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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.


Yet Another Reminder of Amazon & Kindle's Importance: Proliferation

Reminder yet again that Amazon and Kindle are important parts of the mobile, cloud, content and application universe... these are the registered Kindle devices to my family: it's a combination of devices, platforms, formats, etc. More and more I am using Kindle like Evernote (one of my daily, most-used applications): I forward important documents to my personal Kindle emails. It's great. And for some use cases, its the equivalent of Evernote or iCloud.

And like Evernote - the content is accessible anywhere, nearly instantly. I love the email component of it and think that personalized emails as a content direction / entry mechanism are underutilized - Evernote and Tripit are examples of products that (for me) are most useful through email.

Designing for Mobile: 7 Guidelines for Mobile Apps & Mobile Web

Note: this article originally appeared on TechCrunch: Designing for Mobile: 7 Guidelines for Startups to Follow As an investor, I’ve seen hundreds of mobile application pitches. And as a consumer, I’ve downloaded hundreds more – some out of curiosity and others in the hope that I’ll find something so useful and exciting that I’ll make room for it on my iPhone’s home screen. From both perspectives, I am rarely excited by download numbers. What gets my attention is engagement: how frequently an application is used and how engaged those users are. This ultimately is the barometer for an application’s utility and/or strength of community. And if either of those two factors are strong, growth will certainly come. Just ask Instagram, Evernote, LogMeIn and others.

Creating great mobile experiences requires dedication to building product specifically for mobile. It sounds obvious, but it’s so often overlooked. Mobile users have different needs, desires and environments; and as the application creator, you have different opportunities to create utility and engagement. With that in mind – and with the help of my former eBay colleague and Dogpatch Labs resident, Rob Abbott (founder of EGG HAUS and Critiq), we’ve put together 7 design guidelines to consider when building for mobile.

Just like the presentations on leveraging Facebook (both and off-Facebook) and Twitter, success comes from building meaningful experiences that are honest to the native environments.

Read all of the startup presentations: - Leveraging Facebook for Startups: Part II, On-Facebook - How to Leverage Facebook for Startups: Part I, Off-Facebook - 14 SEO Tips for Startups - How to Grow Your Brand on Twitter. 5 Overarching Guidelines. Tons of Examples. - How to Create an Early-Stage Pitch Deck

7 Guidelines to Great Mobile Design

Evernote's Clean Homepage. What to Learn.

I love Evernote. It's one of the few products I use daily and on every device I own. I also love their homepage because it is super simple and focuses on two single actions: learn and download. Evernote's homepage is broken into four sections:

1. What is it. This has three simple parts: capture anything; access anywhere; find things fast. If you use Evernote, you'd agree that that's a great, simple overview.

1A. Download. The focus is the Download Evernote button which is front and center and the only actionable button on the page.

2. Group Pricing. The base is a suite of three modules that again promote learning. Here, Evernote wants to alert users that the product is both for consumers and businesses / teams.

3. Video Overview. More learning.

4. Social. This does a few things. First, it demonstrates that Evernote is massively popular - which enhances brand / familiarity / willingness to download. For instance, I am 1 / 150,000 Facebook fans. Second, it allows me to follow Evernote in-line (continuous marketing opportunity for Evernote).

Amazon Cloud Player: Buy Once, Listen Everywhere

Amazon's marketing message for the Kindle is simple: buy once, read everywhere. It's a compelling selling-point and the reason why othr services with similar propositions (ala Evernote) are so popular. The promo unit shows seven devices ... all running the Kindle application.

Similarly, Evernote's promotion can be describe as "write once, read anywhere". The marketing graphic looks similar: the application across different devices:

So it's no surprise that the Amazon Cloud Player marketing unit looks almost exactly the same as the Kindle's: "Play your music anywhere."

It's also not surprising that "Access Anywhere" is the core value proposition of cloud-based services. And it's interesting to see how that proposition is similarly - and effectively - conveyed across different applications and brands.

Write Once, Read Anywhere (Evernote Example)

Earlier in the week, I listed the productivity and work applications that I use daily. I concluded that the applications I most rely on not those that are the most robust... rather, its those that are most portable and efficient. A great example of that: Evernote.

Note taking can be done in many forms: word docs, notepad, email, competitors, etc. But what makes Evernote so appealing though is that it is available everywhere:

- Web - Chrome App - Chrome Extension - Desktop App - iPhone App - iPad App - Email - etc...

What is notable is that each of Evernote's applications / versions have specific use-cases for that environment. The Chrome extension, for instance, is focused entirely on web-clippings. And the iPad App is very different than the iPhone app. When most properties think of building for different platforms - it is often recreating an experience (which is often the web). Evernote shows the power of building for multiple environments and building tools specific to each environment.

The Key to Conversion Rates

The key to strong conversion rates? Squiggly lines. That's right: squiggly lines must help with conversions... otherwise they wouldn't appear on every imaginable registration / new-user page. Right?

Here are examples from Evernote, Highrise, Rockmelt, and Springpad. And that too just a moment to come up with:

Entering 2011, My Daily Productivity, Work Apps

After yesterday's post (2011 as the year of The Cloud and The Mobile Office), I was moved to list the apps and tools that I use on a daily basis (... at least as of January 2011!). I am trying to capture those utilities that I use most often. This is in no way comprehensive and is not presented in no particular order. What does your's look like?

- Wordpress: and run on it.

- Vaultpress: backs everything up. simple, great product.

- Evernote: committing to diligently using this in 2011.

- Highrise: committed to using it in Q4 2010... and love it.

- Xobni: makes Outlook better. And I live in Outlook.

- Google Apps: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Chat.

- Skype: solely on the iPhone for international calls.

- Google Chrome extensions: I live on them. These are ones I use regularly: - Evernote - Quora - - Gmail Checker - Google Calendar - Web Clipboard - Google Voice - Google Screen Capture

- Google TV: I might be alone, but I love it.

- Tripit: the more I travel, the more I rely on it.

This of course does not include the list of websites and apps that I use daily... like Facebook, Quora, Netflix Twitter, Pandora, etc.

iPad's 2010 Rewind: "The Cloud" & "Mobile Office"

There is nothing profound about this realization or blog post... after all, it was sparked by Apple's iPad: Rewind 2010 promotion which has two categories of featured applications: 'The Cloud' and 'Mobile Office':

Again, this is not profound: but there are two major takeaways here:

1. Mobile is now ubiquitous and is both a productivity asset and a gaming device.

The suite of 'Mobile Office' applications really have changed both work and mobile behaviors - moving it well beyond email.

2. More importantly, our lives are now in the cloud.

It is interesting enough that the "Cloud" terminology is commonplace enough to make its way into mainstream promotional campaigns (from Apple to Comcast to Microsoft).

And it is interesting to think your computing behavior over the last year: what sorts of files do you save to your desktop? How do you navigate your machine and content? There is not much of my tech existence that is sitting on a device, unreachable through the cloud: email, calendars, contacts, notes, files, photos, etc. I often opt for lighter-weight solutions than robust applications - for instance, most of my 'work' is documented in Google Docs, emails and Evernote rather than in richer Word, Powerpoint and Excel files.

Of course there are times that Excel and Powerpoint in particular are necessary...and excellent products. But most of my usage is with products that more resemble "Notepad" than "Word 2010".

I guess that portability and efficiency are most important to me. And as we own numerous devices - phone, laptop(s), tablet, etc - these becomes more and more important.