Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Web Secret #147: InstaTodo

I am a check list fanatic.

There is no other way to effectively parent 2 teenagers, keep an eyeball out on a college student, and fulfill the responsibilities of a full time job and a consulting practice without a to do list, (or two, or three.)

Fortunately, my clever friend Alex created the perfect app for an organization fanatic like myself -

So what exactly are we talking about?

InstaTodo provides reusable templates to help you easily create repetitive and commonly used to-do lists. The idea is to stop throwing away to-do lists after their completion – instead saving them as templates to be reused at a later time.

The app enables users to create a to-do list from scratch or modify one of their numerous handy dandy existing templates to fit your specific needs.

Let me illustrate.

I decided to go to Guatemala for Spring Break. I pick the "Planning the Trip" template. A check list is already created for me, including:

- Enroll in Frequent Flyer Program
-Check visas and passports
-Check auto insurance policy
- Check medical insurance
-Decide about medical insurance
- Purchase guidebooks

I can delete an item, add an item and then save the whole thing to be used once again on my next trip to an exotic destination.

Best of all, I can e-mail my custom to-do list to my traveling companions or even myself.

Here's another clever feature of the app. Let's say you created a list of stuff to buy the next time you are in the vicinity of a Home Depot. If you chose this feature, InstaTodo will instantly show you your to-do’s based on their proximity to where you are located. Use the "By Location" smart list and when you approach a Home Depot, your to-do list will show up as a balloon near that location.

I am just scratching the basic surface of this app for you. Many other useful features are included for the introductory price of $4.99. Currently the app can be downloaded from the iTunes store for use on Apple devices such as the iPad, and the iPhone. More devices will be added in the near future.

Now if you will excuse me, my birthday is around the corner and I need to check out the Dinner Party Checklist.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Web Secret #146: Krulwich Wonders

I have found the online equivalent of eating a chocolate truffle. Krulwich Wonders, an "NPR Science Blog" post written by Robert Krulwich.

Sounds kinda boring, right?

I had a hunch it would't be. Let me self-disclose. I was in the audience when Robert delivered the graduation speech at his high school. He must have been seventeen or eighteen at the time. I was ten. I have no recollection what he spoke about. But I remember clear as day that I was laughing and entertained during the entire speech.

Fast forward a couple (or more) decades, and most of Robert's posts literally make me squeal with delight. (Fortunately, I work from home, so I do not embarrass myself.)

One of my favorite posts was "Tools Never Die". I will quote:
"Kevin Kelly should know better, but boldly, brassily, (and totally incorrectly, I'm sure), he said this on NPR: "I say there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."... That means, he said, "I can't find any [invention, tool, technology] that has disappeared completely from Earth."

Nothing? I asked. Brass helmets? Detachable shirt collars? Chariot wheels?

Nothing, he said.

Can't be, I told him. Tools do hang around, but some must go extinct.

... I told him it would take me a half hour to find a tool, an invention that is no longer being made anywhere by anybody.

Go ahead, he said. Try.

I tried carbon paper (still being made), steam powered car engine parts (still being made), Paleolithic hammers (still being made), 6 pages of agricultural tools from an 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue (every one of them still being made), and to my utter astonishment, I couldn't find a provable example of an technology that has disappeared completely".

Robert's entire post is not much longer than the above passage, yet it is amusing, intensely thought provoking, and important. There is nothing trivial about the topic being discussed.

He posts about three times a week. Somehow, post after post, he delivers an intellectual bonbon.

Which reminds me, what are the implications if no technologies truly become extinct?

I am not clever enough to figure it out. But Robert's post makes me want to try.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Web Secret #145: Tim Berners-Lee

Facebook is a social network worth $50 billion, with more than 500 million active users.

The Social Network is an Academy Award winning movie about the creation of Facebook that has grossed over $200 million worldwide (as of January 2011).

So it's not surprising that many people think that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is one of the most important people in the world.

However, when it comes to the World Wide Web, there is someone who is more important than Mark.

He is not a member of Gen Y, he is a Baby Boomer.

He invented the Internet. That's right, he is directly responsible for creating the medium that allows Facebook, YouTube, Google to exist, and the blindingly rapid social and political change that result from it.

My modest proposal for today is you should know about this person. His name is Tim Berners-Lee. He is a British computer scientist born in 1955. He invented the Internet in March of 1989.

In case that wasn't sufficiently impressive, Tim decided never to commercialize or patent his contributions to the Internet technologies he developed. He gave the Internet to us. For free.

Now you know.

My oldest daughter was born in March of 1989. She is the same age as the Internet. Later this month, she will turn 22.

Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Web Secret #144: 9 Important Social Media Predictions for 2011

Years ago, when Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show, he performed a recurrent skit where he played Carnac the Magnificent, a wise man who could (hilariously) predict (or in many cases fail to predict) the future.

I can't make too much fun of Carnac, because over the years, yours truly has been impressively incompetent at predicting successful trends in technology. This may be one of the reasons I am not writing this blog post from the deck of my Aspen ski chalet.

Some of my failures include:
  • HDTV? No one will pay for that (said to one of my brothers - an early and subsequently very successful HDTV pioneer.)
  • Facebook? Reveal personal information online where everyone can see it? It'll never work.
  • "Farmville"? What a waste of time.
  • The iPad? Who needs that?
  • Angry Birds? You must be kidding.
It seems I don't have my finger on the pulse of the American public.

Knowing my weakness, I rely on other Carnacs to figure out the next big thing on the Web. Recently, I read with interest "21 Social Media Predictions and Trends for 2011."

From this list, I picked what I believe will be the 9 most important trends that will impact professionals during the upcoming year:
  1. If you don't have a mobile version of your site today, you are already behind. This may or may not be true for your business - but it is certainly worthy of careful consideration.
  2. More and more, marketing will be focused on getting a consumer to publicly rate a product or service.
  3. Social media technologies will start to consolidate and only the strong will survive: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. I REALLY believe this is true.
  4. Google becomes the next Microsoft and Facebook becomes the next Google. I don't entirely know what that means but it scares me.
  5. Social media becomes core to every business - not just the marketing and PR departments either. It will be central to the entire business strategy and affect recruiting, customer service, sales, etc. AMEN.
  6. We will see more practical use of geo-location tools. For example, if you go to Starbucks every morning, as soon as you are in the car and 10 minutes away from the store, your coffee order will be placed and ready when you arrive. Sign me up.
  7. Fifty-four percent of all companies block social media in the workplace. Expect this number to decline as companies start to leverage their employees more and more as media outlets.
  8. Social media activities will increase due to advances in mobile technology and a drop in the price of tablets like the iPads.
  9. The trend of moving marketing dollars from traditional media to digital media continues at a rapid pace.
You didn't hear it from me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Web Secret #143: Death in Cyberspace

In 1982, writer William Gibson first coined the term "cyberspace" in a short story entitled "Burning Chrome."

Almost 30 years have passed, and more and more of our lives are spent, displayed, and written in that technological ether.

So, as we increasingly scatter ourselves across Facebook, websites, blogs, and more - what should happen to all this digital "stuff" when we die?
Should it be preserved? Deleted?

Does it even matter?

In a recent article, the New York Times engaged in an exhaustive exploration of what happened to a young blogger's cyberlife when he passed away unexpectedly at age 34. The article was kind of overwhelming, both intellectually and emotionally, but I did manage to distill a few essential questions and resources to consider:
  • - this is probably the mother website for this topic. It covers everything from Twitter's policy for deceased users, to asking "What do you want to happen to your Facebook profile after you die?," to excerpting the book "Your Digital Afterlife." Their advice? Everyone needs a "digital executor". Discuss.
  • Inevitably someone is blogging about this topic. Enter Sample posts: how to "Download Your Content From Facebook" - "This will be tremendously helpful to those who are struggling with the online accounts of a departed loved one."
  • Sitesucker - a must for any digital undertaker is this website that literally copies entire websites to your local hard drive for cyber embalming purposes. Sorry PC users, for the time being you are out of luck.
  • Wait! There must be someway to make a buck on this trend? Of course there is: Allegedly, around 10,000 people have signed up for Legacy Locker's "safe, secure repository for your vital digital property that lets you grant access to online assets to friends and loved ones in the event of loss, death, or disability."
  • Or maybe check out this free service, "Entrustet". "What will happen to your digital assets after you're gone? Make your decisions today with Entrustet."
  • Are you getting freaked out yet? Cue The Twilight Zone theme:

    and visit Lifenaut allows anyone to create a free back-up of their mind via a database of personal reflections captured in video, image, audio and documents. "Each account comes with an interactive Avatar that becomes more intelligent as you add more information to your Mindfile."
  • The coup de grace - pardon the pun, has to be, an automated system that prompts you to make sure you are still alive. If you don't respond, the assumption is that you are dead and pre-scipted messages are automatically sent to those designated by you.
Until Walt Disney's head is reanimated, I guess this is our only path towards immortality...