Archive — Test Drive


Test Drive: Pressfolios: Data in, pretty out

About a year ago, I was about to grab sushi at Union Station when I got a strange call. Apparently, someone had given my number to a guy named Marc Sampson and he wanted some advice about what journalists were looking for in a personal site for some vague sounding startup. I talked to him for about 20 minutes, and promptly forgot about the conversation until I received an email earlier this week about the beta launch of the project.

Pressfolios is a startlingly simple concept: It’s an online portfolio for press clips. The interface is clear, easy and quick. Intuitively designed, it does wonders for time-strapped journalists — you essentially click what you want to change, be it a picture, a tag or key details. The standout feature is the easy updating for new stories and columns. Instead of having to code them, you simply enter the link and it appears as an elegant and inviting little box.

Earlier in the week, I spent about three hours on my personal website updating a vast backlog of stories — I ultimately scanned, sorted, and uploaded seven stories and made quite a few needed updates. I also spent a lot of time visually formatting the posts, even though I am still not quite happy with the results. On Pressfolios, I spent three hours again, but I uploaded 30 stories in the same time frame. The application also makes the uploading process a lot easier for bloggers. When I wrote for Jezebel.com, we were required to crank out four to eight posts a day. I did that for eight months. While I was proud of my work at the site, I generally had to settle for only featuring one or two of my pieces; who has the time to go back and code all those links? Pressfolios’ easy uploading allowed me to give my old work new life.

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Test Drive: scroll kit

“You are Creative, Artistic, and We Love You” read the subject line from my latest email from scroll kit, a website creation service. If I had to rate them just on marketing alone, scroll kit would get five stars. Since when do website companies send affirmations to your inbox? Unfortunately, I also had to grade ScrollKit on usability and experience, which is where we run into some problems.

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Test Drive: Asana

Project Management is a beast under any circumstances. Try to coordinate projects involving multiple people over multiple locations and you have a recipe for a headache. There are quite a few other systems out there, most notably Basecamp (which is used by ONA). However, for the cash-strapped business or startup, free is always welcome. So when Asana launched in November 2011, I found myself checking it out.

Asana is a clean, open-source solution offering free plans for up to 30 different users. At some point, it will be offering customized licenses and the capacity for larger users, but those prices have not yet been released.

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Test Drive: Lifehacker Night School’s Learn to Code

As part of my resolution to not be a damsel in tech distress, or a journalist stereotype, I’ve dedicated myself to learning to code. For most of us who aren’t naturally gifted with computer languages, this can be a challenge. For me, considering my trouble with basic math skills and general impatience, this is like saying I’m going to climb Mount Everest.

But, while I may never be a master hacker (or even build an app), I did want to at least learn the basics. So I signed myself up for Code Year, 30 Days to JQuery, and Lifehacker’s Night School on Learning to Code. I started with Lifehacker, since it was the shortest — or so I thought.

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Test Drive: Instagram-ish apps for Android

It’s hard out here for an Android user.

All your friends with Apple products just go on and on about the eleventy-billion apps in their freaking store (425,000, to be precise). Am I using Flipboard? No! Did I download that awesome Nike women training app? No! But the bane of my existence has been Instagram, which might as well be the little app that could. Everyone loves this app that makes all your photos look cool and interesting – even if you’re just shooting a cup on a table. And they even have an e-card maker called Lovestagram, created by Kaitlyn Trigger, who (fun fact) is dating Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger.

It’s so cool! But guess what? No Instagram for Android. I’m starting to feel like the Jan Brady of the tech world. “Apple, Apple, Apple!”

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Test Drive: A free (sort of) app builder

At this point, most major news organizations have dedicated resources to create an app in the Apple Store or for the Android market. But what about smaller outlets that may not have $60,000 to properly develop an application?

I came across a new low-cost option in AppMakr, a web-based app builder that makes claims like “no coding required” and “built for free by people like you.” If it’s that easy, it’s worth a shot, right?

AppMakr does try to make the process as easy as possible. The general build is an RSS application, basically a souped-up version of a basic feed reader. While most users expect a bit more from an app, if you want to just play around with the possibilities, this is an inexpensive way to do it. AppMakr provides users with seven quick menus to plan out their apps: “Art,” “Tabs,” “Customize,” “Notifications,” “App Info,” “Monetize,” “Publish.” “Art” allows you to choose the images associated with your application. “Tabs” configures your RSS feed as well as photo albums, messages and a geolocation setting. “Customize” allows you to upload your own header, change the colors and determine the sharing settings. The “notifications” tab is pretty cool — it allows you to publish messages directly to an end-user’s phone, without the app being open.

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Test Drive: Unroll.Me

Lauded as the greatest thing to hit your inbox since the search function, Unroll.Me lures in users with an irresistible promise: to stop all of these ridiculous subscriptions from cluttering up your email. For someone like me, this is a godsend. My inbox is always full of fail, partially due to the huge amount of unsolicited sales pitches I receive. But before even getting to this great service, there was a downside — the beta was invite-only, so it took about two weeks from the time I requested access to the point that I could actually use it.

The program itself is quick and straightforward, but there are some downsides. Unroll.Me is slightly invasive; not only does it require your password and log-in (prompting a screen from Google explaining how to revoke access) but it also caps your subscription finding, asking you to spread the word in order to view the entire list of subscriptions.

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Test Drive: The Pomodoro Technique

“Remember, Time is a greedy player who wins without cheating, every round!” writes Baudelaire in his poem “The Clock” (1). Is this the true nature of time? — Francesco Cirillo, The Pomodoro Technique

How productive can you possibly be in 25 minutes?

The Pomodoro Technique aims to change how people feel about time and productivity by breaking up days into easily digestible chunks punctuated with frequent breaks. Francesco Cirillo, the creator of the technique, says he named it after the tomato-shaped timer he used to mark the passage of time.

The Technique is beautifully written, providing an almost sublime aspect to the drab functionality of most guides to getting more out of your time.

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Test Drive: Keynote Tweet

OK, confession time. I am the least techy tech person who has ever lived. I didn’t learn simple HTML for years after I started blogging, and then only through reluctant Google searches like “how do I make a header in HTML.” My tech knowledge is on a need-to-know basis. But, sadly, there are a lot of things I need to know.

Most recently, I decided that I wanted to have a cute little Twitter component to the many presentations I give. At SparkCamp, Amy Webb (ONA Board member and Webbmedia Group CEO) had demoed Keynote Tweet, which seemed like the perfect solution. All I had to do was install it, right? How hard could it be? My Web 2.0-conditioned self then happily searched “Keynote Tweet App” – and was rewarded with nothing that looked user friendly. What is Apple Script? Where’s a friendly little icon to click on? I’ve been robbed! Why do they want me to do some work?

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Test Drive: Rapportive

Like you, I’m drowning in email.

Currently, my inbox holds 5,549 emails (only 13 unread, thank goodness!) with another 2,633 in a folder I marked “backlog” from last year’s inbox cleanout. I’ve given up on inbox zero – with the amount of email pouring in daily, across my personal life and my sites, it just isn’t going to happen. I’ve contemplated declaring email bankruptcy, but just like in real life, that’s the nuclear option.

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