SelfControl: Goodbye Procrastination

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Okay, so you have a ton of stuff to do. Emails to respond to, presentations to finish, proposals to complete. Calls to make, appointments to schedule, packages to deliver, documents to sign. 

But that one tab… it’s flashing. It beckons you. 

“Bob sent you a message!”

Bob. He sent you a message. 

All of the sudden, your entire agenda turns to nothing as you get sucked in to this pointless conversation with Bob. 

But wait – you have a new notification. Someone commented on your cat photo. You need to respond. If you don’t, then your opinion wouldn’t be expressed to the world! Oh, that post, it must be liked. Oh, there’s Bob again – Gotta reply to that. Oh, new comment on that cat photo. What?! They don’t think cats are better than dogs? I need to google why cats are better than dogs. Oh, there’s that flashing tab again! It’s Bob. Oh, I have a new chat. I have to respond to it. Oh hey, there’s my old high school friend! I should say hi. Oh, that post is cool, I should like it. Oh, I need to respond to bob. Oh, someone liked my status. Oh, I have to respond to my chats. 

Three hours have passed. You’ve gotten absolutely nothing done. 

This, my readers, is a daily phenomenon that affects almost 100% of active Facebook users. The term for it is “unconscious procrastination, meaning that you procrastinate and you don’t even realize it until you actually take a look at the clock. And thanks to many sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more, unconscious procrastination is a problem that affects the productivity of the entire world. 

Well, thankfully, there is indeed a solution: SelfControl. 

SelfControl is very simple: Add the sites you don’t want to it’s blacklist, set a timer, hit start, and goodbye procrastination. Any of the sites that you added will no longer work for that amount of time! So no matter how much you might want to get to Facebook to see if Bob responded, you can’t – so I guess that gives you the opportunity to get something done!

One of the beautiful things about SelfControl is that once you set the timer, you can’t stop it. Even if you restart your mac, uninstall the application, whatever, you won’t be able to visit your blocked sites until the timer is up. 

Okay, now for the technical part (those who aren’t interested, skip to the next paragraph). On your Mac there is a file called the hosts file. Basically, it contains a local DNS registry, which usually only consists of localhost being 127.0.0.1. What SelfControl does is adds an entries to the hosts file that direct whatever sites you blacklisted to 0.0.0.0. This means that if you try to visit a site that you blacklisted, you will be redirected to the server at the address 0.0.0.0 – which doesn’t exist. Now for the spoiler: if you really want to get your Facebook and other social networks back before the timer is out, you can use the Terminal to edit /etc/hosts and delete the SelfControl entry.

So say goodbye to Bob, your friends, and your admirers alike; you have work to do. 

SelfControl Website

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Why Google+ Is Failing

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When I was at the Teens In Tech conference, a speaker told me this:

For your product to succeed, it either must be a new idea or be better than a previous one.

It makes sense – why would anyone switch to your product if there’s already one that does the same thing? Your product needs to have more to offer so people would actually have a reason to “convert.”

Unfortunately, there are few tech companies that succeed with new ideas – so a lot take old ideas and refresh them to make ‘em better. For example, every Apple product ever created; The iPhone wasn’t the first phone in the world – it was just better than the rest; The iPod wasn’t the first small music player ever created – it was just better because it could hold so many more songs and didn’t need CDs or Cassettes.

Okay, so lets take a look at Google+. It’s a great social network that has tons of new features that are definitely in demand. Who would wan’t multi-person video chat, along with a slew of easier to manage privacy features?

“Okay, so Google+ “better” than facebook – but why isn’t it succeeding?”. This is a question I’ve been asked many times.

Lets think about it in terms of a lamp (yes, the one on your desk). First, we have our facebook: A standard lamp with a normal switch that emits very bright light. Then, lets look at our Google+: A large, fancy lamp with pretty designs on it, a bendable neck, and voice activated controls – but we forgot to add in a socket for a lightbulb.

In this analogy, our Google+ Lamp is “better” than our facebook lamp – but it doesn’t do what people want to use it for (illumination).

Lets take that analogy back to Facebook and Google+. What is the real reason people ever go on facebook?

The real reason is their user base. There are very very few people who aren’t on facebook, and there are very very few people on Google+. Google+ has all the new doohickeys and thingamajigs, but it’s forgetting the light bulb (user base).

And because nobody is on Google+, nobody wants to join – they’re satisfied with Facebook and their 1500+ “friends.” What’s the use of having a ten person video chat if there’s not even ten people on Google+?

Google+ is a good idea, with a perfect execution – but the social networking field has been completely dominated by Facebook and Twitter. It’s unfortunately like this for many social internet startups: many of them rely on a user-base to be the least bit useful, and without a user base you won’t be able to expand your user base. You can get a user base by having a user base, because if you have a small user base people want to join to be part of that user base, which makes more people want to join etc.

Hence the reason most social startups fail. Gaining a user-base is a domino effect, with the first domino being a giant brick wall. You need to hope that something will come and knock it over, as getting the domino train started is definitely the hardest aspect of the whole process.

Goodbye, Old Twitter

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Image Credit: Mashable

A little while back, Twitter started to slowly roll out a new version of the Twitter web interface to their users. Reactions were mixed; some loved it, some hated it, and some really just didn’t care.

For the haters out there, there was an option to switch back to the old version. However, Twitter is going to be removing the old version of the twitter web interface over the course of the next week – not that many users will notice the change, as the majority of twitter users have already switched over.

Personally, I am indifferent to the new Twitter web interface; it’s pretty and all, has some cool effects, and nicer fonts and rounder edges. The previous Twitter interface was simply getting old, and I believed it needed a revamp – which is exactly what we got.

Users of “old Twitter” will get a message saying that they are soon going to automatically upgraded to the new version of twitter, and twitter also announced this publicly on their twitter page. It was bound to happen eventually, and I guess the day (or week) has arrived.

Where’s realtime search?!

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If you do a Google search for a topic that is fairly popular on twitter, you will usually see something that looks a bit like this:

And the list of tweets will update in realtime.

Also, you would find a “Realtime” in the left sidebar.

Oddly, that’s all gone! You will no longer see anything in real time, and the realtime search is gone from the left sidebar.

There’s a ocuple of theories that could be cause for this. First off, it could be that google is planning on integrating Google+ into their realtime search – but that wouldn’t mean they’d need to remove it.

The other possible reason is that google is trying to back off from twitter, considering that they now have a competition going – but until Google+ is fully available, they shouldn’t have any reason to want to hold grudges.

Realtime search may be back sometime in the future, but with Google now as a social service, Realtime Search may never be quite the same.

 

Twitter for Mac

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Tweetie for Mac has always been the preferred twitter client on Macs. However, when the makers of tweetie, atebits, were bought by twitter, we didn’t know what would happen. The tweetie for iPhone was updated and called Twitter for iPhone. We were waiting for Tweetie version 3, but that came to us as an app in the Mac App store called Twitter for Mac.

If you use Tweetie you’ll immediately recognize the interface. The interface of this app is extremely simple and effective. You have a small bar on the left with your timeline, mentions, direct messages, and searches. However with this update we also have lists, which allows you to view your lists that you’ve made, and profile which allows you to view information about your profile.

A couple of small tweaks have also been made, as the window is round and the bar is a bit darker and the dock icon has been modified to have the official twitter bird in it.

But one of the biggest upgrades in this would be speed.

It’s just so fast! You click something and it goes and it loads. Bam.

Also, with DMs, messages come in with a matter of seconds. That makes it extremely useful to use similar to IM, which can be handy (although I don’t use that too often).

You can get Twitter in the Mac App Store for free, and for your convenience here’s a direct link. ;)

RockMelt

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RockMelt is an attempt at making a new browser.

Unfortunately, I am not very happy with the results.

The big thing with this is social integration. There are two sidebars on each side. One shows online facebook friends that you can chat with and the other has buttons that pop up a small feed of facebook, twitter, or any other RSS feed.

This would be great, however I find it bordering a little bit from web to desktop. I feel that when I want to have a desktop social app, I get a desktop social app. When I want a web browser, I get a web browser. And often, social (facebook in particular) tends to be online. That’s fine with me. But it seems like putting a wordpress editor inside of a web browser (which is why I don’t like Flock). It’s nice how you can chat with your friends out of the blue without having facebook open but this tends to be quite a distraction seeing who’s online and everything without even clicking a button.

Other than that, RockMelt seems like a complete rip on chrome. It was built on chromium which explains why, but I feel like they don’t need 30 employees to implement a few APIs.

Indeed, rockmelt is painfully slow. If your cache is empty, Good Morning Geek takes about 15 seconds to load the background.

Unfortunately, I give this browser a 2 out of five. It has a great execution, but I feel like the idea behind it is a little bit out of place.

RockMelt is only available in private beta (you need an invite), so unfortunately you can’t try it out. However look at the gallery for some screenshots.