leslie hitchcock

Posts Tagged ‘review’

Shhhhhh, I’ve Got a Secret. Wanna Hear It?

In reviews, thoughts on February 8, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Secret App

Personally, after a rough couple of months, I’ve felt less compelled to spew my thoughts, location, pictures and whatnot out there into the ether. I deleted Facebook and Foursquare off of my phone, only use Twitter during the work week, and post to Instagram significantly less than I did much of last year. Following a sense that I wanted to circle the proverbial wagons a bit I backed off.

Perhaps this is the type of sentiment which makes Secret such a compelling new toy to play with. Is anonymity the new black?

Over the last couple of days I’ve engaged with Secret out of curiosity, and have some philosophical thoughts about the app itself as well as those of us who are posting on it. Please bear with me.

You’re Only As Sick As Your Secrets

A teacher has told me that I’m only as sick as my secrets, so I really shouldn’t have any. The idea behind it is that secrets can build resentment, which is pretty much like drinking poison and hoping someone else dies. In order to stay healthy, secrets need to come out. Some do this in therapy, some through 12-step programs, some rely on exceptional friends and loved ones to bounce things off of. Secret fills an interesting void in this respect, one that hasn’t existed online successfully.

Sure, anonymity exists, but it is traditionally one-sided. Formspring comes to mind, where the person answering questions was not shielded but the questioners were. One can have private accounts on Twitter and Facebook, but in theory everyone interacting with you is tied to an actual person. Secret keeps everyone anonymous and therefore (in theory) gives valuable space for thoughts to tumble out that one might not feel safe sharing otherwise, and room for support from friends who are also on the service.

Secret

Anonymity is a Trippy Thing

That being said, trolls exist everywhere, including in people’s friend circles. I’ve observed people in my network post things about infidelity that could easily be tracked back, commenters become venomous on threads, and people overall not behaving very friendly to each other. It is just as disheartening as it sounds.

Counter to that, most of what I’ve seen on the service is people crying for help with anxiety or depression, moving through heart break, professing love for their partner, or lamenting unrequited love. These are all incredibly challenging things to discuss with anyone, but my hope is that Secret shows these friends or friends of friends how much support they can get, which would encourage them to get the help they deserve or to walk through challenging situations.

What is fascinating to me is how one is perceived on the service. I posted something about trying to move through a broken heart (refer to first paragraph) and got some support, but people assumed I was a guy. I think this says more about society than it does me, but I’ll keep my political opinions to a minimum in this post.

Secret

Too Good To Be True?

I often use the saying “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” and this applies to Secret in a major way. The service will get hacked, simply because of the nature of the product itself. It is juicy. Curiosity about who is posting what will not be enough for some, so it is just a matter of time. To be safe, I’m not posting anything too racy.

The app is beautiful, well executed and an interesting concept. I’m curious about how it will evolve and if it will maintain the “masquerade ball” feel that the founders envision. My phone book is filled with decidedly late adopters, but the number of connections I have on the service grows daily. This bodes well for Secret, hopefully they’ll continue to promote the good so the circle of confidants can grow.

Speaking of Disrupting Native Apps… Mailbox for iOS

In reviews on March 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

mailbox app

Managing email across multiple mobile devices can be either an uninspiring task at best (using the iOS mail app) or unwieldy at worst (the infuriatingly buggy Gmail for iOS app). The unenviable task of sorting through ones email and circumventing the existing apps in the marketplace and preinstalled on ones phone is a task not easily achieved, but desperately needed. Enter Mailbox.

Launching to a veritable landslide of positive press, Mailbox has been in my hands for a month or so. And what a month it has been. Beta testing for select members of the press since December, launching in February, sold to Dropbox for $100M in March. Quite the ride for its creators over at Orchestra!

After playing with Mailbox since it came out of beta (order number 15,422 thankyouverymuch), I can attest that while not perfect, the app has changed my inbox experience for the better. Before diving into that though, let’s talk a bit about Mailbox’s email mandate. Essentially, Mailbox wants email to be simpler, encouraging a clean, well-organized inbox, which few people can claim in this day and age of send-an-email-get-an-email, ad infinitium.

In an incredibly stripped down, minimalist approach, Mailbox lets you delete, archive, revisit and add emails to lists with a swipe of your finger. That’s what makes it a tremendously easy user experience; I mean, who doesn’t love to swipe!

Swipe Right

When you swipe right in the app, you are asking Mailbox to either archive the email or delete it, depending on how quickly you swipe. Swipe slowly halfway across, the message turns green and archives. Swipe more quickly to the right and it turns red and deletes. Sometimes my finger has a mind of its own and I accidentally delete when I mean to archive, but the most recent update of the app offers a “shake to undo” feature that while not sexy and exciting, has turned out to be handy when I’m particularly clumsy.

Swipe Left

My more favorite feature is swiping left to save for later: sort of a hybrid archive and reminder setting. If you know me, you know I need reminders on a regular basis. For everything. Especially with email; I get so much of it! When I swipe left, I can choose to be reminded of this email again either tonight, tomorrow, this weekend, next week, next month, etc. etc. This is particularly handy for those of us (me) who have organizational problems on occasion (all the time).

When the time comes for Mailbox to remind you of the email again, it reappears in your inbox but starred and with a Gmail filter on it so it is easily distinguished. I appreciate that.

Note: These three features can also be accessed from within an individual email, but I’ve found I rarely use them there, preferring to get organized from the main screen.

Room for Improvement

The two problems I’ve uncovered with my consistent Mailbox use feel rather significant. First, and most important: I have not yet successfully been able to forward attachments. In my line of business that is a rather key feature. Secondly, when I forward an email, it removes it from the original chain and separates it, which makes finding that particular email rather challenging later. If the Mailbox team can fix these, the app would be practically perfect.

Although Mailbox has been live for quite some time, the demand remains high. While at a party this weekend in North Carolina, I extolled the virtues of the app to some friends, who immediately downloaded it… and was #419,000 in line. With 40 people behind her, which was comforting. Don’t worry, I promised her. It moves rather quickly and is absolutely worth the wait.

Other posts in the “Speaking of Disrupting Native Apps…” series can be found here.

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!

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