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Interview with Cyril Konyaev and Nikon Mockey from Puzl

0 11 August 2014

Cyril Konyaev (left) and Nikon Mockey (right)

Cyril Konyaev (left) and Nikon Mockey (right)

How did the idea for Puzl come about? Did you know each other before taking part in this project?
Nikon: The idea didn’t really come about all at once. 4 years ago I decided to help my friend with his project, a startup at Skolkovo. I took part in the project as a designer and really liked the experience. After a couple of years I realised that startups can solve problems that in our day to day life we aren’t even really aware of. I started to pay attention to those kinds of problems and I realized that, for instance, we could reduce the time we spend reading news on social networking sites and make the process faster and simpler.
Cyril: We already knew each other before the project, but this is our first joint project.

So, what is your project and how can it help the average internet user?
Nikon: When I bought my iPhone, I discovered what an app is, but I decided that I needed something to gather and filter all this information. I downloaded aggregators, but I didn’t think any of them were any good, since they gathered information without any filter. It wasn’t targeted at an individual; it was just a load of news. Basically just a mess. A year and a half ago I thought: “Well, if there isn’t any aggregator out there, why don’t I create one myself?” I asked my friends and some of them said that they needed one, because they felt there was a sort of flood of information on the web. I got in touch with Cyril, explained the situation to him, and we tried to make sure the problem really existed. We tested an alpha version, and without a name or advertisements people were interested in the app and many of them renewed it, a sign that they needed it.
Cyril: We made sure to use a broad range of people and feedback was unanimously positive.

You wrote on your site that some similar projects already exist, but that they have limited prospects. Why do you think that Puzl will be popular?
Nikon: Thanks to the tests we did, we rethought our idea and decided that in the first place we needed to show that the information that the user receives when entering the sites matches their taste and personality. If we used a form to collect this information from the user then this would be straightforward. The second step was to simplify how the information was presented, something the average user agreed with.
Cyril: We want to design something helpful, that the user WANTS to use. We aim to target the user’s desire for the product. We want to differentiate between our users, making sure that the product adapts to each of them. We are the first to be bringing a product to completion that will fulfil users’ desire for an app which aggregates news from social networking sites, and that’s why we’ll be successful.
Another useful tool is the “news counter”. We noticed that it was both annoying and tiresome to have to scroll down our Facebook wall without knowing how many posts there where. Facebook has just introduced a similar tool, and that shows we were on the right track.

From what I gather, a key aspect of Puzl is its convenience and simplicity. Which aspects of the product highlight this?
Nikon: The design is as simple as possible. We wanted it to be instinctive. We didn’t want the user to adapt to the system, but rather for the system to adapt to the user. We wanted the user to know instinctively where to press and how to use the app. Unfortunately in Russia the word “design” is still seen as “something that looks cool”. However, the root of the word expresses the meaning of planning, of a project. A design is something done by an architect, that comes before the producer. The interface is structured differently to standard internet pages or apps. It is similar to that of a book or an e-reader: the user flicks through the pages not from left to right. Users are used to scrolling up and down, but we don’t think it’s the most intuitive one. It’s just that no one has invented anything different yet, but when we tested our app, it didn’t take long for people to get used to the new system.

Can you explain what “kits” are and how they can help internet users? How do you they provide the user with more precise and targeted content?
Nikon: Kits are a useful instrument consisting of both a filter and an artificial intellect that understands what the user wants. Kits allow a user to select whatever information they want, be it a single social network, a file, or a hashtag. If there are useless or annoying topics, users can choose not to see them. They can highlight a post they like without having it signalled on the original social network (i.e. highlighting a post on FB without properly “liking” it). The system will then give you similar posts. Everything is precisely filtered according to the single user’s taste and preferences. Our ultimate aim is for you to like everything that the system offers you.
Another filter that social networking sites tend to use is “popularity”: if a post receives 100,000 likes, the system will insist on showing you it, even though you may not like it. This is analytically and logically wrong: for example, that kind of system doesn’t take into account social categories, and the fact that the people who liked a post may belong to a different social category to me.
Another issue is advertising: an advertisement will usually appear on your Facebook home simply because you looked for something similar on the internet. However, you may actually like what you were looking at. Perhaps you were just looking at it as a present for a friend. Maybe you were looking at it for a laugh. What we need to base advertising on is the user’s REACTION, their real taste, because otherwise they won’t even pay attention to advertising when it appears. We want to make advertising useful to both the user and the advertiser. It’s a waste of money advertising products and services to people who aren’t interested. Thus, Kits are a useful tool for making our program more effective.

When and where will the product be available, on which online stores and for which platforms (iOS, iPad, Android, etc.)?
Nikon: Our aim is to have it available by mid October. We are currently working on the product launch. Initially it will be available for iOS only (but we plan to extend it to Android systems), and only in Russia and CIS countries. However, we aim to create an English version for Europe and America, and we’d like to launch it in Asia. Asia is a particularly interesting market for us, since it’s growing fast, with many new social networking websites taking over. We think Puzl would be useful to any user in any country, since we all use social networks. Many of us use certain social networks more than others, leaving some unchecked for quite a while. This risks missing important messages we might have received. It’s an important app for people who travel and need to keep in touch with people all around the world.
Cyril: We are looking for investment in order to launch our product abroad, and investors need to realise that our site is not “just another” social network. It’s not something that people already have, it’s something new that we think people genuinely need.

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