During my time in the gaming industry, I played hundreds of games of Monopoly. I got good at the game and annoyed fellow players with my acquired knowledge. The orange set is the best! Get the railroad monopoly. Auction a property to drive up the price!

Everyone has a pet strategy, but we only need to play once to discover the best winning strategy: be ruthless. There is something about the game that brings out the meanness in nice, well-adjusted people. It makes it easy to laugh at other people’s misfortunes. Games have this incredible ability to change people’s behavior.

Apps and games that need to collect personally identifiable information (PII) from kids require the parents to give their consent. Given the sensitive nature of this information, we take extra measures to make sure that the parent of the child is really the one giving the consent. Under COPPA and GDPR-K, one of the ways to do so is by performing a credit card transaction for a small charge ($1).

Here are some of the interesting things we’ve learned while iterating on our parental consent flows:

1. It’s all about the weekend

The Verifiable Parent Consent (VPC) conversion rate doubles…

Imagine a bucket. Here’s one to help.

This is a maple sugaring bucket

At the bottom of the bucket is the mainstream. If you know something that other people don’t, you are at the edge of the bucket.

Good startup ideas start with unique information — something the founders noticed that no one else did.

This is painfully obvious to anyone thinking about innovation.

Tito, Prashast and I shut down our startup, Product ML, a few months ago. We went through a process of coming up with startup ideas and it was much harder than we thought. …

© Gerd Leonhard

Learn from the 90s

In the beginning of the web, there was a ‘developer’ who wrote the ‘code’. This code would get built and then chucked over the wall to the ‘operations’ folks. They — you know, operated the website that their company made money from. Sys admins, data center people, database admins (I forgot they still exist — hi DBAs!). There were strict protocols on managing releases. Testing was a pain, and it took a long time to ship anything.

I can’t decide if that is a scary thought. I feel excitement and trepidation. Westworld made me think deeply about consciousness in AI. The script writing on that show is — for lack of a better word — amazeballs.

Spoilers ahead, but season 2 comes out this weekend so watch season 1 soon!

Westworld = AI empathy

Westworld tells the story of human-like ‘artificial life’ that is not conscious. Dolores is a ‘host’ in the theme park that is Westworld. Hosts look exactly like humans and express complex emotions. These emotions are somewhat preprogrammed. They go through a well defined…

Image courtesy Oimheidi

It’s 1850. Michael Faraday is feeling good — he’s tinkering about with electromagnetic induction. William Gladstone, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (CFO of the British government) shows up in his lab and asks, “Electricity. What is it good for?” to which Faraday responded, “One day sir, you may tax it.” This is a cute story, but not true.

The data science community hunting for ‘machine learning use cases’ reminds me of the Chancellor’s question.

Picture by aytuguluturk

Artificial intelligence

Elon Musk has been banging on the proverbial ‘we need to be scared of AI’ drum, along with other prominent members of the AI community. Even Putin alluded to this recently. I largely agree with them, but not in a Hollywood way. The typical Hollywood doomsday scenario is:

1. AI acquires human-like capability

2. For some reason, it is a humanoid robot or some anthropomorphic form. Skynet is an exception

3. AI decides humans are a burden to the universe and they all must die. …

TGIF, I’m heading home from work and looking forward to the weekend. I find a seat on the train, bite into my sandwich and open Candy Crush. I haven’t played it since Monday. I have been stuck at level 76 and had given up.

PIcture by jjekafluf

Let’s build a virtual garden!

It is the future and we have made significant progress in building brain interfaces. We use it to augment our vision and sometimes, change our perception of the world.

An enterprising gardener decides to build the ultimate garden experience. A blank piece of land. A blank canvas waiting to be filled with the garden designer's vision. Elements of the garden can be controlled by the garden's designer. It is dynamic, and personalized to the user. How can the designer use machine learning to build such a garden?

Let’s train a model that will pick a garden configuration to show to…

Picture by Jastro

Fun is the holy grail in games. Delivering a fun experience is a basic ingredient for making successful games. To succeed at this, we need to understand and deconstruct fun.

Before co-founding Product ML, I was a gaming product manager and I try to think of these things from first principles.

Product managers make changes and ship features in their products to achieve specific goals. These goals are informed by strategic priorities, tactical data analysis and qualitative user feedback. A goal is represented by a metric or a KPI.

Say you’re a PM for a flight search site. …

Avinash Royyuru

Deconstructor of products. Curious and observant. Has a cat

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