Google Productivity Pad: July 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: IQTELL (GTD app)

There has been an update to this app and my review of those updates can be found here. This article still has my feelings on many of the other features.

Note: This review is for the universal app IQTELL for iPhone and iPad, it is not a review of the complete IQTELL System which involves a web app.

Price: Free
Stars: 4
Type: Productivity

The IQTELL app is an app based on the GTD method originally conceived by David Allen (you can read my review of his book here). It was the first app to come out to claim to be a complete GTD system. Of course I was excited when I first heard that a company was actually going to release a GTD app, but I always have some initial hesitation at switching to a new system when you already have a working one in place. I was very happy with my Todo list manager Producteev, so I did not download IQTELL right away.

Switching Over
Not long after the IQTELL app was released Producteev came out with a major new update. Unfortunately they released a little too soon and they did not migrate users fast enough, as a result after updating I was unable to access my account or even use features offline.

Well I couldn't be without a todo list so I decided to give IQTELL a trial spin while I needed something anyway. I really enjoyed it. The app lacks a little personality; it's pretty bland and flat in style. What it lacks in visuals it makes up for in functionality though.

Everything in one Place? Almost.
The IQTELL motto is "Everything in one place" and it almost is, on the web app they are really almost there. On the iOS app however there are still some features lacking:

  • Email integration
  • Calendar integration
  • Evernote integration
  • Contact integration
Once it has these features it will work very well. As you can see from the screen shot there are a lot of different options for how to mange your lists. That is a good thing but it can be a little bit of overkill and David Allen would probably say take the one or two that work for you and ditch the rest, don't get hung up on the system. You can us the configure button (red arrow) to remove most of  these options from your screen, but unfortunately on the iPhone version it does not seem  to stick once you close the app. Hopefully this will be fixed soon.

Let me just say a word about the IQTELL team. They seem like great developers who really want to make the best productivity app out there. They are responsive to emails and really want to make the experience better. I expect to see a lot of improvements to the app in the near future.

The Good

  • An app that is really based on  the GTD system
  • True someday and tickler options to get stuff off your mind
  • Correct use of context and projects
  • Responsive developers
The Bad

  • Current lack of integration (this is suppose to be fixed soon I am told)
  • More robust than some people need or want
  • Hard to get each of the sub apps arranged the way you want them on the page
  • Slow loading time and sync
  • Very tied to the web app (I wish they would just make a native mac app)

Overall the app is very good and has a lot of potential. I recommend that if you want to be using the GTD system that try out this app. It is free, so the barrier to entry is much lower than an app like OmniFocus which has been pretty much the only option in the past. I am excited about the way this app is going and expect some big updates to come soon.

What is your favorite To Do List app? Share it with us in the comments section below.
If you find this post helpful you can  ,  it or use one of the buttons below to share on other networks.
Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Not Everyone Deserves 5 Stars

These days along with wanting your money and time everybody also wants something else out of you: Stars. Whether its a song, a book, a hotel, an app, a podcast, or anything you bought on amazon, they all want you to rate them, and they all want 5/5 stars.

What they are really asking:
Essentially everyone is asking you to say they are perfect/necessary/the best in their class. I have often seen people actually ask consumers not to rate them even if they are going to give them 4 stars because it will lower their 4 1/2 star rating.

The problem with that is that they are probably actually a 4 star product, they are probably very nice but not perfect, or very useful but not necessary, or well designed but not the best in their class. They probably have that 1/2 a star extra because of some overzealous fans or, more likely, family members.

The truth is, it is ok to be 4 stars on a 5 star scale. That means you are above average, it means people are pleased with what you are doing, it means honest people are rating you. It is even ok to be 3 stars on a 5 point scale, that means you are fine, but you have room to step up your game.

Consumers don't get it either
Unfortunately the people rating products and services are often just as bad at this as the producers who are requesting ratings. They miss the point that the five star scale is used most places to give some variety to ratings.

It is suppose to be more accurate than the dichotomous thumbs up or down. Many people however look at it and think, "did I have good experience or a bad experience?" They go ahead and hand out 5 stars if the experience was good and 1 star if the experience was bad. They are missing the point of letting others know how their experiences really were.

The Goodreads Example
The book social network and review site, Goodreads, actually has guides associated with the stars. They go like this:

  • Did not like it: 1 Star
  • It was ok: 2 Stars
  • Liked it: 3 Stars
  • Really liked it: 4 Stars
  • It was Amazing: 5 Stars

My philosophy
I don't know about you, but I don't have a "did not like it" or "it was amazing" experience with every book I read. Most books I just like, so they get three stars.  We dilute the power of the 1 and 5 star ratings when we over use them. We have to remember that 5 stars is the absolute best so if you rate Twilight with 5 stars and then you read a real masterpiece like Oliver Twist, what do you have left to give? You now have no choice but to put a time tested classic of artful writing on the same level as the latest teenage fad.

My position is that I only rate books that truly deserve it with five stars. In order for me to feel that way the book has to pass one very crucial test: It has to be a book that I think every single person should read during their life.

The Problem it Causes
This does not just apply books, it applies to everything we rate. If you wrongly give out a five star rating, you are not only misinforming other consumers of the product, but you are also giving false feedback to the person producing the product you are rating. You are telling them that their product is a close to perfect as possible. Why should they improve? They are already at the top of the heap.

This results is mediocre products and services, there is nothing to strive for. It is the topic for another post, but this is the result from "participation ribbon" and "everybody is winner" mentalities. It is not healthy and it is not honest.

The Challenge

I challenge you, the next time you rate a product or service, to do it honestly. Don't throw your stars out as though they meant nothing. If a job is average, or normal, or you just "like it" than rate it like that. That is ok, and it is actually a lot better for everybody involved. Comment to let us know you took the challenge, and then keep us posted on how it went.

If you have some thoughts on this topic I would love to hear them. Either or leave a comment below.

If you found this post helpful or interesting you can  it, or use one of the buttons below to share.
Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happy 5th Birthday App Store

Today marks the 5th Birthday of the Apple App Store and a dramatic change to the way we all buy software. To celebrate apple is giving away some very popular apps.

A short definition
App is simply a shortened form of the word application. We use to refer to them as programs when we used them on a computer.

A short history
We have had applications for a long long time. They use to come on CDs and before that floppy disks. The iPhone had apps before there was an app store; everything that was loaded on the phone was an app. But, after jailbreakers created a way to put there own apps on the iPhone Apple realized there was tremendous revenue potential in creating an official App Store.

Long before the advent of the iPhone we in the handheld computing world were using the term app. I remember while I was a Mormon missionary in Pennsylvania in 2009 a kid we were teaching asked me if I knew about apps. Of course I knew about apps I said, I had been using apps on a Palm Pilot since I was 13 years old. Missionaries are a very focused group of people and I had no idea what was going on In the world of iPhone and ultimately the world of electronics.

A discussion of change
Things have changed phenomenally in the last 5 years, not just for the iPhone but for software overall.

What we use to do

  • We use to go to a physical store like Best Buy or, try to remember, Circuit City 
  • Options for each type of application were few to none
  • lay down 50 bucks or more every time we got an application
  • every time a new version of that application came out we had to go back to the store and shell out the money again
  • We expected those applications to be perfect that they would run without coding problems

What we do now

  • We open up an app store on whatever device or computer we have, never leaving our home
  • There are hundreds or thousands of options in each category for a mobile device, and dozens of options on a computer
  • We would like our apps free if possible, if that does not happen we would really like to pay no more than a dollar or two for the software
  • When a new version of an app is released we expect it to be handed to us, via an update, for free
  • We expected that applications, especially new ones, will have bugs in them and that these will be addressed frequently by updates
Do you see the way the world has changed because of the App Store? When Apple started doing it mainstream everybody had to jump on board, and as a result they changed not only the phone industry, but the whole electronics industry. 
Please leave your comments about how you think the App Store has changed things.

If you found this post helpful or interesting you can  it, or use one of the buttons below to share.
Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hardware Review: Karma hotspot

Name: Karma Hotspot
Stars: 4
Hardware Type: Cellular Hotspot
Price: $99 (when I bought it it was $89)

It's hard to be productive these days if you don't have internet. A hotspot lets you get internet wherever you are.

The Data Dilemma
My internet tends to be a little on the temperamental side, meaning it does not always like to work. Sometimes it likes to work only for specific devices and only in certain spots in my home. Unfortunately I don't have control of the router, my landlord does. That does have the plus side that I don't pay for my internet, so its not all bad. What is bad is that it tends to go out at the most inconvenient times, like right when an assignment or paper is due and the library is closed.

Because of this schizophrenic internet service I decided a cellular hotspot might be in order for emergencies. The problem is I hate data plans, I think they are the biggest ripoffs in the world. Can I tell you what I hate most about them? Ok, I will, you pay for data you may NEVER use! That thought just makes me sick in the heart. So I searched and searched and searched through every possible hotspot option available from the major carriers and the major prepaid brands. Everybody had activation fees and expiration dates.

Enter the Karma.
Karma is a new idea, and a breath of fresh air in the world of cellular data. The folks at Karma believe that you should only pay for data that you actually use, and they also believe that you should be rewarded for sharing with others.

You pay for your hotspot, they give you one gig of data free, you pay $14 for each additional gig, your data NEVER expires, every time someone new gets on your hotspot they get 100 free MB and you get 100 free MB for sharing. You never pay for other people's data usage, you only share your connection.

Ok, so that probably sounded like a sales pitch, which it was not, I am not affiliated with Karma in any way. Let's examine some of the features to see how good they are.

  • Coverage: the best pricing does you no good if you don't have coverage, and this is where Karma loses a star. 
    • They cover 80 major U.S. cities. 
      • Fortunately for me Provo is at the tail-end of the Salt Lake coverage.
    • The coverage we get is pretty stable, just a few spots around that have a problem.
    • If you live or travel in cities where there is coverage then its good deal, if not than its probably not for you.
  • Social data: this is Karma's big push, share with others and get free data.
    • Anyone around you can get onto it.
      • Up to 8 devices
    • They have to sign up or sign in with their own Karma account
      • which automatically gets them 100 free MB
      • And automatically gets the Karma owner 100 free MB
    • It works if you are somewhere where a lot of people are looking for a free wifi connection
  • Battery Life: Karma claims between 6-8 hours
    • Seems to work fine for me
    • I rarely charge the device, but I don't use it for extended periods of time very often.
  • Size: the Karma is half the size of your smartphone
    • It easily fits in your pocket allowing you to take wifi with you anywhere.
If you live where there is Karma coverage you can't get a better deal, unless you actually use several gigs of data every month in which case some of the major carries might be slightly cheeper on data prices. But Karma has sales almost every holiday dropping the price of a gig into the $10 range.

If you have any questions about Karma or choosing a hotspot please feel free to ask them in the comments below. Or answer this question: what would you find most helpful about having a cellular hotspot?

If you found this post helpful or interesting you can  it, or use one of the buttons below to share.
Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

You can purchase the Karma from Amazon here (Affiliate link)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Book Review: Platform, by Michael Hyatt

Title: Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World
Author: Michael Hyatt
Genre: Business
Stars: 4

Michael Hyatt is the name in Platform building, probably because he wrote the book on it. This book has been on my to read list for a while. I just recently finished it, and it was excellent.

In this book you walk through the steps of building your own platform. You learn how to take your wonderful idea, concept, product, or service, and turn it into something people will notice. A big part of this book is dedicated to blogging and social media, teaching you how to do them better.

I really liked this book. It is easy to read because Michael writes in a conversational style and sets up his chapters with subheads and bullets. For me it was fun because he writes the way he talks and I first discovered Michael through his podcast, This Is Your Life, so I could hear him speaking to me through the book.

Reading this book will help you build a better platform. Like with most books I read I did not agree with everything this one taught, but most of it was good advice. I'm sure anyone who follows all the directions in this book will build a great platform. Michael does not want you to spend a lot of money, that is one of the main points of the book. Unfortunately, not spending a lot of money can mean very different things to a former CEO and a college student. For that reason, there are some things the books instructs to do that I am just not able to do.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone. In today's world we all need to be savvy about things like social media, even if we don't want to build a platform right now. However, I would not recommend that you run out and buy this book right away. Much of the actual content of this book can be found on Michael's blog. That is where I recommend you start. If you like what you find there and would enjoy having everything compiled in a cohesive step by step reference then go ahead an get the book.

I truly believe this is one of those books that can help you live better. I think if you do not already follow Michael Hyatt it would be well worth your time to look through some of his work and see if you can benefit from it.

What books have helped you live better? Please share your recommendations, thoughts, and comments below.

If you found this post helpful or interesting you can  it, use the new social site potluck or use one of the buttons below to share.
Thanks for reading, and remember, live better.

You can purchase Platform here (affiliate link)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Things I Loved Today

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that in life bad things will happen.

For those of you who follow me on twitter or are friends with me on Facebook you know that at the end of everyday I post a tweet and status that start out things I loved today. I do this for a simple reason, because even though it is true that bad things happen every day it is also true that good things happen everyday, things worth loving.

I noticed that there is a lot of negative expression in social media, plenty of expressions of despair, disappointment, and discord. At one particularly negative point in my life I realized I was a contributor to this part of social media and I realized that it was probably not healthy. Even though I felt really bad about life at the time, it did not help to reinforce the negative. I realized I could lift myself and others by choosing to accentuate the positive things in life.

This gave rise to my first round of things I loved today postings which I did for a couple months and now have recently returned to as I again found myself facing a negative outlook.

Social For Good
For me it was not really even about the social aspect, it was about doing something simple everyday to improve my attitude and recognize my blessings. I was surprised at the positive response I received from my Facebook friends, many of them liked the posts and would comment on what a wonderful thing they thought these posts were and how they lifted their lives as well.

It was not until later that I realized that many of their news feeds were probably full of the same negative updates that mine often was and that I had contributed to. Because of this, a post focused on the positive appeared as a breath of fresh air to them. I think each of us can use social media to have a positive impact on ourselves and others, if we choose to.

The Challenge
So you can probably guess where I am going with this, I want to challenge you to try using social media for an intentionally positive purpose, to see the goodness in your day and brighten the digital sea you swim in. So here is the challenge, its as simple as 1, 2, 3.

  1. Try posting 1 "things I loved today" to a social media site once a day
  2. Continue to do this for 2 weeks
  3. In each post try to name at least 3 things you loved that day
And that is it, that's the challenge, not very hard. just see if your attitude toward life is improving at the end of it. If you are using twitter use the . If you choose to take the challenge please leave a comment letting us know.

Counting your blessings to improve you attitude is nothing new, this is just a different take on it for our social media world. Just give this a try and see if it can benefit you. If you would like to see examples of these posts just 

If you found this post helpful or interesting you can  it, use the new social site potluck or use one of the buttons below to share.
Thanks for reading, and remember, you can live better