Great Productivity Tools – Todoist

todoist_logoEveryone has their own set of tools to help them in their working day.

I have always struggled to find a to do list program/app that helps me in my day. I have tried a number of them, tempted by their features and claims of increasing productivity.

But I have found many of them actually slow me down.

Take Evernote for example; a brilliant application that does so much stuff. But for my needs it seemed too much, all of the fantastic features just seemed to get in the way, I needed something simpler, so simple and easy to use, it encouraged me to use it.

So I stumbled on Todoist on one of those “10 Apps to Increase Your Productivity” kind of articles. I wasn’t actually looking for it, but found it after I had stumbled on another quirky productivity app called Coffitivity (more on that in another post).

On first glances Todoist looked simple and clean, just what I was looking for. Gone were the other features that gets you away from the core function – making lists.

It was as easy as typing a list item and hitting enter, nothing else was needed. So far so good.

But there are options to categorise and add other information to your list items, but they are not required and this was the key for me. I could just type out a list of items and not worry about the other information, I could go back and do that later if I needed to.

Suddenly I had a list of items and as things came in, whether it be by phone, email or talking to someone in person, I could quickly add it to a list.

I have a tendency to try and keep things in my head, to which I am mostly successful, this has been a great way to get those lists in my brain down in a more permanent form.

Todoist Screen (with spelling mistakes 🙂

So now I have these items on my lists, I can work on them and tick them off. What’s better, is that Todoist records your completed tasks and lets you know how many you have done per day and per week. You can set your own goals and it will keep track for you, this is a great way to incentivise the completing of tasks and improving your productivity.

There is an accompanying app for most devices and also integrations with popular mail programs too.

As with many of these things, there is a Free version and a Paid version, I ran the free version for quite a while and it was great. In the end I upgraded to the premium version, because you can create shared lists that are great for collaborating in teams. Each user costs USD29 / year, but it is a small price for enhancing your productivity.

So, in a nutshell, Todoist is an awesome app for me: simple, quick and I can quickly see the improvements it has made for me

WordPress 3.2 Now Released

WordPress has released it’s next semi-major release with version 3.2.

You can read the official announcement here

Significant in this release is the breaking away of support for old technologies including older versions of MySQL, PHP and even old IE6.

This part has me really excited (especially the IE6 part) as backwards compatibility has its drawbacks. The ability to embrace new technologies is limited while trying to keep people using older technologies happy.

IE6 is incredibly old in technology terms (It has it’s 10th birthday on the 27th of August) and the sooner developers stop catering for this the quicker things will move forward.

The new look of 3.2 is smart, more clinical (professional?) but initial thoughts are good.

But the best thing about it? The upgrade went flawlessly.

The upgrade process in WordPress is one of the best out there for stability and reliability.

I’ll keep using it for a while and post back an update later.

Empire Avenue – What is it Good for?

Empire Avenue is an interesting concept in this world of Social Media and Social Media Marketing.

We are told to network, to make connection in our industries and across others to broaden our horizons, to reach out to our customers. Engage, Engage, Engage!

With all of this engaging going on, who’s doing all the real work? (Only joking)

Many people still don’t see the benefits of Social Media, it took the advent of Tweetdeck for me to see the benefit of Twitter as a networking tool. But slowly as these things come more into the mainstream and more importantly, experiences are discussed about the benefits and pitfalls of this new form of marketing.

Empire Avenue takes all of this engagement and networking and turns it into a game.

I used to play AlexaDex, it was a share trading game based on the traffic that websites recorded according to Alexa.

Empire Avenue does something similar where it gathers information about your social connections via sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube and Flickr, plus what you do on the Empire Avenue site and give you a score, or a share price.

If people in the game think you are an upwards mover, they can buy shares in your profile to hopefully make a profit on your rise.

It seems to me that it is a really fun version of Klout, or similar social media analytics programs.

It is a great way to make measuring your connectedness and engagement fun.

To be honest, you may even engage more, to increase your share value.

A bit of a chicken and egg scenario then, not only does it report on your social engagement, but it encourages you to engage more.

I like it. I like the fact that it can make the measurement fun. It has encouraged me to be more vocal in social networking circles, which in itself is not a bad thing.

What is your experience? Do you like it? Do you think it is a big waste of time?

(I had to put this in…)


Online Reviews – Good, Bad or Fake

Online reviews are one of the many great things on the web that are abused by some to either positively or negatively influence things.

For as many fake negative reviews on the web, I am sure there are just as many fake positive reviews out there. However, the negative ones are the ones that get the attention.

TripAdvisor, Google and many others provide the ability to submit reviews on businesses and products.

While a list of positive reviews are great for business,  a few negative ones can really put people off.

When you do get a negative review what should you do? Here are some tips for you.

  1. Respond quickly – as soon as you find a negative review, get on to it quickly. The longer the response, the more damage it does
  2. Acknowledge the issue – most people with a legitimate gripe about the product or service they are reviewing are doing it from a place of honesty. It is important that you acknowledge this
  3. Avoid “He Said – She Said” – arguments that happen on feedback sites can only end badly for the business involved.
  4. Don’t let it get personal or emotional – stick to the facts, be reasonable
  5. Move forward – each negative feedback is the opportunity to learn something and do better. If, in your response, you can indicate what you can do to make customers experiences better in the future, it will show your willingness to listen and take feedback on board.

Use negative feedback as an ideal opportunity to get better.

Here is an interesting video about the problem with fake reviews

Avast Antivirus – Wow!

I have used a number of Antivirus programs over the years. I was a big fan of Mcafee back in the DOS days, moved onto Nortons when it came with my PC (Threw it away when it got too bloated). Tried a number of others and then settled on AVG.

AVG was great. It was free, wasn’t bloated like Norton was (I have been assured that the 2009 and 2010 versions are much better) and seemed to do everything, except custom scheduled scans, you needed to pay for that.

Over the last few years it has worked great for me and I have been through a number of versions, till the recent v8.

However, I noticed it too was getting a bit bloated, using memory and system resources that seemed a bit big while idle.

I thought I would try Avast.

It too is a free anti virus program, for non commercial use and has all of the current drop of shields including Instant Messaging, Web,Mail, Network and more.

Resource wise it was better, not to much between them, but it definitely used less memory than AVG. This was ideal for my laptop that only has 256mb of RAM.

After some toing and froing between versions, the newest version of Avast has been released, so installed this on the resource challenged laptop.

Well some of the initial tests have been quite stunning.

While the proof will be in the protection it provides (The previous versions seem to be good in that regard), the resource usage of this new system is quite staggering.

With AVG installed, the laptop idled once fully loaded at around 260mb (remember this only has 256mb of RAM)

With Avast this reduced to 195mb, around 65mb less. On such a tight resource budget this is huge. Updates and scans obviously take more cpu and RAM, but that is to be expected. Why waste resources when they are not needed.

Well done to Avast, they have made a good product even better, enough to get a WOW out of me!

You can download it here

I Love TweetDeck! Best App for Twitter

Twitter is becoming clearer.

Now I have TweetDeck, Twitter becomes a much better experience, I now know when someone I am following has posted something up, and it even allows me to reply from within TweetDeck.

Now the thing with TweetDeck, is that it is a program you install on your PC, think of it like Outlook for Twitter (Though much better and definitely not a Microsoft thing)

I means you do not have to refresh twitter to see what people are saying. It also means you can get notifications when there are new tweets in your stream.

I can see when I have been mentioned (@deepwebdesign) and also a list of my direct messages to other Twitter users.

But the real benefit, it to create groups of users so you can filter out the people you really want to hear from and leave some of the noise behind.

I can’t believe how much it has changed my Twitter experience.

The only downside is that it is a bit memory hungry (over 100mb of user memory when running, written in Adobe AIR)

But overall one of the few apps I am really happy about.

Click here to download TweetDeck

They also have TweetDeck for iPhone

Huge nomination for Sidhe at E3 Games Awards

New Zealand’s own Sidhe Interactive and their new game Shatter is up for an award after unwittingly keeping one of the journalists on the game for a half hour, after only intending to have a go for 5 minutes.

To me it looks like a super suped up version of Arkanoid, some levels played in spheres, huge power ups, explosions and much more.

Will they win the “Best in Show” category?

They are starting to get a bit of notice, and mentions like this can only help. Releasing Shatter on Sony’s Playstation Network will mean that it will get some airtime and if it is as addictive as indicated they could be on to a real winner.

Well done guys!

Opera 10 Look Good

If you are sick of Internet Explorer, Opera is a great browser.

You can download a beta version of Opera 10 here

I use Firefox and when I am building websites I need to make sure that they work well in IE and Firefox predominantly (due to their market share)

But before Firefox came along, I was a big Opera fan and user.

The main thing about Opera is that it is fast and seems to be pretty light on the system resources.

I wont bother doing timed tests for sites and download file speeds, but I downloaded the new Beta version of Opera 10 and it looks good, worked well on the sites I tried and it was fast.

While I cant recommend it yet for production use, for anyone who is willing to try out stuff in Beta will like this. It will also sit alongside your other browser, so you dont have to get rid of it. Yet 🙂

What is your favourite browser and why?

So what is Bing all about? – Part 1

Well Bing is here.

What is Bing? Well it is the new Microsoft search engine. Technically replacing Live as their search engine.

There have been plenty of blogs and articles today about the premature launch (it was supposed to launch on the 3rd of June), but came out a little early.

To the point where Googles Matt Cutts has been taking aim at some of the results from Bing against Googles results for the same query.

The comments vary and peoples experience so far has been unhelpful in deciding whether this is a serious competitor to Googles search dominance.

It is new, but you would expect them to get it pretty right from the first release.

How will this affect NZ? Not sure at this stage, I am going to do some of my own research and present this in a few days.

Check back.

Hulu and Vimeo vs Youtube

There has been plenty of talk about online video.

When Google bought Youtube, that seemed to be the end of online video sites, as they had with Google Video over 80% of the video market.

However, Hulu and Vimeo have made waves for different reasons.

Hulu is the one closest to Youtube in style and delivery. The key change seems to be the promotion of commercially produced full length episodes of TV programs so often banned and taken down on other sites.

Youtube is still the choice for uploading any kind of content, subject to the terms and conditions. If you are quick enough, you can find replays of Champions League, Premier League and more. Wait a couple of hours and the videos are starting to be taken down as violation of copyright.

The surprising thing is that people do it every day, knowing they will only last a short time. The amount of resource that Youtube (and other providers) need to put into the policing of this is amazing.

However, for non US residents, Hulu is not available, due to copyright agreements in place in other countries around the world.

They provide a popup, where you can put your email and region, so they can let you know when Hulu becomes available. (It could take some time)

Then there is Vimeo. Vimeo is a different kettle of fish. They provide this as a simple guideline to the content they want on their site

Vimeo exists to provide you with a space to showcase your creativity and share your life. As such, we do not allow you to upload videos that are commercial in nature or videos that you did not make yourself

So, this gives a completely different feel and purpose for this video site. I have seen Vimeo used for hosting training, video tutorials, video blog files and more.

The quality seems better than Youtube (even though the controls seem a bit obtrusive) so looks like a nice platform.

You won’t beat Youtube for potential traffic and viralness (Is that a word?) but Vimeo looks like a great alternative for staging video content on your site.

Do you have a preference, any others  worth noting?