Just Landed: A No-Brainer Flight Tracker App

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just landed app

Many portals exist with the premise of helping one meet a loved one at the airport on time. Airline sites; which are cumbersome on mobile and IMHO are not accurate, seemingly tied to a reluctance to openly acknowledge delays. Tripit or similar; which redirect to the airline websites. A myriad of flight tracking apps. Airline flight status text updates which are all too frequent and invasive. And a loved one can only call or text so many times about ETA before it becomes bothersome.

It makes a theoretically simple solution much more problematic. Unless you’re the Just Landed team!

Now to call Just Landed a “no-brainer flight tracker app” may seem to diminish the brilliance behind it. Let me be clear: that is not my intention. While using the app for the first time today to schedule an airport rendezvous I just couldn’t believe it took so long for someone to make this app! It is simply too logical. Thank heavens the team behind Just Landed finally brought it about.

Just Landed monitors incoming flight information and your location simultaneously. Based on arrival times and traffic data, recommends when you should leave for the airport to meet the flight you’re tracking. It is magical!

Today I was meeting a flight arriving from Frankfurt. International arrivals are tricky as they’re so long it is tough to monitor well, in my experience. Inputting the flight into Just Landed was an easy process: flight number, then choose the correct day, then it pops out a real-time ETA designated by adorable graphic if the plane is mid-air or if it has landed already.

Particularly handy are the alerts. I’ve disabled most lock screen alerts on my iPhone favoring the notification center instead. Just Landed will retain lock screen rights due to how indispensable the alerts are.

alert!

Also, the Just Landed team gets points for the sounds the app makes: when the flight has arrived it sounds like a plane landing; when regular alerts chime, they do so with the seatbelt indicator sound. Adorable! I do love me some aesthetics.

Another feature I appreciated was texting from within the app to let my party know I was already there and waiting. Just Landed prompted me to send it once the flight arrived and the location determined that I was at the airport. This was where I noticed some bugs in that Just Landed kept letting me know the flight had landed and offering to send a text. I wasn’t sure if the app did that to account for time in customs or if it was buggy, will determine that the next time I use it which will most likely be Wednesday.

That being said, as you can see it was a big hit that I was on time despite the flight being 40 minutes early.

i'm rule :)

I do rule. And so do you, Just Landed, for making me look good.

Speaking of Disrupting Native Apps… Mailbox for iOS

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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.

Let’s (Gamify) Date(ing) And Make It Addictive In The Process

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TechCrunch

Editor’s Note: Event Partnerships 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.

A few months ago I broke down and did something I swore I’d never do. Yes, that’s right. I opened a dreaded OkCupid account. [Y’all, I’m so embarrassed right now, you just don’t even know.]

For many years I’ve dated successfully in real life. But curiosity got the best of me and it was enhanced by, uh, let’s call it a dry spell despite working in a target-rich environment. As my friend Morgan says, in our industry “the odds are good but the goods are odd.” Go tech scene!

So I opened an account just to see what would happen. In the three months I’d been a member of OkCupid, I went…

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Moda Operandi Lets You Buy Fashion Week Looks, Now

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TechCrunch

Editor’s Note:Event Partnerships 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.

Have you ever been at a New York Fashion Week runway show and been irritated that you can’t purchase a look from the collection right then and there? Oh. You haven’t? Well, then you probably haven’t heard of Moda Operandi, and that’s your misfortune.

There are First World Problems and then there are 1 percent problems. Moda Operandi, a fashion retail site co-founded by Lauren Santo Domingo of Vogue Magazine fame, solves both of them for the well-heeled (and incredibly impatient) fashionable set. And the company exhibited in Startup Alley at New York Disrupt 2011, so clearly they’re in the know. Now you can be, too.

As a loyal reader of Vogue…

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Ordering Ahead with Order Ahead

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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