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Top 10 Web Apps in 2008

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”).

    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!

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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