kinopyo blog

Coding, Web and Personal Development

Book: Hooked - A Maker's Handbook

The book cover of Hooked

If you’re a product person who is building a product to get more people to use it and use it more often, this is a book you’d want to keep a copy on your desk.

If you’re a smart phone user who checks certain apps quite regularly that you’d even refuse to admit you’re addictive to it, this a book to help you understand how it was engineered to keep you hooked.

Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup commented: ‘A must-read for everyone who cares about driving customer engagement.’ (I’m usually skeptical about this kind of lip service, but this time, he’s right.)

I read this book at the right timing and I wrote at length in my company’s internal blog: my reading memos and summaries of the four core parts of the idea: Trigger -> Action -> Variable Reward -> Investment, with case studies of the product I was building.

The Hook model

A over-simplifed summary of each stage of the model:

  • Trigger: What nudges the action?
  • Action: Which part is weak to provoke the action? Lack of motivation or the process is too hard?
  • Reward: Is there an instant and variable reward when the user performs the action?
  • Investment: When are we asking them to invest, and what value we give back in return?

Flipping through the pages again, I found lots of post-its I attached in the book saying “I disagree,” and listing all the obvious counter-arguments. Yet still, the overall reading experience was great👏! It set the scene properly for you to deep dive for an extended period of time, so it naturally stimulates you and inspires you to think about your product’s problems and solutions. In that sense, I enjoyed the knowledge it provided and all the thoughts it provoked. It felt like taking apart a product and putting its components on the table, so you’ll be able to visualize and identify the habit-forming product’s system, the blueprint, or even the traps.

The part that I remembered the most is the Action - “the behavior done in anticipation of a reward.”

Fogg (a famous guy in this field) describes that the required ingredients to initiate any actions can be written in the equation of B = MAT (Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger), so-called the Behavior Model.

  1. The user must have sufficient motivations
  2. The user must have the ability to complete the desired action
  3. A trigger must be present to activate the behavior

I’ve noticed a pattern of myself. If the book I’m reading is put on the dining table, I would pick it up after breakfast and continue reading. Instead, if my phone is there, I might just pick it up and check some feed. Let’s break down this behavior:

  1. Motivation: I like to read the book
  2. Ability: I have the time to read
  3. Trigger: The book is on the table
  4. 🎉

Even though the motivation and ability are right, when the trigger is absent, certain actions might not occur. So that’s why I’ve been intentionally putting my phone out of sight at home and putting books and pens on the dining table (for which my wife isn’t really happy hah 😅)

So, what are you going to do with this piece of knowledge? There is also a chapter dedicated to the ethical discussion. I felt the view of trusting people that they won’t do evil is naive though, and if you want to read more on this subject, I’d recommend another book Irresistible that is written from the opposite perspective.

Still, changing people’s behaviors is hard, reading this book won’t promise you the dreamland. But that doesn’t mean the knowledge is useless. The best way to take most out of it is to share your learnings with your team, adapt the vocabularies to better communicate, take your product on the map and analyze each aspect, do the case study of other popular products with high user engagements and try out your ideas and solutions. It is fun and rewarding.

There is a 13 minutes video to get the brief idea of the framework, but I’d say don’t cut the corners and read the whole book if you truly want to learn more. You’ll get the bone and fat, you may love the fat or trim it off eventually, either way, it would be a great learning process.

April 19, 2018 Book, Product

When to Quit a Job: 5 Questions to Help You Decide

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

I’m about to quit the company that I’ve served for 6 and a half years. To make that decision was never easy, a constant battle between rationals and emotions - it had worn me down. And I know a few friends are also going through such struggles, wandering the forests of changing jobs or changing teams.

When I was reading the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, the sort of 5-questions checklist that served a different perspective of seeing things and clearing my head - something that’s outside of my circle, completely objective but absolutely relative, exactly what I needed.

So I thought it might be helpful to share that piece of advice for those who’re in that stage of life.

To leave or stay, that’s a question. And only you can answer it. After reading it, what’s in your mind? Listen to that voice carefully, no matter what you choose in the end, be honest with yourself.

Here we go.

1. Do you want to be in this job on your next work anniversary?

People are most likely to leave a job on their one-year work anniversary. The second most likely time? Their two-year anniversary. The third? Their three-year anniversary. You get the idea. If you dread the thought of being at your job on your next work anniversary, start > looking now. You’ll be better prepared when the time comes.

2. Is your current job both demanding and in your control?

The most fulfilling jobs share a common trait: They prod us to work at our highest level but in a way that we, not someone else, control. Jobs that are demanding but don’t offer autonomy burn us out. Jobs that offer autonomy but little challenge bores us. (And jobs that are neither demanding nor in our control are the worst of all.) If your job doesn’t provide both challenge and autonomy, and there’s nothing > you can do to make things better, consider a move.

3. Does your boss allow you to do your best work?

In his excellent book Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst, Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Robert Sutton explains the qualities that make someone worth working for. If your boss has your back, takes responsibility instead of blaming others, encourages your efforts but also gets out of your way, and displays a sense of humor rather than a raging temper, you’re > probably in a good place. If your boss is the opposite, watch out - and maybe get out.

4. Are you outside the three- to five-year salary bump window?
One of the best ways to boost your pay is to switch organizations. And the best time to do that is often three to five years after you’ve started. ADP, the massive Human Resources management company, found that this period represents the sweet spot for pay increases. Fewer than three years might be too little time to develop the most marketable skills. More than five years is when employees start becoming > tired to their company and moving up its leadership ranks, which makes it more difficult to start somewhere else.

5. Does your daily work align with your long-term goals?

Ample research from many countries shows that when your individual goals align with those of your organization, you’re happier and more productive. So take a moment and list your top two or three goals for the next five years and ten years. If your current employer can > help you reach them, great. If not, think about an ending.

ーWhen: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, page 169 - page 170

“If your answer to two or more of these is no, it might be time to craft an end,” the author wrote. But I’d say, no rush, take your time, don’t get pushed.

It is you who are gonna live with that decision. Maybe your emotion is already built up, maybe you don’t care of losing the entire forest - as long as you can find the sweetest fruit of yourself or get away from that annoying big bird. Nevertheless, hope this material sheds some light on your situation.

If you’ve already decided to quit eventually but want more comprehensive strategies, I recommend the book Quitter: Closing the Gap Between Your Day Job and Your Dream Job by Jon Acuff. The subtitle is the sales pitch 🙂.

April 16, 2018 Work

Fargo Season 1

Judging from all the data I’ve given to Netflix, I’d blame them for not suggesting this show to me - Fargo.

Fargo Season 1 Martin Freeman

I remember reading the phrase “black comedy” on Wikipedia, but I didn’t find myself laughing any moments of the show. It’s dark, patient, and tense. And of course, I love it!

Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman)… the protagonist (or antagonist, or turn-to-be antagonist). You started off by rooting this mistreated guy. His wife always compares him to his brother, hinted she might have married to the wrong one. The sudden encounter with his high school nightmare - the bully, and found out the bully actually had a one-time affair with his wife, and then indirectly broke his nose. The low self-esteem that needed those “inspiring and positive” quotes hung on the wall to constantly remind him: “what if you’re right, and they’re wrong?” You see the struggling and desperation of Lester.

Then he bumped into a mysterious stranger of the town, after sharing his misery story, the guy offered him a yes-and-no question: “Do you want that bully to die?” From that moment, Lester’s life changed completely.

I enjoyed this show very much. The gradually built-up tension and fear took my breath away. There were moments I sensed violence but nothing happened, and the next scene, boom, and blood.
You’ve got to see what could happen to a guy who is absolutely smart but lack of self-esteem, and once he overcomes that, in a dramatic way, how much of his ego could grow to explode.
And the mystery hitman by Billy Bob Thornton was super charming. In a way I respect his “style” - not just about killing, not even about elegance, I don’t know what word would best describe it yet - manipulative, efficient, aggressive, deceivable, and patient.

After watching all of the movies and tv shows, this killer would definitely earn a position in my memory hall that won’t be easily flushed away in a long time. So is the show.

April 13, 2018

Indifferent Ribbon, Butterfly Ribbon

This is gonna be the very first time that I share my fiction writings in my blog. I practiced that when I was learning this Creative Writing on Coursera last winter. I was completely new to this “make something up” style of writing, it took me quite a while to work on my mind as well as the writing skill, but in the end I enjoyed it. It’s like it stretched my imaginary creative muscles 💪that otherwise I’d never even noticed its existence.

I’ll just show you one of the homework I did last December, unmodified. The requirement was to practice the technique of revealing thoughts and feelings indirectly - through the environment, behavior, and other details. For example, instead of a plain “he’s sad,” you can say something like this to reveal the person’s internal state: “sitting in the dark, he gulped down the bottle and hoped it’ll do the trick and take the edge off. It usually works, but not tonight…”

Creative Writing, Style, Week 4: Concrete Style Infused with Thought and Feeling


The aim here is not to practice withholding ideas or feeling, but to practice revealing them through the surfaces of physical experience.


Writing in the third person, describe a house from the point of view of a mother or father whose daughter has just left home and married a man the mother or father despises. Don’t refer to the wedding itself, or to the mother or father’s hatred of the son-in-law. Focus on the house as she or he experiences it in the wake of the daughter’s departure.

Then describe the same house from the point of view of the same mother or father—except this time the daughter has left home to marry someone the mother or father genuinely loves and approves of. Again, don’t refer to the wedding itself, or to the mother or father’s affection for the son-in-law but on the house as she experiences it in the wake of the daughter’s departure.

The two pieces combined should total 600-750 words.

Version: 1

He had a hard time getting off the bed. It was not chilly outside, but this morning, he wanted to give in to the duvet, just a little more, at least that was one thing in his control.

When was the last time he did that? He lost the sense of time. Dreams and reality were woven together. Eventually, he left the bed behind, gently and carefully, tried not to wake up his wife.

He walked straight to the kitchen in his pajamas, leaving the lights and curtains shut. While boiling a bottle of water in the kettle, he unwrapped the indifferent ribbon and opened the gift box he got from his daughter Maggie and his new son-in-law David. Coffee beans, Ethiopia, his favorites. One-size-fits-all, he thought, you drink it when you are in a good mood of catching up or getting ready, and you drink it when you’re tired of the reality and want to get away from it. Which way shall he interpret it? He felt it irony.

The kettle whistled and clicked. He measured the beans and ground them, placed the filter in the dripper, pre-wet it, preheated the server… and finally poured himself a cup of coffee. All on autopilot, the morning ritual. He was aware that there shall be a get-to-know-each-other session for every new beans to establish the relationship. He got the solid knowledge and technique over the years. The taste was ok, the beans were of great quality, yet the flavor felt familiar and at the same time, distant, unsettling.

Holding the mug cup, he headed out and walked towards the garage where laid the growth chart of Maggie. He slid through it, paused at each mark and let the memory flow back. No matter how many times he reminded himself, it still shocked him how fast his little girl grew up. He had devoted his life-savings and life-lessons to her, yet out of numerous options, she picked up this David guy.

He gulped down the rest of the coffee. It was cooled and bitter.

Version 2

Headache. Hangover. But why not, he thought, you only get to drink like that few times in a lifetime. He rolled over, adjusted the duvet for his wife and got off the bed without making a sound.

He opened the curtains in the living room, let in the sunshine. Looking at the reflection of himself in the window, finger tapped his white beard, he smiled, felt lightweight.

He recalled something and rushed to the kitchen. Unwrapping the beautiful butterfly ribbon, he opened the gift box he got from his daughter Maggie and his new son-in-law Dave. The aroma flew over. Coffee beans! He shouted silently. He held it to his nose and smelled it out, Ethiopia, his favorite. Well done, well done, he clapped to the new married couple.

Time for the morning ritual. He had a second thought when reaching the electric grinder and turned to look out the lower drawer. Got it! The hand grinder. Got to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. He had been rushing for his whole life, now when everything was finally settled, he liked to take the time he couldn’t spare before. He also liked to devote more labor if possible, as a way of respecting the gift—the representation of the kindness from Maggie.

Every turn-around of the hand grinder reminded him of the old days when they went out for the merry-go-round. Truly amazing how kid grew up this fast! And more than anything, he is very proud of her. All the things he had done for the family, she understood.

When he was wandering in the nostalgia world, his hands ran autopilot and poured the coffee. He held the mug cup and smelled, “well done, well done.”

That was it!

I still remember I rushed the ending of the second version, and after read it again, it does show that the it was too weak.

I’ll also paste the review questions below, so you can have a feeling of what’s it like of attending the course 😉. It’s similar to what we software engineers do everyday - peer review others’ code on Github. In this creative writing course, we also review others and answer the questions to help the writer improve his/her writing.

If you feel like it, please leave your review in the comments section 💁🏻‍♂️

Q: How successful is the writer at sticking to concrete language, describing the things of the world as opposed to explicit judgments or feelings? Please explain.

Q: Has the writer nonetheless managed to imply the character’s state of mind in her choice of descriptive language? Please explain.

Q: Which of the two pieces seems most promising to you as part of a longer story? Please explain your selection.

April 10, 2018 Writing, coursera, fiction

Discovering My Voice in English

There’s one activity that I’ve been carrying on for almost 5 years now, that is to answer one question every day on my Q&A a Day, 5-year Journal. The questions vary from something as simple as “What did you have for lunch today?” to as philosophical as “What makes you happy?” I found it the easiest, if not laziest, way to keep a journal. I’m reaching 5th year now.

One night when my wife and I tried to answer it, I was fascinated by our completely opposite response of it — “What’s the new word you learned recently?” She couldn’t come up with one, I couldn’t come up with just one. She is native in both Japanese and English, I’m neither.

Every day I encounter words I don’t know. There’s hardly a day I could go by without marking anything on the book I’m reading. Even when watching TV shows on Netflix, I would have a notebook (or any paper like receipts of lunch in my pocket) at hands to note down the words or the timestamps so I can look them up later.

This linguistic journey isn’t always that smooth, there are rainy seasons. When I saw my wife flipped through a novel during a weekend while the same book took me about 2 weeks to finish, there was a taste of frustration, to be honest.

So why am I doing this - learning new words and writing in English while I could get by every day just fine? There would be no perceivable setbacks in my professional or personal life. When I started my Writing Spree April a few days ago, I stumbled on this question myself.

I remember how it was like in the early days. Though I had the English lessons during my school years, much like how everybody treated the second language at school, I passed the tests and then forgot about it - I had no desire or need of practicing it. It was until I joined my current company that I started to relearn English, roughly 7 years ago.

Below is what it was like when I tried to read Cooking Solves Everything by Mark Bittman and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

notes and highlights on books

The 2 books were recommended in the company at that time. I bought them on Kindle. It was tough. I rarely went through a page without colorful marks. I’m glad now I recognize most of them, but still not all.

As the time of writing, I’m reading the book Don’t sleep, there are snakes by Daniel L. Everett. Over the years I’ve changed intentionally to physical books, but what remain unchanged is the “splash patterns.”

page 99 of Don’t sleep, there are snakes photo

Judging by the numbers of marks, things don’t seem to be that different than 6 years ago. 😅 (and I’m too embarrassed to share aphoto of my wife correcting my writing - full of red marks on words, grammar, punctuations, etc. Her “writings” were more than mine, it was bloddy, you can imagine.)

Putting them together makes me even sadder as if no progress were made. I felt defeated. I couldn’t help but wonder:

Would there be a day that I don’t need to have a dictionary (app) around?
Why am I enforcing this hardship on myself?
Would there be an end?

Among all the reasons I could come up with — a way to see the world differently; explore different cultures; English is the worldwide common language; entertainment value (thanks to Holywood) — the very core of it probably is that I’ve found my voice in the language itself. A very different kind of “sound” than thinking in my mother tongue Chinese, as if I’ve found a hidden passport with new identity in the drawer that could fly me to a freeland.

Worth to mention that although I’m a Chinese Korean - I had been learning Korean from elementary school to high school and after that I once even had a partime job as a Korean-to-Chinese translator for 2 years - I never found my voice from it. Amazingly, it was familiar and foreign at the same time.

But I seem to enjoy the brand new encounter with English this time. I noticed there are times that it would be the dominant language in my mind. This kind of session usually comes after I embody myself in an English book or movie, also as of this writing. I love this narrative. It’s soothing, calm, and reflective.

It helps me classify my past traumatic stories - family conflicts, romantic relationships, identity issues. Because those events were recorded in Chinese as they occured, it was too violent, too emotional, or too embarrassed to look back and analyze them. The native language seemed to have a way too strong shock that would scare me away. But examing them with a different language, especially one that I have limited but handful enough vocabularies, helps me remapping those past dots into coordinations from a different perspective, from a relatively far distant where I feel safe and secure. This handicap works in my favor.

As of writing this post, it also forces me to think deeply and differently on this subject, probably I’m the one who gets most excited about this discovery than any of my readers (sorry!), and I have a good hunch that I’ll revisit it in the future when I get more insights of it.

Back to the question - would there be a day that I don’t need to have a dictionary? Nope. That day won’t come, and perhaps I don’t want it to come either - wouldn’t that be boring if I’ve mastered every single word? How can I answer the question in my 5-year diary then!? But seriously, much like the universe, knowing there will be unknowns means the adventure would never stop, so as the fun of it.

Bonus tip: as any language learners, we’ve got a unique advantage over others - while they might feel guilty or time-wasted after spending hours on Netflix, we could always claim it as our learning session, right? 😉

April 06, 2018 english