Last weekend, Sachin Rekhi and I did connectme.cc as a little hackathon project for the Cloudstock Hackathon. I’m proud to report that we were a finalist for the event and even made it onto Techcrunch!
 
If you’re not familiar with it, Cloudstock is a small event offshoot off of the larger Salesforce.com Dreamforce conference designed to bring developers and cloud technologies together.

Meet our project: connectme.cc

The premise behind connectme.cc is simple. Send your business card with one text.

connectme.cc

Even though we’re living in this world with social networks and online profiles, many of the existing applications are dependent on both people having something common installed. Unfortunately the assumption that you’re both on the same network isn’t reliable, so most networking reduces to the business card. The business card is the lowest common denominator way to share information. The problem is that there’s only so much information that you can cram onto one small business card.

What if there was a better way to share your contact information with others?

A novel solution to solve this problem is the iPhone app Bump. But when was the last time we used Bump? The biggest issue with Bump is that it requires both individuals to have the application installed.

Instead, connectme.cc uses a simple push method to reduce the friction of sharing your information. After signing up to create your virtual card, you can send that card to anyone you want via their phone number, email or Twitter handle.

You text connectme.cc’s number with the other person’s cellphone, email or Twitter account. Right after you text the app, the recipient will receive a text, email or tweet with a link to your virtual card.

Lessons learned from designing connectme.cc

This was my first hackathon, and I wanted to share quick thoughts on the experience of creating connectme.cc:

Timeboxing is a great way to reduce an idea down to its essence

We had a lot of great ideas on what to build, but the constraint of creating a one-day project helped us refine these ideas to simple values. We set 3 rules:

  • Achievable within 24 hours
  • Useful enough that we would use it
  • Uses one of the APIs included in the conference

The interesting thing was that many of our ideas failed the second constraint, which is products that we would use. Instead, they tended to fall more into the class of technical toys. It’s great to prove that we were able to complete something with an API, but difficult to explain how we’d use it. We finally decided on the idea of connectme.cc because it’s a simple idea with clear usefulness.

It’s better to be positive about ideas than to reject them

Once we generated a great list of ideas, we went from brainstorming to the evaluation phase. One observation from this process is that it’s way better to call out the ideas you like rather than the ones that you don’t. Rejecting ideas seems to diminish our creative momentum and slow us down.

It’s important to change the question from “Is it a feasible idea?” to “Is this a useful idea?” It was easy to reject many ideas because they were too big, rather than because they were useful and interesting. If you dig deep enough into an interesting idea and what makes it interesting, you can start refining it into a minimum viable product.

Simplicity takes work

Creating simple and easy to use experiences is a lot of work. In my experience, products often benefit far more from what you take out than the functionality that you add. Making the whole user flow functional and simple to use was a big challenge and just about as much work as the technical implementation.

After we decided to work on the idea of connectme.cc, we set up a basic user scenario that we’d want the user to work through. We spent quite a bit of time discussing how to make this simple. We were able to reduce the user sign-up from four screens to just two, but creating even the simple user flow, front page and messaging was a significant amount of the work involved in putting this app out.

Conclusion

I had a lot of fun working on this weekend hack! Getting a fun little product like connectme.cc out is a great exercise of trying to be creative within constraints. Try it out and tell us what you think!