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11 Top New Web Apps of 2007

11 Top New Web Apps of 2007
11 Best New Web Apps of 2007

I’ve been on something of a web app kick lately.  I really like the idea of creating,editing, and sharing documents and computing power “in the cloud”, accessible by whomever you want from wherever you want on whatever system you have handy.

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The field of web-based productivity is growing by leaps and bounds, and seems to be on the brink of becoming mainstream and ubiquitous.  That’s good news for mobile workers like me, who can never be completely sure where, or on what kind of computer, we may need to access our files. 2007 has been a good year, with great strides in core productivity apps like word processors and presentation software, and some interesting developments in specialized areas like collaborative brainstorming and todo list management.

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Because I love you, lifehack readers, here are 11 of the best web apps released in 2007!

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  • bubblus
       
      bubbl.us: Flash-based mindmap creator  bubbl.us allows you to quickly and easily make effective, attractive mindmaps that can be exported as images or as HTML outlines, or shared with others who can add new items or draw new connections between existing ones.
    • buzzword

        Buzzword: I’ve raved about Buzzword before, but it bears repeating: this online word processor is both gorgeous and a joy to use. Running in Flash, as you’d expect of an Adobe product, Buzzword works well and has a pretty full set of features already, and promises off-line functionality and PDF export in the near future.
      • empressr

          Empressr: Another Flash-based app, Empressr allows users to create and share slideshows using text, images, videos (including webcam captures created on the fly), and other rich media.  Presentations can be shared on the Empressr site and can also be embedded in users’ own pages.
        • highrise

            Highrise: From the good folks at 37signals comes Highrise, an enterprise-grade contact manager and customer relations manager.  37signals sets the standard for web 2.0 apps, so you know it’s good: clean design, a highly functional interface, and interconnectivity with other 37signals apps.
          • jott

              Jott: A combination of speech recognition and live workers backs this “note to self” service, allowing Jott to produce remarkably accurate transcriptions of your spoken messages.  Originally Jott simply recorded your message, transcribed it, and sent it to you to someone in your contact list, but their new Jott Links service connects up with various web services allowing you to post to blogs, add appointments to your online calendar, tweet with twitter, and add todos to your todo list.
            • mint

                Mint: Online money management made almost frighteningly easy, Mint allows users to add all their bank accounts, credit cards, stock trading accounts, and other financial information into a simple, clean view.  Although some have raised concerns about the security of all this sensitive information, Mint’s model was impressive enough to garner the TechCrunch40 Top Company Award (and $50,000 seed money).
              • nozbe

                  Nozbe:Modeled on David Allan’s “Getting Things Done” approach, Nozbe aims to be the ultimate GTD app. With easy-to-add next actions associated with contexts and projects, Nozbe comes pretty close!
                • sandy

                    Sandy: Sandy is a virtual assistant centered on your email.  You email Sandy with (almost) natural language statements, like “Remind me to call John Smith at 8am tomorrow”, and Sandy emails you a reminder at 8am tomorrow to call John Smith. Coupled with Jott, Sandy is a really exciting service!
                  • scrybe

                      Scrybe: The much-anticipated release of Scrybe left some feeling let down, but hype aside, Scrybe could well become the online calendar of choice.  Flash-based Scrybe uses a natural-language parser similar to Sandy’s, allowing new entries to be created quickly and easily.  The developers say they’re hard at work on integrating Scrybe with Outlook, which would make Scrybe a hard one to beat.
                    • todoist

                        Todoist: Billing itself as “useful, fast and easy to use”, Todoist can be nothing more than a todo list — you start typing into the text box, select a due date, hit enter, and move onto the next.  With a little specialized syntax, though, you can format lists, search for multiple criteria, manage your lists from Gmail, and integrate with external services like Launchy and QuickSilver.
                      • vitalist

                          Vitalist: Another contender for the GTD app, Vitalist also offers next actions, projects, and contexts (unlike Nozbe, you can create your own contexts), as well as a virtual “tickler file” and a mobile-optimized version. GTD apps are a highly personal product — one person’s way of getting things done might be nothing but a series of obstacles for another — so it’s good to see so much competition and innovation in this space.

                        While not all of these are necessarily the best in their class, they do compare favorably with more established apps like Basecamp for project management, Remember the Milk for todo lists, and Google Calendar for scheduling.  Some, like Sandy and Jott, essentially create new classes — try explaining to your grandmother just what, exactly, Sandy does!

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                        What excites me is that these represent only the first, or in some cases the second, step for web-based applications.  Any of these apps will help you be more productive, but imagine them integrated and refined 5 years from now — using Jott to call Sandy to schedule a payment in Mint and placing a todo in Todoist telling you to call in three days to make sure the payment is received. Maybe it won’t be these apps or these companies, but if not, the ones that follow will have the creators of the apps above to thank for blazing the trail.

                        So, what have I missed? What else came out this year that’s exciting you? What rounds out this list to an even dozen? And what have I included that’s old news around your neck of the woods? Let me know in the comments!

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                        Last Updated on July 17, 2019

                        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                        What happens in our heads when we set goals?

                        Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

                        Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

                        According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

                        Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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                        Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

                        Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

                        The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

                        Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

                        So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

                        Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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                        One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

                        Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

                        Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

                        The Neurology of Ownership

                        Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

                        In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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                        But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

                        This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

                        Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

                        The Upshot for Goal-Setters

                        So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

                        On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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                        It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

                        On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

                        But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

                        More About Goals Setting

                        Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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