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.
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.
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?
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).
The reasons for Myspace‘s fall from the zenith of social networking were the usual: neglect, user boredom, and a sparky new competitor offering an exciting, fresh alternative. Not terribly surprising. What has surprised me is the subsequent spooky quietness of the social music void that MySpace vacated.
Of all the would-be successors to MySpace, Last.fm has come the closest to being a direct replacement; but it provides poor listening options. Spotify and Grooveshark both have social aspects, although in both cases, the main focus is on music playing. And then there was Ping; as far as Apple is concerned, the less spoken about that car crash of a network, the better.
So it’s going to be interesting to see where new music discovery service Seevl fits in. With artist profiles, a comprehensive search engine, and integration with a plethora of streaming services, it looks well equipped to meet the needs of the contemporary listener. But can the app live up to its own, appealing feature list?
I’ve always been in the lookout for tools to make niche writers’ lives easier. Screenwriting is a product category that I’ve become really passionate about. It’s an area of interest for me — screenwriting is a hobby of mine, and I’d love to see the tools used to write them improve. After all, we’ve all been stuck with the same few standards for years — Final Draft being chief among them
Final Draft is really unwieldy, though. It’s one of my least favourite programs, and for a while, it was also one of my most used. Today, I spend a lot of time using apps like Slugline, which use a fantastic Markdown-inspired markup syntax called Fountain (developed in part by John August, the writer of Big Fish). But for many people, a new syntax can only do so much in our Internet-based world. Enter Writer Duet, an online screenwriting app built for writers who want to collaborate on the go. Read on to find out what makes this product so unique in a sea of contenders.
As a freelancer and small business owner (you’d probably be surprised at how often those two coincide), I’ve spent some time looking for ways to track how much I’m working and what I do with my days. For me, this has a couple purposes. If my hours are billable (they’re usually project-based, but once in a while I bill by the hour), I can keep track of how much money I’m owed. The second purpose is simple time management — it’s a lot easier to keep on task and on track if you know where your time is going.
I’ve recommended a couple different apps for the latter — my favourite is still iDoneThis — but I haven’t had a chance yet to talk about the former. With Ding, I’ve finally found an app that really hits the spot for tracking billable hours. Let’s talk about what makes Ding worthwhile for freelancers and why you might be interested in adopting it for your own small business.
There’s so many new focused writing apps for the web this year, it’s hard to keep track of them all. But they almost all have one thing in common: they require you to use Markdown for formatting. You could just write in plain text, but if you want italics or bold text, or just want to add a list or a link, you’ll have to use Markdown. It’s not hard to use, per se, but not everyone loves typing extra characters for formatting. That’s why there’s still the tried and true rich text formatting like you’d see in Word, Pages, and even the Gmail editor. It’s just not something most focused writing apps use these days.
If you love rich text editing, and still love focused writing apps without all the clutter and nonsense, you’re in for a treat. The brand-new drft is just what you’ve been waiting for, and we’ve got exclusive invites for our readers. (more…)