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My 2013 Digital Habits

It's an annual geeky, blogging tradition: share those products and services that have made their way into your daily routines. It's a simple reflection on those experiences that have become meaningful, those that have become less relevant, and those that others find interesting and useful. Mike Arrington used to publish an annual, very simple list of "Products I Cannot Live without": 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. And like many others, I did the same. It's fun to revisit them and see which habits have stuck and, much more likely, what's changed.

So continuing the tradition - here is a simple, incomplete version of those products I use habitually in 2013... and notice that most of mobile focused and freemium models.

Personal, Work, Utility

Spotify (Premium) I've been a paying subscriber from day one and have always thought that their pay-for-mobile-model is brilliant... it allows users to get hooked through the desktop & web (their web product is a little-known gem), build playlists & favorites on the best and biggest screen available, and then roadblocks mobility. Smart.

Side note: Sean Parker's Hipster International is a great lesson in the power curation. Forbes has a great piece on it.


Evernote (Premium) Organize the web, your email, images, and so forth. The Chrome extension is fantastically done. And their mobile application suite gives quick access to important documents from any device, anywhere.

Dropbox (Premium) Like Evernote, it's a product that I use multiple times a day - personally and professionally. And like Evernote, it becomes more powerful (and habitual) as I move between different devices and locations. Between products like Evernote, Dropbox, SpaceMonkey, iCloud, Gmail, etc - I could purchase a new computer tomorrow and be fully setup / connected minutes later.

MobileDay Such a simple, time-saving app: one-touch dialing into conference calls.


Nike+ Running I have used all of the wearable devices (Jawbone Up, Nike Fuelband, Fitbit) - but, while each is impressive in its own way, I haven't made one part of my daily routine. I continue to come back to the old-reliable Nike+ Running app. The app is well done, relatively accurate, social and fun.

MyFitnessPal Simply and effectively monitor your eating habits and caloric intake. The interface (on iOS and Android) is simple and many foods can be uploaded through bar code scanning. And while MyFitnessPal is part of my daily routine - the power of the application is that it changes your routine. (Note: I am an investor)

ESPN SportsCenter Of course it's a biased habit, but I use the SportsCenter application several times a day for scores, news, and video.

StoryBots This is less about my daily habit - and more about my three-year old son's... but Dillon uses the StoryBots suite of mobile applications almost daily. Their digital books and learning videos are fun and smart. StoryBots is created by JibJab and has a premium, monthly subscription. A great, related read: the New York Times' Babes in Digital Toyland piece over Christmas weekend. (Note: Polaris is an investor)


Amazon Prime (paid) Our house runs on Prime... and has for years. From diapers to foods to gadgets. And based on holiday 2013, 20m other households now run on Prime too.

Also: Amazon's Instant Video (free with Amazon Prime) is a remarkably under-the-radar, under-appreciated service. The library rivals that of other services and the kids content is really expansive.

TestFlight (paid) A necessary, efficient tool to provision access to application builds. We use TestFlight internally and externally - from testing to PR. Similarly, I use TestFlight to test and play with friends' or portfolio's applications. (paid) There are several tools available for quick prototyping... About a year ago I played around with and have been actively using it since. Really intuitive and simple way to craft quick prototypes, distribute them and collect feedback. Excellent product.


Jot Pro I do a lot of light-weight product sketching on my iPad and have gravitated to the Jot Pro stylus by Adonit. It's sturdy, accurate, and cheap. I tend to use the Noteshelf iPad application... but anything will do. Side note: Adonit and Evernote have teamed up on a new stylus... I have not played with it yet, but it looks intriguing.

Skitch (an Evernote Product) I use Skitch multiple times per day - almost always via the the Mac OS app - although the Chrome Extension does the job as well. It's a simple, effective way to do quick screenshots, light-weight editing, and sharing. The Evernote integration easily saves images to specific folders (although it can be a memory hog if you're not a premium user).


FaceTime From family to work calls and candidate interviews, FaceTime is tremendous and far preferable to a phone call. But when video is not an option: try FaceTime audio. It's digital over wifi (so saves minutes) and the quality is remarkably crisp.

Photography Suites (paid) So many applications and photo tools - it's impossible to list them all... but I'll try with those that I use regularly: - Path, I still consider Path's lenses and filters to be the best - Camera+, great for shooting photos on iOS - Instagram, the quality of the content stream is remarkable. From friends to special-access accounts like Duke Basketball - Photoshop - Apeture, lightweight editing and management - Skitch, less around photos and more around screen caputres

duke bball

Facebook & Facebook Messenger More and more of my communication has shifted to Facebook messages... and much through the Messenger application.


Apple TV & ChromeCast Each TV in our house is connected to either an Apple TV or a ChromeCast. With Apple TV, you have iTunes Radio and the immediate accessibility of movies, Netflix, Watch ESPN, etc. ChromeCast is remarkably simple and priced perfectly. And if you have a ChromeCast, here are 10 tips to get more out of it.

iPad Air I use my iPad Air more than any other device - including my laptop. It is so light and so fast. The most incredible part: it is as powerful as the original Macbook Air (2008). And if you cannot get over typing on the iPad, get a <$100 ultra-thin bluetooth keyboard.

Google Nexus 5 Not enough attention is given to this device. It is cheap ($349 unlocked), fast, light, and runs on native KitKat. I love the form factor and the Google Now / OK Google integration is fantastic.


NiteIze Gear Ties These things are brilliant and I go through them like candy... simple way to keep your cables organized. With daily use, they last 6-12 months and are an easy add-on to any Amazon order.


More Freemium Data: Pandora & Dropbox

More data out of the Freemium Summit and following the great insights from Evernote. Here are tidbits from Pandora and Dropbox about their freemium business models and results. More case studies and data are available on GigaOM.

Pandora Freemium product: Pandora One Premium features: higher quality streams, desktop app, no usage limits Results: 300,000 subscribers - 1.6-1.7% of monthly uniques Dropbox Premium features: Bandwidth Results: Dropbox has one of the best referral programs on the web (see my review here). The program increased signups by 60% and now drives 30% of all signups. Organization: 30% of the engineering is devoted to user acquisition

Evernote (see full write up here) Premium features: premium account, bandwidth Results: 1.8% of users (6% of active users) have converted to premium users. And Evernote has driven 50K premium subs in 28 months.

Dropbox Nails Viral Marketing Through Facebook, Twitter & Email

As a freemium business, Dropbox knows that its users find value in incremental free storage for their accounts. Dropbox also knows that, while its product is hugely popular, it is not inherently viral (in part because it's not a social or entirely web-based product).

By leveraging their userbase, adding simple incentives and integrating with other social platforms (namely Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, etc) - Dropbox has implemented a killer viral marketing program... And in a way, it is as much social as it a traditional affiliate program. Each link is encoded with a specific 'affiliate' ID that tracks whether friends register for Dropbox accounts; and if they do, your account is upgraded.

Very simple and apparently very effective: in one post on Facebook, I drove two registrations.

Also worth noting, this implementation doesn't directly integrate Facebook Connect, but it certainly could. Dropbox could integrate users' Facebook 'address book' and individually invite each person, send custom messages, etc.

getdropbox marketing

TechCrunch 50 Language & Platform: Swype Wows Panel

AlfaBetic: Monetizing across languages. Not sure how / if this works... but scaling content across various languages is a big business (if done technically) for big companies like eBay that operate in dozens of countries. Localizing content is immensely difficult and costly. So should this work (and demo isn't clear) it is powerful. Om: whose translation engine do you use? Answer: engine is internally built with emphasis on different locales. What's your accuracy rate? Answer: depends on domain and location - but 80-90 percent.

Om: How many ads can you serve per page there because the bloggers really control that?

Tim: how is this actually done - does blogger need to buy another domain name? (very good question...). Answer: we are interested in a syndication play where we become the portal (bloggers won't sign up for this, in my opinion).

Josh: what are the costs involved in monitoring / cleansing each post? Answer: $1,000 in all langauges per month for all TechCrunch.

Om: I wouldnt use this. If we went international, we would do it dedicated (like TechCrunch) and focus on each location.

Tim: I wouldn't use either - for the same reason.

PostBox: desktop email application. The presentation has a bizarre sound metronome behind it... I can't hear a word they are saying... OK - that was not their noise. He handled it very well - hilarious.

Josh: Question: Do you support POP, Exchange, etc? Answer: Yes: IMAP, POP, SMTP.

Tim: How far have you pushed it scale-wise? Will it support my 10,000s of emails? Answer: we have tested internally and it supports 30,000 messages to date...

Evan: Looks great but is it enough to combat the massive move from desktop email to web-based?

Tim: this is less an email client and more like a personal information management system. I look forward to trying it.

Om: Gmail is convenient and plugins make it easy to mimic what you do but in the browser? How do you get paid? TIm jumps in and says it could very well be Microsoft purchase.

Half the audience raises its hand saying they would download and try it.

Swype: "we will change how people input text on screens." He is drawing a line through a mock qwerty keyboard and swiping series of letters that it renders into words based on clusters of lettering (I think). Appears to be very forgiving. Corrects common mispellings. This is pretty amazing. The ties onto smaller keyboards is clear (video games, laptops, touch screens, gps, etc). Not sure how it works with symbols, caps, etc - all things the iPhone really struggles with. This is killer. Now the demo is wihtout a stylus - he used his finger and it about 50% the speed but still pretty slick. Demo moves to smaller screens (a Windows Mobile cell phone) and its slower than either the Blackberry or iPhone.

By the way... there is an iPhone app that exists already that does this.... not sure how quality stacks up - but it's exactly the same for the iPhone.

The panel tries to swype and Evan says "it's mindless." Josh asks if it will really work without a stylus? Answer: it works best on a screen designed for touch (like iPhone). Jason asks about characters and shifiting (my question): Om: These companies are notoriously difficult to partner / get to market with (speaking of Nokia, etc). Answer: you can approach both the carrier and the OEM... and the iPhone has created a pressure for non-iPhone decks to include better feature sets. Om: sell to Micrsoft now. Josh: isn't this a patent mine field? (great question).Answer: we believe its a strength not a weakness considering our history.

Dropbox: Synchronizing file sharing, updating and portability.

Tim: why isn't this a feature with Google or Microsoft? Evan: Microsoft has a product called FolderShare - how does this compare? Answer: we add a web interface and team dynamic. Josh: I like the user interface. How do you deal with multiple people editing documents at same time (big issue for software like Collab, Trac, Google)? Answer: not really an answer. Has to be manually resolved between versions.

Devunity: the panel is confused as to what it is... good, makes me feel better.

Quick panel recap - favorites:

Josh: Swype. For user experience, its great. Evan: Swype. Looked brilliant and big need. Difficult business though. Tim: Swype. Challenging biz-dev problems but interesting bet. I'd like to try out Postbox though. Om: Swype. By far the most practical.