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Top 10 Web Apps in 2008

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Top 10 Web Apps in 2008

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    Here at Lifehack, we like to review the web apps that were released over the course of the year and see how they went — which apps stood the test of time and remained popular after the hype of their launch had subsided? In this article, we’ll look at ten apps that did particularly well and provide users with a valuable services. I’ve tried to craft a rational list — I’m looking at how well the apps perform now, since we all know launches can go wrong and beta versions often lack the features to make an app worthwhile until several months down the track.

    I also thought it fair that if an app was launched sometime in 2007 but didn’t become popular until 2008, it deserved a moment in the spotlight.

    On the whole, I’ve found 2008 to be much a slower year for web application development than 2007 was. There were plenty of apps, but I doubt quite as many, and certainly fewer of them were garnering as much attention as in 2007 when online apps were “all the rage.” Since web apps have become a pretty regular part of online life, the frenzy has died down, and I think this is a good thing. It means the “field” — if you can call it that — is maturing and the products are becoming more stable, rather than heaping on the new features to compete.

    So, come the end of 2008, which apps launched earlier in the year are still going strong and making life easier?

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    1. Blist

    It only makes sense that on a site like Lifehack, the first web app we celebrate is one that has a lot to do with productivity. Heck, without lists, we’d never get anything done! Blist allows you to create lists on steroids — any list software with 16 columns must be taking drugs, since most apps I’ve used only give you one column plus a checkbox — and share them with the people who need to see them. You can also publish your blist on a website (blist is short for weblist) using a widget.

    Blist also allows you to take your simple list and view it in different ways. If your list is date-sensitive, you can use a calendar view, or you can create your own filters that determine how the information is presented. If you love lists, you’ll love Blist. And if you’ve got a folder full of them I’m willing to bet you’re a GTD user too.

    2. Get Satisfaction

    Get Satisfaction is an interesting website that provides a neutral, intermediate space for customers and companies to communicate. It’s a new way of doing customer service, and a cheaper one too: potentially, customers will check for previously answered questions before submitting their own and cut down on the number of duplicate questions the company spends its time on.

    Get Satisfaction is a more transparent and trustworthy system than many solutions hosted by companies themselves, as it is impartial and questions and statements putting the company in a negative light can’t simply be whisked away. This is also a downside, of course, when the complaints made are unfair and could damage the company image. Nevertheless, it’s a novel idea that makes life easier for both parties and is becoming more popular by the day.

    3. Posterous

    Posterous is an interesting service, providing an easy way to publish words, pictures, audio and video. It takes the simplicity of services such as Tumblr to the extreme: to establish your blog, you simply send an email with some starter content. To update your blog, you send another email. This is the ultimate no-maintenance publishing solution, but it’s probably a little simple for those wanting to create and control a more developed website.

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    4. Dopplr

    The Internet has made remarkable strides over the last decade. It used to be a bunch of static pages of text. As the years went by, it became more integrated with our day-to-day lives. But now the real-time involvement of the Internet with the way we live our lives (as opposed to something like email where the disconnect between real life and online life still exists) is remarkable and Dopplr is an example of that.

    Used to be that you would let your friends, colleagues and family know when you were travelling manually, and you’d usually discover that someone you hadn’t seen for ages was in the same place, at the same time, only after you got home. With Dopplr you fill in the details of your travel arrangements, which it then checks against the arrangements of the friends, family and colleagues you’re sharing data with, and alerts both parties if you’re going to be in a certain place at the same time in case you want to catch up.

    This sort of thing used to take remarkable effort. Now, it’s just remarkably easy. Dopplr definitely deserves a spot on any top 10 web apps list if just for the concept.

    5. MobileMe

    When I started writing this list, I determined not to judge a web app on how well its launch went, but how good the app was by the end of the year. If my criteria had been different, MobileMe wouldn’t be here—it had one of the worst web app launches we’ve seen from a large company, perhaps one of the worst launches from Apple ever.

    I’ll admit that none of those problems ever affected me—I was strangely lucky—and that might improve my bias. Nevertheless, in the months that followed, MobileMe matured into a stable product and I believe Apple did their best to compensate their users for the shaky launch. MobileMe is an excellent syncing app, keeping data between all my Macs, my iPhone and the web all up-to-date, all the time. The web-based applications themselves work well and look great, though I admit that I don’t use them very often. You couldn’t tell this app had such a shaky launch now — unless I’m still having a good streak of luck!

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    6. IntenseDebate

    IntenseDebate is the commenting system that takes the discussion features from your average blogging platform and turns them into something much more powerful. It has a few competitors, and WordPress itself has just implemented one of its top features (threaded comments), but it’s still a great way to turbocharge the discussion capabilities of a website.

    Other than implementing threaded comments, IntenseDebate allows users to respond to and even moderate comments via email, import or export comment databases for backup or migration, feed integration that is better than most platform’s built-ins, commenter profiles and blacklisting, and much more. Gone are the days of three text boxes and a submit button!

    7. Hulu

    Hulu was one of those web apps launched in 2007, but I for one didn’t hear of it until this year, or if I did hear about it last year I sure didn’t mentally note it until this year. Maybe that’s because the laggards behind it still have restricted pretty much all the content on the site to IP addresses in the US (global economy, yeah right!), but it deserves a mention here if not for the ubiquity it gained throughout the last year. Here’s hoping that in the near future the complexities of regional licensing will be taken care of as far as online viewing goes and we can all enjoy what Hulu and other similar sites have to offer.

    What’s that? I didn’t mention what Hulu does? Something to do with videos — I can’t tell you much more than that, until I can use it. ;)

    8. Last.fm

    You might think I’m cheating a little here. I’ve been using Last.fm since around 2006 if my memory has any accuracy at all. But this year has been a milestone year for the site in terms of its userbase and advancements and I continue to enjoy the way it is evolving. I even had a subscription for a couple of months — they’re only $3 (last time I checked).

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    If you like to track your music and get a good overview of the sort of music you’ve been listening to most and what sort of music you haven’t heard but might like (based on the data collected on your existing listening habits), then Last.fm is a great web app, and hopefully will continue its consistent improvement as time goes on.

    It’s worth noting that with a site like Last.fm that makes recommendations based on aggregate trends in its userbase, simply becoming a more popular service can improve its quality.

    9. Qik

    Qik allows users to share mobile videos on the go. Whether it’s the baby’s first steps or an unboxing of a new geek toy, Qik is the video equivalent of a text service like Twitter. Immediate video. Cue another of my “Wow look how far the Internet has come!” moments here — a few years ago it was a pain in the backside getting a video to load in the browser, and now we can fling ’em at each other like it’s a food fight.

    10. Mogulus

    Mogulus is another web app that deals with web app, but it’s what WordPress is to Twitter, to extend the analogy I used with Qik. Mogulus is for creating and publishing more professional video media, allowing you to handle parts of the process that deal with product creation, such as the ability to mix multiple camera angles and clips and form a final video, to publication, allowing you to push that video to your own site and others, with viewers chatting as you go. It’s oriented towards live broadcasting online, minus the cheap webcam that came with your computer (suppose you could if you wanted, but there goes my claim to it being “more professional”).

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    So there are ten web apps that rocked hard in 2008. As with all lists, especially top 10s, there’s a barrage of “Where’s ___ on this list?” to come, I’m sure — and in my opinion that’s half the fun. Be sure to let us know what your picks for the year were. Here’s to web apps in 2009!

    More by this author

    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

    Why Having a Coffee Habit Isn’t Bad For You How to Properly Drink Coffee (Your Coffee Drinking Guide) 3 Simple Strategies for Dealing With External Distractions How to Use Parkinson’s Law to Get More Done in Less Time How to Master the Art of Prioritization the Right Way

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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    8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

    How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

    Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

    When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

    Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

    What Makes People Poor Listeners?

    Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

    1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

    Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

    Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

    It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

    2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

    This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

    Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

    3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

    It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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    I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

    If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

    4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

    While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

    To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

    My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

    Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

    Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

    How To Be a Better Listener

    For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

    1. Pay Attention

    A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

    According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

    As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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    I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

    2. Use Positive Body Language

    You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

    A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

    People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

    But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

    According to Alan Gurney,[2]

    “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

    Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

    3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

    I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

    Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

    Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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    Be polite and wait your turn!

    4. Ask Questions

    Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

    5. Just Listen

    This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

    I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

    I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

    6. Remember and Follow Up

    Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

    For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

    According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

    It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

    7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

    If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

    Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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    Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

    Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

    NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

    1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
    2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

    8. Maintain Eye Contact

    When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

    Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

    By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

    Final Thoughts

    Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

    You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

    And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

    More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
    [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
    [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
    [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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