Friday Five

digital playbook

  1. Lots of buzz about the U.S. Government’s launch of a new SWAT-team digital service, and its digital services playbook. The tenets above are clear and proscriptive, and, true to the complexity of digital transformation, allude to the tremendous change management effort required. It’s not trivial to enable institutional culture shifts like “Address the whole experience from start to finish” and “Default to open.” Read about the launch, and check out the full playbook.
  2. Email is both our dopamine-producing fix and a time sink that’s the bane of our existence. This list of gmail productivity plugins can help ease the pain. We’ve covered before – Boomerang can delay email sends to conceal the shameful fact that you were looking at spreadsheets until 2:30 am.
  3. But maybe we can help kill email off, instead? Collaboration tool Slack is doing a pretty reputable job of it for a number of startups out there.
  4. Is Buzzfeed a media company or a technology company? Andreessen Horowitz invested $50 million in Buzzfeed this week, with the view that a tech-first media company with rising traffic and robust native advertising might be the one to crack the future of news code.
  5. Long before Uber became a verb, directionally-challenged folks like me were avidly using the app to avoid getting lost in cities designed by sadists, like Boston. Uber’s new cruise control provides drivers and passengers alike turn-by-turn directions to make finding one’s way even easier.

Weekend fun: If you used any form of social media this week, you’ve no doubt seen the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness and cash for ALS. Notable participants have included Mark Zuckerberg, Martha Stewart, the New England Patriots, and Jimmy Fallon and the Roots. Questlove is not amused.

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective pointers to compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally. Try out the Friday 5 archive, or sign up to get a weekly email.


Friday Five

chart: daily photo uploads

  1. Snapchat and WhatsApp are emerging as dominant photo sharing platforms. Interesting that a main modality for this sharing is private messaging (quasi-ephemeral in the case of Snapchat) versus Facebook’s one-to-many concept of posting to your profile page.
  2. Social networking skeptics often decry the use of “friend” as an organizing principle for everyone from your sister to your teammate on the college lacrosse team a decade ago. Fear not: Foursquare and LinkedIn are embracing the follow model.
  3. If you’re still trying to get your head around bitcoin, add Stellar to the list of digital currency projects you’ve got to figure out. Backed in part by online payment innovator Stripe, Stellar is a not-for-profit that seeks to expand digital currencies to a  wider audience, and provide an easier way to move money over the internet.
  4. Public radio junkies may want to check out the new NPR One app. Native for mobile and web for desktop, the app provides the ability to listen to NPR content in an nonlinear, curated way — and enables serendipitous discovery in the process. Features include the ability to select your home station independent of current location, search from every screen, and an “interesting” button (avoiding the awkward “like” on sobering news pieces). Read an in-depth review.
  5. Are your social media posts more popular than you think? This (vendor-written) post explores the varying ratio of creators : commenters : observers online, and offers suggestions for how you might calculate probable reach across the different social networks.

Weekend fun: ”We live in a rapidly changing world … the way people get from place to place needs to change, too.” Beyond Uber, there is WYSK.

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective pointers to compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally. Try out the Friday 5 archive, or sign up to get a weekly email.


Friday Five
  1. Product HuntIn less than a year Product Hunt has become an essential daily ritual for the tech obsessed. How did it get there? It identified a clear problem: “Help me find the latest new, cool things.”Then the team made a bunch of smart decisions, including launching with an early, buggy version (and improving from there!), starting a consistent, daily email driving users to the site, and conducting initial personal outreach to build the community. Read more about Product Hunt’s first year.
  2. Productivity apps help you demolish your to-do list, and manage/filter information overload. Increasingly, users are starting off with mobile apps, but the real benefit emerges when the apps work across multiple screens. Supporting mobile and desktop pays off — these connected-everywhere apps drive wider distribution, and create a stickiness that promotes retention by increasing the switching cost.
  3. When people picture a hot startup, they generally have in mind the latest consumer-facing technology. But developers (and their lagging indicator, VCs) are discovering enterprise tech is back in vogue: it’s a large market opportunity with a pressing need for growth and change. So maybe now it’s cool to be boring.
  4. Here’s one theory why responsive design can’t be your only mobile strategy. While there’s no easy way to discuss mobile without invoking well-trodden holy wars (“can we ever say above the mobile fold?” ) there are a few good points here about cell network latency, the need for speed, and the importance of testing on actual devices.
  5. As more organizations recognize and formalize the need for content strategy, how do you explain and demystify the terms of art? The content strategy term of the week has you covered: start with taxonomy.

Weekend fun: Executives at Yahoo probably lie awake nights thinking of ways to make their products and services better. You know what would vastly improve Yahoo Answers? Audra McDonald singing them, that’s what.


Every Friday, find five, highly subjective pointers to compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.


Happy birthday, cherished LinkedIn professional acquaintance!

cakeWhether you use LinkedIn on a laptop, the traditional mobile app or the new Connected app, you’ve no doubt encountered the LinkedIn birthday phenomenon. I don’t know how well LinkedIn thought this user experience through, but here’s how it plays out in practice. Remember that slightly sweaty but affable guy you sat next to at Dreamforce back in 2004? And that you talked about CRM and found out you both used to work at Lotus? And then you connected on LinkedIn? Well, now it’s his birthday — what are you going to do about it?

And once LinkedIn has a piece of connection-enhancing information like this, it’s like a dog with a bone. Those birthdays will surface on the mobile app stream, and pop up as “notifications.” They’ll be emailed to you each morning beneath a giant collage of people you vaguely remember from somewhere, who are unwittingly celebrating dubious life milestones like the “work anniversary.” Those birthdays will pop up in the content feed just when you found an Influencer piece you might actually want to read. LinkedIn wants you to know: that guy from Dreamforce? Back in 2004? It is his birthday.

Read the rest of Happy birthday, cherished LinkedIn professional acquaintance! over at Medium.

Photo credit: Tasha Chawner

Friday Five
  1. New Yorker mobile storyThe New Yorker has updated its web presence to take advantage of the internet’s love affair with quality, longform reads. The mobile design gets it right, with smooth interactive elements like a fly-in hamburger menu. This Guardian review credits the re-design for avoiding looking “like a middle-aged man dropping the ends of his words in an attempt to be down with the kids.” One quibble: given that their goal was to increase readership, I’m surprised they buried their email signup at the bottom of the page. But the best news of all? The archives since 2007 are free for three months, so dig in.
  2. The most important product design work is usually the ugliest, according to this Intercom post on The Dribblisation of Design that kicked up a kerfuffle online a while ago. It’s still a good summary of why the most interesting part of design is not the PSD, but the problem-solving.
  3. Remember back when Facebook was going to die because they were too old and uncool to get mobile? Yeah, me neither. Now they’re making money, handheld over fist.
  4. Reddit launched a new Live feature for unfolding news to better serve and reflect the high activity on the site when news breaks. The updated format makes the story easier to follow, and allows users to add content without starting a new thread and fragmenting the conversation.
  5. Should you buy an Amazon Fire phone? Unless you’re an Amazon-loving, domestic-only-traveling, early-adopter type who adores AT&T, Engadget suggests you hold off.

Weekend fun: Emoji karaoke is a thing, and the folks who came up with the one below are undisputed masters. Read more via Nate Matias, and try it yourself.

emoji karaoke

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective pointers to compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.


Friday Five

instagram graph

  1. With a growing and highly engaged (dare I say fanatical?) user base, Instagram has remained a social media darling. This comprehensive piece describes how its founders make the business tick, keep user engaged in a landscape of mercurial tastes, and prepare the app for monetization in the future.
  2. There’s a new Facebook app, but only for famous people. Features focus on ease of use for content publishing (rather than perusing friends’ vacation pics), tracking mentions, and hosting Live Q &As.
  3. Anonymous app Secret, famous for airing the tech industry’s dirty laundry in a mobile-friendly, passive-aggressive art form, raised $25M this week. Here’s how.
  4. Is the internet dumbing us down into a culture where we merely share attention-grabbing headlines without consuming the content? Or can content that’s not aggressively shared find a readership over time? If you’re publishing online, it’s worth understanding how the curve of content consumption that dives into the valley of “meh” sometimes results in the hill of “wow”.
  5. Did you ever write an email in haste and repent, well, immediately afterward? If you use gmail, these tips on un-sending that email might help.

Weekend fun: Who’s the biggest Star Wars geek fan: Stephen Colbert or Jon Stewart? Watch and find out.

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective pointers to compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.


Friday Five
  1. linkedin connected appLinkedIn launched an app called Connected to simplify and enhance networking. The app provides members with more information about the current status of their contacts, including new jobs, media mentions, and the dubious milestone of the “work anniversary”. The calendar sync allows for pre-meeting intelligence, which means pushing you information about contacts just ahead of your meeting with them. Standalone apps have been offering similar functionality for a couple of years, but I suspect the breadth of LinkedIn’s user base will make it difficult for new entrants to compete.
  2. Monthly subscription costs for digital services, now available to you via a single, impetuous click on your smartphone, can really add up. Streaming media services like Netflix and Spotify and storage services like iCloud and Dropbox make life easier but tend to accrue. Here’s are some quick tips on how to reduce your monthly payments for digital services.
  3. What happens before, during, and after the moment you sign up for new social networks says a lot about the culture they are trying to foster, and the specific behaviors they are trying to encourage. Here’s a step-by-step review of how Instagram onboards new users.
  4. In any web design meeting, there’s someone who wants to know exactly what’s above the fold. But in this era of myriad form factors and scrolling on your smartphone, there is no fold. Really, there isn’t.
  5. How do you make time for social media — but not automate to the degree that you’re mistaken for a robot? Here are 10 time-saving social media tools to consider.

Weekend fun: Maybe you and your friends have a bunch of random stuff on your Instagram feeds. But it likely pales in comparison with what the TSA posts. 

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective pointers to compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.


Friday Five
teens social media

Source: eMarketer, Niche

  1. What are the kids up to on the internet these days? A handy breakdown of reported social network usage by the high school class of 2014 reveals that Facebook is still a player with 61% of teens accessing at least once a day. Also, breaking news: Teens hide what they are doing online from their parents.
  2. Google search results linking to articles are disappearing in the European Union, courtesy of the recent ”right to be forgotten” court decision. So your online search in the EU for someone’s name may not yield all the relevant results. Given the role of search, this is tantamount to removing articles from the public record.
  3. On a less Orwellian and more practical note, most of us have posted something on the internet they’ve later regretted. Here’s a useful how-to video on editing your own social media posts.
  4. David Carr notes both the exaggerated death and the “finite and recognizable” value of the email newsletter, which has undergone a recent renaissance of sorts. Jason Hirschhorn, author of the terrific Media ReDef, calls email ”the cockroach of the Internet” for its ability to persist for over 40 years. Last year I referred to oft-eulogized email as a digital Rasputin.
  5. IFTTT (if this, then that) recipes are a great way for non-technical folks to tie together web services to create useful actions. For example, set up a recipe to send tweets that you favorite to Pocket, or to send you a text if it’s going to rain tomorrow. Combine that easy-to-use capability with the burgeoning internet of things, and life starts to get interesting. This week, a new partnership with Nest paves the way for users to create more useful and weird recipes of the physical world.

Weekend fun: OK, Go has served up another oddly addictive music video, full of optical illusions. But can you and your attention span still make it through a 3-minute video?

Every Friday, find five, highly subjective pointers to compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.


Friday Five


  1. Email subscriptions can be pernicious — almost every online interaction bullies you into adding another. Try Unrollme to clean up your inbox by unsubscribing from the mail you never quite get around to reading.
  2. What will wearables mean for the workplace? Salesforce releases code libraries to inspire app development, with potential impact on both in-office productivity and lifestyle/fitness.
  3. Content management systems and their admin interfaces aren’t usually the sexiest of web topics. But this comes close: the Nieman Lab’s look under the hood at the New York Times’ CMS.
  4. Amazon this week launched its long-rumored Amazon Fire Phone. Of note: multiple front-facing cameras to offer 3D perspective and Firefly, which enables you to scan products for additional information. The phones ship next month on AT&T at $199 (32GB) and $299 (64GB) price points.
  5. A step-by-step look at Twitter’s cumbersome signup process shows why the company is struggling to grow. But on the bright side, Twitter finally supports GIFs to add a little fun to your timeline.

Weekend fun: OK, Jon Stewart! The Daily Show takes down Google Glass in inimitable style. Fear not: no Glassholes were harmed in the filming of the segment.

germanyHeads up: Friday 5 is taking a break next week to celebrate the World Cup, and resumes on the 4th of July.


Every Friday, find five, highly subjective pointers to compelling technologies, emerging trends, and interesting ideas that affect how we live and work digitally.