Todoist – an easy way to productivity

Todoist has become my favourite To Do list after trying a few in my quest for better productivity in the past year. I love the product because it’s simple, intuitive to use and also fits on how I use it everyday. One of the biggest selling factors for me is how interoperable Todoist for me. I’ve always looked for services that are ubiquitous – I demand that my solutions don’t tie me down to any hardware or platform. This means that interoperability for me is key. I love that I can use Todoist on my phone, on my tablet and on my desktop extremely seamlessly.

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Hopes for Google Plus

I haven’t been a big fan of social networks to date. Largely because I believe that social networks are defined by people and not so much by software. Software does have a place though and can play a very big part. Until now, social networks have been synonymous with Facebook. For me, Facebook is a social channel like Twitter, Flickr, Buzz and email just to name a few.

The nice thing about Google’s social effort is that it isn’t about figuring out what features it has to prioritize to go to market with; it’s been mostly about how to package it so that it will be most interesting and useful to the members of a new community. Google was able to start with having Picasa as their default web album, YouTube for their videos, Talk for their messaging infrastructure and Gmail for email and relationships. The concern about not having enough data seems to be a bit unfounded in general.

Here is where I hope Google Plus will be different because it has a strong opportunity to be different. My biggest concern about Google Plus is that it will be another walled garden like the other channels today. If it is, it will have to try to persuade people to add another channel that is unlikely going to be unique. The theme of how Google can be different relates around consolidation and aggregation. This plays into some of Google’s key strength as part of the reason why their search is so powerful is that it intelligently identifies duplication and removes it from the search results.

I am starting to suffer from social channel burn out. Although I have joined as many channels as I know of today, I participate in very few which really defeats the purpose of a channel. One of the nice features that Google Plus has today is that it allows you the ability to interact with others through Google Plus and email. Hopefully, over time they will allow you to interact with people through the other channels as well and allow people to interact with others using the channel that is most meaningful to them. However, in doing do, Google has to duplicate the information at times as there is a strong likelihood that members of the same circle could need to be reached over multiple channels. Plus then needs to consolidate that information so it’s not represented multiple times in my stream otherwise it would generate a lot of noise. This would be no different then any other social channel today.

Personally, I find myself using Google Plus more and more. A large part of that has to do with Gmail being my primary email provider both personally and professionally. This decision makes sense; Gmail is where the concept of contacts and relationships are most prevalent. Lately, Google has also embedded Talk and Voice within Gmail, using it as a launch point for these services. While Google doesn’t work with Google Apps right now, there are plans to accelerate its availability to Google App users. However, making it available will not be enough. They also need a way to somehow consolidate the experience where my relationships between those accounts or personalities are not duplicated by rather aggregated in an intelligent way. Just as I hope that Google will find a way to aggregate the information coming through my stream, I am also hoping that Google will consolidate my critical services (email, chat, voice and video communications) through Plus as well.

There is without a doubt that social is a big deal for Google. In very many ways, it is the same reason why Android is and was important to Google – it’s a way to feed their gigantic advertising machine. It is a way of gathering more information about you so it can feed you more relevant advertisement to you. At the same time, they are also giving you access to the data you create and hopefully manage and own. Regardless of why they launch Google Plus or what features they launch, I hope they will be different because they need to be.

Waze – Twitter for navigation

Lately I’ve been addicted to a pretty neat application called Waze. It brands itself as a social navigation app and has apps for the iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian. I actually played with both the iPhone and Windows Mobile app and both work pretty decently. The app is pretty addictive. You essentially get points for numerous activities such as simply driving around, sharing event such as speed trap, recording new roads and yes, even editing the map. The mobile app works like it’s supposed to although I surprisingly had more problems connecting to the GPS with the iPhone than I did with the Windows Mobile which is quite rare. The web application is simplistic. You have a dashboard that shows you your previous trips and then you can choose to click them to view those trips. You could also choose to use those trips to enhance a current map by filling out roads that are missing and so on. I like the idea of editing my maps but I find the experience quite frustrating at times. Hopefully over time, they will continue to improve on it. The mobile app also integrates with both Twitter and foursquare.

Although maps are pretty sparse in Toronto and thus rendering navigation pretty useless in my area, it is easy to see the use of Waze. Every once in a while, I’ll get an alert stating that segments of the 401 have medium traffic followed by the speed of an anonymous user at the time. People can also report various things such as accidents on the roadways. One of the issues is that it’s technically illegal to operate Waze while driving so it works best when you have another driver in the car with you. For me, I typically just turn on Waze before I start driving and keep on driving. The neat thing about this is outside of giving up some privacy, it typically doesn’t really detract me from doing what I normally do anyway.

To me, what is probably most intriguing about Waze is the social experiment it represents. I’ve always been of the opinion that most people are most interested in controlling their privacy and not so much containing it. Most people are willing to give out information about themselves usually if it benefits them in one way or another. Given its ability to provide real time data to its users, it’s the equivalent of Twitter for navigation

Don’t send me SMS messages; please use Twitter DM instead

This is really a follow up post about how I got my mum to use Twitter exclusively to message me. Since then, I’ve started to really like the combination of Twitter on SMS. It hits a bit of a messaging sweet spot for me.

It’s like instant messaging. The nice thing about having a 140 character limit is that direct messages tend to be concise. Messages are brief and I can decide if and what I am going to respond. Messages also come instataneously if it is tied to SMS.

It’s like email. One of the best things about email is that I can access it any where with any client. Because it is web-service based, I can access it over the web, a desktop client or mobile client. One of the things that I do now is that I leave my work phone in my home office when I get home. Since it is the primary device that I use for communications, I often miss personal SMS messages at night. I can however check my DMs from whereever I happen to be at that moment.

It is SMS with benefits. Since it is tied to SMS, I have it instantly on the device of my choice. Additional benefits of being Twitter is that it isn’t a random number. I have used the moniker firsttiger for over 15 years now so it’s easy for most people to remember my handle. I also change my phone numbers often but I am not likely to change my Twitter handle. Another major benefit for Twitter DM over SMS is that it leverages Internet infrastructure and just uses cellular infrastructure for the last mile so this makes long distance texting cheaper. When I travel, I often use a local SIM card in order to save money on telecommunications. However, long distant SMS messages still apply when I text home. With Twitter DM and some set up, it allows me to just incur local text charges to communicate with people back home.

So if you can, please Twitter DM me instead of texting me. You’ll find that I am more responsive 🙂

PeopleBrowsr – a serious Tweetdeck competitor

Even though Tweetdeck revolutionized Twitter use in my mind, the Twitter desktop client of choice for me is PeopleBrowsr. Tweetdeck did a similiar thing that the iPhone did which was to revolutionize the Twitter desktop clients. I now describe Twitter as an office and the group concept is similiar to different water coolers in the office. It allows me to hang out at particular watercoolers depending on what is going on or what I’m interested in at that part of the day. When I first used PeopleBrowsr, it was a web version of the already very popular Tweetdeck but it was extremely buggy to say the least but even then it had quite a lot of potential. I like the idea of having a web based version of Tweetdeck because I’m not always on the same computer all the time. Since then, PeopleBrowsr has quickly grown to be a very powerful Twitter client and is currently my default Twitter client.

 
Groups
The concept of groups was revolutionized by Tweetdeck. PeopleBrowsr has taken it one step further by creating the concept of public and private groups. For instance, I’ve created public groups for Zoocasa for people who want to follow the Zoocasa team members on Twitter. This would have been useful when we first started using Twitter on Zoocasa and it would have been easy to just give people the group name and they would have had a default “water cooler” to join. While #followfridays are an interesting concept, I find it more interesting to assign certain ids to groups. For instance, I created a group called #ftgrcoolproducts so that I could follow products that I thought were really interesting. For industry reasons, I also recently created a group called real estate canada.
 
View Conversations
Tweetdeck has recently added this but PeopleBrowsr was one of the few clients (the other one being PockeTwit) that had the ability to see the thread of a conversation. I personally found it really powerful expecially when I wanted to see the context of a conversation. Peoplebrowsr’s inline conversation view is quite useful as I don’t have to be scrolling around to view the conversation.
 
Collapsed DM+Replies+Sent
One of the things that I really like about PockeTwit was that it put all of my replies and DMs into one column because all messages are directed at me. With PeopleBrowsr, you can take it one step further by adding your sent messages in a single column.
 
Helicopter view
The helicopter view is quite useful as well. It’s a summary view of all your groups at once. This is useful if you have a lot of groups and just want a quick way to glance what is the most recent tweet at that point.
 
Other Social Media Platforms
PeopleBrowsr also allows you to consolidate quite a handful of other social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Identi.ca, FriendFeed and Flickr.
 
Adobe AIR Client
PeopleBrowsr does have an Adobe AIR Client which is essentially a dedicated web browser for PeopleBrowsr. I’ve found it to chew up lots of memory eventually and at some point, it doesn’t poll Twitter properly. That can always be fixed with a restart of the AIR client.
 
PeopleBrowsr also boasts of other products and features which I haven’t had a tonne chance to play with. When you log on to www.peoplebrowsr.com, it has products like search, marketers, hot lists, news and conference. 

Twitter SMS is so much better than regular SMS

It’s true what they say – it’s hard to miss what you never had. For the longest time, Canada was bereft of Twitter over SMS. I never once thought about it impacting me since in my mind, I would always use an app like PockeTwit or Twikini. Even after my carrier got the ability to use Twitter over SMS, I was a bit non-chalant about it. It took me almost a week for Twitter to get its kinks out of the way but finally it worked.

For me, the primary magic really was getting Mama Kang on Twitter. I have mum set up on Tweetdeck at home but my mum would rarely log on to it. I quickly realized that the best way to do this was to get it to work over SMS for mum. Mum is very much a technophobe choosing not to use tech because she doesn’t have to. Once she was introduced to Twitter SMS, she got used to the idea of checking and sending text messages. One slight problem – mum could not figure out how to get to the @ sign from her SE W810. I eventually got her a used T-Mobile G1 from @elusivejackal. I was surprised how quickly she got used to the idea of using the smartphone but more on that on another post. Mum now constantly DMs me and it’s great.

Here’s why Twitter SMS is better than regular SMS. For me, it’s because it gives me a much wider reach of friends and family. SMS is the bridge for people who aren’t incline to be on their computer all the time or have a smartphone but whom I want to stay connected with and hopefully they with me.

Another great side effect of having Twitter SMS. While I’m more than happy to be on my mobile device all day long, I tend not to be. When I’m home, I tend to leave my primary phone (tgrmobile) on my home office desk. Cool thing is that I have access to my DMs through other devices scattered around the house.

So my new take on Twitter SMS is that it’s probably the most effective technology to bridge the technophiles and technophobes.

Twikini – Initial Review

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my phone OS to Windows Mobile 6.5 and my initial reaction is more phew than anything else. Upgrading to a non-official ROM always comes with tonnes of risk. One major by product of upgrading to this particular ROM is that my favourite WinMo Twitter app doesn’t work yet on .NET CF 3.7. After reading some intial reviews, I decided to give Twikini a try.

Screenshot

Twikini provides all of the basic features of Twitter such as reply and re-tweeting. It also allows you to shorten URLs and post pics and separates between your friends’ stream, replies and direct messages. One interesting feature is that it can automatically tweet whatever music or song you’re listening to on your Windows Mobile device. One nice thing about it is that it’s not written in .NET which translates to running pretty quickly on your mobile device. Twikini is a rather simple app which is both its strength and its weakness. It all really depends on who is the user of the app. For instance, I think it’s a fabulous app if you’re just monitoring your stream of friends. It’s simple to use and focuses on the core functions such as tweeting, replies, re-tweeting and favouriting a tweet. There is very little getting used to as it keeps the Windows Mobile paradigm of smart buttons. If you need more advanced features like groups or posting from multiple services (for me, it’s ping.fm) then Twikini isn’t there yet.

Some of the immediate shortcomings of Twikini that they should be able to fix with relative ease is giving users the ability to follow another user and give users a count of new messages based on friends stream, replies and direct messages. One of the question marks will be if the simplicity and speed will entice end users to pay $5.95 when they can get PockeTwit for free.