Friday, 30 September 2016

When in India, speak as Indians do - in over 15 languages!

Though many of us speak English well, we are truly at home only with our mother tongue. We consider it "our own". And we prefer this language over English for private communication - whether spoken,  email, or Whatsapp.

After we launched Reaching Soon in Marathi and Hindi, we were overwhelmed by feedback we received - in these languages! Being able to use Reaching Soon in their own language, seemed to touch a chord with our users.
  1. For starters, it makes the app friendlier and much more pleasant to use
  2. And then, it invokes a sense of being understood
No wonder then, that our users are loving Reaching Soon! With this insight, we are now working on getting the app translated to about 10 Indian languages.

I want to share how we did it, so that more developers can bring out their lovely apps in "our" languages!

Points to Remember

  1. Retain the beauty of language

    Typically in an app, the English messages are very terse. When translating to another language, one must keep it crisp, without losing the beauty of the language. To ensure this, get your translations vetted by a native speaker of the language.

  2. Use colloquial language where possible

    It is better to use colloquial rather than chaste language. If the English words themselves are widely used and understood, use them instead of translating. E.g. App, Metro, Bus, etc - it is better to use these English words, perhaps in the script of that language.

  3. User-Interface is language sensitive

    Some languages are more verbose than English, or may require a larger font to be rendered properly. This could throw your app's UI out of alignment. Make sure you translate appropriately, and design the UI to address this.

  4. Use String formatter - %d, %s, etc

    Different languages have different gramar rules for handling subject and predicate.  When constructing Strings in your app, it's very convenient to simply add the component strings. However, resist that urge, and use String.format instead. This enables you to easily address the language grammar in the appropriate strings.xml file.

    E.g. instead of using:
    String s = name + getString(R.string.joined);
    use
    String s = String.format(getString(R.string.joined),name);
    where joined is defined in strings.xml as
    %s has joined the trip

The Tools

  1. Android Studio Translations editor

    Very convenient to use. Shows all your strings together, and lets you change any of them. You can keep track of all translations at the same place.

    However, writing in Indian languages is very difficult.

  2. Google spreadsheet - for writing in various scripts

    Google spreadsheets together with Google Input Tools, is the most practical way of writing in languages with various scripts. It also becomes convenient to collaborate with native speakers for translations.

    You can easily copy the original strings from the Translations editor to a spreadsheet.

  3. Linux script - import translations from spreadsheets to strings.xml

    I could not find any simple method to import the translations from Google Spreadsheets back into strings.xml format. So I wrote a Bash script for Linux called tsv2xml. You can find it on GitHub -  https://github.com/gaurangrk/tsv2xml
The linux script can be easily adapted for DOS and MAC. If anyone wants to contribute such an adaptation, please let me know, and I will happily add it here.

Happy Translating!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Panic Button (SOS) feature in Reaching Soon




We regularly speak with our users to understand the role Reaching Soon plays in their lives.
One crucial need came up repeatedly - They want to be able to share their location quickly via SMS when needed, say in an emergency. Emergencies would happen unexpectedly, and a Reaching Soon session may not be active at that time.

Users said they are already using some SOS app or other. They want an SOS button in Reaching Soon, so they don't have to maintain two apps on their phone.

SOS Button and Legal Requirements

A recent decision by the government has made panic buttons mandatory in new phones. Many handset manufacturers are partnering with various SOS apps or building their own apps. This is a much cheaper alternative compared to making expensive hardware changes such as a physical panic button on the phone. As such, the time is short and they have to comply by January 2017. Taxi apps, e.g. Uber, Didi Chuxing have a panic button but it leaves much to be desired

Three qualities of an SOS button

For an SOS button to be really useful
  1. It must be available all the time - even when the phone screen is locked.
  2. It must be easy to locate and use - in an emergency, you can't be searching for it.
  3. It shouldn't be triggered by mistake, under usual circumstances.

Our attempt to solve it

After much thought and trials, we came up with a simple and elegant solution - an SOS button in a notification. This way, the SOS button is always available, easy to locate, and unlikely to be tapped by mistake.

Clicking the SOS button will send an SMS with your location to your loved ones. In future, a message will also be sent to police - we are working on that.

See the following video for a demo of the SOS button.


Starting with Android 5.0 (Lollipop), notifications are visible even on a locked screen. So the SOS button is also available on a locked screen, and can be triggered without having to open the phone.

See this video for a demo of the locked screen



Saturday, 9 July 2016

Panic Button and Tracking in Cab apps - yet not safe...


Earlier in July another chilling news hit all media. The company in the news was Uber. Not the first time that Uber was in news on concerns over rider safety - especially that of women and children. The rider - a girl from Kolkata - was threatened by the driver that he would rape her and dump her body in a ditch if she screamed. The brave girl jumped off the moving car and escaped. Now the driver is arrested, yet the issue is far from over. 


Safety features in taxi apps

Taxi apps have been in the news for many of the wrong reasons - concerning safety of customers, especially that of women. There had been a few rape or assault cases on women riders hailing taxi alone late at night. The government has issued a directive to have panic button in every cab and cab related app, that would connect with local police. In fact Uber actually has one, in addition to capability to share your ride with friends/family. 



Uber launched SOS features a year ago and made sure to hog media limelight. Ola followed the suite. Recently the Chinese cab aggregator Didi Chuxing announced the same. A couple of months ago Uber announced trip-tracker - a feature to let your family/friends track your trip.

Where safety features fail...

And yet, we hear these stories often. Perhaps very few users try to use these features. Maybe because the features are not easy to use or they do not work as expected. Probably both. I myself went through the screens in one of my rides to see how it worked. I received a call from Uber about 7-8 minutes after I activated Panic mode. I appreciate their response, but in real life situation, that could be a lot of delay.

This blogger too had similar findings...


Clearly, this panic feature is not best suited to help someone who is in danger. How would the Kolkata girl go through multiple screens when the driver did everything to harm her? Surely she was not making use of Uber-track either. The question is - why is this not so commonly known?

And another question - what would you do if you are not in Ola/Uber? You may use public transport or autos. What if you booked a ride for someone - e.g. friend or family, and you are not travelling? In these cases the traveller does not benefit from panic feature, nor can have her ride tracked.


What riders expect in safety features

The current solutions may be far from perfect. Yet there can be significant improvement in user experience. 
  1. Firstly, it should be very easy to discover/access SOS button, it should not trigger false alarms (or people would stop using), and there should be maximum two touches before sending message. 
  2. Secondly - rider should find this feature in the same way with ease, no matter which device he/she is using, or which app is on top. 
  3. Finally - the other end of the SOS button should be capable of action. That is the police or emergency service. If not the police, atleast someone who cares enough about you, to be counted up to take necessary action. 

The first two are very much within the scope of app design. While the third one needs buy-in from government agencies, safety can still be implemented at the family/friends circle level. Everyone has someone or the other caring enough, and capable of action.

What Reaching Soon is doing about it

Of course, we want our users and their family to be safe. Our product is universal - and we insist that you use it irrespective of whether you are using Ola, Uber, Kali-Peeli, auto, bus, train, metro, office appointed cab or even a friends vehicle. When it matters, you should be located from door to door, not just trip start to end. 

We are also adding Panic button that can be accessed quickly, which will connect with your emergency contacts. This will be in addition to any chatting/communication features that we shall have in the app. 

Share your thoughts on this below this post or write to us at [email protected] . We shall make every attempt to make the app most beneficial to you. And if you have not used the app yet, download it from Google Play Store and start using it.

(Panic Button image credit - Lets Panic Later by wackystuff https://flic.kr/p/pwcRe1)

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Which is better: Reaching Soon vs Glympse vs Life360 vs Google+

Reaching soon is so easy to use, even our parent's generation can use it without difficulty!


"Is it like Glympse?"


When ReachingSoon is mentioned, I keep hearing this all the time -

"Is it like Glympse?"
"How is it different from Life360?"
"Google+ is better"

No.

We are far far better! At enabling people share their location with family and friends. Quickly. All people. Even the smartphone-newbies. Not just the tech savvy ones.

Q. What expectations do people have from a location sharing app?


First and foremost, they want to let anxious family or friends know where they are, and when they would arrive.

So, naturally, a good location sharing app must let you do precisely that without hassles...

We tested some of the leading location sharing apps - Glympse (5M+ downloads on Playstore), Life360 (10M+ downloads) and Google+ (needs no introduction - yes, they do have live location sharing)

And the results will surprise you!

1. Glympse (https://www.glympse.com/)

Screenshots - Getting started with Glympse

Glympse let's you share your location with friends/family and they can track you on a browser or the app if they have it. You can also request location from them, but they need to have Glympse app installed on their mobile in order to share.

Every session is time-limited, and location sharing stops after a time period which you choose. This is great, because you aren't tracked all day long!

The hiccup - Sharing a trip with friends/family is very complex. Every time. It involves many clicks, and is not at all intuitive. Even after doing it a few times, it was not easy to get used to it.


2. Life360 (https://www.life360.com/)

Screenshots - Getting started with Life360
Life360 is meant for family members to track each other, mostly on a continuous basis. You create a family group, and every member of the group shares his/her location with every other member. Everyone in your group necessarily needs to have the app installed on their phones.

Getting started with Life360 was tiresome. You need to create an account, sign in, add people to a circle, wait for them to reciprocate, add places, etc. Many decisions and actions have to be taken before you can actually start sharing location. In short, too much to do for just sharing the location.

Further, the location sharing is permanent, which is something not everyone wants. Yes, you can pause location sharing when you wish to, but then that defeats the purpose of having the app in the first place.


3. Google+

Google+ app has a location sharing component to it. To open it, choose "Locations" on the pull-down menu on the left side.

Sharing location with Google+ is extremely difficult. You need to add people to a Google+ circle, and then share location with that circle.

Having done that, you end up sharing the location almost permanently, because stopping that is another difficult activity.

4. Reaching Soon (https://www.reachingsoon.com)

Screenshots - Getting started with Reaching Soon
With Reaching Soon, we have made a conscious effort to keep it simple. All you need to do, is invite a family/friend to join your trip - you do this by sending them a link to the trip, using WhatsApp, SMS or email. 

And you are set! When they click on the link, the trip opens in a browser, or the Reaching Soon app, if they have it.

No signup, no circles, nothing to hinder you from sharing your location...

And the trip ends and location sharing stops automatically when all of you reach the destination. No need to even choose an expiry time.


In Summary

Reaching Soon is designed to make life simpler for you - fewer clicks, fewer decisions to make. You just open the app, and you are ready to let your loved ones know where you are, and when you will reach.



GlympseLife360Google+Reaching Soon
Signup RequiredNoYesYesNo
Number of clicks to invite friend510very complex3
Location sharing/tracking durationTime limitedPermanentPermanentOnly while trip is on
Works from browser alsoYesNoNoYes


Download Reaching Soon
 at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.drawtyme.trackme

If you are on iOS, register for early access - https://www.reachingsoon.com (click on the "Apple App store button")

----

Credits - Image on top -  You've Got Mail by Georgie Pauwels (two sr men on mobile)
https://www.flickr.com/photos/frosch50/10858946293

Friday, 17 June 2016

ReachingSoon in EconomicTimes




Economic Times published a case study on Reaching Soon app yesterday on their ETCIO Online Edition (http://bit.ly/reachET1). A great thing to happen when an early stage app gets such visibility.

Have a read, share the article, and most importantly - get the app on your mobiles and on that of your family members. It's a great tool to stay connected with them when it matters. Share it with your friends using this easy link http://bit.ly/reachingsoon

Monday, 6 June 2016

"Where Are You?"




On a busy downtown street you will always find many 'helplessly lost' people talking on their phones as they walk. If you eavesdrop these people, you will find most of them are either anxiously asking "where are you?" or answering that question. Usually they share landmarks such as street numbers/ shops/ buildings. But the other person is left on her own to locate those landmarks. It's also very common for the same two callers to speak more than once before they finally meet. At times the call does not get through for reasons such as network congestion, the line is busy or the other person is driving. Overall - it is not a pleasant experience after all.

Do you remember your own such experience? We all have experienced it. Thank God we at least have mobile phones; can you imagine how difficult it was in the 90s? We ourselves experienced this problem so many times when we had visitors or delivery boys calling to seek help with directions. And more often than not - there had to be more than one calls until they reached us.

For a person to give correct directions, she must know exact location of the other person. But what if the person still loses his way even after giving directions? What if they are meeting in an unfamiliar area?

That's how MapFindMe - Now Reaching Soon was born to solve our own problems. Life becomes much simpler when we can locate each other person on the map, and they can see us too. Once we see each other on the map and can track for that time, there is no need to make anxious calls. We immediately know whether they are taking the right path and how soon they would reach. If one takes the wrong path, the other person can inform immediately. Such an easy solution for a routine problem!

Click here Get the Reaching Soon Android app from Google Play Store. If you already have it, make sure it is current, as we keep updating it all the time. And iPhone users, we shall bring one for you very soon.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Reaching Soon Demo (and how you can create one for your app)




Bringing to you the demo of Reaching Soon App. Have a look, feel free to comment. If you like it, make sure to click the like button. Also share the app with your friends. I am sure your friends will thank you when they have themselves tracked in a couple of rides using Reaching Soon.

A little story behind how we created this video. Maybe it will help you when you create one for your product. Given that we were on a (negligible) budget, we decided to try it ourselves. Had the experience been miserable, we would have take pro help of course. But definitely worth a try.

We recorded screencast of our own journey using the app. That was easy using A-Z screen recorder app on Samsung Note 3. Pretty descent tool, except that it consumes mobile storage much quicker than you would like. If you use this so make sure you have sufficient space as a few minutes of recording would exceed half a GB.

What followed was a day+ of hard work finding right pictures, clips, music pieces and right text-to-speach software, and putting it all together.

We used iMovies on Mac. What a tool. Lovers of free software must use this. Though a bit intuitive to start with, it's great once you get used to it. Not much of mumbo-jumbo, very simple and powerful. Add the bits and pieces that you are going to use - MP4, images, sound files. Cut paste as needed, use themes as needed and you have final product that is very good.

Music was not difficult, we found it on Free Music Archive. We love that site. There are plenty of great tunes under creative commons license, available for commercial use. Difficulty was in picking the right one to fill 12-15 seconds. We chose Quasi Motion by Kevin MacLeod - it suited perfectly to the motion depicted in a journey that Reaching Soon tracks.

Tough part was getting the right TTS voice. Ideally I would have liked a friend with "Received Pronunciation". Unfortunately Brits other than BBC newsreaders rarely speak with that. We found "Harry" on From Text to Speech. Nice voice, very clear and pleasant (ignoring stiff upper lip that was well noticeable). We tried ladies and gentlemen with various American, British, Australian and Indian accents and Harry was definitely the best.

Final challenge was putting it all together to <1m video. Given we are amateurs in video making, we are very happy with the outcome. It tells the story and brings the message clearly. Now you tell us what you think about it.