leslie hitchcock

Archive for 2012|Yearly archive page

Ordering Ahead with Order Ahead

In reviews on October 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm

True story: In March I moved into a new apartment and I have not cooked since.

Cooking is not fun. I’ll do it if I have to; I have some game in the kitchen and am capable of making good things to eat. But all of the logistics surrounding cooking are not interesting to me: grocery stores, markets, ingredients, Farmers Markets, cook books, cleanup, etc etc. Basically, I feel like my time can be better spent. Also, I have the rest of my life to cook, so I’m not really going to start until it is imperative.

How do I eat, you ask. Excellent question! I recently attended a dinner party and I offered my help in the preparations, then quickly rescinded and instead volunteered to help with take-out if the experimental situation went south. (We did not need that option; the host made an incredible meal)

But the point remains: I eat out. A lot. If I am not getting lunch delivered as part of an office perk, I’m in a restaurant. Sometimes I wrangle friends to dine with me, sometimes I do take out. But now? Now I can Order Ahead.

Many mobile apps can help me get food: Get It NowGrubHub, Seamless. All of them bring me the meal I’ve requested. But sometimes I’m in a rush and hungry and need to have something waiting for me when I get to my destination. (If you’ve had the misfortune of experiencing Hungry Leslie, I apologize.) Plus, I really hate standing in line. Order Ahead is ideal in this situation.

I downloaded Order Ahead several months ago with the intent to review but then forgot about it because the offerings in my neighborhood are not restaurants I enjoy. It wasn’t until I was standing in the unending lunch line at HRD that I was reminded of Order Ahead’s existence. Sure enough, most restaurants I frequent in SOMA are represented. I hope the Order Ahead team works to on-board a better representation in other areas of San Francisco. I’d use it much more frequently.

The in-app UI is very well executed. After one is signed up, credit card filed and logged in, finding a restaurant from which to order is simple. My first order was from the TechCrunch office and as Marlowe is a partner, I couldn’t resist one of their cheeseburgers.

Navigating the menu proved efficient as did placing the order. My card was on file so as soon as I ordered the bill was settled. I received confirmation in the app as well as an email. The app’s confirmation page provided significantly more detail than the email page including when it could be picked up and where in the restaurant. Simple! I like it.

When I got to Marlowe I stood awkwardly at the bar while the bartender found my order. She kind of shrugged and told me I could just go “since you paid already, right?” We both admitted to not really knowing what the protocol was for the transaction, but it worked out perfectly. The burger was delicious. The only complaint I had was that I forgot I eschewed french fries for salad. It still sits on my desk uneaten several hours later.

I’m looking forward to watching this service grow and trying new establishments as they are added. One in particular seems fascinating: ordering coffee from Philz (or in my case a Chai Latte). I wonder what the experience is like with a beverage order. I’ll report back upon trying. But until then if you’re in the San Francisco area and don’t like cooking, I highly recommend Order Ahead.

My Bodymetrics Experience

In reviews on October 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

A few weeks ago, I (insanely) volunteered to step into a rather large scanning apparatus, disrobe and have my entire body scanned. (As one does.) All in the name of tech. And fashion! But before I jump into that story, let me back up.

The purveyor of this device is Bodymetrics. Based in London and Palo Alto, Bodymetrics is a startup that has a lofty goal: to help women discover the pair of jeans that is a perfect fit, based on their body. This recommendation is made after submitting to a body scan and then trying on the resulting denim options. As someone who loves fashion and startups, I was curious enough to try this contraption for TechCrunch TV.

As you can see from the video, I’m a ham I’m super shy my hair sticks up I really enjoyed myself. The scanner is efficient and soothing. It speaks to you with a British accent and aims to have a spa-like quality in its restfulness. After the experience, I have some thoughts on the system and what women can glean from it.

The results can be astounding.

I learned that I’ve been wearing jeans that are consistently one size too large. As someone who is a consistent shopper (not buyer, but shopper) I was dumbfounded. Do you know how many pairs of jeans I own? All but two are the wrong size. This is concerning to me, but I can’t replace them all at once so I have to deal.

Knowledge is power.

Measurements really don’t mean much to me, but what I did find valuable is that the scan validated some of the concepts I previously held to be true about my body and jeans. I gravitate toward mid-rise because I have not much waist to speak of and ankle length jeans because I’m super short. The feedback that the scanner produced echoed that sentiment, making me feel better about the fact that my sizing has been completely wrong.

Flattery will get you anywhere.

Telling me that my legs are the slimmest part of my body is one way to ensure that we are going to be best friends. The Bodymetrics scanner results did just that. Golden. Keep that up, Bodymetrics.

Also, delicately saying that wearing x style will give me a “shapelier seat” is considerably nicer than telling me what I know: that I have no ass my posterior is flat.

In all seriousness, reading what that scanner had learned about my body helped me be more compassionate about the parts I tend to judge. If I’ve been wearing jeans that are one size too large, perhaps the reason is tied to my thoughts on particular areas of my body. Seeing that the scanner thought a skinny leg jean would be more flattering encouraged me to try a fit I typically avoided.

Rethink the floating mannequin in the results.

Because I have Skitch, I felt comfortable taking a screenshot of my scanner image for this post … and then blocking out 90% of it because like hell I’m showing you that. I felt the same way when going over the results with Tania in Bloomingdales. The information learned and spit out by the scanner results are way more helpful than an image of me in my skivvies. I found myself more distracted (and disheartened) by that and don’t necessarily need it consistently in my face.

I’m aware that if one used Bodymetrics to track weight loss, that feature would be helpful — but for the average shopper, a way to hide that would be ideal.

Bottom line

The technology is impressive. Partnering with the Palo Alto Bloomingdale’s is brilliant. I’ve heard through the grapevine that denim sales have increased in that location and I’d believe it. After I had some time to digest what I’d learned, I signed in to my Bodymetrics account to take a closer look at the recommendations. I’ll be making a purchase or two soon.

Ways I could see Bodymetrics expanding are almost endless: men’s jeans (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE), lingerie, swimsuits. Anything that is hard to fit, Bodymetrics has an opening. Also, online shopping could really use this service. The majority of the people I know who refuse to shop online do so because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of returns. One Bodymetrics scan would alleviate that.

But here’s the million dollar question: would you let yourself be scanned? I’m genuinely curious.

mixel: because, yes, you do need another photo app

In reviews on August 24, 2012 at 9:00 am

If you’re like me, you document most of your life, daily experiences (read: outfits) and funny things you see along the way in picture form. One of my favorite things to do is to scroll through the picture app on my iPhone and giggle at my past adventures. The photo apps currently in heavy rotation for me are Instagram, Pano and PicFrame. If you’d told me I’d need another one, I’d tell you I needed a hole in my head instead. Or more shoes.

Until I met Mixel.

After demo-ing a few short months ago on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in now-discontinued iPad form, Mixel’s pivot to iPhone makes the concept much more accessible. It allows you to take photos from your various social portals and use them to create shareable collages.

Simple approach, creative and exceptionally well-executed. And downright fun!

The app is incredibly easy to use. Sync your Facebook, Instagram and photo stream with Mixel and you’re well on your way. To make your collage, you select the shots you want to include, shuffle the Mixel-generated arrangement of images and choose the style, which is essentially a filter. There’s always a filter these days, isn’t there? Again, all of this is really easy — resizing, shuffling, rearranging. Each aspect of the UX is really well thought out by the Mixel team.

When you publish to Mixel, you also have the option to share across your various social networks. There’s a lot of activity within your Mixel Inbox where you can follow your friends who use the service, popular images and manage any unfinished collages.

Occasionally, the app freezes after posting my collage. It doesn’t crash entirely, but it is annoying nonetheless. Bugs like that are common in the first days after a launch, so I’m patient until the fix comes.

There seem to be a lot of ways the team can grow the service. Some suggestions I saw via Twitter were to make a collage sizable for Facebook cover images or Instagram ready. Both of these hacks would extend the reach of Mixel, which is obviously a smart direction. Adding integration with key popular apps is a nice goodwill gesture, especially considering everything recently.

Because of the simplicity and novelty of creating a collage out of my existing pictures, I’ll now have another photo app in rotation. Because, honestly, who doesn’t need more fun? And filters!

ticket to ride: thumbing a ride with lyft, sidecar and uber x

In reviews on August 17, 2012 at 9:00 am

When I moved to San Francisco back in 2005, I did it sans car. If you can believe it, I’ve been personal vehicle-free ever since, favoring our fair city’s delightful mass transit system and traditional city cabs in order to make my way around.

I’d walk more, but I wear heels, so that’s out.

For four long years, Muni and SF cabs and I coexisted in a relationship fraught with tension. Neither one of them thought it necessary to show up on time (or at all), even though I continued to express my boundaries: “Adhere to your schedule, arrive when I call you and get me places safely.” Something had to give.

Luckily, several entrepreneurs were thinking exactly what I was thinking and lo! Uber, Lyft and SideCar were born. And thus, they were reviewed. And it was good.

In order to judge each San Francisco taxi disruption service effectively, I took the same trip on three different occasions taking into account the mobile experience, drivers and rates. Below are my findings.

Lyft

I was initially nervous about trying Lyft. Considering it was someone’s personal car, driven by that particular someone, I was tentative. To counter my anxiety, I chatted Roger’s (4.9 stars, drives a white Prius) ear off the entirety of our journey. Shocking, I know.

The in-app experience is as seamless as the in-car experience, with the exception of fewer available drivers overall than exist with other services. Like other car services before it, Lyft just requires your location and provides an estimate on when your driver will reach you. The app doesn’t automatically adjust to my current location which is slightly annoying, but easy enough to deal with.

Roger was a good driver, got me to my appointment safely and good-naturedly answered my incessant questioning about the service. (We may or may not have had a philosophical conversation about the lyrics of “Call Me Maybe” which came on the radio during the ride.) The best part, aside from the traditional end-of-ride Lyft fist bump, was the fact that the ride cost $11, plus tip to total $15. No actual money was exchanged as the app keeps my credit card on file, prompting me to add a “donation” to the final bill — that’s Lyft’s lingo for the tip.

Fears for my safety allayed, I’ll be trying Lyft again. Plus the cars all have big, pink, fuzzy moustaches on them. Really!

SideCar

If the concept of Lyft concerned me, then SideCar was especially challenging. SideCar’s drivers are ordinary people just cruising around the city on the off-chance that you need a ride. Meaning they aren’t professional drivers which is why it made me a tad concerned to try the service.

Another difference with this service is that the ride payment is “voluntary”. SideCar asks that you enter your destination and if a driver is headed your direction, they swing by and pick you up. The app shows you an estimate of how much other riders have paid for a similar trip, and you can pay that much or less depending on your experience. Mine was $16.

My driver was Todd (five stars) who zips around San Francisco in a Mercedes. He lives in Palo Alto, coaches middle school volleyball and in his spare time is a full-time SideCar driver. The app is very… orange. It doesn’t feel as polished as Lyft but it gets the job done. Like these other services, it keeps my credit card on file and that’s how the payment is made once the ride is over. Todd was a good driver and excellent conversationalist but he took the scenic route to get to my appointment which took longer and made me late. I chalked this up to him being a civilian rather than pro driver.

One positive is that there are a lot of drivers available with SideCar, so wait times are pretty minimal, at least downtown.

Bottom line: due to the fact that SideCar drivers aren’t actually professional, I doubt that I’ll use it again.

UberX

As an Uber user since September 2010, I’m a devotee who can’t say enough good things about the service. Full disclosure: I take 4-5 traditional Uber cabs a week. Pretty sure I have a problem. But anyway… UberX was a new experience for me.

UberX is the Uber team’s answer to the low-cost ride share services that cropped up after the advent of Uber. The cars are roughly 35% cheaper than the traditional town cars. Currently in beta mode, you can request an invite and try out the service if approved. Like Lyft, there aren’t a lot of UberX drivers available. More often than not I get this notice when trying to hail the service.

For those unfamiliar with Uber, the in-app experience is uncomplicated, only asking for your location, showing available cars in the area and estimating the amount of time it will take to reach you. Lyft’s app seems to mimic this in its design. What’s that they say? Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

My driver was Vinh (five stars), a very nice young man who was thrilled to be driving for Uber. He’s been very busy since the service launched and thinks Uber clients are the best. He drove a silver sedan and got me to my destination safely, efficiently and happily. The ride was $16.

Honestly, I prefer Uber to any of these other car services, but since my initial Lyft ride I’ve used that service several times, plus my typical traditional Uber. I’ll leave SideCar and UberX to more adventurous souls. But try them! I’m curious to know your experience.

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hamlet, self-acceptance and personal brand building

In thoughts on August 6, 2012 at 9:00 am


This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

–Polonius, ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare

A blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, as the New York Times proved when they ran this piece on successful women in Silicon Valley who also care about fashion. Long have I judged myself for my innate interest obsession with all things stylish, fearing that if I cared as much as I do then I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a professional.

It appeared extreme at the time: I could either be stylish or I could be successful. No middle ground.

As I’ve matured, I’ve come to realize is that my style is as much a part of my brand (if you will) as my profession is. It is just one of the many components used to build the whole person that is me, and embracing that is an enormous part of living in self-acceptance. So then I continue to wear bright colors with abandon (pants in particular), delight in fabrics, accessorize rather than exercise, adore footwear, all the while loving tech and my hobbies; thriving in my occupation and personal life at the same time.

A multi-faceted Leslie is who I am and acceptance of that is key to my success as a human being. To my own self, I am true.

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VCs and Marketing: How The Big Players Play

In reviews on August 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Originally posted on TechCrunch:

Editor’s Note: Sales Marketing Manager Leslie Hitchcock is a non-editorial TechCrunch employee. In addition to working at TechCrunch and being super fashionable, she reviews startups and tech products occasionally on her personal blog, Leslie Just Joined.

“Marketing is the name we use to describe the promise a company makes, the story it tells, the authentic way it delivers on that promise.” –Seth Godin

In an effort to appear in touch with Silicon Valley, the traditional media has recently turnedits eye on venture capital’s marketing efforts.

Venture capital is certainly a changing landscape, especially as of late. With the chattering classes abuzz about the current state of VC, the tech industry seems to be taking the recent visibility of local investors personally. Traditionally a quiet industry, firms are now actively touting themselves and it is making some people uncomfortable.

Brooklyn Bridge Ventures’ Charlie O’Donnell explains,”A lot of…

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speaking of disrupting native apps… google chrome for iOS

In reviews on August 5, 2012 at 10:49 am

Although I adore Apple products, I have long hated their Safari browser eschewing it for Firefox and then with the advent of Google’s browser product, choosing Chrome. The only place I could not avoid what I found to be an insufferable browser experience was on my various Apple mobile devices. No longer!

Google announced Chrome for iOS during the I/O conference and there was much rejoicing. I am so excited about it that immediately upon downloading, I replaced the Safari app with it on my home screen. Aside from the benefit of not being Safari, the app boasts several features which make it especially appealing to me: Incognito Search Tab and Other Devices.

Other Devices

The Other Devices feature was made just for little ol’ me, or so I like to believe. At the moment I have roughly 20 tabs open in my Chrome MacBook Air browser. Several have been open all week because I haven’t had time to do a lot of extraneous reading as of late. (I’ve been busy.) Because I don’t want to abandon all hope of reading some insightful industry pieces (MG and ATD) or online shopping (Sparrow Trouser from Tibi, size itty-bitty please), Chrome automatically synching them between all of my various Apple products is genius.

Where in the past I would have to add these links Evernote, now I can just leave my browser open and more easily access webpages where I left off, saving Evernote for the pieces I really want to keep.

Also, because of this feature, Chrome remembers the things that I search for across all of my devices, auto-completing my most typical searches saving me precious seconds in finding whatever is so pressing at that moment in time. Which leads me to “Incognito Search”.

Incognito Search

Let’s be honest: unless I’m completely alone here (and I don’t think I am) we tend to search things on the mobile web that we’d dare not look up on our laptops. My theory as to why this happens is that I’m on the go, have the internet at my disposal and tend to be discussing ridiculous things that obviously require more context with my friends while we’re out and about.

Because I clean my Safari search history out regularly to avoid potential embarrassment, I don’t have great examples of past bizarre searches to share with you — or I totally would in the interest of transparency. But I will tell you that once a boyfriend was sharing his iPhone screen with me, launched Safari, started a search and the first thing that popped up was a query for his ex-girlfriend’s Twitter feed. As you can imagine, that was a fun moment.

I digress! The Incognito Tab saves us from ourselves and awkward moments like that by eliminating the history trail. Hooray! You can search for more information about the strange things you think about while away from your laptop and look up your ex’s Twitter accounts to your heart’s desire. I just don’t have to know about it.

Bottom line? Great app experience, Google. Hopefully Apple will see that Safari can afford to change and be more user-friendly/less embarrassing. My only gripe is that I cannot make Chrome my default browser on my iOS devices without jailbreaking it.

Your move, Apple.

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want app adoption? focus on the gays.

In thoughts on July 31, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Gay Mobile Social Network Hornet Is Fabulous: Rakes In 150K Users With 150% MOM Growth

Honestly though.

Most mobile developers and entrepreneurs are looking to figure out a way to on-board “normals”, but if they really want to have their app adopted (and potentially make money) focus on the gay community. Just make sure your servers are ready for the onslaught.

a handy, dandy guide to dating in the digital age

In thoughts on July 30, 2012 at 9:00 am

Note: This post is a slight departure from the traditional high-minded chit-chat about mobile apps and technology startups…

Dating? Oy. Dating in the digital age? Yikes.

We live our lives online. We’ve adapted to publishing our every thought, concern, anecdote, humorous aside, EVERYTHING in public. Twitter, Facebook, Path…  you name it, we belong to it and if you’re like me, you tend to forget that there are people out there actively listening. Until that one time you happen to post something that could be slightly misconstrued and interpreted by a member of the opposite sex (or same sex if that is your jam) as “Hey! I’m single! Ask me out!”

…I apparently tweet out a variation of this every few months.

Anyway, this has happened to me several times: once a surprisingly happy experience that resulted in dating for a few months, once in an ambiguous “Did what I think happened just happen? No, thank you!” occurrence and most recently in an awkward please-make-it-stop spectacle.

“I’m glad I’m not a lady.” –dude who felt sorry for women as a result of these stories

Some gentle guidance seems to be necessary based on my experience, so I offer to you the Leslie Pro Tips for Dating in the Digital Age:

FIRST: Don’t ask someone out publicly. As in on your Twitter feed. (DM, while not ideal, is acceptable.) Don’t ever do this, no matter how long you’ve followed her and how fascinating you might think she is. It puts both of you in an uncomfortable position. You having a public trail of your inquiry. Her either ignoring you (not nice) or publicly saying no thank you (bitchy).

SECOND: Don’t tweet out to your followers requesting reasons why this woman (who, keep in mind, has not responded to your first solicitation) should accompany you to dinner. Just don’t. While nice, the inundation of kind words about you and why she should think you’re a catch are not necessary. In my case they only make me want to back away slowly. I mean, full disclosure: I like to be chased, but come on! It is too much.

THIRD: If your first few overtures have not been reciprocated, move on. Please? For everyone’s sake. Don’t @-reply her again over the following days with more reasons why she should go to dinner with you. This is when it starts to get creepy and you move firmly into 0% chance of date, 100% chance of being blocked land. No one wants that. We want to keep everyone’s dignity intact.

Lest we think I’m unfairly picking on anyone with this post, I surveyed my girlfriends to learn of their most disconcerting online experiences. Trust me, these types of things happen more than you’d think.

One friend has stopped posting to Twitter in real-time after a male acquaintance began appearing at her location as he “happened to be in the neighborhood.” Once or twice is a coincidence, but as it was happening so frequently it (rightly) freaked her out. As a result she’s checking in on Foursquare less and is tentative about social platforms in general where before she was an early-adopter.

Another girlfriend has a random person she went on one date with over two years ago consistently show up in her LinkedIn “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” section. Enough to make her wary and be grateful she’s not more active in other social media arenas.

In an attempt to tie this back to tech in some way, we’re stuck with these social mediums for now: Twitter, Highlight, Foursquare and the like. As has been mulled over before, if these companies want to survive women need to adopt them. If we’re barraged with unwanted advances, we won’t feel safe. If we don’t feel safe, we won’t use that technology. Refer to my post on Highlight for more thoughts on this. Something to keep in mind: “Just because you can [use these venues to ask a girl out], doesn’t mean that you should.”

Is this post harsh? Possibly. Will it result in a dating dry spell for me? Perhaps. It is a risk I’m willing to take because here’s the thing: how are men going to learn what works and what doesn’t if no one provides a little instruction? It is like that episode of Sex and the City that was so revolutionary for women. “Stop being weird online, you’re terrifying her!” is the new “He’s just not that into you.” I think it will totally work.

Oh, and I saved you the comments on how bitchy and pretentious this post is by tagging it appropriately. You’re welcome!

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klout for iPhone is beyond baffling

In reviews on July 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm


As far as services go, Klout is incredibly confusing.

Somehow the team created a business (?) out of determining ones influence in obscure ways on the internet. I log in for fun now and then, exclaim to my colleagues (who kindly humor/ignore me) the random things Klout finds me influential in. Continuing to peruse my profile, I wonder about how the metrics are determined, marvel at the fluctuating score analysis graphs, and then go back on my merry way doing typical Leslie things.

Doesn’t this look dramatic?

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Occasionally though, I do log into find amazing insights like this.

Most of the time though, what Klout has to share with me is not relevant. Basically because I have no idea what it all means.

However, being the naturally curious individual that I am, I downloaded Klout for iPhone when it premiered. Why? No clue. Curiosity drives us in strange ways, I’ve found. But I digress.

From what I can see, the iPhone app adds no value to whatever it is that Klout is offering me in the first place. I can look at my profile from the app, but there is no there there, if you know what I mean. The app monitors when my score goes up and down and sends me notifications when a change occurs.

Aside from the obvious solution of turning off Klout notifications, what action is one supposed to take at this alert? Perhaps something funny like this? Since my Klout score is meaningless to me, I have no desire to do anything, but I still don’t understand why the app is necessary. I don’t use Klout Perks, but even if I did you can’t access them from the app. You can’t give Klout to other people from the app. You can look at other people’s Klout profiles, but very limitedly. I just don’t get its point.

Interestingly enough, Klout thinks I am influential about Klout. Maybe that will increase after this post, which would amuse me. And continue to baffle me. Good times! Consider this app designated for the land of the app graveyard.

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