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WALKFORADOG IS AS EASY AS ITS NAME
October 14, 2016 9:51 am

Having to trudge through the overpopulated, polluted-as-all-hell maze that is New York City every day can be dispiriting. Shoulders are bumped, footwear gets dirty, and faith in humanity is questioned. Perhaps the one glimmer of hope most people here get all day is the moment a cute dog waltzes past them with a big smile on its face and no worries whatsoever.

Dogs have no idea that we’re all prisoners to capitalism, nor do they complain about being surrounded by concrete and steel barriers that are illegal for them to pee on. They’re just happy to be outside! It’s fresh air time. Dogs are the living embodiment of optimism and being able to see them throughout the day helps me treat others slightly better than I normally would have. Thank you, dogs. You inspire me to be a slightly less terrible person.

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More than anything, I want to show my appreciation for dogs and help out the ones not lucky enough to have a home yet. But because life, especially in the city, is just an endless cycle of work and commute, there isn’t much time to do that. This is why I got so excited when I heard about the app WalkForADog.

From a functionality standpoint, WalkForADog couldn’t be simpler. All you have to do is set up an account, select an animal shelter you want to raise money for, keep the app open, and then walk. The more you walk, the more money you raise for that shelter. That’s it. Seriously, it’s the easiest thing in the world. Why aren’t you doing this.

You see? I shouldn’t have to persuade you any longer. Just download the app and start helping out some dogs in need. They already do so much for us!! It couldn’t be any easier and there is nothing stopping you from trying it out.

KEEP YOUR INTAGRAM PHOTOS WITH CHATBOOKS
September 2, 2016 10:50 am

A taste of nostalgia seems to be something that everyone loves. It is why we spend so much money on instant cameras, typewriters and record players. We all love the feel and the look of the analog, there is just something about the digital that loses the panache of things. This is exactly what Chatbooks is about.

Chatbooks tries to capture the magic of the photo album, in an era where the concept seems archaic. The way they revitalize this idea is in an ingenious manner. Chatbooks uses its app to link up with your Instagram or your Facebook account. After it is linked up, it gives you the option to scroll through your photos and find the ones that you want to add to your photo book.

The service is a simple one but it is one that has real potential. Many of us feel that even though our photos are up on a social media platform, that there is something about them that is just not as special. It might be that they are not physically there, not tangible objects that we can see with our eyes and touch.

When the inevitable zombie/ecorp/mayan/skynet apocalypse happens and the machines attack, you’ll be happy to know that you can still look at those memories of you, your friends and family. The product is one that will attract people of all ages, it provides you with a great idea for a gift, for anyone and at $8 per album, why wouldn’t you?

ON THE EVIE OF TECHNOLOGY
August 10, 2016 9:56 am

As organizers go, there are many ineffective ones out in the market. Some do too much, some not enough. Evie does something magnificent. Evie is able to find the middle ground of an app that helps you manage your phone, without overwhelming you.

Evie acts as an organizer of sorts, that completely does away with your home’s set up. It gives you option to find things in an easier and more orchestrated fashion.

While we are all used to the template of having all of your apps in your home screen, Evie allows you to remove all that clutter, while making the search for your top apps easy.

 

Evie’s initial function clears out the home screen while teaching you that by swiping down, a screen showing a search bar will open up. The search bar can be used in the same way that a computer’s search function works.

If that is too easy, by swiping right on your phone, a tab will open from the left side of the screen, that has all of your apps and widgets in alphabetical order. A more convenient way to look for apps, at least for me.

Now you are thinking, why would I download an app that completely will redo everything that I have already taught myself? An app that will reteach me to use my phone? Get it because it is something new, it is something that I am sure your friends don’t have. Just because we all have the same phone, it doesn’t mean that we can’t use them differently, does it? Give it a try and it could become your new best friend.

MESSAGE SAFELY WITH SESAME
August 3, 2016 9:48 am

In a post by Edward Snowden, privacy can mean the world to some people. I don’t know about you, but between the regular run of the mill paranoia and the media hyped overplayed Orwellian way in which the government seems to have control over our information, I am honestly a bit scared.

A bit. Not too much. That’s probably because things are so bad that I might’ve just gotten used to it.

Regardless, privacy is a big concern to a lot of people nowadays. It is something that companies try their hardest to maintain. The Apple vs. FBI case earlier this year goes to show the extent to which a company will stand their ground in order to keep some sense of reliability with their customers. If privacy is your worry, check out Sesame.

Sesame is an encrypted messaging app. While Messenger from apple is very good as is, it is not enough sometimes. The paranoid tin hat wearing version of me never thinks general encryption is enough. I have to stop watching Mr. Robot.

Sesame works just as you would think, they promote your right to “own all of your data and messages.” The app is great, you can customize little things, you can change who can and cannot save your messages, it has end to end security encryption so that both users are protected, a feature that Facebook JUST added that we talked about earlier this week.

It also has one of the best features that I have ever seen on any app, ever. The “unsend” button. No matter how far back you send a message, you can unsend it. Fantastic isn’t it? It’s everyone’s dream button. How many times have you sent something and you wish you hadn’t. Let Sesame make that dream a reality, and in doing so, save you from getting in a lot of trouble.

The app is only available for from the App Store for now, but if you are lucky enough to have an iPhone, make sure to keep your information protected from the government fat cats and the oligarchs trying to destroy our society. As of the time of this post, it has been taken down an you can sign up to be put on a wait list for it here.

SNAPCHAT: CURRENT THOUGHTS OF A GHOST
July 20, 2016 6:29 pm

A few years ago, a friend mentioned Snapchat to me as an app specifically purposed for sending and receiving naked pictures that immediately disappeared after the user viewed it. While I thought this was a great way to make it harder to store, share and publicly humiliate people who send nude photos of themselves to others, my genitalia is quite camera shy, so this was not for me. Only after being told that I could do other stuff on Snapchat by a much smarter friend did I enter the ghost world.

funny-snapchat-darth-phoneSoon after joining, I discovered just how fun Snapchat is, and with continuous improvements happening, it’s only gotten better. Their filters are frequently updated, unique, silly, and also allow the user to be creative with each one of them. As a proud recluse, the only reason why I’d even consider travelling the world is so I can see all the different geography based filters Snapchat has to offer in each city and town.

No other photo/video based app has those features nor can compete with the up-to-the-second spontaneity of the app. Whether it’s Vine or Instagram, a narrative arc seems necessary within each post in order to even legitimize its existence. With Instagram, it’s nearly taboo for somebody to post more than one image a day. Seriously, I’ve seen countless examples of people prefacing their post’s caption with an apology for sharing, god forbid, TWO photos in one day. Snapchat does not have this problem, all photos or videos that the user chooses to share get bundled up into the their “Story,” so there’s no timeline flooding to worry about. No apologies necessary.

In a surprising development, however, the app championed for its entertaining disposability has decided  to make a strong commitment to journalism. Over the past few updates, major media outlets and TV channels like Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, MTV and Comedy Central began popping up at the top of the “Stories” page featuring videos and articles made specifically for the app. At first, they were tiny little circles that were easy to ignore. Now, they’re bulkier rectangles demanding more attention. They’ve also added a new page labelled “Discover,” which is entirely dedicated to those outlets.

At first glance, this can certainly be taken as a blatant “fuck you” to the ghosts of Woodward and Bernstein (neither of them are dead), as well as the distinguished history of journalism as a whole. But if executed well, this wouldn’t be the first time an app created for inane intentions became a hosting ground for brilliant voices who may not have been discovered otherwise.

When Twitter began getting attention, Ashton Kutcher was the first master of the medium somehow. Yes, Ashton Kutcher. This can not be forgotten. He was the first to hit a million followers and it was actual news. Athletes like Charlie Villanueva and Gilbert Arenas used Twitter as an easier way to get in trouble instead of them having to risk a broken hand by going all the way to a nightclub and punching somebody in the face. As the site grew, smarter people began using it in smarter ways. Activists like Deray McKesson and Johnetta Elzie (or simply, @Deray and @Nettaaaaaaaa) used Twitter as a way to organize the Black Lives Matter movement. Comedy writers started getting book deals left and right. And as Twitter implemented new features, writers had better ways to expound on richer ideas incapable of being summed up in 140 characters.

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What worries me about Snapchat is how it doesn’t seem to be following the template of Twitter’s template. The potential is certainly there and the Story feature has already been well utilized during major events by prominent figures. The problem is that most of the notable examples of heavily followed Snapchat users are celebrities who were already famous to begin with. Snapchat did give DJ Khaled’s relevance a boost, however, the appeal of his snaps to begin with was that he wasn’t exactly starving for the boost to begin with.

Any good social media app worthy of its over inflated IPO obviously needs some celebrities, though. Just look at how well it worked out for Dane Cook and MySpace. The celebrity base is necessary. But aside from the famous folk and those aforementioned media outlets, there isn’t an easy way for a regular user be shown to a wider audience.

Ironically, this is what made the app such a sensation in the first place. The path Snapchat wants to take gives great hindrance to a user’s drawing power due to the privacy afforded to them. Standard features on social media simply can not be done at this present time because of this. There’s nothing comparable to a Re-Tweet, a Like, a Share, or a ‘Person You Should Follow’ feature. There isn’t even anything in place that allows someone who read and enjoyed a certain media outlet’s Snapchat article to follow the author’s personal account. And while Snapchat Live does show a collection of snaps by individual users pertaining to a major event, none of their usernames are shown there . It’s also kind of a mystery to me how someone gets featured on Snapchat Live in the first place.

Such a lack of accessibility to an organic, non-famous, user’s account really delivers a blow to the whole “social” aspect of Snapchat. The skeezy, yet well intentioned, foundation of Snapchat needs to be reconfigured in order to help make the voices who want heard on there can get exposure without Buzzfeed or Comedy Central press credentials. If left in its current state, there simply won’t be a high likelihood of there being Snapchat’s version of a Vine Star or Twitter Sensation, just a bunch of dicks with dog ears.

WHY THE FUCK AM I REVIEWING “WHERE THE FUCK SHOULD I GO FOR DRINKS?”
June 3, 2016 1:58 pm

When I want to get a drink, I’m not the type to Yelp, because I’m not a fun person. My preferences are all about bear cheapness, music being played at a reasonable volume and optimal seat availability. And the more sweatpants friendly the place is, the better.

My favorite local bar has all of these qualities. It also has karaoke every weekend that exclusively attracts middle-aged barflies who have made all the wrong decisions, and sing emotional ballads with the fervor that’s only attained after fully coming to terms with that level of failure. I never sing, but after one particular karaoke regular does his weekly heartbreaking rendition of My Way, I silently mumble, “that’s gonna be you someday, Greg” into my pint of Guinness. This bar as a 2.5 rating on Yelp.

Again, this doesn’t really matter to me. I really do not listen to what these sites or apps have to say. But it’s impossible to refuse what a site like Yelp has been able to do. Not only has it provided expansive coverage and categorization based on actual customer experience, it’s kind of left very little meat on the bone for other up-and-coming sites with similar aspirations. How can one possibly stand out above the fray when Yelp has seemingly perfected the art of eatery suggestion?

Hmmm, what if you curse a whole bunch?

Sure.

Enter WhereTheFuckShouldIGoForDrinks (WTFSIGFD for short), a site that was probably created by Eric Cartman circa 1999, with a pretty simple template: you tell them where you are, and they show you which bar to go to.

Intrigued by the moxie of it all, I decided to give WTFSIGFD a go. Maybe there’s another undiscovered dreggy paradise out there for me and I’ve been blind to it the whole time. With that in mind, I typed in my location.

Aaaaaaand….

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Outback Steakhouse. Not ideal. In their defense, they do give a ‘no, that place looks like shit’ option, so I was able to get a new suggestion.

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What the fuck. Are these guys even tryi–

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Okay, now they’re just fucking with me.

The obvious argument for WTFSIGFD is that, as a Staten Islander, there aren’t any cool places for me to go to, and if I were to search in a more hip neighborhood, like the Lower East Side, I’d have better luck. And I, of course, did have better luck:

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For starters, they gave me an actual bar to drink at this time, and not just the wine section at Trader Joe’s. Progress.

But aside from the novelty of being cursed at by a website, there’s very little reason to ever go on this site, let alone pay $2 for the app. The bars suggested have no descriptions whatsoever, so you’re expected to walk into the place blindly. It’s kind of an interesting idea that goes against the Yelp establishment, but that’s not what’s being brought into the forefront here. And even if that’s what the app focused on, it’s still not worth $2, especially with such a poor database of places outside of the Metropolitan area.

For people looking to find a dependable bar with their specific preferences in mind, Yelp is still the place to go by far. It’s not even close. But hey, if you’re looking to experiment and have a swearing alcoholic tell you what to do, then by all means, give WhereTheFuckShouldIGoForDrinks a try. I’m going to stay with my depressing karaoke bar for lost souls. It’s the only atmosphere I’m comfortable with at this point.

PEERSPACE APP CONNECTS USERS TO CREATIVE SPACES
May 17, 2016 4:27 pm

It is hard to picture the ideal creative space, because artists and event planners are so different in the spaces that inspire them. Whether you’re planning a birthday party or fine art gallery showing, shooting a film or hosting a company mixer, having an appropriate creative space is essential to the event’s success.    

Peerspace, an app launched in 2014, is helping to connect event planners, visionaries and companies with personalized creative spaces. 

Through a website and mobile app, Peerspace links people looking for short-term spaces with hosts who have a space to share. Renting permanent space can be pricey, especially in metropolitan areas like New York where there is high demand.

Peerspace helps alleviate these difficulties by providing a streamlined method of communication.  Event planners can find a place to host gatherings. Production teams can find an off-site work area.  Hosts can bring guests to their space and make some money in the process.

Rather than exclusively offering expensive galleries or production studios, Peerspace provides access to all types of venues. For example, on the Peerspace Blog, one section is devoted to unusual repurposed spaces, offering a selection of locations ranging from a vintage trailer to an unoccupied airport hangar.

For people worried about security, Peerspace has taken measures to ensure that the interaction between hosts and guests remains positive. They offers automatic, free-of-charge liability protection guaranteed up to $1,000,000. That said, this coverage only applies to hosts who make arrangements using the Peerspace platform, so when setting up a host and guest arrangement it is essential to keep communication within Peerspace.

Peerspace does not stop at providing communication between hosts and guests. Guests can use concierge@peerspace.com to supply their events with additional amenities, including furniture rental, event staffing, catering and audiovisual equipment rental. 

The Peerspace interface is sleek and intuitive to use. Users select a location, and the type of event they are planning or workspace they desire, and are provided with an interactive map that shows spaces that match their criteria. 

Users can narrow their specifications by selecting specific price-points and the number of guests that will be attending. After selecting a space, users are directed to a page where they can view information about the space, venue rules, customer reviews and other necessary details.

Peerspace is taking a refreshing approach to venue listing, allowing creative people to explore numerous possibilities when selecting a unique space. For events as diverse as weddings, film-shoots, music video sets or gallery showings, Peerspace is a good place to start. 

8 FREE MUSIC-MAKING IPHONE APPS
April 15, 2016 9:00 am

Everybody likes music, but not everybody can make it all by themselves. Well that’s okay, because technology has the answer! Here are a few solid apps:

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Soundprism App

Tonepad: Picture a 16 x 16 matrix, each point representing a note in the pentatonic scale. Time is horizontal, pitch is vertical, and the instrument is a cool, muted synth, pure and serene. The program cycles through the matrix like clockwork, a measure of music before repeating. Couldn’t be simpler! Start with a blank slate and build your masterpiece from the ground up, or shuffle everything around and take it from there. Go crazy! You can even flip or rotate the matrix, just to see what happens. Sounds totally different, right? Weird! Notable downsides include ads (yuck!) and just the fact that it’s pretty basic when you think about it. Not sure how it got on this list. [3/10]

Beatwave: Boy, do I wish I had known about this little gem before bothering with that last one. Beatwave totally blows Tonepad out of the water. Not only can you add a drums to the matrix, but you can layer that onto the synths for a richer texture, and you can string along different sections all in a row, just like in a real song. Reorder those verses and/or choruses however you see fit. It’s intuitive, musically stimulating and ad-free. Now we’re talking! [6/10]

Figure: Where Tonepad and Beatwave are calm and linear, Figure is an energetic and versatile EDM paradise. Start with a highly customizable beat, throw down a phat bassline and solo on top with the lead synth. Each instrument’s tone, range and rhythm can be tailored to any passing fancy, along with the global tempo, key and tonality, so your only limit is your imagination. Isn’t that just life though? [8/10]

Auxy: This is a lot like the first two in it’s loop/matrix dynamic, but it requires a little more technical knowledge. You might be able to get a handle on Beatwave more easily, but in the long run you can do more with Auxy. Jeez how many of these are we gonna get?  [7/10]

Soundprism: This one is a mindfuck, no doubt about it. We’ve navigated beyond the “oh this is nifty” plane and are now firmly entrenched in the “I’m writing The Great American MIDI arrangement” state of being. Look pal, if I’m making serious music for other people to hear for real, I’m not doing it on something I downloaded onto my phone. Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, or get the fuck outta here (sorry Garageband).

That said, this app is absolutely amazing. It’s like a whole new kind of instrument. Like how with an accordion you get one hand playing the bass chords and then the other playing the melody on a keyboard, except the “keyboard” here is another matrix of chords, and you can modulate between them by cycling through the color-coded modes. Rows are arranged by thirds to create triads, leading columns to represent pitch and therefore inversions (it makes sense when you try it, I promise). Musically intricate yet intuitive and engaging. Forget what I said before about not making serious music on my phone–this shit is for real. [9/10]  

Launchpad: This little number is just a simplified DJ pad (and by “simplified” I mean “still very complicated but just not as expensive”). Mix and match a huge number of preset loops to create a cacophony of EDM madness (or, you know, whatever). Similar to the last one in that you can do a whole lot of serious musical stuff with this, but just not as original. A well-executed substitute for expensive hardware. [8/10]

Groovemaker: I don’t even wanna start with this one. Picture blacklights and glowsticks. You can do some cool mixing/looping/waiting-for-the-bass-to-drop kinda stuff here, but the music itself is pretty lame. [4/10]

Garageband: I know I was talking shit about Garageband earlier, but it came from a place of love. Garageband was, is and will always be a great place to start making music. Almost as serious a DAW as the rest of them, and already installed on every Apple product you own, you really should check it out if you haven’t already. I’ll give it an honest rating here (don’t wanna make Soundprism feel bad), but in my heart it’s a 10. Always has been, always will be. [6/10]

THANKS, LIKE A LOCAL
February 18, 2016 5:54 pm

You like to travel, sure, but you ain’t no tourist. You’re here to see the real city, not these smarmy tourist traps featured in your airport brochure. You’re not afraid of the road less traveled. Any city can be paradise if you know what you’re looking for. You do know what you’re looking for, don’t you?

If not, don’t worry, because Like A Local has you covered. The popular travel app has up-to-date recommendations from residents of cities around the globe. And when I say cities, I mean every single city you could possibly want to visit. From Amsterdam all the way down to Zagreb (which, it turns out, is the capital of Croatia), the list is truly staggering. Of course they know the skinny on Paris, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro–I mean who doesn’t, right? But what about Istanbul, Vancouver or Buenos Aires? Local recommendations out the wazoo. Boulder, CO; Phoenix, AZ; or Lafayette, LA? Make domestic travel your bitch. Even if you’re not actually traveling you can still find loads of activities in NYC, LA, DC, Chicago, and a handful of other North American cities. It’s all just a click away.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some examples.

By now you’ve probably heard that New York City has a lot to offer, but God forbid you actually live here to find out for yourself. What does Like A Local recommend? Given my location (off the L train) and time of day (afternoon), they recommend Roberta’s Pizza, The City Reliquary, and Beacon’s Closet (to name a few), three highly regarded Brooklyn establishments. So, pretty legit.

Did I hear somebody ask about Boston? No? Maybe it was just me. Anyways, Like A Local recommends the Arnold Arboretum, the Harpoon Brewery and the Coolidge Corner Theatre (to name a few). All of these places I have been to during my days as a local Bostonian, and all of them are awesome. Good work, Like A Local.

Okay let’s try international. I’ve always wanted to go to Vienna (mostly for the sausages) but I’m sure I wouldn’t know what to do once I got there. Well Like A Local has 130 recommendations grouped into categories like “Guide to Imperial Vienna,” “Most Popular Green Areas” and “Best Nightlife Spots.” Couldn’t be easier! Kind of makes me want to hop a flight there right now…

I won’t, but it’s nice to know that, if I did, I’d have cool things to do once I got there. Thanks, Like A Local (and also the hundreds of helpful foreigners providing insight into their respective cities), for optimizing my next vacation. Looking forward to it!

ADVENTURES ON TASTEBUDS
January 4, 2016 10:06 am

It takes a certain type of person to really explore what dating sites have to offer. I call those people masochists. However, there seem to be a lot of people who enjoy the unique abuse of online dating, as there are a never-ending stream of ways to be blown off by the opposite (or same) sex from your computer.

Tastebuds, a dating site launched in 2010, looks to pair singles by taking participants’ “liked” bands from Facebook, Spotify, and Last.fm, and matching users to those with similar tastes. If you’re into music, you’re probably already familiar with it.

I joined Tastebuds about 18 months ago, and promptly forgot about it. Aside from a once-monthly email with matches, I hadn’t had much contact with the site until logging on recently to find about 50 unread messages from other users. I was surprised, as my profile was barely filled out, and my face was only (partially) visible in one of my photos. Scanning through the messages, I realized 99% of them were a result of the “Message Bomb” feature, which allows users to send a single question to 8 of their randomly-selected matches. Who came up with this? No one likes “form” messages. Because these messages are being sent to a random selection of users, the people writing them seem to feel like the messages should be both funny and general; one Message Bomb sent to me asked, “Would you rather be hairy all over or completely bald?” (Hint: I’m already one of those.).

Some cursory Googling also revealed that newer members of Tastebuds are now required to buy a membership or pay a fee just to respond to messages. The prices for membership range from $10 for one month to $30 for six months, and include additional features like removing ads, and the ability to view profiles anonymously. I understand that the company needs to make money, but charging people to respond to messages isn’t the way to do it.

I don’t mean to shit on Tastebuds. I think finding people with similar taste in music is a great idea. You can even set your search parameters to find matches in areas you may be vacationing in, so you have someone to go to shows with. Unfortunately, I think the whole thing is bogged down by questionable user experience and member abuse of the aforementioned features. I’m still going to hang on to my (free) membership – maybe that guy who shares my love of both Hanson and Placebo will finally pop up.