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I love apps that do one thing extraordinarily well and become part of what I use every day. Captio is one of these apps. And I have Dave Tisch to thank for turning me on to it about a year ago. Here’s how it happened.
I sent myself email reminders on my iPhone constantly. I hate paper and don’t carry any around with me. In general I don’t take notes (I have an excellent general purpose memory) but if I want to remember to do something specifically, I send myself a short email to do it when I have time. Then, as I grind through my inbox I do all of the quick tasks that have piled up during the day.
I was with Tisch and we were going through a bunch of things. He saw we typing on my iPhone each time I took a note. He noticed that I was opening up the iOS Mail app, clicking in the bottom on the new message button, typing bra and then selecting my name, clicking in the Subject field, typing a one liner to myself, and then clicking Send.
He said in his Tisch-like way “Why aren’t you using Captio” as though everyone on the planet used it. I said “what is it?” He handed me his phone and said “Try it – it does what you are trying to do but just fucking works – I use it all the time.” I tried it, gave him his phone back, downloaded Captio, and never looked back.
Now when I want to send myself a note, which I do 10 – 20 times a day, I open Capito, type whatever note I want, and hit send.
“Why aren’t you using Captio?” Now, if I could only just speak to Captio. Or maybe if Siri was a tiny bit smarter and (a) didn’t ask me which email address to use and then (b) didn’t ask me what I wanted the email to say my life would be complete.
I’ve tried to aggressively shift to video conferencing instead of audio conferencing for anything longer than a 15 minute call. I’m also giving a lot of talks around the world, especially on Startup Communities, so rather than travel and burn a day (or more), I’m doing 30 minute videoconferencing things remotely. And, as anyone who has ever asked me to speak to a class of students knows, I have a huge weakness for always saying yes to this so I’ve been doing this via videoconferencing as well.
After exploring a bunch of different options last year, I decided to use Skype everywhere since it was “good enough”, simpler, and portable. I equipped my desktops with HD cameras, took my MacBook Air on the road, and didn’t look back, until recently.
I noticed that twice last week I had horrible Skype connections. One was a US call and one was for a 30 minute presentation to a group of about 200 people in Barcelona at the Silicon Valley Comes to Barcelona event. In the US case I was using my Verizon 4G MiFi, in the Barcelona case I was tethered to my AT&T iPhone.
Skype completely failed in each case. Audio worked but we couldn’t get a sustained video connection. Each time we tried Google Hangouts as a backup. It worked flawlessly on exactly the same connection.
This was a classic A/B test. Yesterday, when I was on a Skype three way call, where one of the callers kept freezing and the other kept getting higher resolution focus, all I could think was “I wish we were on Google Hangouts.” After talking to a friend at Google who said that Hangouts is now pervasive at Google, I’m going to try it more frequently.
Any feedback from any of you about performance / quality of Skype vs. Google Hangouts?
On day two of my 14 day visit to Miami Beach, I realized that the hotel WiFi at the W Hotel was not going to work for me. Once again I was at a Starwood Hotel, which I love, except for the abysmal WiFi and WiFi policies. In this case, performance of WiFi in my room sucked and the cost was $15 / device / day. Upon connecting my computer and Amy’s computer, I realized I was paying $30 / day for shitty WiFi. Nope – that doesn’t work for me.
I tried my iPhone 3G tethering. AT&T service was as bad as the WiFi – I literally couldn’t get a consistent signal in the room. I wasn’t desperate yet, but I was definitely uncomfortable. Amy was annoyed, as in “Brad, why doesn’t this shitty technology work?” and all the Skype calls I had set up looked like they might be a bust.
I had my IT guy Ross overnight me a Verizon 4G MiFi. It arrived the morning of day three and I never looked back. I plugged the MiFi into the wall, pressed the On button, connected each device, and never thought about Internet access again for the remaining twelve days. When I went down to the pool, where nothing worked at all, including the hotel WiFi, I sat for hours with my MiFi happily connected. Performance was great – I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t on a 50MB/sec connection.
I only ran into one edge case that was annoyingly bizarre. The MiFi allows five devices to connect simultaneously. But guess what – the two of us had six devices. Two Macs, two iPads, and two iPhones. The first time we realized this after getting weird “can’t connect” errors we each burst out laughing – c’mon, six WiFi devices in one room between two people? However, when you step back and think about it, the idea that there might be 10, or 20, or 50 in a few years is not beyond the realm of possibility.
So – instead of paying Starwood $180 / day for shitty WiFi, I ended up paying Verizon whatever my monthly fee is for excellent MiFi. Verizon wins this time. Starwood – you keep bumming me out with your WiFi policy. I’m already paying a ridiculous premium for your high end hotel – why not toss in the WiFi like the Marriott does. Or, at least get it to work.
I noticed something when I tried out two apps (Mingly and Cobook) this morning – they each immediately asked to connect me to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter during their onboarding process. And, by using my Gmail as the starting point / authentication, they connected me to G+.
Microsoft is conspicuously absent from this. I’ve noticed this many times in the past but when you onboard yourself in two contact-related apps in the same morning and there is no Microsoft anywhere, there’s something going on that’s important. I wonder if this will change with Office 365 – I hope Microsoft is building a trivial to use oauth to O365 so it’s easy to connect to, along with a good sync API.
I was trying to think of other authentication that would be helpful to me in the context of my contacts. Almost everything else I use is based on either my email address or auth with one of these four services. Hmmm.
So far Mingly feels basically the same as Gist but Cobook seems different than anything I’ve used. I have no idea if I’ll keep using either of these, but like many things in the themes we invest in, I love to play around with new apps for a while and see if it sticks.
I don’t celebrate Christmas. So my Christmas eve’s are chinese food and a movie (also known as “Jewish Christmas”) and Christmas day is usually spent in front of my computer writing after sleeping late, followed by a run, a nap, and another movie.
This morning I slept until around 10am. Amy and I watched Hanna last night and I had a bunch of bizarre dreams as a result. The combination of being tired from an intense year, six marathons including four in the fall, a steady training schedule the last few weeks, and being 46 has resulted in a bunch of 10 to 12 hour nights. Yawn.
Amy and I got into our pajamas and drove 10 miles to the nearest Starbucks to get a physical New York Times (my gift to her for putting up with me not wanting to do Christmas.) When we got home, we settled in upstairs with our coffees, the dogs, some music, and the Internets (well – she’s over there reading the New York Times – very old school.)
I started my daily information routine around 11am and immediately thought to myself “boy things are slow today.” I’ve had a stupid problem upstairs in my office (my Wifi router was on top of subwoofer – intermittent performance issues which ended immediately when I finally noticed it and moved it away) so I’m extra tuned into performance right now.
I did all my normal Speedtest things and realized that it was actually the “performance of the Internet”. Sites loaded fine. My local performance was fine. Comcast was vibrating all over the place – sometimes fine, sometimes not, and highly dependent on (a) a point in time and (b) which web site I was going to. There was absolutely no consistency.
I’d never noticed this before on Christmas day. I get very little email (I’ve only gotten one message since I woke up two hours ago) and Twitter is almost silent (@dickc is one of the few people tweeting – he must be doing it just to generate some traffic, although I did notice that @sether got a new @eastoncycling tubular wheelset from @greeleys – I hope he got her something sparkly and shiny.)
I tweeted out “boy the internets are slow today. or maybe it’s just comcast” and my ever present buddy @jbminn responded immediately with “anecdotal, but *lots* of devices online today that were still in boxes yesterday”.
I think John might be right. I’m curious if the rest of you are seeing slow / random / weird Internet performance? Is this the first year that Christmas morning overwhelmed the Internet? Or maybe @FAKEGRIMLOCK is just having fun with us humans today.