Refraining from (*too many) eye-related puns, the scope of vision healthcare enormous and something that technology startups are well-poised to take advantage of.
What strikes me most about the eye care space is that it not only has huge commercial upside, but most of the potential market exist in third world countries. Traditionally out of sight, out of mind this offers a decidedly social focus to any startup choosing to solve these problems. Think charity:water for instance. In a world where everyone is creating a buzzy messaging service or vapid dating app, it would be refreshing to see truly innovative, successful, and altruistic products exist.
Cue EyeFocus, a freshly launched accelerator in Berlin, which is laser focused on this substantial market. The team is currently accepting startup applications for the first cohort, beginning in February. Should you know any healthcare startups which have set their sights on eye care, or a qualified program manager, reach out. They’ll be watching for you.
Because I believe in giving back, I’ve joined EyeFocus as a mentor and I’m looking forward to getting to know startups in this space. They have so much to offer this global economy.
…and because I simply can’t resist, I’ll just leave this here for you:
*Pun/idiom count: 8
Ello launched in March to a whisper and now suddenly finds itself experiencing incredible growth. It is the first time where my non-tech “normal” friends had heard of a startup prior to me. I find the critical mass surrounding it fascinating, but unsurprising.
The gay community has long felt undermined by Facebook, first with the exclusion of non-gender-specific pronouns and now with the removal of accounts using stage names, primarily those of fabulous drag queens. In their eyes, Ello gives them the freedom to be themselves in a way they aren’t currently finding on Facebook.
I live in the Castro, San Francisco and have many, many LGBTQI friends. Chatting with one of my queer-identified housemates tonight about Ello, I mentioned how it was experiencing an insane amount of sign-ups. Her response: “The queers will mobilize.”
Filed under mobile apps I completely missed during an insanely busy time in my life is WUT. Seriously, that’s its name. Honestly, I can understand how it flew under my radar because the purpose of an app like WUT genuinely perplexes me.
Learning of WUT this weekend, I sent my first one and I’m not sure what happens next. Before I dig into why that is a problem, let’s run through the premise, according to the founders.
Much like Secret and Whisper, WUT [I giggle each time I say its name] aims to live within the genre of anonymish apps, where thoughts can be shared to members of your network without identifying the original poster. The difference between WUT [still giggling] and those other apps is that much like Snapchat, the messages disappear off a user’s home screen and cannot be resurfaced upon opening the app. In WUT’s case, my network is my Facebook friends. Upon sending a WUT it can be WUTWUT-ed, meaning reshared by a member of my network. An alert is pushed when that happens, as well. If a friend in my network is spammy with their WUTs, I can mute them. Beyond that there are no more features.
All I can say to this is, “Why?” Someone seems to think this is relevant, but it doesn’t compute for me. Perhaps I’m not the target market. After all, I don’t use Snapchat. I downloaded the app, but never opened it; it has since been deleted. WUT’s ephemerality doesn’t really appeal to me. I enjoy knowing what my friends are thinking and up to – Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare make me feel connected to people whom I care about. Yes, Secret (which I certainly enjoy) is also an anonymized app, but because I can engage with my network, it feels more connected.
WUT is a visually appealing app, and I love aesthetics. I enjoy the soothing pastel background and clever integration of emoji into the interface (ask anyone who regularly texts with me how much I adore emoji – especially camels, since there are no lions). As has been stated by TechCrunch, its ease of use is WUTs most noted aspect, but all you’re doing is sending a message into the ether which “dozens” of your friends will see until it vanishes. Not too much needs to be involved when that is the gist.
My friend who introduced me to WUT had not received a single WUT since installing the app, which leads me to believe our network of “dozens” of WUT users is not so bullish on the experience. However, last night a flurry of WUT activity occurred and I even participated in my first WUTWUT.
Hopefully the “dozens” of friends I have on WUT will continue to participate in the chatter WUT founders envisioned. I hope so; already feel like an old lady who doesn’t “get” Snapchat and the like, so understanding this would salvage my reputation. Otherwise, perhaps WUT will go the way of WUFPH, which I also find endlessly hysterical:
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.
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.
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.
For those of you who know me, the only hardware that typically interests me is that which can be found on shoes. Never one to fall for the latest gadget, I bought an iPhone 4 to upgrade from my Blackberry Curve (pouring one out for RIM). Only when that iPhone began to experience significant battery loss and random calling of contacts without my initiation (which coincided with the launch of the iPhone 5) did I trade up. Hardware is not my thing.
During the TechCrunch Hackathon I bought a Jawbone UP on a whim; an exhaustion-fueled whim and then promptly forgot about the purchase until it arrived several days later. Needless to say I didn’t track the shipment compulsively like I do a shoe purchase. Hardware is not my thing.
Part of my concern with wearing a plastic computing device on my wrist was that it simply isn’t chic. But I bought it anyway and lo and behold, who was writing about this newest hardware craze in its September issue? VOGUE of all publications! My favorite shopping website even Instagrammed a wrist sporting a Rolex, a Jawbone UP and a Cartier bangle. Truth be told, I layer my UP similarly, but not as extravagantly. (Although I wouldn’t mind a Rolex… but back to the review.)
At first the Jawbone UP felt a little constricting and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to maintain wearing it twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Sleeping with it was a bit of a chore but after a few nights, it was old hat. My skin around the UP started to get irritated but the UP has since loosened, so it is no longer a problem. I’ve been wearing it as suggested for over two weeks now and only take it off to dry it after it gets wet.
Easy to charge, the UP battery lasts about 10 days. To juice it back up, simply uncap the end of the UP and plug it into a USB drive which charges through your computer.
The UP comes in a variety of colors and I chose mint green. Somehow the white or black seemed garish — and seeing as how I love colors, it suits me well. Because I’m a fashion girl at heart living in a technology world, I layer mine with a variety of bracelets and I have to say it doesn’t look bad. My girlfriends noticed it immediately as an addition to my wrist but thought it was simply a new accessory. They were shocked when I shared what this little trinket does.
Part of the “Quantified Self” movement, the UP tracks various aspects of my daily routine after learning a bit about me (height, weight, etc.) It automatically logs my steps from the moment I wake up and my sleep as soon as I drift off. The UP is signaled to start monitoring these activities by a button I press in various patterns to tell it what I’m up to.
What really blows me away about this technology is the Jawbone UP app. Available for free, it is where I upload all of the data my UP is collecting about my day. It tallies it and visualizes it in such a beautiful way that I want to constantly look at it.
The features I use the most are logging sleep, smart alarm, steps, other activities and idle alert.
- Sleep: I’ve been curious about my sleep for a while, knowing how sometimes I don’t feel well-rested even though I achieved 8-10 hours of shuteye. The UP helps me to better understand how deeply I’m sleeping, versus lighter sleep. I have also learned with the UP that even when I think I’m awake, I’m actually in light sleep. As someone who gets grumpy when I perceive I haven’t slept long enough, this helps chill me out. My boyfriend appreciates this, Jawbone, so thank you.
- Smart Alarm: Since I got the UP, I haven’t used a traditional alarm clock, instead using this feature on the UP. I set it for 6:30am Monday-Friday and based on my sleep cycle, it buzzes to wake me when I’m in light sleep within 10 minutes of 6:30, rather than an alarm which jolts me awake rudely. The only thing I wish it could do was snooze, but perhaps that will come later.
- Steps: I’m a high energy woman, but with my job I can get tethered to my desk pretty easily. During the day, I try to take breaks and walk around the block but I’m not always successful. The UP determined based on my height, weight and age that I should take 10,000 steps a day. That seems fishy to me because I thought that was just a given, but whatever. Because I compulsively upload the data after I’ve walked, I have learned that skipping the bus in favor of a 6 block walk in the morning and walking twice around the block mid-afternoon, coupled with all of my other city jaunts, gets me to 10,000. (I didn’t take that walk this AM as you can see in my screenshot.)
- Idle Alert: This feature is wonderful! Set to buzz me everyday from 8:30am-5:30pm, if I’m sitting for 30 minutes without moving I get a jolt. The main thing I’ve learned is that 30 minutes goes by really quickly! Also, that the UP doesn’t think that yoga counts as moving, which it TOTALLY DOES in vinyasa flow.
I do have some feedback for the UP team, specifically around various bugs I’ve uncovered. The most annoying one is that when I try to manually log a yoga class, it only lets me input one hour, rather than 1 hour 30 minutes which is how long most of the classes I take are. That is small, but if I’m trying to quantify myself, then it does make a difference.
I also wonder where on earth they determine calories burned. The numbers seem incredibly elevated for me, a recovering calorie-counter.
Aside from that nit, I love using the UP. So all you fashion girls, check it out! It is a stylish addition to an already-chic “arm party.” Hardware just might be my new thing.
Today marked the culmination of a lot of hard work put into the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. By all appearances it was the most successful one we’d ever produced: 800+ attendees, 40+ sponsors, 264 hacks submitted, 1,000+ attendees for the presentations. A rather large accomplishment by an incredibly dedicated team of event staff and TechCrunch writers and editors.
But all of that has been unfortunately overshadowed by a particularly tasteless, sexist, and horribly offensive app that wheedled their way on stage under a false hack name. The app they demoed was incredibly offensive to women and rightly angered a lot of people, of all genders. I was shocked at what happened on stage, worked to help address it in real time and have been thinking about the aftermath all day.
Here’s what I find most upsetting about my reaction: even though I was appalled, I wasn’t surprised. And that is society’s challenge. Somehow, even though I know what occurred on our stage was unconscionable, it felt almost commonplace to me because of how women are viewed overall. It is horrifying to admit that, especially in a public forum.
Lean In. Change the ratio. No more Miss Representation. Women deserve better. WE deserve better. It can be better. From the outburst I saw online today in the wake of the tasteless demo, women are not in the minority when it comes to outrage in the face of harassment and sexism. Which I appreciate, but it can grow.
Luckily, the brightest part in my day occurred shortly after the tasteless demo took place: a brilliant, charismatic, energetic and incredibly brave nine-year-old girl pitched her hack project to our judges and an audience of 1,100. That is what makes me feel more confident in the future of women in the United States, so I want to say “thank you” to her and her father who encouraged her to participate. She is our unbelievably bright future and I’m grateful to have met her.
We can change, we must change. Encourage it everywhere you go.
Remember when you got your first camera as a present? I do.*
I’ve always loved capturing tiny moments in time so a camera was one of my staples in life. My first camera was a Canon point-and-shoot which used actual film (!) and I loved that thing. My second camera was another Canon but this one was digital. The zoom was incredible, it was lightweight enough for my handbag and I went everywhere with it.
In the days of yore, I hurried rolls of film to the developer before the store closed and received prints back one week later. The excitement I felt from the advent of one-hour printing was palpable and I gave those stores a lot of business. In fact I still have boxes of 4×6 moments long passed that have moved with me from North Carolina and then to three subsequent San Francisco apartments, so loath am I to part with them. Did I mention that I’ve been in California for over seven years?
Then I met the iPhone and things were never the same.
All of a sudden, a camera almost as good as the one I constantly hauled around was ever-present in my mobile device. Then when I (d)evolved to barely release the phone (camera?) from my grubby little fingers, I could take instant shots of everything and anything that caught my attention. My other cameras had inadvertently found themselves with a one-way ticket to being obsolete.
But what of the pictures I was constantly taking? Part of the fun of having a body of work in photographs is being able to thumb through the images, frame them, give them as gifts. Where does that leave me, iPhone? I ask you!
There are several solutions like uploading to Walgreens or the like, using Picasa to achieve the same or buying a printer just for my iPhone, but none of these worked especially well for me. Picasa updated to be almost unusable as its original inception. Walgreens continually cropped my photos due to their size and without fail used odd image placement. And buying a photo printer just didn’t ring true to my needs.
Learning of Printic from another photographer I admire, I decided to check it out. The interface is smooth and straightforward, inviting me to get started printing my pictures immediately. Each Printic order requires three images to be printed and they can be uploaded to the service via Facebook, Instagram or pictures stored on the iPhone itself. One click on each photo I want to print and they are collected by the app, allowing me to have final approval to determine if they require cropping, centering or editing in some other way.
Voila! After settling the bill (converted from € to $, how charming!) I settled in to wait for my Printics to arrive. I appreciated that the team sends emails to let me know when the order has been received and when it is shipping. However, I wish that was managed through the app. I already get a lot of email.
There were a few things I noticed in the app that were less than polished. It is a French product and some of the English translations are misspelled. No big deal, just noticed. Also, for some reason Facebook doesn’t pull in photos I’ve published directly to my timeline into a folder, so I had to track some images down on Flickr and save them directly to my phone to print. I can see these pictures on my timeline on desktop but not on mobile. This is not Printic’s fault, obviously, but made the experience slightly frustrating.
I adored how the prints were packaged and their polaroid style appeals to my inner hipster. See how adorable?
All in all, I think that the roughly $3 I spent on these images was worth it. Team Printic, expect me to be a repeat user!
*Thank you for bearing with me as I meandered down photography memory lane under the guise of a mobile app review.