Nozbe is a web app that allows you to organise your to-do’s Getting Things Done style. This morning I spent a little while giving it a spin. I decided to sit down and enter a bunch of actions I have in my Hipster PDA (a Moleskine Memo Pockets and a bunch of blanc index cards) into Nozbe. First impressions:
- Nozbe is a cool concept. I have really been waiting for a multidimensional productivity web app. They got this part right! (Projects and contexts are included.)
- I like the book excerpts that explain the different GTD concepts such as projects, contexts and actions.
- I’d really only consider using Nozbe if it’d include a mobile variant (otherwise my actions are only accessible when I’m online behind a computer).
- Nozbe forces you to enter each action in a project up front. This is, I think, a misreading of Allen’s ‘gospel’ and increases the cognitive load when quickly entering an action. I’d have actions be forcibly linked to a context but give the user the option to add it to a project. (I worked around this by creating a ‘No Project’ project and adding actions to it before reorganising.
- Contexts are fixed, which is a shame. Please, please, please let me create my own contexts, tagging-style. So I can have actions linked to multiple contexts (which again reduces cognitive load).
- Don’t show the duration menu by default when entering an action, keep it clean. I’ll add durations when I want to, but don’t force me to.
Productivity apps are hard to get right because everyone has such a personal workflow. A good app takes that into account and offers many ways to do the same things. So again, Nozbe guys: the app is a good start, congratulations on the good effort! However it could benefit from some more user-centred thinking and design. Try to get a feel for the context of your users and tweak the interface accordingly!
Update: For those who hadn’t noticed, I found this tool via the excellent Lifehacker blog. Nozbe have their own spartan blog too.
Another update: The excellent GTD blog Black Belt Productivity does an in depth review and comes up with some of the same points as I did plus a whole bunch more.
I hadn’t touched Google Reader since taking a brief look at its initial launch in October 2005. I’m now using it as my primary reader, having grown tired of Rojo’s poor performance and frequent interface overhauls. There’s a few things that have really improved since that first release. I’ll sum them up briefly here:
- Uncluttered, simple interface. They’ve gone back to basics and mimic a plain desktop application UI. Hardly any superfluous web 2.0 features demand your attention.
- Trends page (I’ve bookmarked a few articles on this); which allows you to look at the feeds you’ve been reading the most but, more importantly, allow you to weed out the ones you never look at or have died. Essential for someone who has over 200 feeds to track.
- Multi-folder organising, not quite free tagging (which is a shame) but still nice for the folksonomically inclined.
- When scrolling through a list of expanded new feed items, Reader automatically marks items you’ve scrolled past as read. Which greatly reduces the excise other web-based readers force on their users when wanting to mark a feed as read.
- Performance is acceptable to good. It’s not as fast as Gmail, but vastly superior to Rojo for instance, despite the considerable use of AJAX.
- There is an unofficial Mac OS X notifier that uses Growl.
Most of these features are not included in one or both of the previous two web-based readers I used for a length of time (Bloglines and Rojo). Google have really come up with something nice here. I wonder when it’ll move out of the lab.
Why am I not using a desktop based reader? I’d like to (NetNewsWire’s great for instance), just as I’d love to use a proper desktop email client, but my multi-platform, multi-machine personal and professional use doesn’t allow me too. I work on at least two separate PCs at work (a desktop and a laptop) and have a cute little iBook that I use at home. This all means I am a real web OS user. Firefox as browser (with Google Browser Sync to keep it the same across all installs), Google Reader for RSS, Gmail for email and (until recently) Google Calendar for, well, my calendar. Is it coincidence I seem to prefer Google products for these things? Probably not, Google seems to be doing a very good job at these kind of productivity applications (just as Yahoo! seem to be leading the way in social applications).
After a nice weekend in Barcelona I sat down together with my better half to watch X‑Men 3, which was finally released on DVD. My overall impression: another kick-ass superhero movie and a worthy series finale (I do hope they really stop). Some minor gripes: there were quite a few new characters (which is good) but they didn’t get enough time to build into full-fledged personalities. Most notably Archangel. I also felt the movie started to buckle under the weight of the huge epic action sequences by the end. I prefer smaller scale battles like we had in the first two movies, where you can clearly see the individual mutants use their powers (a huge part of the fun of these kinds of movies). All in all: recommended.
Yesterday I nursed a hangover from a bad day at work with this golden oldie. Carpenter’s first Halloween still delivers the goods, IMHO, mostly thanks to the great score and Curtis’ very natural acting. Never mind the rest of the series excepting perhaps H20.
Flickr launched its geotagging feauture a few days ago. Today I came across a few raving posts on TechnCrunch, so I decided to give it a go.
I’ve been geotagging my photos using Plazes for a while now (has it been more than a year already? This photo seems to prove as much.) I enjoyed doing that but it was always a bit involved. Also, geotagging becomes really useful and fun once lots of people start doing it. That wasn’t really happening yet so I’m excited about Flickr integrating it.
My first impression of their map-driven interface was positive. It’s tucked away in the organize section though; I wonder whether they’ll include some bits in the individual photo pages soon. For instance: a little map showing the location where the shot was taken and an easy way to add geotags (maybe even allow others to do it for me?) I’d like this mostly because now the map isn’t really social (in the sense that it shows an aggregation of geotagged shots, just my own.) Update: I found the social flavored map here; a bit underwhelming, but fun.
However: although Flickr proudly sports “gamma” at the top of its logo, the technology still lags behind. It’s beta quality at best. Newly tagged photos don’t appear on the map after a reload; perhaps Flickr doesn’t like me changing the tags outside of the map interface? Update: editting geoprivacy settings on batches gives back strange results too, these photos should show up on the map somewhere near Baarn, but they don’t. Weird…
Also, I think not being able to “snap” a batch of photos to a city I found through the search interface is a usability issue. Adding photos to locations I haven’t identified in Plazes (and thus don’t show up as hotspots on the map yet) becomes arbitrarily. Call me a metadata nut, but I really want to add my photos of Jurjen’s pretty street Zwartehandspoort in Leiden to the exact street, not drop them somewhere in the vicinity of the city Leiden.
Conclusion: a promising addition to everyone’s favourite social photo sharing site, poised to make geotagging ready for the big time, but not exactly there yet due to some technical and design issues.
Another update: after rummaging through the help forums, I learnt that indeed, Flickr doesn’t automagically pick up on newly geotagged photos from other services (such as Plazes.) You need to re-import them (as described in this post). This sucks big time, Flickr seems to think that only photos that have been tagged inside the system matter. Think again! (Of course all this is probably simply due to technical limitations, which is no excuse, but still…)
One of the most rewarding gaming experience I’ve had in quite some time, Shadow of the Colossus is an exercise in restraint (something rarely found with game designers). Large parts of the game are spent riding a horse through a lavishly rich landscape, looking for a giant monster to battle. Felling one of the title colossi always involves solving a logical puzzle (real-world logic, as opposed to the so often found in-game logic) and is very satisfying. One of the best looking games I’ve ever seen on the PS2, riding, fighting and climbing cliff-faces are always esthetically pleasing and quite cinematic. Highly recommended!
This film provided what I expected of it: a typical apathetic looking Bill Murray who finds himself in various bizarre situations. The film seems to be about nothing, and lead nowhere, but in the end you find it under your skin, some of its images lingering. I particularly like the way in which the setup (Murray as Johnston receives a letter from an unknown ex-partner) has you constantly looking for clues as to who of the four women is the mother of Johnston’s alleged son. It plays on and portrays the way the human brain desperately looks for patterns in random phenomena — anything pink is loaded with significance, just because the initial letter is pink. Recommended.
(Also, the jazzy, “Ethiopian” music is very nice as well.)
So today I dropped by both Apple stores that have recently sprung up in the centre of my hometown to check out the new MacBook. My thoughts in a nutshell:
The shiny screen isn’t as shiny as the xblack ones on Sony’s Vaios, I actually kind of liked it.
The matte finish on the black MacBook really does get all oily and smudgy, like Derek already pointed out a while ago.
The new keyboard looks great. The spacing between the keys doesn’t bother me since I have big hands, but the flat surface of the keys is an annoyance. Interestingly, the guy at the shop told me that the new keyboard is supposed to prevent the keys from touching the screen when closed – which is the only real problem I have with my current 12” iBook G4.
All in all it looks like a really sweet piece of hardware. Nevertheless I think I’ll wait to see what problems spring up with the first generation and when those are fixed, probably take the plunge.
I finally got around to watching Crash on DVD yesterday evening and I must say it’s one of the best things I’ve seen in quite a while. The story revolves around a large group of seemingly unconnected characters whose lives get intertwined through a series of car crashes. Magnolia did this before expertly, this film does it even better perhaps – never giving you the feeling the run-ins between people are forced. The driving force and main subject of the film is racism, I’ve hardly ever seen the topic handled so thoughtfully. There’s a lot of ambiguity, no clear-cut good or bad guys and as a watcher you’re forced to constantly re-examine your preconceptions about the characters. In short – hugely enjoyable!
Rojo has redesigned. It all feels a lot cleaner and more compact (as well as slightly faster). Headline scanning’s improved quite a bit.
The one glaring mistake I’ve noticed is that headers no longer link to the original stories, but are some kind of permalink to the post inside Rojo. You have to click a link beside it, labelled “via [feed name]”. Silly choice!