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Monday, October 22, 2012

Awesome Apps - 22/10/12

This week, I've been looking at some different apps in the space of video calls and more specifically video conferencing.  There's been an increased need in my home life as well as work life to transcend the miles and make effective communication links and I've been trying to find something that gives a real experience and doesn't make it feel like you are on a call at all.

Of course a great much of this depends on the device itself, but the app is a key part in the chain.

Here's some of the best I've tried and would recommend:

  • Google Hangout - for free this is pretty awesome indeed.  In particular I like the way it handles multi person calls.  This is a great experience on the Nexus 7 tablet - better than other devices I've tried.  I guess you'd expect this from google integration.  Handles low bandwidth really well.
  • Skype - it's everywhere!  Device agnostic, I guess you would say.  And this is indeed one of its better qualities.  Having everyone I know onboard with Skype makes it pretty easy to get to them.  Call quality is patchy though, particularly for low bandwidth.
  • Facetime - if you are an apple addict you've got this already.  Brilliant point to point.  We have an iMac at home with a super HD camera.  On this device its the best experience I've ever had with video calls.  Make it feel like you're in the same room and just chatting.  Wish there was a multi person version.  Call quality is always great.
  • Airtime - just getting my head around this one.  Not used it much yet.  Starting to see the pluses and minuses.

Try them out and let me know what you think.  They're all awesome in their own ways.  It's just a question of whether they are awesome for your individual context.

If skype is your bag, then why not take a look at this as a device.  Makes your HD TV into a wonderful skype interface.  Particularly good for home use.  Also quite good for small office / meeting room: 

Look forward to your thoughts :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Awesome Apps - 14/10/12

Foursquare - that's where it all started for me on the checkin apps.  Then came along the nice bit in facebook to do pretty much the same thing.  But there, for quite a while, it has all stopped.  Particularly in the UK.

When travelling in the USA I see that checkin apps really are part of the consumer, retail, world.  In the UK its kind of here, but not really used.  For the first time since I've been using it I received a freebie the other day when becoming a mayor of a UK hotel.  I was awarded a piece of cake :)  Nice!  But will I get one next time?

So, it's good to see that this checkin stuff is getting a new lease of life as more and more ways to utilise location and retail patterns emerge.  I like things that help you collaborate and enjoy new connections and so that's the theme of todays awesome apps....

  • Go matic - Chronicle your adventures and see what's going on around you.
  • Find stuff to do - A great big map with what's going on around you.  Particularly useful in London.  Gives you suggestions and relevance scores.
  • Grafetee - I like to think of it as a big browser for the real world.  Bookmark locations to remember them.

The first question anyone asks me when they first hear about this kind of stuff is about privacy.  But people can see where I am?  It's all a bit big brother.  What if I don't want them to see.

My short answer - its easy.  Get over yourself!  There are opt in and opt outs and this stuff is all manual right now in terms of you have to checkin / login at places and provide the information through interaction.  Autocheckin isn't happening.  Be an explorer - but when you want to be :)

Also, my top tip on stuff like this is to contribute to the community, without expecting something in return.  That's the best way to build the community.  If everyone gives and no one just 'takes' then the community becomes powerful and useful for all.

Awesome apps!  Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Awesome Apps - 25/09/12

So this week has seen a rich source of interesting stuff in two areas: Education and Online project management tools.  I thought as I had found them both so interesting that a double header blog post might just be in order :)

So, the first one - Education:

  • Khan Academy - growing in recognition this is a wonderful project.  In some schools it is even being trialled as the curriculum.  Video assets are great.  Exams and online tests useful too.  Very wide selection of things to choose from.
  • Coursera - This site is all about higher education.  Great stuff from around the world and in particular the US.  Some really interesting and in depth courses here in a variety of areas.  I'm thinking of trying out the maths and computer science courses as part of my own interests.
  • iTunes U - A wonderful cornucopia of stuff on this Apple platform for education.  Comes into its own on the iPhone and iPad.
What I love most about these is that they are FREE.  Wowzers!  In a world where education is so commercialised in the US and UK this is amazing.  Let's not overlook too things like MITX, which is building a whole new future in online higher education of the highest order.

Keep this main point in mind again: this stuff is free.  For you, for me, for everyone who can get to it through the web or a device.  And it's increasingly more tailored to our web and device interfaces, making the learning experience far more portable and interactive.

A wonderful opportunity for people of any social class, geographic region, age or experience to get involved with education and to feel the benefits to their work, their lives or just their feelings of self worth.  I genuinely think that these things are wonderful.

And the second one - online project and collaboration tools:
  • Trello - a ramped up set of Agile cards on a white board.  Few added task tools and you can add files to the cards too as well as pictures to help you visualise your end goals.  I use this every day now.
  • Basecamp - I love this site too.  It's quick and simple to use from the start.  We found in our team that it became a bit too admin heavy though - and easy to become a task in itself.  We wanted something lighter - which is where Trello came in, but we lost some of the helpful bits - like longer term planning and milestones, that were very handy in Basecamp.
  • Wunderkit - BBC Click featured this last week.  Liked it a lot.  Looks light and easy to use.  More for creative projects than technical I think, but worth a try out if you are going into an agile project for the first time.
Things I like about these tools:  They are free or quite cheap to run, they work really well, They are simple, you can do stuff straight away, anyone can use them and they mean you can collaborate much more easily over long distances.  Oh and you rarely become a slave to them and can just get on with the work.

Things I don't like: Reporting from them is a bit harder than say an MS Project, the integration with say Google logins is minimal and I'd really like to see them integrated within Skype or Google hangout environments so that you can hold a video call for collaboration with a team and bring the project board more easily into view.

In short though, if I compare them to say trying to use MS project to run a short term project, or trying to collaborate over several geographies and writing up endless meeting minutes, I think that they are FANTASTIC!  Well worth a look.

And that brings an end to today's Awesome Apps experience share.  Hope you got something out of it of use to you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Awesome apps - 15/09/12

Well it's been a couple of weeks since I posted something about awesome apps, but please don't let that make you feel like I haven't seen any innovation in that time.  In fact, its the opposite!  So much new stuff floating in and out of view every day in this space that its quite incredible.

I come from a background of engineering and science where change and innovation is central to what we do, but takes a very long time.  In this apps space its constant, everywhere and FAST.  Exciting just isn't the word, and I have a lot to thank our uTest partnership for in terms of bringing me headlong into this space.

So, here's this weeks tiny insight into that world of Awesome Apps:

  1. Hotel Tonight - Put simply, the app I have been waiting for all my consultancy life.  Deals on hotels that night.  Special deals on price for last minute availability. #awesome
  2. Voxer Walkie talkie - Ok, so this is something I am not 100% on board with yet, but an example of a nice innovation in the messaging space.  In effect, its audio texts.  Free ones.  Brings a more rich dialogue.  Conceptually very nice.  Reality still a bit clunky for me personally but something to keep with and see where it goes.
  3. Quartz Projects - Accessibility is a key area for me right now and I like this site where they provide accessibility enhancements for twitter.  Such a key forum needs to be accessible for all!  Strong work and kudos to these guys.
Many thanks go to the International Herald Tribune and the BBC Click show for the inspirations behind todays post.  I find both as really useful, credible, mature sources of information in this space.  They form part of my daily (IHT) and weekly (BBC Click) info gathering on the market and I highly recommend them both.

More soon :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Awesome Apps - 26/08/12

This week I have found some really amazing apps and sites, in fact there have been so many new ones that it has been very hard to get this down to just three for the blog.  USA Today, International Herald Tribune and an old favourite - bbc click - have all pointed me in the direction of some great, innovative, things.

Here's my top 3 picks for awesome app status: - This is retail rewards for just visiting a store.  You can build more points by linking a credit card for your transactions at that store too.  It's taking the rewards programme to the next level - finding out for retailers where you visit and then what you do, and of course don't, purchase. - a waiter in your pocket?!!  Well, an app that lets you order your food from the table.  Launched at Bristol airport it gives you the chance to sit down with the kids/bags/etc away from the queuing hassle and order your grub.  Then its brought over to you.  Love the idea.  Not sure on the implementation yet - but think it could be a winner!  Would love to see this rolled out to many restaurants & fast food joints. - This is a social trading game designed to get you interested in being an entrepreneur.  I like anything that encourages the entrepreneurial gene so this one gets my vote.  It is focussed on shoes though - which isn't my passion - but a lovely idea.

The world of apps is really innovating at present.  I felt like I'd seen it all, but these are great and there are more smart people doing more smart things every day particularly in areas such as

I look forward to publishing more awesome app stuff soon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Awesome Apps This week

I've been in India this week, and I've included a little of the Indian seasoning into my Awesome Apps roundup for this week:

  • Flipkart - but India style!  Next day delivery if its in stock.  You see a lot of motorcycles flinging themselves around Bangalore doing deliveries for these guys.
  • Mpowa - Mobile payments for SMEs - UK.  Little adaptor and you can take card transactions :)  Featured in Sunday times last week.  
  • Yepme - Fashion, e-commerce - Indian style!  So similar to US and UK and yet so different!
The Indian start up market is going crazy.  E-commerce is being fuelled by a wonderful obsession with mobile devices - particularly android devices.  Access is easy and the physical infrastructure and location issues experienced sometimes in India are overcome by the mobile device.

More awesome apps next week :)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hackney House II

So, a lot has been happening at the Olympics and East London has been going through a fantastic regeneration as a function of this.

Alongside it, has been a conscious and deliberate investment in 'Tech City' by the Mayor of London and 10 Downing street - striving to make London the go to place for Tech Start ups in Europe.

As part of this, the Hackney House technology showcase venue has been running a lot of stuff, and we've been lucky enough to be part of it.  In particular the race for apps side of things has been a key area of fun for us.

Take a look at this film that tells the story...

We loved being involved with this.  It was a real win-win.  Met some very interesting people, got inspired by some great ideas, made some new friends and some new customers too!  Most importantly for us, we started to get right in the middle of the East London Startup vibe - which is pretty cool indeed :)

Big thanks to everyone who got involved and who made this so much fun.  Special thanks go to Duncan Ray and Andrew Sissons.

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