Sail

App Review: Sail for Mac

Sail is a new App.net OS X client from indie developer Keith Smiley. Let’s take a moment to highlight the fact that this developer is not from the hot bed of innovation in California, but South Carolina. +1 for home state geeks!

While the directory for App.net clients continues to grow, Smiley took a different approach and created an app just for posting. We can all agree that even with the best intentions the timeline has a sneaky way of sucking you in. Goodbye productivity. Now I know Sail is not totally unique in its approach – Snabb – but I have only used Sail. So taking inspiration from a wonderful Twitter client, Wren, Smiley set out to achieve distraction free posting to App.net. He has accomplished that with Sail.

Sail is simple and straight forward. Compose, post and you are done. The app’s small window only has the character counter and a post button. You do not get more minimalistic than that. With specialized features hidden or removed completely, Sail allows you to focus on your post and get back to your work. And for those times when your muse stops by you can open numerous compose windows to capture every clever thought. Sail also allows you to post to multiple App.net accounts and crosspost to Twitter. See, I told you it is the little app that can.

With Sail only being version 1.0.4 at the time of this review it has just started to find itself. So this means there will surely be lots of new features added as users share feedback. Not to mention the constantly evolving App.net platform. Some things that would add to my experience with Sail would be a larger compose window, or at least the ability to adjust the size. App.net’s (awesome) character limit of 256 characters really allows for your thoughts to breath. Sail’s compose window should as well. Another way to better sync with the App.net network is auto completion of usernames. Either pulling from a list of recent interactions or at least those you follow.

Now my next group of feature requests are a little tougher to ask for because they directly conflict with the simplistic interface I already love. Sail offers the ability to add inline URLs through markdown formatting. Chalk it up my rudimentary knowledge of markdown, but a button to attach a link would be nice. I also blame the iOS app Felix for spoiling me on the feature and how it handles input. Inline links not only save on the character count, but they look so much cleaner. Wrapping up my wish list would be the ability to attach photos via App.net’s file hosting, a “save draft” button or a prompt to save when closing the window. Currently in Sail you save a draft via key command or a menu option.

Drafts are a driving force on how a social app stacks up for me. As an avid user of the Wren Twitter client, I really found the draft drawer helpful for capturing my thoughts in the moment, but holding them for the right time to post. Rate of interactions prove time and time again that my 3A.M. ramblings fall on deaf ears. If I want answers or feedback to a post best to save it for when my network is awake.

Sail is a welcomed addition the App.net family of third party clients. For me it fits perfectly into my daily workflow. I can keep sharing gems of the interwebs during my breaks in work. Instead of taking breaks from the App.net timeline for some work.

Sail is available in the Mac App Store for $2.99. Requires 10.8 or later and a 64-bit processor.

UPDATE: Damn this kid works fast! Sail has already pushed out version 1.1.1 and it addresses some of the requests I had. A new easier option for adding inline URLs and a “save to drafts” prompt when closing a window. Updates on the roadmap: image attachments, an adjustable window and auto completing usernames (That one is harder than you would think).

 

Disclosure: I received a beta version of Sail to review. I have since purchased the retail version.

Art of creating buzz

Creating New Product Buzz

New app/service: Want early access to try out our new product? Share this link!

 

Me: So you want me to tell friends about your new app by sharing a link that only gets them far enough to tease and then ask the same of them?

 

New app/service: Yes, it will create lots of buzz!

 

Me: Won’t that squash excitement? “Please blast your social networks with links to a service no one can actually use yet.” Yeah, that creates fans.

 

New app/service: …

 

Me: How about just asking for an email and then granting instant access?
Oh look, people get to actually use your new app/service. Love it. Share it with their friends. Cycle repeats itself.
Photo Credit - LifeHacker.com

Want to Quit GoDaddy? Start Here.

I am not going to lie. A part of me smiled while reading the news about GoDaddy’s hosting services going down today. Do I feel bad for the customers effected? Of course. Do I feel that GoDaddy had this coming to them as payback for being scum of the internet? Hell yeah.

“So if you are still hosting/dealing with GoDaddy after SOPA, you pretty much got another reason to leave today.”

Chip Oglesby

Like anyone who has a digital life, I have done business with GoDaddy. I like to tell myself it was back when I was young and did not know any better. Thankfully I can refer to that experience in the past tense. Are you fed up with the poor customer service, threat of SOPA or the last straw… today’s hack by Anonymous? Ready to take the Red Pill and break free of GoDaddy? Take a look at the comments below for real customer testimonials.

The dynamic duo that I rely on for web services is A Small Orange (hosting) and NameCheap (domains).

A Small Orange started in Atlanta but now call Durham, NC home. They offer big league support with a startup feel. Outstanding customer service with quick turn around. Their hosting servers are just about as open as they come. Ready to run any platform of your choosing with full admin access for customers – shared and dedicated servers. I have been a customer for about four years with multiple WordPress sites running on ASO servers. Inc Magazine loves them too.

My time with NameCheap as only been a few months, but I could not ask for simpler domain management. Most important for me was that they are upfront about their pricing. Also when I first tried to transfer my domains from GoDaddy over to NameCheap it was NameCheap would helped me understand a loophole GoDaddy was using to keep me locked in as a customer. They offered to refund my pre-payment on the transfer and hoped that I would remember them when I was free to transfer – three months later. I sure did! All my domains are now with NameCheap. Another bonus, they will honor the expiration date you have with your current domain registrar and extend it for another year.

So those are my two recommendations. Feel free to ask any particular questions you might have about A Small Orange or NameCheap. Happy customers can be great salesmen :)

Today consumers have a multitude of companies they can turn to the help with their web needs. Have a favorite? Plug away in the comments!

 

 

Spam in mailbox

Do eMarketers Want Us to Unsubscribe?

Dear email marketers:

Some say “too much of a good thing is bad”. When it comes to email newsletters and promotions, too much of a bad thing is annoying. When we allow a company to contact us through our private inboxes they should not take advantage of it. We granted permission. We can taketh away. Allow the user control over the flow of your spam messages. If you purchase an email list or use someone else’s collection of addresses, inform the recipient how you got their email address. Then we can unsubscribe from the lot of you.

Consider revising your opt out pages. Show the user that it actually pains you to see them go. Basic white pages with black text stating “Are you sure you want to opt-out?” read: “Go. Leave. We didn’t want you anyways” This just reaffirms a user’s decision to opt out of your messages. I do want to applaud the companies who present users with a ‘manage membership’ page. There you can select which topics to receive emails about and how often. This method still creates a positive interaction – granted they still clearly display an opt out of all option.

Biggest pet peeve – DO NOT SEND ANOTHER EMAIL CONFIRMING THAT WE ARE UNSUBSCRIBED FROM YOUR LIST. Instead have a ‘transaction complete’ message at the end of the opt-out process.

Feel like venting about emarketers? The comment section is open.

 

Something for consumers:

It is your email account. Take control!
If you are frequently deleting emails from marketers you no longer have interest in hearing from, chop the weeds at the root. Unsubscribe. Sure it takes a few more steps than simply deleting, but think about all the clicks, taps and swipes you will save your future self.

Want some help? Try unroll.me – “a free and easy way to end unwanted subscriptions and roll the rest into an organized overview.” While currently only available for Gmail they are working to support other email clients. Unroll.me scans your email for subscriptions – Do not freak out. Privacy is top priority. They do not scan the contents of your emails. Then your subscriptions are organized into categories and you can start purging. For the newsletters you want to keep, unroll.me will consolidate them into a single daily message. Now I would like the ability to cut back to weekly rollups, but I set the daily message to come in the morning so I can review it first thing and then have a spam free day.

What do you do to keep your inbox under control? Share tips and other services in the comments.

 

Amazon Originals: Fall 2014

Amazon Studios released a fresh batch of pilots for us to vote on. These five shows are much stronger overall than the pilots released earlier this year. I would like to have all of these get the green light to produce full seasons. If nothing else a few more episodes to see where they go with the characters and stories. As mentioned in the individual reviews below [spoiler free], some of the shows have flaws that are forgiven due to being a pilot, but could prompt many viewers to lose interest.

But this post is just my two cents. Fire up your Amazon Instant apps or click to banners to watch the pilot for free. Then come back to the comments to discuss!

Hand of God - Amazon Originals

Starring Ron Perlman and Dana Delany.

Hand of God ★★★★☆
“A psychological drama about a morally-corrupt judge who suffers a breakdown and believes God is compelling him onto a path of vigilante justice.”

Ron Perlman. Like you need another reason to like this pilot. Actually it has many good actors playing some interesting characters. Reminded me of Carnivàle‘s religious themes and the battle of good and evil. While the marketing is pushing “Power. Money. Politics. Sex. Religion.” it was more about justice versus revenge. At least the theme of the pilot episode. The main story arc is obvious and a few shorter threads were setup to give a sense what the creators have in mind. Also enjoyed seeing Garret Dillahunt play a badass!

Adding to the theme, the opening credits music (An Honest Man by Fantastic Negrito)had me thinking of the recent video game Bioshock Infinite which discussed similar topics. That song accounts for at least a half ★ of the rating I gave this show.

Cosmopolitans - Amazon Originals

Starring Chloë Sevigny and Adam Brody. Created by Whit Stillman.

The Cosmopolitans ★★★★☆
“A dramatic comedy about a group of young American expats in Paris searching for love and friendship and an ocean of distance from their past.”

Quirk. Wit. Charm. These few words summarize what I felt while watching The Cosmopolitans. I will not be able to ramble on like I have about the other pilots. Mainly because I am not sure what to make of this pilot. It felt as though we jumped in the middle of a longer story. You are not completely lost, but you cannot quite settle into the story. And this feeling worked so well. I want more episodes now!

Really - Amazon Originals

Starring Brittney Alger, Sophia Bui and Jay Chandrasekhar (creator).

Really ★★★☆☆
“A funny, honest, behind-the-curtain look at the psychological and emotional complexities of marriage and the charged dynamics of a tight-knit group of friends grasping on to what’s left of their youth.”

Think Parenthood but less about the kids. Less sitcom, more comedic drama. And since Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers) is the show’s creator, there is plenty of pot smoking and blowjobs. The ensemble is made up of three couples and a token single guy. A real The Big Chill vibe. So to me it felt more like the first third of a film. Not sure where the show would go beyond the first plot twist.

Starring Mena Suvari and T.R. Knight

Starring Mena Suvari and T.R. Knight.

Hysteria ★★★☆☆
“An investigative thriller about a haunted young doctor who is summoned back to her hometown to investigate an epidemic that may be linked to social media – and her own tragic past.”

Suspenseful. Good mystery. A twist at the end has you looking for another episode. Commentary on how we make connections digitally. At first I was not sure where the show would go. Then as things fell into place I got sucked in wondering what was next.

[Spoiler-ish] As I typed this summary I started to rethink how using digital communications as a conduit for spreading an illness feels a little on the nose. How many articles, studies and news reports have we heard about the effects social media on people’s mental and emotional health? Not sure we need a drama to scare parents into trusting their connected teens even less. I know it is fiction but, are they trying to scare us into disconnecting?

Starring Jennifer Grey and Paul

Starring Jennifer Grey and Paul Reiser. Produced by Steven Soderbergh.

Red Oaks ★★☆☆☆
“A coming-of-age comedy set in the “go-go” 80s about a college student enjoying a last hurrah before summer comes to an end–and the future begins.”

Another show revisiting the wonder years of the 80s – Surviving Jack, The Goldbergs, etc but this time within the world of Caddyshack. Started off predictable. A high school senior enjoying his last summer before starting college. Cue the coming-of-age story. However, by the end I stared to pull for the lead character. Red Oaks feels like a film. It may lose its charm after a handful of episodes if they get comfortable with a tv comedy formula by sticking to sex and drugs jokes. We will see if they can build out the characters.


So which pilots did you watch? Your picks? Your thoughts?

amazon_originals_spring-2014_gizmodo

Amazon Originals: Spring 2014

[UPDATE] Amazon picked up four of the five pilots. The After, Bosch, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle.

The After – ★★☆☆☆ “Eight strangers are thrown together by mysterious forces and must help each other survive in a violent world that defies explanation.”

For a pilot that is from the mind of Chris Carter [also the creator of The X-Files] it had the right amount of mystery. Unfortunately, the characters are already annoying. Oh and surprise, it is set in a post apocalyptic version of our modern world. It has received 3,200+ ratings to give it four out of five stars. I feel the creators name is getting a lot of blind faith. Sadly, I feel that so far the premise feels like a long lost X-Files episode – stuck in the late nineties.

Mozart in the Jungle – ★★★☆☆ “Sex, drugs–and classical music–what happens behind the curtains at the symphony can be just as captivating as what happens on stage.” Created by Paul Weitz (About A Boy), Roman Coppola (The Darjeeling Limited), Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom) and Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher).

Not sure I have seen another similar show to compare this pilot to, but it held my interest even while trying to type this post. It seems to be a look into the world of musicians, dancers and others in the artist guild of New York City. While it may not be my normal TV fair it get my vote for more episodes.

Bosch – ★★★★☆ “Based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling book series, Bosch (Titus Welliver), an LAPD homicide detective works to solve the murder of a 13-year-old boy while standing trial in federal court for the murder of a serial killer.”

Cops and bad guys. Check. A cop who may be a little good and evil equally. Check check. Who doesn’t like an underdog? My top pick out of this year’s lot.

The Rebels – ★☆☆☆☆ “Julie (Natalie Zea) is in over her head when her husband suddenly dies leaving her as sole owner of The LA Rebels, a pro-football team.”

Not sure what to say besides this is a sad ripoff of The Replacements movie – and that starred(?) Keanu Reeves.

Transparent – ★★★☆☆ “Created by Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under, United States of Tara). An LA family with serious boundary issues have their past and future unravel when a dramatic admission causes everyone’s secrets to spill out.”

Interesting premise. Fast talking. Quick witted. Rich characters. Not to mention Jeffrey Tambor from Arrested Development. I am ready to vote for more episodes. Although with all of the nudity and sexual situations I had to double check that this was not on Skin-a-Max.


Side note, someone went a little crazy with the f-bombs across all series. Pretty heavy-handed. Language works when it fits the story, setting and characters. Not when it is there just to keep up with HBO, Netflix and Showtime.

Compared to last year’s offerings – Alpha House and Betas were the highlights – these are pretty weak. If Amazon wants to compete with HBO, Netflix and others on original content they need to step up their game a few more levels