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Getting Things Done, as a concept carved by David Allen in 2001, has aged fast. Users of the method have been shaping its recommendations to fit their needs, but, most importantly, they did so to catch up on how technology could help them get things done with less friction. Apps have also developed their own ways to support some sort of easy path to achieve productivity and the starting point from Getting Things Done soon deviated into several personal methods.

As a Mac user, I’m very familiar with the dispute between Omnifocus and Things, being a previous user of the latter and considering the jump to the previous until I reached out for the web and found Nirvana, which felt like a better deal coming from Things, which manages tasks with Next Actions and Today lists, rather than Omnifocus with its Forecast and the reliance of due dates.

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The notion that social media is the next big thing in sales seems to have fallen flat on its face. Virtually every study conducted has shown that Facebook and Twitter campaigns only increase brand awareness. As far as driving traffic to your website and converting visitors into customers, email is still king.

A recent study of companies that used a dedicated email marketing client, good newsletter content and personalisation for each reader reported open rates of over 30%, with similar click-through rates – leading to above average conversions. This kicks Facebook’s ass.

Now, the guys behind the industry favourite ‘Mail Chimp’ have been working hard on a new product. It’s called Mandrill and solves many of the nagging issues of traditional email marketing. They claim it trumps the competition by a long-shot. Let’s take a look.

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Last month, I was loafing round the house with my phone wondering how cold it was outside. Being the ridiculously technology-glued person I am, I started searching for a weather station that integrates with the Web, tablets, and smartphones. (Obviously, stepping into the sun was out of the question, because I’m a vampire [they’re real]). After a few clicks, I found the Netatmo, a very slick looking solution to checking the weather when you’re not in a walking mood.

The very idea of this may sound ridiculous, I know. However, there is a purpose for everything and I decided to give Netatmo a try. After all, Wired and Time wouldn’t feature it unless there is something more than the basic weather station. Or so I thought. (more…)

Of all the major forms of digital communication, email is, perhaps, the most flexible. Yet, for the website owner, it still can’t be relied on, in its purest form, as the sole method of communication. Visitors still like the reassuring guidance of specified text fields, and in some cases, pre-defined options can make for a better user experience, not to mention more streamlined correspondence.

It is for this reason that form builders are as popular now as they’ve ever been. Veteran Wufoo has held the top spot for many years, thanks to its drag-and-drop design suite and elegant output. Other platforms — Gravity Forms (WordPress only), for example — carve out their own market share by providing special features, such as payments and multiple-input guards.

However, one new form-building service, named Formbakery, wants to keep things simple. It, too, offers drag-and-drop design, as well as a form-by-form price. But can it match up to the long-established giants of form creation?

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Retail is a seriously competitive game. Even the giants need to make use of every possible marketing advantage and every possible route to a sale. Nowadays, that includes mobile e-commerce, which is, by some distance, the platform that is seeing the fastest growth in sales and revenue.

As with all cutting-edge technologies, however, it is the big boys that have been making the most of this new retail territory, which is a shame, given the struggles many small businesses are having to cope with.

But, finally, help appears to be at hand. Dashsell, a company that has thus far concentrated on providing a simple way to list items for sale online, has now launched Shops — a beta, self-service, mobile store app builder. With plans starting from free, and with web, iOS and Android versions available, it looks ideal for the small retailer. But is this the killer platform that will open a new frontier? Or is it just another cookie-cutter app studio?

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Another day, another file sharing app, or so it seems. We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to services for sending files big and small over the web, and while it may seem like overkill, the truth is that today’s users are diverse in their usage habits and requirements, and a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work in this context. So who is Shared good for?

Shared doesn’t bother with apps for multiple platforms or syncing files across devices: instead, it offers a cheap, easy-to-use web-based file sharing solution that works on desktops and mobile devices and is perfect for novice users and advanced file sharers who are tired of bloated apps with features they don’t use. Plus, you can get started with 100GB of space for free! Sound too good to be true? Let’s send some files across the interwebs and see if Shared is indeed all it’s cracked up to be.

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Cryptocurrencies, the most famous of all being Bitcoin, turned geeks and normal people with a bit of tech interest into virtual millionaires, overnight. In recent months they’ve hit the headlines for facilitating the sale of drugs and firearms by concealing the identities of those involved. They even accentuated the capital outflows from Cyprus during the country’s financial collapse and subsequent EU bailout earlier this year.

In 2011, those buying into cryptocurrencies were laughed at by investors and economists. Now, BitCoin is regularly the feature of two page spreads in the Financial Times and is rumoured to be a serious headache for regulators of the traditional banking system. Since the high profile take-down of The Silk Road (a shady, Deep Web marketplace mainly used for drug sales), the FBI have backed off.

In a further vote of confidence, the Chinese government recently indicated that they have no real issues with cryptocurrencies and have allowed a Chinese exchange to grow into the world’s largest, surpassing MtGox a few weeks ago. However, they’ve also eliminated the possibility of it ever becoming part of their official national finance framework.

In spite of its recent successes, BitCoin remains rouge. Personified, it’s a surly teenager protesting against “the system”. Big Business has given it nothing more than an amused smirk because BitCoin doesn’t wear a suit to work nor have Terms & Conditions attached. Ripple’s ‘XRP’, a new kid on the cryptocurrency block, does.

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Video calling is definitely the next step in communication, but for business, it’s a step too far. Or, at least in some instances. When I’m at home, the last thing I want is a complete stranger having a live video stream of my living room. Google see things differently and want to bring yoga lessons, home improvement advice and customer service right to your laptop with their new web app.

Its name? ‘Helpouts from Google‘.

The idea seems so revolutionary to Google that they think the service could rival ‘How To’ videos on YouTube or text based guides. Unfortunately, their shiny new offering has some fundamental flaws that could be off setting to many users. Lets take a look.

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I can’t say that the sudden rise of web-delivered digital magazines is a trend I foresaw. It was initially a by-product magazine renaissance that came with the mass ownership of touchscreen devices, but webzine publishing is now a niche in which many startups are willing to specialize.

This year, alone, I have personally reviewed the likes of Creatavist and Readymag, and been hugely impressed, whilst other platforms such as TypeEngine and Origami Engine — despite their names, both are more suited to talk than torque — are making significant headway, too.

My latest encounter with the format comes in the form of Beacon. With a simple approach to creation, publication and selling — even Beacon’s website is a one-pager — it should be the ideal platform for those who want to concentrate on content rather than configuration. But can it deliver the required quality to capture the attention of the reading public?

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Time tracking apps are among the most predictable apps. They’re all designed to keep track of the time you’ve worked on your projects so you’re fair to both your clients and yourself. Then, the apps typically let you turn your timesheets into invoices, and perhaps track time on the go. Boring, but necessary.

And then there’s the new Timely. I’m pretty certain you’ve never seen a time tracking app like this. It’s the one time tracking app that you’ll actually want to use, it looks so nice. Plus, it’s simpler than most to use, thanks to its drag-and-drop calendar (apparently a popular new trend).

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