Jason on Tech

by Jason Shen

Thoughts on consumer technology by a YC-backed founder. Ex-gymnast-turned-runner. Writing has appeared in Forbes, Lifehacker & HuffPo.

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All the e-commerce apps in the world won’t make us shopaholics


The explosion of e-commerce apps of late - Fab, Shoedazzle, Myhabit, etsy - and especially the long tail of niche online stores powered by Shopify are just fighting too hard with fundamental human nature. Just appealing to people’s desire for novelty and acquiring new possessions isn’t going to be enough.

What apps and the Web have never particularly done well is change us. Everyone designing an e-commerce app will cite how massive the industry is in the offline world. But if you look at retail shopping, it’s largely designed to make money despite people’s lack of real need for their goods.

Brick-n-mortar jewelry stores notoriously employ aggressive salespeople to make you buy things you don’t want; fashion stores tie into that aspirational aspect of self-betterment too. They don’t make money once the dress is worn, just off the nice idea that someday someone might compliment

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Vine: Artistic, Funny & Personal

Three weeks ago, I started using Vine, the 6-second video app that Twitter released in late January. I’ve made 21 Vines myself, liked 43 Vines made by others. I’m following 65 people and have 74 followers.

It’s early, but I think Vine is on the trajectory to be a widespread and popular app.

The 6 second format is great — it’s short enough to not get boring and long enough to express some very interesting ideas (if you are creative about it). The mechanics of recording pressing and releasing the screen are intuitive but you still need some time to get the hang of it as you’ve got to time things pretty carefully.

There is some spamming of popular hashtags like #loop and #magic but I’m sure discovery will improve over time. Meanwhile, my feed updates frequently enough with interesting content that I find myself checking it several times a day.

What kind of content will appear on Vine?

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Dictation is a Game Changer

I upgraded to the iPhone 5 in the fall of 2012, after having the iPhone 4 for two years. Along with the bigger screen, I got Siri and a better camera. But so far the most exciting thing for me about the iPhone 5 is the voice recognition software, and specifically using it for dictation.

People have been dreamed about voice dictation for a long time, but the iPhone’s technology represents a turning point. I normally speak in fits and starts but with just a little practice, I found myself quickly dictating entire paragraphs, punctuation included, into my iPhone.

How I Use Dictation

I use dictation a lot when responding to casual emails and text messages. It’s faster and less straining to knock out a bunch a dozen emails via dictation than with full on typing. I still type when I send more important messages because I usually rephrase and edit my writing a number of times before sending

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I’d Rather Be Prolific than Perfect

In Silicon Valley, there is a great deal of worship around Steve Jobs and the altar of perfection, so allow me to explain my preference.

Being Perfect

As a former gymnast, I know what it’s like to pursue perfection.

Being perfect means practicing the same skills and routines over and over and over again, until you have it just right. Perfect means trying fighting to fix every tiny mistake, every last detail so that when you salute the judge in a competition, they can’t find a single flaw.

In recent years, the gymnastics code of points has changed to favor performing more difficult and innovative skills/routines over performing easier ones flawlessly. Some people lament the loss of the “Perfect 10.0”, but in my view, gymnasts have demonstrated far greater skill, power and grace in their performances since the rule changes took place.

Another thing to recognize is that in gymnastics

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