revenue for the company, but von Ahn also expects that Duolingo will open its self-service portal for translations within the next two months.

Duolingo doesn’t have an immediate goal to break even, though. “We have revenue, and that’s good,” von Ahn told me, but his plan for now is to grow the user base Most importantly, though, von Ahn wants to increase Duolingo’s user base (and that, in return, will also strengthen the translation side of the service). “Our main goal going forward is to become the de facto way to learn a language,” he told me.

When the company asked users why they use Duolingo, many said they considered it a game that is both entertaining and useful. This isn’t something Duolingo set out to do, but based on these findings — and with Bing Gordon among its advisers now — the company plans to add more game elements to its service in the future.

One thing von Ahn says he won’t do in the future, though, is pay for advertising. It has never spent a single dollar on ads and doesn’t plan to do so anytime soon.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Fast-Growing Duolingo Caps Off A Big Year With The Crunchie For “Best Education Startup”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 5.43.54 PM

Language learning software has never been particularly “sexy,” nor have its makers managed to produce a bounty of memorable user experiences, for that matter. While it might not be quite ready for the former, Duolingo is fast-becoming the poster child of a new generation of language learning products that are actually enjoyable to use, and able to combine fun with function.

In December, Apple named Duolingo the “iPhone App of the Year” for 2013, which, along with its nearly 9 million active users, seem to indicate that its gamified, mobile language learning formula is working. And last night, the startup capped off its banner year by taking home the Crunchie award for “Best Education Startup” of 2013.

While CAPTCHA, reCAPTCHA and Duolingo founder Luis Von Ahn wasn’t able to make it to the Crunchies this year, Duolingo’s new head of communications, Gina Gotthilf, was there to accept the award. We caught up with Gotthilf backstage to ask her a few questions about Duolingo’s success and where it’s headed next.

As to Duolingo’s origins, the language learning app owes its design and original concept to von Ahn and his student, Severin Hacker, who developed Duolingo as the basis for a translation service powered by students translating real-world sentences while learning a language. Today, this is has become a key point of differentiation for Duolingo in the increasingly-crowded world of language learning.

Rather than forcing its users to memorize phrases, sentences or words, the app turns to the Web, literally, to provide fodder for students to learn by translation. As users proceed through its lessons and programs, they translate the Web, reading and listening to the language as presented by real, native speakers. The app leverages video clips, images, sound bites and other interactive prompts to help students memorize and remember important words and concepts.

The other key to Duolingo’s success, especially among the millenial crowd, is its use of gamification, allowing students to earn points as they proceed through its lesson plans, docking students “lives” when they make mistakes. Get too many wrong and Duolingo makes you start over.

The app monitors your progress as you go, keeping tabs on which words and concepts you struggle with, serving its lessons accordingly. Today, Duolingo has added a total of six languages, including English, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, and French, and more are on their way.

Just like von Ahn previously did with reCAPTCHA, the original idea behind Duolingo was always to use it as the basis for a translation service where Over time, Duolingo expects to turn this into a tool where businesses can order paid translations from Duolingo’s users. Currently, the service only uses its web app to show these real-world texts from blog posts, news articles and WikiPedia entries, but in the near future, the iOS app will also integrate these features.

It’s worth noting, though, that Duolingo will always remain 100% free for those who want to learn a language. As von Ahn stressed, this means there will be no ads, no freemium model and no “five-easy-payments” plan. The combination of the language learning and translation service, von Ahn says, is “a mutually beneficial arrangement for both parties: students receive a high-quality, completely free, language education, and organizations are given human-quality translation services.”

Duolingo, however, appears or produced many memorable experiences for that matter. Duolingo, the fast-growing language learning service,

the increasingly popular online language learning service, announced one of its most ambitious projects to date

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Make It Sing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


I have a Jeep about half my own age, and despite the creaks in both our joints, we somehow manage to create a semblance of grace now and then. The vibration of the engine, transmitted through my the bones of my foot as it lies on the clutch (lightly enough not to feather it), or the degree and delta of centripetal force (unconsciously, I lean left to align my head with this off-axis down) explain wordlessly to me the limitations of the tires’ grip as I round a frosty curve, the elusive triple point that lies between momentum, throttle, and gearing. And I’m no racing driver — you have this loop, too, whether you drive a manual or automatic, whether you maneuver aggressively or defensively. It’s something that happens when you and the car reach an accord, so to speak.

A few Christmases ago I bought the family a great old axe, but at first its unfamiliarly short and straight haft made me more likely to split my own foot than the morsel of wood awaiting its sentence before me. Over the course of a few dozen swings I found it didn’t want to be wielded like an executioner’s axe, describing as many degrees of a circle as were warranted by the toughness of the wood, but it preferred to be brought down straight, like the guillotine. This necessitated a totally new movement of my hands and body but eventually it struck with greater power and precision than I had been able to muster with its modern, long-necked predecessor.

Between me and my Cherokee, and between my hands and the tool, and between you and many of the things you use every day, there is a complicated but elegant feedback loop, a physical dialogue, the topic of which is harmony of operation. The relationship that you build with a device, whether it’s a car, a hammer, a brush, a cello, or anything else, is a self-optimizing relationship. First you make it speak, then you make it sing.

Why does this matter? Because so few of the devices we are adopting today will ever sing like that.

It’s not just that things are complex. Driving a car is complex; the forces, sounds, visual input, motor coordination and everything else that goes into driving become second nature because we learn to operate the vehicle as an extension of ourselves. And it’s not just that things are virtual. Anyone who has had a complicated workflow and found themselves the master of ten windows spread over three monitors and two operating systems has juggled a dozen tasks and ideas, performing as complex a task as an orchestra conductor or jet pilot.

The problem is that we are introducing process that have maxima we can’t minimize, and minima we can’t maximize, by our own efforts. No axe is so difficult to use that you can’t master it in time. But no matter how good you are at using a smartphone, the elegance and quality of your process is, fundamentally, out of your hands.

With what devices and services today can you achieve the same level of synchrony as that you enjoy with your car as you parallel park, your fork and knife as you herd peas around your plate, your keyboard as you tap out a caustic response to this article at five characters per second?

I see exceptions for coders, who achieve a sort of second sight with the colors and symbology of their language of choice, for gamers whose thumbs make analog sticks and 256-stage buttons dance through a hell of bullets, and for photographers, their fingers blindly yet unfailingly seeking out dials and switches while the brain simultaneously calculates the arc of a ball or the fraction of a second left until the toddler’s smile strikes its apex.

But the most ubiquitous device of the modern digital era, the smartphone, is not susceptible to such talents. It may be always in your hand, but it never acts as an extension of it.

Oh, sure, you can learn the quickest way to get a picture through retouching and into Instagram — the “Save changes,” “Send to…” and “Submit” button positions memorized, the geotag set to automatic, the service sniffer set to repost and promote the latest item at the requisite SoLoMo watering holes. Congratulations, you’ve built a Rube Goldberg machine that mechanically duplicates button pressing. And what a profoundly inelegant series of arbitrarily-placed button presses it is, interrupted by unskippable dialogues, animations, and workarounds it is!

Have you ever remarked on the grace with which an iPhone user closes down unused processes? The casual dignity of a flick to bring down a notifications shade, the inhuman rapidity with which a home button is double-pressed? Of course not. You could practice button-pressing and menu flicking for weeks and your flicks and presses would be little or no more effective than anyone else’s.

Wearables? True, gestural tech and limb tracking like that of the Kinect or Myo adds an interesting new way to interact, but these things are meant to capture gross, simple, or repetitive movements; even if the nearly imperceptible twist of the wrist employed by a painter to add an ironic curl to the lips could be detected, would it matter? The threshold for whatever gesture he has indicated was reached long before such subtleties were taken into account. You think a photo will show more detail because you pinch-zoomed exactly along the 45-degree line? You think a page will load faster because you clicked at the exact center of the link?

As one last example: even in photography is the satisfaction of successful operation being eroded. Many lenses and systems do not actually connect the focus ring to the focal gearing, but instead read the position of the ring digitally, pass that information to the CPU, where its scale, jitter, and acceleration are weighed; this data is returned to the chip in the lens, which adjusts the focus approximately the amount it thinks you would have wanted it to move, had it been mechanical to begin with. Naturally this takes time and is rarely satisfying or accurate. But even if it were advanced to the degree it were imperceptible, it would still be inferior to the mechanical process because it is a simulation of it; if it advanced beyond this, and predicted your focal point (let us, against all odds, assume this works flawlessly), it is no longer you operating the mechanism or the simulation of a mechanism, but rather using a ring-shaped menu to select from a list of subjects. Just try to make that sing.

There’s no room for finesse or subtlety in these things because we are not the ones performing the work, or rather, we perform only a small part of it and set into motion a series of events over which we have little or no control. The digitizer, the processor, the transceiver, the microwave repeater, and the server do their work following, but independent of, our input. And before we could even do our part, the developer of the app, the developer of the firmware, the developer of the OS had to do theirs. Layer upon layer of things that you are not doing, that you can never effect, only activate.

I don’t pretend this is the end of doing things well, of course, or any other such absurd extrapolation. But I myself, and I suspect this is true of many others, get no little satisfaction from the process of doing things well, though, and here before us is a generation of tools which can only be instructed to carry out tasks, something you and I will never do better or worse than one another. Egalitarian? Democratic? That’s a charitable interpretation, if you ask me. Eliminating the necessity of doing something well could be a positive change. Eliminating the possibility of doing something well is a negative one.

Still, it’s not so dire as I make it sound. The consequence of all this is that there is more room to excel on a different stage, a higher one. If everyone has access to the same resources, it is the one who makes the best of them who takes the prize. Given the finest ingredients and top-notch facilities, no two chefs will produce the same meal. With the same light and the same camera, two photographers capture images that are worlds apart. So this embarrassment of riches comprising (among a hundred other things) the Internet, the social media landscape, and our fantastically powerful mobile devices is nevertheless empowering — but it is no longer the tools with which we interact with that we must make to sing, but what we are making with them.

No one can use the Facebook app better than another — but one may use the network to greater effect. No one can apply a filter with more finesse than another — but one may assemble a superior portfolio. No one can make an API return different data than another — but one may put that data to better use. No one can propagate an email through the network faster — but one may be more persuasive. The axe swings itself — but you can still build a better fire.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

July 2014
« Jun