Viewing entries tagged
Twitter

My Favorite Products of 2014: From Applications to Gadgets

For the past several years, I have used December to write about my favorite products, digital habits, etc. And here again is my annual list of things I habitually use, love and rely on. There are obviously many, many other great products, apps, tools and gadgets - some fun and others meaningfully important to tech trends... this is simply a list of those things I use each and every day.

Applications, Tools and more...

Nuzzel and Pocket Both of these are new habits in 2014: Nuzzel is a new product and I simply find it to be the most effective and most efficient way to find and consume great content. And while, Pocket has been around, I have found myself using it daily in part because Nuzzel and Pocket work so well together, because Pocket works so well across device and Platform (iOS, Android, MacOS, etc) and because it works offline (great for reading during travel).

Spotify Spotify has been on this list since it launched… and in terms of daily minutes consumed, it is probably my most used product. We use it as a family and it's as much a part of my routine as my kids' (Raffi was our #1 artist of 2014… says a lot, right?). Once you spend the time to set playlists and explore new artists - the switching costs are also very high. I cannot imagine moving my music activity outside of Spotify: not only is it a great experience… it would be a great deal of work.

SportsCenter & WatchESPN Naturally I am a sports nut and am quite biased, but... I use these applications daily. SportsCenter for scores, stats, news and highlights (which has a major update coming in a few weeks) - and I use WatchESPN to watch Duke Football (whether on phone, Apple TV or other connected devices).

sportscenter widget

Overcast, Audible & iTunes Audio Books From Bill Simmons & Grantland to Serial to books on tape - I listen to a lot of audio content. I use: - Overcast for podcasts (like Serial and Bill Simmons) - the SportsCenter App's new On-Air functionality for live ESPN audio (like Mike & Mike and live games) - Audible and iTunes for audio books

Camera+ Gets better and better… Lots of other great options like Litely, but I eventually find myself happily returning to Camera+.

Twitter Notifications and Facebook Groups & Facebook Messenger Writing that Twitter and Facebook are part of my digital life would be rather obvious. So a couple features I now routinely use: - I actively manage and use Twitter Notifications to stay atop of news and content. Examples include getting notifications for @NikeStore (read more here), @BillSimmons, @BenedictEvans, @CNNbrk, and @AdamSchefter. - On Facebook, I use Groups regularly (both on web and now via application). We use it actively at ESPN for in-group communication and sharing. And I use Messenger more and more each month… particularly with friends who I do not regularly SMS with.

facebook groups app

iOS8 Widgets and... iOS8 Extensions - Pocket, Buffer, etc Extensions and Widgets have been a part of android for a while (or the capability) - but with ios8, this functionality opens up so many different use cases for users and app publishers. Pocket, Evernote, Pinterest, SportsCenter, Nuzzel, Wunderlist, Buffer and others suddenly become more routine / daily behaviors for me.

pocket-extensions

Travel Bundle: United, Uber, Passbook, Tripit, HotelTonight I've been on the road quite a bit recently and each of these apps is used with each trip. The United App is totally redone, reliable and integrates nicely with Apple's Passbook. Tript is terrific and I forward plans and confirmation reservations to the plans@tripit email service. Works perfectly. I have also used HotelTonight several times this past year and been pleasantly surprised by how elegant and easy it is… and they answered my biggest ask: the ability to book multiple days ahead.

Health Bundle: MyFitnessPal, Argus, Pedometer+ and Instant Heart Rate by Azumio No rhyme or reason as to how I use each of these together… but 2014 was the year for me where I moved entirely from hardware tracking to software. I use MyFitnessPal for tracking nutrition habits and logging activities. Pedometer+ is the simplest way to view movement (I use their simple iOS8 widget. And I use Argus and Instant Heart Rate to simply monitor and log simple performance during cardio workouts.

Video Bundle: iTunes, Netflix, Watch Disney Junior & Watch Disney Channel, Apple TV Maybe this is more a habit of the kids… but they have amassed quite the library on iTunes and a queue of favorite characters and shows via Disney's Watch apps and Netflix's playlist.

watchdisneyjr

Dropbox On this list year after year… deserves to be on this list more this year than any before - between file management, photo backup, and team collaboration.

Skitch Old reliable. Use it several times each day.

Evernote Skitch's parent company and product - Evernote is also old reliable. They are a great example of platform ubiquity and interface consistency across all of those products. From iOS native application to the MacOS Desktop App - Evernote works seamlessly across all of my devices and the content is readily accessible and editable.

Also of note: Evernote's product marketplace is very unique. The products within are of terrific and surprising quality. The Pfieffer product line is really fantastic.

Mobile Day I wrote about Mobile Day last year and am still shocked by how few people know about it. If you take a lot of phone calls - you'll just love the app. Note: As of this past week, MobileDay has introduced a freemium model for users who place more than 10 calls a month.

Wunderlist I love the interface, shared lists and the new integration into ios8 widgets / extensions. Easy integration with other users (family or teammates) and easy integration via email (simply forward tasks or emails to me@wunderlist.com). I have fiddled with several list / to-do services and this has become my favorite. An ask for 2015: the ability to send tasks from multiple email addresses.

Screenflow & Android Screencast Both excellent tools to capture, share and test product design and functionality. Screenflow allows editing and Android's Native Screencast makes it so, so simple.

Gadgets and Gear and Misc...

iPhone 6+ The size discussion is polarizing for many, but the benefits far outweigh any perceived size inconvenience: - more real estate and new usability formats from developers - bigger and better battery live - amazing, amazing camera (can't be overstated how good it is)

OnePlus I love this Android device. I love the build, the size, the feel. I really like the Cynogen / Android install and the customization opportunities. Really well done. And perhaps most importantly: I love price. Unlocked and 64GB for $349. The price is a game-changer.

Tile Took a little longer to ship than I had hoped - but the product is really well made and the software pairs easily and nicely. I have a Tile on each of my keychains and find myself clumsily having to use the app once a week. Also a great, fun gift.

iPhone & iPad Connection Cables I give several presentations and demos in a given week.... And I almost always prefer to give it as a live demo and off of the actual device. These cables are life savers and I keep a pair (hdmi + dvi) in the office and in my bag.

Bose Wireless Headphones Note: I am NOT an audiophile. I look for comfort, ease, sound, and size.

I bought these bluetooth early in the year and, while other headphones might have better sound quality, I really enjoy them. I really wanted a pair of wireless, bluetooth headphones for travel - and ones that would be comfortable after many hours of usage. The Bose headphones work terrifically. My only critique (but I think newer models are improved) is around battery life.

If you want more research, here are some good comparisons by The Verge and Gizmodo.

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.

Bobo Bars and Raw Revolution Bars I eat the same thing each morning for breakfast: either a Bobo Bar or a Raw Revolution Bar. Both are great (although everyone's tastes are obviously different).

Nespresso VertuoLine Coffee I eat the same thing every morning and I drink a lot (yes, a lot) of coffee. THe new Nespresso Vertuo machine is just terrific. Unlike past generations which only brewed espresso - this now also brews coffee. It's delicious.

Lists from others...

Some related "best of" lists from other sources... what did I miss?

- Mashable: 11 Most Useful Tools of 2014 - The Verge: Best Gadgets of the Year - Cult of Mac: Best Apps of 2014 - Slate: Favorite Apps of 2014 - CNET: Best Products of 2014 - The Verge: This is my Next (a general collection of gadget "best of's") - TheNextWeb: 65 of the Best iOS Apps Launched in 2014

Note: I am an investor in Nuzzel and MyFitnessPal.

Nike Gears Up for Alabama vs. Auburn Iron Bowl on Twitter (Again)

There was very good response from my earlier post on Nike's use of Twitter and using it as an example of successful and time-sensitive social commerce. So I thought I would share a couple quick follow up posts related to Nike's use of Twitter on the heels of a couple great promotions.

I mentioned in the prior post that Nike does a very good job tying promotions and gear to live / big events (I used the Broncos & Seahawks Super Bowl as an example). Today marks a huge day for college football:

- it's the Iron Bowl and that's always a big deal (#1 Alabama vs. #15 Auburn) - it's the rematch of last year's classic Alabama vs. Auburn Iron Bowl - it has huge implications on the inaugural College Football Playoff (Alabama is the #1 team in the nation) - and it's a national event: 7:45pm on ESPN

This is Nike's tweet roughly 24 hours ahead of the game. I assume they will share it again around kick-off (or a different variation):

It's simple. It's clever (stay on a "roll" for "Roll Tide"). It links to Alabama football's handle. The imagery is fantastic. And it links to a page full of Alabama specific products (53 to be exact).

Such a simple but effective use of social to take advantage of current & timely events... and to drive conversation, usage and commerce.

alabama football

albama nike gera

Social Commerce Done Right: Nike's Takes to Social for "Twitter Only Sales"

If you are a sneaker aficionado, you are probably well aware of Nike's fantastic, online, social-only commerce routine. You might even have signed up for Twitter alerts from @NikeStore so that you never miss a special sale. And as a geek and a self-proclaimed sneakerhead (defined here: NYTimes here and here, FiveThirtyEight here)... Nike's Twitter usage is among the best examples of social commerce and part of my shopping habit (I actually have Twitter iOS notifications turned on for @NikeStore). And if you're not a sneaker fan, you should find Nike's tactics interesting in the same way that some brands have mastered Pinterest, blogging, etc. Nike has created an experience and specialness around their routines... and in the process, amassed a social following, engaged their highest value buyers / fans, and proved that social + commerce can indeed work.

Here's how it works and what makes Nike special:

1. Nike has a slew of special content and one-time sales (ie a sneaker Pop Up shop). These are often one-time colorways and styles of a certain sneaker. But Nike will also release special products tied to current events (like an Oregon football game) and so forth.

2. Nike shares these product launches via an online release schedule and then tweets each specific sale in the days leading up to the sale. The product preview page includes a "Launch Tips" section which encourages fans to follow @NikeStore and pre-register for the sale so as to expedite the purchase process (inventory is hotly contested):

3. Nike amplifies those tweets with other Twitter handles (ie running-related products are also shared via Nike's running handles).

4. product launches happen at pre-announced, defined times (usually 8am EST).

5. At 8am EST, @NikeStore tweets a special URL for the sale. Many of those releases are only available via Twitter - what Nike calls "Twitter Link Only (TLO)". Meaning, users have to follow @NikeStore to purchase the products.

6. The tweets arrive promptly at 8am EST and always have great visuals and a short, swoo.sh URL, like so:

photo 3

7. The shoes sell out within in minutes... sometimes seconds. The speed is pretty remarkable actually... again, encouraging followers to turn @NikeStore alerts on and to create their NikeStore.com account (with credit card on file of course).

8. The web purchase flow - on mobile and big-screen - is equally good looking: big visuals, social sharing tools, and focus on urgency.

nike kobe sold out

A couple other examples to highlight:

1. Nike had Christmas-day sales that coincided with the special shoes worn by its players (like Lebron James) that day. It was a Twitter-only sale.

Here is the pre-sale post... whetting the appetite:

And then the sale announcement:

Lebron then shared with his followers and posted an Instagram picture of his new shoes.

2. Nike does something similar during big sporting events. For instance, Nike now sells NFL jerseys and merchandise and during big, nationally televised games - they share related (and sometimes special) products via Twitter:

And lastly, my favorite screenshot: Nike's Launch Tips - which are included with pre-sale products.... again: encouraging users to follow Nike and not miss an opportunity:

nike tips

Android / Google Play: Top Free Apps

Messaging rules the app stores these days... as does Facebook. Here is a screenshot of the Google Play Store's Top Free Apps: #1. Facebook Messenger #2. Facebook #4. Instagram (Facebook) #5. Snapchat ... #9. Skype #10. Kik #13. Twitter #16. WhatsApp

Notable others: music has #3 and #11 with Pandora and Spotify, respectively. King has games at #8 and #12 with Candy Crush and Bubble Witch 2. And Netflix is #7.

Android Top Free Apps

Hello SportsCenter App & 8 Takeaways

On Thursday, we launched the new SportsCenter Application, an update to ESPN's existing and popular ScoreCenter application. With 50m downloads and millions of daily users, ScoreCenter is certainly successful and our hallmark application. We didn't set out to replace it; rather, we set out to expand the experience and better present the vast array of content that makes ESPN so special: video, articles, imagery, television clips, social activity, statistics, and more. You can get it here: - for iOS: http://es.pn/scapp - for Android: http://es.pn/scappandroid - Or, dial **SC from your cell phone

sportscenter app

A handful of product highlights

- Scores / News / Now: ScoreCenter delivered scores and stats... SportsCenter does that alongside News (video, highlights, articles, analysis) and ESPN Now (tweets and live scores) - SportsCenter's Best Of: The SportsCenter Tab is the best stuff of the day (games, breaking news, analysis), merged with your favorite team scores. - Personalization & Inbox: The focus of the app is on delivering a personalized experience through alerts, favorite teams, and the new Fan Inbox (which is a personalized feed of your favorite teams' news, highlights and scoring alerts). - Clubhouses: My favorite enhancement is the introduction of Team Clubhouses. Fans can quickly access each team's scoreboard, newsfeed and social feed... and set alerts directly within the Clubhouse.

Here is a screenshot of the Duke Football Clubhouse which is noteworthy for a few reasons. First, it is relatively long-tail content that would not elevate to the national level - but it is important to me. Second, the content is fantastic. These are in-game highlights, streaming live into the feed seconds after they occur on the field. It's a tremendous experience that is highly personalized.

duke clubhouse

That's the new app. I hope you download it, enjoy it and pass along feedback. I also thought it would be worthwhile to share some takeaways:

It's a Mobile World

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about ESPN's recent digital patterns. September was a record month for ESPN in three ways: 1. we saw record overall traffic 2. during that period, more fans accessed ESPN via mobile than desktop 3. over 36% of users accessed ESPN exclusively via mobile

It's a mobile world. The focus on re-imagining ScoreCenter was predicated on better serving our fans in an increasingly mobile world. And if you haven't done so already, read Benedict Evan's Mobile is Eating the World deck.

It's a Native Mobile World

It's a mobile world... but it's also a native world for applications. Long gone are the days or porting a single app from platform to platform. Users don't want this... and neither do the platforms themselves. Experiences have to be built and designed specifically for the platform and the device portfolio. The challenge of course is to maintain brand familiarity and consistency while also designing differently and specifically for each platform. It's a difficult but critical balance.

Native also applies to platforms beyond the mobile operating systems (ie iOS, Android, etc). For instance, we took care to make sure that the application leverages native integrations with Twitter and Facebook - both within the application and within their own platforms. This, for instance, is a screenshot of the new Twitter Card integration:

twitter cards

Disrupt Yourself

AllThingsD wrote a nice piece on the SportsCenter launch entitled: "ESPN ScoreCenter App Is a Hit, but It’s Getting an Overhaul Anyway: New Name, More Video, More Stuff". It's an important mentality: don't wait for something to break before considering / forcing change. The world changes too fast - technology, platforms, standards, habits - to sit still.

Scaled, Pre-launch Distribution and Usage

Between services like TestFlight and Google Beta, it is relatively painless to distribute pre-launch builds and collect usage data / feedback from large numbers of relevant users. It's the purest form of user-testing and user-feedback. For SportsCenter, somewhere around 1,500 fans played with the application ahead of launch. Others like Facebook are doing that at grand scale using the Google Beta program:

facebook google play

Press as Pre-Launch Users

My friend Matt Schlicht of Hipset recently wrote a nice Medium piece about driving press for your startup. My strong opinion here: treat everyone as a user and a fan. SportsCenter received some excellent coverage and those writers had access to the test builds of the application for several days (or more). That translates into more organic coverage (good or bad), deep insight, and some unique perspectives. It is also how pieces like Ryan Lawler's on TechCrunch get written - where he had a fantastic, in-depth usage video.

Advice: trust that your product is high-quality and give users and writer's full, early access.

A couple other pieces: - TechCrunch: ESPN’s SportsCenter App Combines News And Highlights With New Personalization Features - AllThingsD: ESPN ScoreCenter App Is a Hit, but It’s Getting an Overhaul Anyway: New Name, More Video, More Stuff - PandoDaily: ESPN Launches Personalized SportsCenter Feed Web App, Proves It Just Gets Digital - AdAge: This Is 'SportsCenter'...on Your iPhone

Twitter As Real-Time Customer Service

This is obvious for most: Twitter is immensely powerful as a real-time insights and customer support platform. During launch, we were seeing 50+ tweets per minute. Between sentiment tracking, bug monitoring and usage habits - we had an immediate understanding of how fans were engaging and interacting. This isn't shocking to anyone... but one point worth noting: I have spent a lot of time responding to tweets of all ranges: positive, negative, open questions, etc. Users were almost always happy to hear from someone connected to the product. Feedback was universally helpful and, even when a user was unhappy, the outcome was positive.

It's Iterative

There are things we got wrong. There are things we had to cut due to time. And there are things we didn't get to but are on the roadmap.

It's an iterative process. It has to be... in part because user feedback will dictate changes and time won't allow for everything to built. The challenge is determining what viable release requirements are... and communicating iteration to users.

I'm Old

Along with the core team, we read every single tweet. The big lesson: my vocabulary is very out of date, emoji are king, and I'm clearly old.

twitteremoji

Twitter Brings Mobile Notifications Front & Center

One of the great (maybe most under used?) Twitter features is mobile notifications. They are very valuable when used properly (ie following the right users) and overwhelming when used incorrectly (ie following too many people) - and Twitter recognizes this. Hence, Twitter is now recommending mobile notifications of recommended users on Twitter.com. Great in-the-river promotion that encourages cross device use (from web to mobile) and for users / content that they believe I will appreciate. mobile notifications

Twitter's In the River Module for User Messaging

Facebook is the king of in-the-river promotions - perhaps because they roll out so many new features, promotions, toggles, etc and it's the most effective way to alert users of changes. Here is a great example by Twitter and it's worth showcasing for three reasons:

1. It is a balance of really obvious but in-line. The promotion box sits atop the feed and therefore feels natural - as opposed to an overlay of some sort. Nevertheless, it cannot be missed.

2. It is not done to promote a new feature. It is done to message active users. Better than an email.

3. The focus is on ensuring accurate email addresses and user data. The best to do that, per point #2, message active users in line.

twitter in the river

Great Rose Bowl Social Ad From Vizio

You can watch the Rose Bowl (Stanford vs. Wisconsin) on ESPN right now and on WatchESPN. You can follow on the new SportsCenter Feed and ScoreCenter. And you can cheer socially on ESPN's homepage with the current Vizio Fandemonium ad on ESPN's homepage that allows fans to support either Wisconsin or Stanford via Twitter. Very cool, fun experience and very timely given today's game and the engaged audience.

rosebowl

vizio fandimonium