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Month: February 2013

App.Net goes free. Hopefully not into free-fall.

App.Net goes free. Hopefully not into free-fall.

The Twitter-alternative social network known as App.Net (ADN) has gone free, in a way, as of today.

Launched initially as a paid service, ADN has had a special feel about it as the signal-to-noise ratio is excellent, with spamming non-existent, and actual conversations between what seem to largely be real people. The value proposition was that being a paid service, we users were the customers, not the product.

In the press release today, ADN founder Dalton Caldwell (@dalton) was almost apologetic in his justification for introducing free accounts. More importantly, however, he overviewed the ways in which the free accounts will be limited. Apart from having to be invited by a (paid) member of ADN, there will be other restrictions…

Free tier accounts are similar to paid tier accounts, but with a few limitations. These limitations are as follows:

  • Free tier accounts can follow a maximum of 40 users
  • Free tier accounts have 500 MB of available file storage
  • Free tier accounts can upload a file with a maximum size of 10 MB

Over the last few months, ADN has dropped it’s subscription price, and then added storage space for use with apps. It looks like they’re trying to get app developers to use ADN as a backend with a social network attached, rather than a Twitter alternative social network with a back end attached.

Marco Arment (@marco) sums up a key issue with ADN’s confused value proposition:

Worse yet, if I build an app that requires App.net, it still effectively requires a paid App.net account for my customers to use it, because the chances that they’ll already have been given a free-account invitation from another member are nearly zero.

A major problem with Twitter is that as a freemium service, we users are the product which Twitter sells to its advertisers. The signal-to-noise ratio is out of control, with a lot of spamming, and predominately broadcast based messages from various celebrities.

ADN offered us an alternative world, but it looks clear to me that this world has failed to get sufficient momentum. High profile users like Stephen Fry have dropped their accounts, and powerhouse users like John Gruber, John Siracusa and others have reduced their participation.

I suspect that ADN is confused about what their product actually is.

  • Is ADN a social media network? If so, where are the users?
  • Is ADN a storage platform? If so, what is the compelling proposition against Dropbox, Amazon S3 or CloudApp? And why would we pay for it in addition to the cost of the app?

I want ADN to survive and thrive. But as a founding user, I am not at clear anymore as to its value proposition. I hope that by going free, ADN isn’t starting down a path to a free-fall.

I am @desparoz on ADN. Come and say g’day.

Shifty Jelly on building for Android first

Shifty Jelly on building for Android first

Russell Ivanovic of Australia’s Shifty Jelly (developer of my favourite weather app for iOS and OSX) talk about why they developed an Android version of their Pocket Casts 4 app before an iOS version.

There’s no reason not to launch on Android first or iOS first in 2013. Both are massively viable platforms full of users who want to pay for great apps.

This is a mature and reasonable decision for an app developer. Focusing limited resources is critical, and it makes a lot of sense.

I think it also makes sense based on competition. As Russell stated, the Android version has been a bigger seller and more profitable product for them, and there is no native app in the class. I also suspect that relatively few developers are developing "Android first" (for now), so there is an opportunity for them.

I am a committed iOS user, and will be for the foreseeable future. But I’ve made platform shifts in the past, and can say that what makes sense for everyone – developers and users – is to choose the platform that provides you with the most value.

From: Shifty Jelly’s blog of mystery

Now it’s time to do the work

Now it’s time to do the work

Inbox Zero: always a good feelingIt’s always a great feeling to get back to Inbox Zero.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the work is done. Just that the intrays are cleared, the work is processed into my system so I can now deal with stuff as I am best able.

The 36 starred items in the screen shot are all items lined up with items on my Next Action lists.

The in tray on my desk is also empty, I’ve cleared out all phone and SMS messages.

So Inbox Zero doesn’t imply that there’s no work to be done. On the contrary, it means that the work has been identified and organised appropriately. Now it’s time for me to get on with it!

Grant Graves Redefines Failure

Grant Graves Redefines Failure

My friend Grant W Graves has published a very interesting piece about Redefining Failure, a topic he came to think a bit more deeply about as a result of a discussion he was involved in at a TEDx Manhattan Beach salon event.

“I think we need to redefine failure and change what it means for people. I would suggest that failure is not negative at all. If you are going to change or try to do anything new, it is impossible without failure. In fact, you often learn more from failure than you do from your successes when you are trying to innovate or make changes.”

Grant’s post is quite thoughtful, and although his conclusions target actions for divers and dive instructors, the essence applies to all aspects of productivity: in order to know success, we need to understand failure.

Reminds me of an old Okinawan (karate) saying: nana korobi, ya oki, which translates as something like “fall down seven times, stand up eight”.

From a personal productivity point of view, I find it easy to get distracted sometimes. Sometimes I don’t review my lists, and I don’t achieve Inbox Zero on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean I give up. I double down, learn from what went wrong, and do better next time.

I’m going to stop writing now, and head out for a swim. I’ve learned that if I don’t get to the pool at the right time, it gets crowded. Especially on a beautiful Summer weekday.

Read Redefining Failure by Grant W Graves

Enthusiastic review of the new iOS Mailbox app

Enthusiastic review of the new iOS Mailbox app

Mailbox AppA very enthusiastic review of the new Mailbox app by Orchestra.

But Mailbox is worth waiting for. It belongs to a selective category of iOS apps that boast such a high-standard of excellence that they redefine the core experience of the service they are dedicated to on the iOS platform. Think of what Tweetbot did for Twitter, or Clear did for to-do lists, or Fantastical did for Calendars, or what Sparrow did for email on iOS before Mailbox came along to make it look old and hopeless.

Read the review. It sounds like Mailbox has been designed from the ground up to take advantage of iOS gestures, and to help you get to Inbox Zero nirvana on a regular basis. It seems to have some aspects of Sanebox baked into the app and its backend.

Mailbox sounds like an app worth waiting for. Which is what you have to do considering that although the app can be downloaded from the App Store now, you have to wait in a queue to be able to use it. Seems reasonable to manage the roll-out, especially since there is some backend processing to scale up for.

I’m intrigued enough that I’ll happily wait for it. Once I’ve got it, I’ll probably be less patient waiting for an iPad versional, if the app is as good as the hype!

From: Cult of Mac | Mailbox By Orchestra: The Best Email App We’ve Ever Used

On the Go and Around the Web

On the Go and Around the Web

I’ve been giving a bit of thought to my writing, my photography, the structure of this blog and what I want to focus on going forward.

As I see it, this blog has three aspects to it:

  1. Articles on things that interest me, such as technology, productivity, the customer experience, scuba, photography, etc (which I call Des Paroz On The Go)
  2. A venue to share some of my selected images (Photos of the Day)
  3. A link blog (Around the Web) which is where I share a selection of links to sites, posts or images that I think you’ll find interesting

I’ve already shared some thoughts on my link blog, for which I’ve decided that I am going to narrow down to a maximum of 3-5 links per day, each with some commentary from me.

In order to increase “focus” on the main page, I’ve gone one step further, and have decided to move the link blog to a separate site (on the Scriptogr.am platform) which I setup recently. This linkblog is called Around the Web with Des Paroz, and can be found at around.desparoz.com.

The most recent three posts on Around the Web will be shown in a sidebar here on Des Paroz On The Go, so they can be easily seen, but where they’re out of the way of the main posts. There are no comments on the linkblog – the idea is to visit the target site and for you to interact at that source, if you want to.

Des Paroz On The Go will remain here on a WordPress blog, and will have the main posts by me. I am going to focus my posts on 3 topics – personal productivity, presentations and photography. Of course, the enabling technologies of these will feature significantly. The URL will remain desparoz.com.

Of course each site will have its own web feed (RSS), but there will be one aggregated feed, which will continue to be feeds.feedburner.com/desparoz/. If you’re already subscribed to that feed, you’ll receive all posts from both blogs.

I’m going to keep other topics on their own sites – diving related material will be at DivingIDC, and general martials arts writing will be at Applied Karate.

So, I look forward to greater focus on productivty, presentations and photography on this site, with the other sites supporting that focus.

Let me know how you think this will work in the comments.

The best weather app for Australians: Pocket Weather AU

The best weather app for Australians: Pocket Weather AU

There is no shortage of Weather apps available on iPhone, but few do the job in elegant way, particularly for those of us who are outside the US.
Most of the international weather services do a reasonable job of Australian forecasts and data, but few seem to have the consistency and accuracy of the Australian government’s Bureau of Meteorology. Those few apps that use data from BOM too often have a cluttered format.

Apple’s own (pre-loaded) weather app pulls data from Yahoo! weather, and has the main advantage of Siri integration. But the big disadvantage is that the weather data it pulls is descriptive at best, and never detailed enough for me. It also differs from BOM. For example, the forecast for tomorrow in Sydney (6 Feb 2013) from BOM shows a temperature range of 19–26C, whilst Yahoo shows 19–25C.

As the old saying goes:

The man with one watch knows what time it is. The man with two is never sure

As a scuba instructor trainer, I rely on accurate weather forecasts, and the data from BOM has generally been the most reliable for me.

Enter Pocket Weather AU.

Pocket Weather AU
Pocket Weather AU

Pocket Weather AU from Shifty Jelly provides data from BOM in an elegant, intuitive format. With location services enabled, the app provides real time data for your current location, as well as for other locations that you save.

The first screen shows a list of locations (you can have it launch straight to a default location if you prefer). Tapping on a location brings up a summary view for today. Swiping to the left brings a forecast view, while swiping right (from the summary view) brings up the weather radar. Swiping up on each of these screens will bring up more detail.

Aside from the beautiful UI and accurate data, my favourite feature is the free inclusion of tide information. Previously I had to purchase a separate tides app, which I had to repurchase each year. Pocket Weather AU allows the user to download the tide data from within the app, and have direct access to that.

Pocket Weather AU has other important features like access to weather warnings, and push notifications. This last feature allows you to see the current temperature for your default location on the app icon.

Pocket Weather AU is a brilliant app for any Australian who needs accurate weather data in a classy, intuitive app.

The app is available for iOS and Android.

The universal iOS app is $1.99 in the App Store.

Week 2 of the Get Stuff Done Promo on the Mac App Store

Week 2 of the Get Stuff Done Promo on the Mac App Store

We have entered week 2 of the Mac App Store’s Get Stuff Done promotion.

Get Stuff Done on the Mac App Store

Get Stuff Done on the Mac App Store

This week’s focus is on the Organise part of productivity, and features apps to reduce clutter in your mind, your house and on your Mac.

I am a big fan of the MindNode Pro app. I used to use MindManager, but I’ve found the OSX and iOS versions of the app to be lacking. Mindnode Pro works smoothly, and integrates iCloud to make the most of sycning between Macs, iPhone and iPad. It’s my current pick for mindmapping.

I also like the extremely useful Daisy Disk, which I use regularly to check out the data on my Mac drives.

I’ve taken advantage of this promotion to grab Gemini to see how it goes in cleaning up duplicate files.

Check out the Mac App Store’s Get Stuff Done promotion if you’re in the market for apps that will assist

The Launch of OmniFocus 2

The Launch of OmniFocus 2

CEO of Omni Group, Ken Case announced the Debut of OmniFocus 2 (at Macworld/iWorld):

…our goals for version 2 are to bring back to the Mac all of the design and innovation that went into our iPad edition of OmniFocus: dedicated Forecast and Review modes, clearer navigation, and a fresh look and feel.

As a long-time practitioner of what is a personal evolution of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach, I’ve used a variety of organisational tools on a variety of platforms – OSX, iOS, Windows, PalmOS, etc. These have included native and third party apps. OmniFocus on OSX and iOS remains my pick due to its all around power. I love the fact that the Omni people have uncovered a very clever workaround to get OmniFocus to work with Siri.

A lot of people however find OmniFocus to be a complex app, particularly on the Mac (OSX). As Katie Floyd mentioned in her post about the announcement of OmniFocus 2, there is the perception amoung some users that you need a “degree in OmniFocus”!

OmniFocus for iPadBy contrast, OmniFocus for iPad sports a brilliant UI, and is actually where I do most of my process and review activities. I use the OSX and iPhone versions of the app to capture and also to check off next actions completed. The iPad version has a special “review mode” that takes you through a review of Projects that have had the appropriate attention recently. This powerful function will be a feature of OmniFocus 2.

The other factor that has made OmniFocus less approachable to the average user was its pricing. In his post he also outlines a new pricing approach, which will see a standard version available at US$39.99 – still a high end app, but half the price of the current version. There will be a Pro Version with support for custom workflows. There will also be special pricing for users of the current version of OmniFocus on OSX, available through the Omni Group’s website.

OmniFocus is a high end, quality app. With the new UI in OSX, and with its new pricing model, it will continue to be the first choice for productivity power users, and will be an excellent choice for less full-on productivity enthusiasts. Availability has yet to be announced, and it will go into private testing shortly.