Tech I Couldn't Live Without in 2013

As part of my annual tradition, here is a list of my favorite apps, services, and tech products that I used throughout 2013.

Read More

Tech I Couldn't Live Without in 2012

  • Mac mini with 1TB Fusion Drive — For a $1,100 Mac, this baby is FAST. It gives me all the performance I need to open large Photoshop files while coding sites, and plenty of space for my massive iPhoto library.

  • iPhone 4S — My iPhone is my communications hub where all of my notifications are pushed to. And the outstanding 8 megapixel camera lets me capture precious moments that I want to carry with me for the rest of my life.

  • iPad mini — For a few months, I was iPadless because I sold my first-gen iPad in anticipation of the mini. What happened? I compensated by overusing my 4S, which had a significant affect on battery life. I see my iPad mini as my primary mobile consumption device, and a way to "extend" the battery life of my iPhone.

  • Google — Chrome has the right balance of feature robustness and simplicity. Gmail is still king of email. Google Reader is an absolute must-have (I don't care if bloggers say Twitter is the new RSS). Google Voice development has been extremely stagnant for the past couple years but having web access to all of my text messages has saved my ass countless times.

  • Flipboard for iPad/iPhone — still, by far, the best way to stay up-to-date with Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now Tumblr.

  • Instagram — If I had to give up all social networks except one, I would keep Instagram. It's by far the most personal social network out there because everyone post things that make them happy, unlike Twitter/Facebook where some people only use for passive-aggression, bitching and whining.

  • Tweetbot for iPad — the best Twitter app out there. For me, the killer features are cross-device placeholder syncing (i.e. Tweet Marker) and being able to retweet as a different Twitter account.

  • ProCamera for iPhone — This is my secret weapon for taking great photos. Specifically, I love how I can lock exposure and enable image stabilization with one hand for close-up shots (e.g. food, lol).

  • Facebook — Simply because all of my friends are on it. Most of my friends don't have Twitter so Facebook is still the best way for me to reach everyone in my life.

  • Pinboard — This has become a big part of my consumption workflow. When I find an interesting link on Tweetbot or Chrome, I'll save it to Pinboard, which will push to my Google Reader via RSS to read for later.

  • Instapaper — While Google Reader is my inbox, Instapaper is my "Save for Later" bin where I'll dump long articles that aren't time-sensitive. Recently, it's been filled out with a lot of How To's and Quora posts.

  • Dropbox — I always need a way to share large files across people and devices. Been a loyal user since 2006.

  • Drafts App — This summer, I retired my iOS app experiment, PostMate for iPhone. Drafts shares the same workflow as PostMate for quickly drafting and sharing text, but supports a lot more external apps/services.

  • Backblaze — online backup solution. This thing has saved my ass a few times this year.

  • Bitcasa — infinite online storage. It's still in beta but I've been dumping a TON of stuff on here. I don't put anything mission critical on here because it hasn't earned that much of my trust yet, but for now, I use it to store things like movies, TV shows, etc.

  • Imgur — Tumblr used to be a very important source of entertainment for me but I figured out that 90% of viral posts on Tumblr come from Imgur. Now I just go straight to the source.

Honorable Mentions: ForkLift for Mac, DayOne, Slingbox, Siri, iTunes Match, Skype

Heating Up for 2013: 1Password, Pinterest, App.Net, New Myspace, GitHub

Cooling Down: Tumblr, Trillian, Voxer

Dismissed: Path, because none of my actual close friends are on it.

Second Thoughts on →

I'll admit, I had some serious doubts on At the time I was still close-minded and thought of it as a Twitter clone.

Then I came across this post by Andrew Chen:

  • To build a feed within your app, you’d publish every action that any of your users do within your product, and then you ask for the subset of the global feed that was published with your application.
  • To build an API to let other apps publish on your feed, you don’t have to create your own API. Instead, you would just configure your app’s filter of the global feed to show posts from other applications, and voila, they would show up.
  • To post to other feeds, you would just write into the global feed, and then ask the other apps to allow posts of your type into their feeds.
  • To build a reader client for any other app or collection of apps, you would just filter the global feed based on posts from those apps.

That's the part that caught my eye.

Today we have cross-posting across multiple social networks (and mini-social networks), which is awesome. I can post on Instagram and have it go to my Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, etc. But as more of these mini-social networks pop up with cross-posting abilities, our various newsfeeds get flooded with more and more duplicates.

How many times have you seen a friend do this:

  1. post on Instagram
  2. Instagram pushes to Twitter
  3. Instagram pushes to Tumblr
  4. Tumblr auto-pushes to Twitter
  5. Tumblr auto-pushes to Facebook
  6. Instagram pushes to Facebook
  7. Facebook auto-pushes to Twitter

That's the same Instagram post published seven times. I don't know about you but I still see that happen. And that annoys me to no end.

The more I thought about this, the more I started to appreciate the dream behind

What if everybody just published everything into this giant river and then developers give us the ability to selectively choose exactly what we want to see? Sounds to me like that could be the next generation of real-time information.

From a non-developer standpoint, going back to my original thoughts of, I was concerned about none of my personal friends forking over $50/year. But you know what? Just because a technology isn't mainstream doesn't mean it can't change the internet.

Just look at RSS. I would say that 95% of my friends -- including the social media saavy ones -- don't have the slightest clue of how to use RSS feeds. But for geeks and influencers of the tech industry, RSS feeds are CRUCIAL. And its these influencers that eventually have an affect over the mainstream.

So on second thought, I was totally wrong about Instead of thinking as "another Twitter" that will never go mainstream, I've embraced the idea of it as potentially becoming the next generation of RSS feeds for the tech industry. Even if it never grew past the 10,000 initial backers of the project...that 10,000 could be the most influential people on the internet.

And that would make it worth the $50/year.


Sorry, we're just not gonna work out... →

MG Siegler:

We’ve seen this story before. was going to be the “open Twitter” before was going to be the “open Twitter”. Diaspora was going to replace Facebook by giving it back to the users. OpenID. OpenSocial. Open. Open. Open. Free. Joy. Wonder. Peace. Perfection.

As much as I love the idea of technology being open, the reality is it takes a big boss at the top to call the shots and direct the innovation. It takes a Steve Jobs, a Bill Gates, or a Mark Zuckerberg to say, "fuck you, this is how we're gonna do it," for any technology to reach the top.

You just can't do that with "open" because you simply just can't please everyone.

Marco Arment also commented:

But the bigger problem is that I just don’t see a social platform growing quickly enough to overcome the network-effect barrier when it’s not free to join, especially when the goal is effectively to replace an existing, free, extremely successful network.

I totally agree.

I'm an early-adopter-type. I'm always down to sign up for any new service or app that comes my way. But to put a $50 cover charge on a small party that doesn't have any of my friends in it? Sorry, that's not gonna happen.

The reality is this:

  1. people will always choose the path of least resistance.
  2. people will stick with wherever their friends are.

And is on the losing end of both of these.