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Pocketful of Miracles – Pocket’s Update for iOS 8 Knocks it Out of the Park for Read-it-Later Apps

Pocket Share Ecosystem

Credit: www.jamierubin.net

One of the biggest boons to your productively on the web can be the Read-it-Later apps. These apps enable you to skim articles, blogs, tweets, or YouTube videos and grab them for later review. Not only do the apps bookmark the articles, they also clean them up into simple text and graphics, stripping out the ads and other crap so you can concentrate on the message. They allow articles to be read offline and are available for phones and tablets, making it easy to consume this content anywhere.

With the release of iOS8, Pocket has taken the read-it-later experience to an orgasmic level. It has done this using two new OS features, Extensibility and Handoff.

Pocket Share Out

Pocket Share Out

On the new Pocket iPhone app, when you read an article (beautifully presented and just right for reading) and you press the share icon at the bottom, you are presented with customizable options to send the article to Evernote, Twitter, Buffer, etc. Pocket has its own sharing list, but tapping “More” gives you choices of any app that is building a share option for iOS 8. Facebook and Twitter were there in the past, but now other apps have the ability to be added to this list. To get the same before, you might have had to open the article in Safari and used a bookmarklet to get it shared where you wanted. The new approach cuts out several steps.

Sharing to Pocket

Capturing to Pocket

This integration has been added to Safari as well. Now when you are on a web page and your plane boards, or whatever interruption takes you away, you can use the native iOS share menu to save it to Pocket and even add tags to help you manage your content. It’s all very fluid and frictionless.

Now to Handoffs. Handoffs allows you to take a task you’re working on – editing a Pages document, for example – and seamlessly pick it up on the next device. Very cool unless you are working on porn and bring it up accidentally in a meeting. Pockets has enabled this so if you are reading an articles on your iPad, you can pick it up right at the same place on your iPhone later. It’s like gliding. Of course, you have to live in the Apple ecosystem to enjoy it and it’s still to come with the Yosemite OS update on Apple computers, but you can see the promise. Pocket is one of the first and smoothest implementations of both Extensibility and Handoffs. Bravo.

Several people who make me look casual and disorganized have integrated Pocket into complex workflows to manage their knowledge and capture it. Here’s an example that is driven by IFTTT which collects articles and then shares them. Here’s another using Pocket as a kind of intermediary clearing house for web research and clippings (credit here to the image at the top of this post). Personally, I’d prefer to be little more manual and selective about it, more like the second example.

What’s really interesting is that the best Pocket experience is on mobile now. That’s where you can grab the article, tag it, read it, and file it in Evernote (as one example). In more direct terms – the mobile experience has passed the browser experience. On the browser you can’t send to Evernote without using IFTTT or clumsily opening the webpage and then capturing it again. Pocket has knocked it out of the park on this update.

P.S. Let’s not forget Instapaper, an old favorite of mine. Instapaper has awesome type and display options and a an impressive new highlights feature. It’s got a stripped down UI that focuses cleanly on what it does. It has added Extensibility as well and may even have more integration options than Pocket, making it a strong alternative.

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Hacking an Apple iWatch

iWatch LunaTikHere it is – the Apple Watch. Sleek, stylish, and fashionable. It has an aluminum bezel that is attractive and, while techno-sheik, is not overly clunky. The watch has over 30 customizable faces ranging from classic early LED style, to refined analogue. The music player can hold 4,000 songs and integrates seamlessly with iTunes and the Apple music ecosystem. It’s health-related features include a pedometer with a daily step goal, voice prompts, and integration to Nike Plus. The band is infinitely adjustable and suitable for both men and women.

However, it’s from 2011. I had lunch with a friend of mine whose husband had recently become a software engineer at Kickstarter. I leaned that one of their first early successes had been a band designed to convert an Apple Nano into an attractive watch – the LunaTik Kickstarter sought $15K and almost broke $1MM. The 2010 Nano was a natural target to be hacked into a watch. It was just the right size and shape. It was designed to clip on to clothing and to be a wearable. Unlike it’s predecessor, which was all controls and no screen at all, it was all touchscreen.

I easily found the band online and picked up a silver Nano at an Apple store. It took less than 5 minutes to assemble the housing and setup the watch. The whole thing cost about $250. The watch immediately drew curiosity, comments, and praise. I used the watch with a pair of stereo Bluetooth headphones during my hour long train commute and it was very handy to have the music controls on my wrist instead of in my pocket.

LunaTik-MultiTouch-Watch-Band-for-iPod-Nano-6th-Gen-Silver_11_600x600Apple seemed to recognize the potential of the Nano as a watch. Apple stores stocked a couple of watch bands converters for a while, including my Kickstarter band. Though Apple originally only included a handful of watch faces in the Nano OS, a software upgrade in late 2011 included almost 30 digital clock faces. Then…silence.

In the meantime, the entire fitness tracker market emerged with Fitbit, Jawbone, and Nike coming out with models and getting wide retail distribution. Some interesting tech watches emerged, notably Samsung’s. The fitness bands and diet apps like MyFitnessPal started exchanging data, and platforms such as Tictrac emerged which could pull it all together and give you worthwhile guidance.

Over three years later, I’m still getting compliments on my watch. I’ve loved this (no so) little watch and I’ve never had a problem. But I’ve been developing watch envy. The Samsung Gear Fit nearly won me over. But, I’ve held off as rumors and conjecture of what the iWatch could bring to market emerged over the last six months. The money’s burning a hole in my pocket, ready to be spent on what Is supposed to be announced next month. Will I buy an Apple product, or will someone else build that perfect blend of style and functionality? Will it make me put my Jawbone Up in the drawer forever? Will it have been worth the wait? The overwhelming success of the LunaTik Kickstarter 3 years ago was just a hint at the demand potential for a well-designed smartwatch. Let’s hope Apple has been using its time well to make a watch as transformative as the iPhone was.

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Using iCloud Bookmarks with Other Sync Software

bad-connectionAfter my big bookmarks move to the cloud (which I wrote about here) I found that my iPad suddenly had an old set of bookmarks. Of course this was at a bad time – on vacation when I needed to get into an accounting system for work, to make a change that would take five minutes, and the bookmark for that website was nowhere to be found.

I had almost everything – contacts, files, and bookmarks – online in the cloud where I could always get to it. Still, a small set of my most critical and private bookmarks were browser-based, which is frankly just simple and easy to use. Xmarks was working fine syncing across my computers and various browsers, but what about my mobile devices?

All my mobile devices are Apple except my Google Glass (and I’m not even going there). It used to be that iOS devices just synced to your Safari bookmarks driven by the same machine that you had iTunes on. I’d been doing that for years. Now, they sync with iCloud. So, you enable Safari in iCloud on your devices and everything is kept in sync.  In theory.

Seriously, even for a dedicated nerd like myself it’s like playing wack-a-mole keeping everything working. If I put the same amount of effort I do maintaining my digital ecosystem into learning the piano, I’d be a concert pianist by now.

Anyway, even though Xmarks had my Safari bookmarks in sync and correct, my iOS devices were completely different. iCloud is supposed to essentially work like Xmarks and keep all your Safari bookmarks, on any computer or iOS device, in sync. Being Apple, everything usually just works. And also being Apple, it’s hard to get under the hood to really see what’s going on. You can’t just log into iCloud on a web browser and see your bookmarks to correct the master set that drives everything else. Hello Apple! That is a huge shortcoming, and seems like one of the first things you should create.

There’s a lot of chatter online about iCloud bookmarks and issues of the sort I was having. But, they also work perfectly for a lot of folks. So, here’s the solution.

You have to get all your Apple devices in a room like you’re having an Apple yard sale.  Pick the one device you’re going to use to create your master bookmark set – in my case that’s my work MacBook which was synchronized with Xmarks. You need to create a backup of your bookmarks that you can restore from, because you’ll likely erase them at some point.

Now, on every Apple device but the master, you turn off Safari in iCloud. You will get a warning your data (bookmarks) will be deleted. Go ahead and delete them. Then go into Safari and make sure all your bookmarks are gone. You may have to do this twice on some devices to get it to work.

Then, once every device is wiped, toggle iCloud Safari on and off to make sure you are connected. At this stage you might want to either edit your bookmarks to get them where you want them to be, or delete everything and restore from the backup you made (you did this, right?).

At this point, you’ve got one computer where you want it and your iCloud bookmarks are probably what you want. However, since Apple doesn’t let you view your iCloud bookmarks directly, you’re just guessing.

To see if you’re good to go, turn on Safari in iCloud on one of your iOS devices. In a couple of minutes all the bookmarks will magically appear. What I did at this point was sync the master computer with Xmarks, which propagated perfectly to iCloud and then to my iPhone.

Once it’s working on one, you can turn your devices on one by one to get them all to sync, in my case , that’s two iPhones and two iPads (I told you it was a yard sale).

ICloud really does work pretty well for bookmarks sync. I’m not sure how mine got broken, but if you are syncing bookmarks across browsers it’s important to have only one computer bridging between whatever sync software that is – in my case Xmarks – and ICloud. This is my opinion, but I think this was the source of my issues, because two computers were using both Xmarks and Safari iCloud sync.

I am having no issues at all now and a change made on my iPhone bookmarks makes a corresponding change to my MacBook and then through Xmarks to two other computers and several browsers on each. Pretty cool, but that also why I simplified my browser bookmarks drastically so it wouldn’t overload and blow up. It works the other way too – a change made on IE on my Windows laptop will transfer over through Safari on my MacBook to all my mobile devices. I’m sure this is exactly what Steve Jobs was planning.

Some people have not had it so easy and have had to do more cleaning on all their machines to get it to work. This is a good blog post dealing with a more difficult situations and another bookmark sync app called Safari Prairiefire. Good luck and may your bookmarks always be pure.

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Photo Pooling and Collaboration

Crowd Taking PicturesAfter Father’s Day I wanted to share a bunch of photos with my family and also allow other people to contribute to the album – a seemingly simple request. I was astounded how hard it was to find a good solution. Is this 2014? Doesn’t ever device short of a microwave oven have a camera in it which then gets shared on 5 types of social media?

There are many, many, sites and apps that allow you to collect and display your own photos in beautiful galleries for friends, family, or business prospects. Very few of these have even a rudimentary ability to let others contribute to these galleries. This is a huge gap. A few sites, such as Photorocket, have tried this angle and bitten the dust along the way. Here’s my quick rundown on the current solutions landscape and where I ended up. Let’s start simple and build from there.

Entourage Box LogoEntourage Box is a very interesting service that let’s you share any of your cloud drives with others using only a private link. That’s pretty cool, and can be used for many other file types than photos. However, there is no photo album capability unless you’re connecting to something that has that natively, like Dropbox.

Google Plus LogoThen there’s always Google+. Who doesn’t have a Google account somewhere? Simply create an event and share your photos to the stream. Others can contribute and set their own privacy on their photos.

Media Fire LogoMedia Fire is another terrific resource for sharing all sorts of content – photos, videos, songs, and documents all fit in the mix. It has great capacity and a nice set of apps for mobile access. What about photos? I find it solid. However, when I’ve shared galleries with smart but less technical friends, they’ve had issues downloading and adding photos. The user interface is somehow more challenging for non-technical folks. Don’t share albums with Grandma on Media Fire.

Yogile LogoYogile is a really interesting, lightweight photo sharing platform. You can upload and keep albums private, or make them public. But the best part is this – you can start an album and let others contribute to it through email or direct upload via a dedicated, customizable URL – and they don’t need to create an account. The email option is a big help for people with mobile devices.

Shutterfly LogoShutterfly, an old standby, has remained a leader among the other photo collecting and publishing sites. They have created sharing templates and sites specifically for events like wedding, birthdays, etc. The templates are quite attractive and offer a gateway to all the other Shutterfly services, like printing. The only letdown is that you end up embedding a standard Shutterfly gallery into these sharing sites – which is a pretty average viewing experience. It’s still a solid option.

Adobe Revel LogoAdobe is the king of image editing programs and it’s only natural they would have a strong offering. Adobe Revel “is where your entire family can keep all your family photos and videos. When you invite family members to join a Group Library, they’re able to see your photos and videos and they’re also able to add their own photos and videos.” That’s perfect. Adobe offers a portfolio of apps across the major platforms to make this an easy mobile experience. The galleries look attractive and flexible. It’s $60 a year and seems to have some limits as far as others contributing without an account so I didn’t go further. It looks like one of the best options.

Smugmug LogoDrumroll. What did I select for the Father’s Day project? SmugMug. Until I researched this, I thought of SmugMug as a specialty photo printer, which they are and which they’re great at. For sharing and collaboration it features stunning and flexible templates right out of the box. There are endless customization options. The galleries display very well in mobile devices. There is a plugin for Adobe Lightroom which makes creating and updating galleries a breeze. The basic subscription is $40 a year and seems well worth it. Here’s my code if you want to get an extra 20% off – https://secure.smugmug.com/signup?Coupon=J7adtlQlBYi4g.

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Could There be Luck in the Twitter Cards for Pharma?

PM360 Twitter Redesign ArticleToday’s PM360 Panorama featured an article “Fifteen Ways Pharma Can Take Advantage of Twitter’s Redesign.” My comments were featured in the article, and the full article is here. Below are some further thoughts on the redesign and its applicability for pharma.

With a full header image and stats on friends and photos, I can hardly tell if I’m on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram these days. Perhaps it’s the well-known attention and engagement that visual content garners. Or, perhaps it’s the monetization that Facebook has been able to create in it’s newsfeed that makes the revenue officers at Twitter sit up and take notice.

This is a big change. Pages on Twitter.com originally were sparse, functional, and not particularly attractive destinations. There have been several design revisions, the most dramatic of which was last Fall just before the IPO when Twitter added photo and video previews to the feed of items that users see when they log into the service from the Web or mobile applications. This latest redesign, and the expansion of Twitter Cards, are a major push towards increasing the visual element of the newsfeed, and keeping uses on-platform by allowing then to get what they need right in the feed.

One of the biggest reasons for Twitter’s initial success was an open API that allowed developers to build Twitter tools and apps that complimented the platform. So, many early adopters immediately set up Tweetdeck or Hootsuite as soon as they started their account. Today, this divide still exists. There are two main ways to use Twitter: Twitter apps, which include Twitter.com, Twitter for iPhone and Android; and third-party clients or applications, such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck (owned by Twitter), and many others. These third-party apps come in desktop, web and mobile flavors.

It’s worth noting that these design changes and Twitter Cards largely affect those using Twitter’s products – webpage and apps – they do not apply to the huge number of users on third party apps. However, Twitter’s apps have a large mobile share which is where the bulk of the traffic is headed.

Twitter’s expansion of card formats offers new opportunities for pharmaceutical marketers. You can get much more content into your tweet beyond the original 140 characters, plus users can interact with this content without having to leave Twitter or their Twitter app.  In particular, App Cards are promising. Experienced app marketers know that creating the app is just the first hard step, and the rest is getting installs and usage. App Cards display a prominent name, description and icon – with only one click needed to install. Additionally, Twitter has extremely useful targeting options for promoted tweets, so you can combine cards with advertising. How about promoting only to females using the keyword “diabetes?” Or, to those similar to the followers of the well-known diabetes blogger @sixuntilme?

Pharma marketers cognizant of digital trends are always seeking striking visuals for their social media posts to increase visibility and engagement. Twitter Photo Cards (a single image) and Gallery Cards (up to four images) offer ways to syndicate this work and drive traffic back to the main platform or website. These cards can be great additions to a content marketing strategy. For Twitter accounts with large followings, this may be enough, otherwise promoted tweets or promoted accounts are again an option to achieve scale. Marketers can also extend their YouTube reach and push video content rather than still images with Player Cards.

Limited space does not offer opportunity for fair balance, just as with Tweets themselves and paid search marketing. The options above are best used for disease education, unbranded, corporate, or potentially branded reminder ads with no  indications or claims. However, most pharma social campaigns and apps fall into this area, so cards can compliment and build on existing strategies. Summary Cards and Summary Cards with Large Images are in a similar class – besides the tweet itself, you have 200 characters for descriptions – clearly not enough for fair balance, but enough to push your unbranded visual content.

Another interesting option is Lead Generation Cards. Companies can collect emails and Twitter handles right from the card for lead generation and CRM. For categories with engaged communities of sufficient size, like Multiple Sclerosis, this could be an strong tactic. You can bet an aspiring Pharma media planner is running the numbers for that right now.

The Twitter ecosystem is taking a big step forward with these new card formats. Hopefully for pharma, there’s some luck in these cards.

PS: I decided to setup a Twitter Photo Card for this post. I used a WordPress plugin and it was not difficult to do. Here’s what the card looks like:

Twitter Photo Card Example

However, Twitter needs to approve website owners. When I applied, I got a note that I’ll be approved in a few weeks! (I got it approved and other card types approved, in less than fifteen minutes.)

Twitter Photo Card Message

So, in a few weeks I’ll leave a comment when this is ready. That’s got to be frustrating to content publishers. The card is active, and if you tweet this blog URL, rather than the website, the card will be used.

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Indie Web – Back to the Open and Democratized Web

IndiewebcampI recently stumbled across the Indie Web movement, First, I love the name. Rather than being a bunch of geek bloggers sniffing around the fringes, you’re now an Indie Band vs. a mainstream commercial act. That gets to the spirit of things – the Internet and simple self-publishing tools made it possible for passionate and knowledgeable individuals to get a following, find each other, and form a community.

Dan Glimor put it very clearly forth on Medium: We’re in danger of losing what’s made the Internet the most important medium in history – a decentralized platform where the people at the edges of the networks – that would be you and me – don’t need permission to communicate, create and innovate. This isn’t a knock on social networks’ legitimacy, or their considerable utility. But when we use centralized services like social media sites, however helpful and convenient they may be, we are handing over ultimate control to third parties that profit from our work, material that exists on their sites only as long as they allow.

The Indie Web movement is a people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web.’ One of the main principles is that when you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. In the age of big business social media, people are less interested in setting up their own website and domain. The Indie Webers want to reverse this, but not in a way that rejects social media, rather they want to incorporate that experience into their own experiments. They promote interesting tools that allow you to POSSE (Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere), and to pull responses and comments from all other sites (Twitter, Tumblr, etc.) back to yours. If you look at the folks involved, there are some big names who helped build the underpinnings of the modern web. Very interesting stuff. Read about it here on indiewebcamp.com.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has been advocating in the same direction. He’s an amazing man who, without restriction and without royalties, democratized access to information and the ability for anyone to become a publisher. He recently urged the public to reengage with the Web’s original design: a decentralized Internet that remains open to all. (Update 5/19: see his recent Webby speech, as well.)

This of course connects back to the dismaying fight over Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality as an important component of an open internet, where policies such as equal treatment of data and open web standards allow those on the internet to easily communicate and conduct business without interference from a third party. It’s concerning to be “reliant on big companies and one big server,” something that stalls innovation and limits or slows access in the name of profits.

Call me an aging hippy, but I love this Indie Web idea.

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