Tag Archive: Gadget


It all starts with the best of intentions. You want to get some friends together for dinner, or grab drinks with a few colleagues after work, so you send out an invitation via email or group text message. Then things spiral out of control, as people message back and forth about where to go, and what time to meet. Pretty soon you’re entangled in an endless chain of messages that makes you wonder, “What have I done?” But planning events doesn’t have to feel like you’re herding cats.

WePopp and Rundavoo are two mobile apps that aim to make the task of event planning a little more organized. Both are free, and allow you to create events right from your smartphone, and then send out invites where people can vote on details, suggest alternatives and exchange messages all in one place. After everything is finalized, you can lock it down and add it to your calendar.

After using WePopp and Rundavoo to plan various events over the past few days, I wouldn’t recommend either app if you’re just trying to get together with one person. Email or phone is better for that. And if you already have an event with a set venue, date and time, I don’t see any advantage to using WePopp or Rundavoo over something like Evite or Facebook events.

Instead, these two apps are useful for more impromptu gatherings and activities that involve larger groups of people. The voting feature in both of these apps is particularly useful for getting input and nailing down details. But they both have their flaws.

For example, WePopp’s text notifications can get annoying. Meanwhile, Rundavoo crashed on me a few times, and its interface can be confusing. Of the two, I’d recommend WePopp, because it’s easier to use and doesn’t require your invitees to download the app or sign up for an account, though if you don’t sign up you won’t get access to all the features.

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WePopp is currently only available for iOS devices, but an Android version is coming soon. I downloaded it to my iPhone 5, and the interface is basic and intuitive. Everyone who I sent an invitation to using both apps preferred WePopp’s interface because it was simple and easy to understand.

To start planning an event, just slide the “Create a Popp” button, and it will take you to a screen where you can choose from a variety of preset invitations: Meal, Drink, Party, Movie, Sport, Weekend or Other. WePopp will then ask you to enter a date, name and description for the event, time, place and invitee list.

You can enter more than one suggestion for each section, so people can vote for their favorite option. I created one for a happy hour, and listed three different locations. It was nice to see at a glance which place had the most votes. I’ve done this before over email, and usually, I have to search through messages to tally people’s responses.

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One thing to note: The “Invite friends” section currently sits at the top of the page, above date, time and place, and when I first started using the app, I automatically started filling this section out first. But, after pressing the “check” button, it sent out invites, even though I had yet to fill out the time and place. I think it would be better to put the invite link at the bottom of the page; the company said they are looking to change that in the next version.

Invites can be sent via Facebook or text message. But WePopp can get overzealous with texts. When an invite goes out, your recipients get two messages: One saying that an invitation is on the way, and another with the link. It would be nice if WePopp consolidated that into one message.

Also, when I received a WePopp invite from a friend, it came via text message, even though I had the app. I’d prefer to be alerted via push notification; the company said they’re working to add that in the future.

The good thing about WePopp is that your friends don’t need an account or the app to respond to invites. Instead, they can simply click on the invitation link to open up a mobile site and tap the buttons to RSVP and vote for their favorite choices. Without an account, though, you can’t make other suggestions, and you won’t receive notifications if someone posts a message to the group chat section.

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Once everything is decided, you can finalize plans (another text is sent to invitees), and WePopp even gives you the option to add it to your calendar.

Rundavoo works similarly to WePopp. The app is iOS-only for now, but you can also send and respond to invites using Rundavoo’s website. An Android app is planned for the new year.

I found Rundavoo’s interface to be prettier, but it’s slightly more complicated. To start, you can choose from preset invites or create your own. You’ll then be asked to fill in the what, when and where. I like that Rundavoo uses your phone’s location services to populate search results for places (WePopp also does this), and then pulls in images of the business to use in the invite. It also integrates with Foursquare and Yelp.

Like WePopp, you can enter multiple suggestions for people to vote on. But, by default, Rundavoo locks down the venue, date and time, so you have to press the little lock icon to add other suggestions. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s an extra step I’d rather not have to deal with.

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Invites can be sent via text or email, but if you send via text, your friends will need to sign up for an account to respond. If sent by email, users can simply click on the links to RSVP, but if they want to add any suggestions, they will need an account. Most of my friends were not thrilled about this, but they did it for me (such good friends, they are). Even then, they said they found the interface confusing.

On the organizer’s side, votes were clearly displayed, but I never received notifications when people RSVPed, even after double-checking my iPhone’s notifications settings. More annoying was the fact that Rundavoo crashed on me multiple times, often when I was in the middle of creating an invitation. But Rundavoo told me they are working on a number of improvements, including the ability to respond via text without an account.

Trying to plan an outing with friends shouldn’t be a frustrating experience, and WePopp and Rundavoo offer an alternative to the back and forth of planning events over email. For now, you’ll get a simpler and more stable experience with WePopp.

snaptwit

Twitter’s entire premise is based on publicness. “Join the conversation in the global town square!” the company likes to say.

But, over the past year, Twitter has come around to seeing the value of being more discreet.

The company plans to significantly update its direct-messaging product in the near future, according to multiple sources, bringing the long-buried feature to the forefront for the first time in years.

Part of the new reemphasis on direct messaging is already here. For weeks, Twitter has been internally testing a setting that allows users to send and receive direct messages from others without needing to mutually follow one another. And, earlier this week, the company began to roll it out to the public in a limited capacity.

But Twitter’s new vision for direct messages will go further. It has kicked around the idea of launching a standalone direct-messaging application separate from the Twitter app, according to three people familiar with the matter. It is unclear, however, what form the final revamp of direct messages will take.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment when asked about future messaging plans.

Twitter’s move comes as a defensive riposte to personal-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Line and KakaoTalk, all of which have drastically increased in popularity over the past two years. KakaoTalk, in particular, was mentioned as a threat in Twitter’s S-1 IPO documentation, filed earlier this month. To cope with such an increase in attention, other social networks, like Facebook and Path, have also made significant updates to their messaging capabilities.

Twitter paid specific attention to Snapchat, the massively popular ephemeral-messaging service, during its rapid ascent to popular use. Twitter even ran one of its own surveys, according to sources familiar with the matter, finding that people are indeed using Snapchat to engage more with others. And one of Twitter’s updates to Android tablet apps earlier this month borrows heavily from Snapchat’s in-message illustration features.

twitter_engineering-feature

Earlier in the year, Twitter also met with employees from MessageMe, another popular mobile-messaging application, according to sources.

Moving private messaging up the food chain hasn’t always been in the company’s plans. At one point in Twitter’s history, employees discussed possibly killing direct messaging off altogether, according to multiple sources, making Twitter a truly public service once and for all. It is said that Jack Dorsey was one of the biggest proponents of the “all-public” version of Twitter.

Instead, Twitter went in a considerably less drastic direction. Under the direction of Dorsey and then product VP Satya Patel, the company launched a complete redesign of its desktop and mobile products in December of 2011, plucking the direct-messaging menu from the home screen and burying it under a separate, less visible menu. Eventually, the idea was that the product could have possibly been phased out.

Besides dealing with a public that wants personal-messaging services, Twitter also must attempt to solve its serious growth problem, one that seems to have alienated the service from becoming truly mainstream. The company hopes that an upcoming redesign will put an end to its retention issues and ultimately boost Twitter’s overall user ranks.

It is likely that we will see both updates before the year’s end, perhaps in time for the company’s much-anticipated initial public offering next month.

ie-logo

Almost exactly a month ago, Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 11 as part of the Windows 8.1 preview and today, it is also launching a developer preview of IE11 for Windows 7.

Sandeep Singhal, Microsoft’s group program manager for IE, told me earlier this week that IE11 for Windows 7 will bring all of the advances of IE11 for Windows 8.1 to users of Microsoft’s older operating system. One area Microsoft has focused on with this release is speed, including a much-improved JavaScript engine and a stronger emphasis on GPU hardware acceleration for 2D and 3D content, including fonts, JPG images and WebGL-based experiences.

IE11 is Microsoft’s first browser to embrace the WebGL standard for accessing the computer’s GPU for rendering advanced 2D and 3D experiences. As Microsoft’s senior program manager for IE Frank Olivier told me, his team has worked hard to ensure that WebGL in IE (both on Windows 7 and 8.1) is as safe as possible and can’t crash the system (it does, after all, allow very low-level access to your hardware). Indeed, Olivier showed me a demo that stressed IE11 s WebGL implementation to the point where it crashes. IE11 handles this situation gracefully and simply restarts its WebGL core as needed.

To show off IE11 s WebGL features, the company teamed up with GlacierWorks, a site that aims to raise awareness about the effect of climate change in the Himalayas, to add more WebGL content to its site.

Fast, But Not SPDY On Windows 7

All of these features will also be available to Windows 7 users and Singhal expects the Windows 7 version to offer virtually the same performance as on the new operating system. One feature Microsoft doesn’t bring to Windows 7, though, is support for Google’s SPDY networking protocol.

As for Windows 8, Microsoft tells me that it will ship IE11 with the free Windows 8.1 upgrade. Microsoft clearly expects most Windows 8 users to upgrade to 8.1 and it doesn’t look like it plans to make IE11 available as a standalone download for 8.

With today’s update for Windows 7, Microsoft is also updating modern.IE, its site for tools and resources for developing for IE. The site now features virtual machines for testing IE11 on Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, as well as a new screenshot tool that lets you see how your sites look across different browsers and devices. For a limited time, Microsoft is also offering developers a 25 percent discount on Parallels for Mac so they can run these virtual machines. IE11 itself, it’s worth noting, also includes a number of updated developer tools.


Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 15.21.14

Skimlinks, the platform which gives publishers greater control over affiliate links and content monetization, releases some major research today which could well concentrate the minds of online “publishers”, and that includes apps, startups and bloggers.

It’s white paper reveals that while editorial or social websites can point a user towards a product they might go on to buy, publishers rarely receive the financial reward for doing so because of problems with the “Last Click” attribution model used in affiliate marketing. Now, while the study is clearly a ploy to get apps and content publishers to run their affiliate programs through Skimlinks rather than through traditional affiliate platforms, the research itself does bear examination.

The study found that content sites were the first place users read about a product 27% of the time, and were in the first quarter of the user’s path to purchase 36% of the time. And when a user started their journey to a purchase with a content site, she or he was a new customer 55% of the time. However, content sites were the Last Click only 6% of the time and 94% of the time, the content affiliate was NOT awarded the sale. Plus, 65% of the time when a content site is the first click in a purchase journey, sparking purchase intent, another channel is the last click, taking all the credit for the sale.

They also found that content sites drove nearly 30% more new customers to brand sites than the average of all other channels. In addition, when consumers started reading about a product on a content site their desire to purchase grew over time: in this case, 9% of the sales would occur within one hour, 16% within 24 hours and 31% happened within 3 days.

In other words, if online marketers shifted their affiliate strategy away from the Last Click attribution model towards online publishers, apps and social sites, they’d basically get faster and more robust sales.

This would be music to the ears of many social and content sites.

Alicia Navarro, CEO and co-founder of Skimlinks says: “The general view is that better attribution is required – that distributes the cost-per-acquisition across multiple parties responsible for creating and driving purchase intent. By only remunerating the last-click publisher, you create the wrong incentives, and end up with a ton of low-value deal/coupon sites, rather than rich apps and content, who have less incentive to link out to merchants because they don’t get paid for top-of-funnel activity via affiliate marketing.”

Ryan Jones of Shop Direct, where the study was based, points out that it’s a two-way street: “Retailers are probably missing out on exposure as commercially savvy content sites tend to promote the brands they earn more from.”

For the research Skimlinks analyzed data provided by Shop Direct’s ecommerce site, Very.co.uk, which spanned all orders between July and November 2012 that included a click from a Skimlinks content site.

Skimlinks clients include Conde Nast, Gawker, AOL Europe, WordPress, Hearst Digital, Haymarket Consumer Media, Telegraph Media Group, among others.

Skimlinks’ main competitors are the Google-backed VigLink and the seed-backed startup Yieldkit. This year it completed an undisclosed growth financing round led by Greycroft Partners and others.

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