Category Archives: Social

sharing our lives, on and offline

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.
Branch

So what is Branch.com?

Like any new social platform, the first thing I am asked when talking to friends about Branch is “what is it?” According to parent company Obvious Corporation, Branch is looking to do what Facebook, Twitter and Google+ haven’t been able to do: foster real conversations. Ok. Everyone clear on that? Good.

Maybe describing its features will help better illustrate the idea behind it. You read an article, watch a video or have an interesting thought. What do you do in today’s uber social world? Share it. The only problem with that single post is that it is quickly buried in newsfeeds and timelines. Not to mention the small window of time your network has to comment back.

Enter Branch. You start with a link to your inspiration or just your thought in text and you invite a couple of friends to add their insights. They add their two cents which causes the conversation to grow with new perspectives. One of your friends has a buddy that is really into this particular topic and invites them to weigh in. Maybe the thread sparks another idea. That offshoot is branched off to be its own topic.

Now we are getting somewhere. The conversation has a quiet place to slowly grow. No flash-in-the-pan window of opportunity to worry about. Gone are the distractions – retweets, @ replies, likes, pluses, up vote/down vote, etc - that can derail a quality discussion. Branch displays a single inline thread. Pivot points become their own discussions. All the while giving each person 750 characters to stretch their brian muscles for more long form entries. As one friend described his first invite to a Branch topic -

I lurked a little; haven’t had time to really write-up an intelligent reply to anything yet though.

My thought upon hearing this feedback – well done Branch. Well done.

 

If you are a more visual person, maybe this video or this ad will help explain Branch. I have also embedded (very cool feature!) a recent Branch I started with some gadget geeks friends.

 

WallaBee

WallaBee: Reinventing the Game Gowalla Abandoned

Nerd GlassesSaying Ben Dodson was a huge fan of Gowalla is kind of an understatement – he created some 13 apps/tools to expand the features of Gowalla’s platform. My fellow Gowalla geeks and I owe thanks to Ben’s ‘Gowalla Tools‘ web app for helping us track down those rare and missing items we coveted so. The check-ins, photos, comments and item collecting continued for a few blissful years. That is, until Gowalla decided to shift from fifth gear to first and release version 4.0 of their app. While the faithful tried to hold on and give the new reworked platform a fair shot, most jumped ship after a few weeks. Of course we all know about Facebook hiring most of the Gowalla team back in December of 2011. Another startup gets assimilated. However, the story few have heard is that of the developers who tried to use Gowalla’s (squarely) API to expand features. Even before 4.0, Ben had finally had enough.

So in the months following the end of Gowalla, users began using Path and Foursquare [begrudgingly] for their check-in compulsion. But we noticed that we still missed the game aspect that made us so loyal to Gowalla. Luckily Ben Dodson miss it too and decided to do something about it. The five person team at WallaBee was “determined to not only create a great user experience but also a great developer experience.” They not only want to create an addictive game for users, but also a scalable platform for other apps to be built on. They even give a few ides to get you developers thinking.

Boys and girls may I present – WallaBee. A iPhone exclusive game that focuses on the game aspect of collecting digital items. While checking into locations is how you earn points and items, that is where the focus on check-ins end. When you check-in at a spot you earn honeycombs. “Honeycombs are the currency in WallaBee and can be used to buy rare items in the store. You can gain honeycombs by foraging [check-in] at places, completing a set, or purchasing in bundles.”

The rest of the app is about items. Collecting, mixing, trading and buying items. You collect items from near by spots or you buy them with honeycombs. Combining two or more related items is called mixing. This process unlocks new rare items. Currently you can drop off or swap out items at spots you check-in at. A nice touch from the Gowalla Tools days is being able to see what items are at a spot before you check-in. WallaBee is already teasing v1.1 features such as item trading and auctions. Yeah, I got a little giddy about that idea. It was a feature every Gowalla geek had wished for on the old platform.

An interesting part of the WallaBee game is with in app purchases. From launch they are making money two ways:

Through pro account subscriptions were a user player can pay real money for 30 and 90 day subscriptions to carry more items (30 spaces instead of 12), earn more honeycombs for the actions listed above and forage faster. For those times when you want to beat your friends to a rare item.

The other income generator is in app purchases of honeycombs so you can then buy more digital items to complete sets faster. FYI – Pro accounts get free bonus honeycombs when they purchase a bundle, about a 20% bump.

My initial reaction to the in app purchases was to be a cheapskate and play the game for free. Which you can easily do with frequent check-ins around town. So I started playing last night and quickly ran out of honeycombs buying up circus items. Now I was already home and the nearest spot to check-in at was 250+ yards away. Side note: The spot check-in radiuses seem a little small. Using not always precise mobile GPS plagues most location-based apps. I sure hope that radius is widened. So the only way I could keep playing was to purchase credits. And if I was going to go down this road and make an in app purchase I might as well bet the 30 day pro account so I earn bonus honeycombs, right? … Ah crap! They got me.

Let’s recap my first hour playing WallaBee. Before my first spot check-in, WallaBee earned $17 off me. An uncommonly high single app purchase made easier by leftover iTunes gift card credits. I can see this getting out of hand quickly. Which brings me to my concerns about the app and game. Will players continue to pay out relatively high in app prices over the longterm? I am thinking no. In my mind the money I spent was more of a starter pack to play the game at its full potential. Could I justify paying $15-20 on a monthly basis – no way. I am not sure I would even be comfortable maintaining the pro level account for $5 a month. That is almost what I pay for my unlimited Rdio subscription. So I have a feeling that most people will either spend some coin to start playing and taper down to the free level or just stick to the free play level throughout. Now my guess is based on the current price points. Maintaining a pro level account for say $0.99 a month is much more reasonable. But if that price comes down the cost of honeycomb bundles would need to also.

WallaBee is well designed geo game that can easily become addictive. While a fun fit for any iPhone owner, this app is like catnip for (ex)Gowalla users. It is free in the iTunes app store and completely free to play. So you can at least try it out. Be sure to tweet your thoughts on the game to @WallaBeeApp. They are very appreciative of user feedback.

UPDATE: GUIDE TO ITEM MIXING 

 

Profile

 Click screen shots for larger view.

Pouch  Places  Store  Activity
      
 

Thanks to the WallaBee team for providing a media kit containing artwork, screenshots and app info. Logo, app icon and nerd glasses images are copyright – WallaBee 2012.

Disclaimer: This post/review was done independently of WallaBee. They did not supply me with promo codes or any compensation for writing this post. 

Facebook Timeline

Facebook Launches Timeline

Well Mark Zukerburg did it again. At the F8 developer conference he showed off the new personal profile that transforms your feed into a digital archive. Facebook is calling it a Timeline. This arranges all the status updates, photos, check-ins, etc from your years on Facebook.

Currently the new Timeline profiles are only available to developers or those of us who took advantage of this little hack. But wait for it… this will go live on September 30th – yeah this week. If you thought the outcry over last week’s layout changes to the main news feed page were annoying, you might want to avoid the web for the next month or so. People’s heads will explode. Timeline is so different. Continue reading