E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

General Interest

My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #5

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach


Once again, it’s that time of the week where we dive into the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series and recommend further along the next round of apps I think would be worth while exploring some more for iOS devices. This blog entry is going to be one about discovery, because two of the recommended apps I will be sharing across will be about two new ones I discovered myself earlier on this week and that they got me hooked up from day one since I started using them. So that should be interesting and perhaps worth while checking out for you folks as well, who knows… At the same time I have been thinking it is probably a good idea to include some keywords about where those apps would fit in, so that you would have an opportunity to figure out, earlier on in the post, what you may be able to expect. So in this week’s Top 5 iOS Apps we have got task management, process automation, podcasting and photography. 

Thus, without much further ado here are My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #5

  • Trello: There are a number of different task management apps I have been using over the course of the years. Some of them come and go. And others stick around for a while, even in between upgrading devices, and while I realise I will be talking about my favourite ones over the course of time, the one I’m currently using and enjoying quite a bit is Trello. There are a lot of things to like about this particular app to manage yours tasks, but the ones I enjoy the most are the reaffirmation that completing and managing tasks can well be a visually appealing activity to the point where it will hook you up from day one and you won’t be able to escape it that easily.

    It integrates fully with a whole bunch of third party apps as well, which is a really nice capability to have, but the one that makes it even worth while on its own is the integration with Slack. It’s just gorgeous and worth while trying in case you may not have just yet. And, finally, the other one thing I really like about it is how flexible it is to the point where you can hack it to achieve almost everything you would want to with it, even to the point of organising your entire life! So when using Trello the only limit I can think of is just your imagination and how you put it to work getting the creative you out of the box. In terms of flexibility very very few apps are just as good as Trello is. 

  • Workflow: Now, I should state at this point in time that I am not very much in favour of automation per se, but you know there are times when you have got a number of different repetitive tasks or processes you need to take care of while in your iOS devices and knowing there is a superb option out there that could help out tremendously in this regard is a huge bonus. Well, that app is Workflow.

    As I keep relying more and more on working mobile either with my iPhone or iPad Pro, I have developed the habit of using Workflow every time I repeat an action or a process three times, at least. That would confirm it is regular enough for me to want to automate it and save myself some time so I could do some other things. If you would want to know how the app works and how you, too, could build up those automated workflows, take a look into this short YouTube tutorial that explains how you can get things started and from there onwards let the play begin!

  • Overcast: You know, there are tons of people who keep saying that podcasting is back, and with a vengeance, and I, actually, think they may well be right, because this year alone I’m listening to more podcasting shows than in any other previous years. I listen to them when I exercise first thing in the morning, during work breaks, or at the end of the evening when things start to quiet down a fair bit. And I am loving it, more than anything else because of the app I’m currently using that has got me totally hooked up. It’s Overcast.

    It’s got a beautiful design, the ability to sync podcasts in between devices and a really nice user interface that makes it extremely friendly to use. Too easy, perhaps, even. Oh, and I can listen to podcasting episodes streaming them out, or downloading them ahead of time before I go offline for an extended period of time, like when on a plane, which makes the perfect combination, if you ask me. Yes, I realise most podcasting applications on the desktop do all of this already and, maybe, plenty more, but, like I said, I’m mostly on iOS devices nowadays, so having Overcast as my podcasting app is just all I need heh

  • Polarr: Just the other day I was counting the number of different apps I’m currently using for various different purposes to process, edit, modify and enhance photos I take with my iPhone 6S Plus and it’s well over a dozen of them at the moment! Ouchie! Yes, I know, far too many! Well, that’s what it takes to go out there and start exploring all of the options, play some more and see what sticks around that fits one’s needs. I got an entire folder with just photography related apps and the list keeps growing on and on and on. So you can expect to see, in upcoming blog posts, an additional number of recommended apps around photography and how I get to tweak photos with them.

    However, for this blog post, I’m going to start sharing across a recommendation for the one app I bumped into this week and which I have really enjoyed using so far, specially, on the iPad Pro. It’s called Polarr. It’s free, although if you would want to make use of an extensive list of really cool, fancy, filters and advanced capabilities you could buy those packages separately, but it’s totally worth it. The features and possibilities you have to tweak photos from applying filters, shades, colour, shapes, tilting, saturation, contrast, etc. etc. are just phenomenal, but what I like the most about the app is how easy it is to use and learn quickly about tweaking those photos, when, with other apps, a number of YouTube video tutorials were required by yours truly to make sense of some of their features. With Polarr, no need to, unless you are into the pro editing field. But if you are looking for an app easy enough to use to get some spectacular results, it’s worth while a try, for sure! And yes, no worries, in upcoming blog entries I will share some other apps I use when handling photos. Polarr itself is not the only one…   

  • The Roll: And, finally, off we go with the last recommendation for this week’s post. And it’s another photography related app I discovered earlier on this week as well and that I’m currently loving it, because it comes to fill in a void that even iOS 10 hasn’t been able to address to the extent I would have wanted it. And I will give you an example of what I mean … The Roll is a free app that allows you ‘automatically organise your camera roll’ and in a very effective manner if I may add. It will eventually apply some AI in order to categorise the photos from your camera roll in such a way that would make you go WOW! From Your Best Photos This Week, to Your Best Photos, it will just group all of your photos according to different group names which you can access through folders and within a matter of seconds, BANG!, you can find all of the photos in your iOS devices associated with one another where it may well be fit, according to those initial groupings. Like I said, just WOW!!

    But, don’t worry, there is even more! Another really really interesting and pretty neat capability is that one where from the groups of pictures that it may put together it will tell you which one would rank the highest in terms of aesthetics that would then entice you perhaps to share it across in different media tools. Very much worth while a look, I tell you. If you are crazy about taking all sorts of photos across the board and then try to make some sense of them flawlessly I can strongly recommend you take a look into The Roll, because something tells me you will like it!

And that’s it! That’s the list of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week for this week that I think would be worth while having a look into and see if they can make it into any of your iOS devices as well and next week there will be some more. Again, trying to keep a balance between work related apps and for personal use ones, hoping there may well be something out there for everyone to play with. Hope you enjoy them just as much as I do and get ready for next week’s!

Ohhh, and, again, if you have got an app you would want to recommend and that would be worth while trying it out, let me know, as I am always very keen on discovering new cool apps that can help me work more effectively while getting the most out of these iOS devices. Remember, after all, 2016 is the year I, finally, went mobile

(About time, too!)

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #4

Gran Canaria - Degollada de las Yeguas in the winter


One of the things I am finding really interesting from the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series of blog posts is the fact that it’s an exercise that’s helping me really evaluate how I eventually make use of either my iPhone or iPad, whether for personal, private use or whether for work, and I must admit that at this point in time there is just such a blend between the two types of apps that I no longer make a distinction for neither of them. To me, they are just apps with a job in mind to execute, and do well, and then move on to the next thing. And it’s intriguing, a fair bit, because when I was a salaried employee it wasn’t like that. I had a good number of folders, in each device, that would help me classify and organise the apps accordingly as to which ones were related to work or not. I am not too sure whether, somewhere along the way, I lost that urge to keep everything organised to the extenuation or, on the other hand, whether my freelance life has taken over helping me understand that one and the other are pretty much the same thing: me as a knowledge (Web 2.0) worker trying to remain productive AND effective while on the move!

Thus, here we go, once again, with the next blog entry in the series sharing along the different apps I enjoy making heavy use of from either device, whether iPhone or iPad. As you will be able to see for this week, there is a little bit of a blend between work and personal use related apps, so I’m hoping there will be a bit of everything for everyone. As usual, unless it’s specified otherwise, the app would work both in iPhone and iPad, so without much further ado here are My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #4

  • Box: Yes, I know there are a bunch of file sharing applications and services out there with Dropbox, perhaps, being one of the most popular ones. Alas, for me, Box is the one that pretty much hits the nail on the head and for a good couple of reasons. As a starting point, I have got two different accounts making up to 60GB of disk space, which suffices my needs pretty well without having upgraded just yet and, secondly, it’s incredibly pervasive helping me work more effectively with my documents regardless of which device I may be using, whether iPad, iPhone or MacBook Air.

    Eventually, all of my files and documents are in sync, so whenever I’m on the move I know where to find that particular document for that specific client presentation and right at my fingertips. It can’t get any better than that. Oh, hang on, it does! I love how Box keeps integrating with other third part apps, specially, Enterprise Social Networking tools which makes it extremely easy for everyone to work with documents while inside the ESNs themselves. It’s like an extension of the capabilities already offered but with a better opportunity of making sense of the documents you are currently working on, because that’s the only thing you can do with Box, effective social file sharing.

  • Paper: With my iPad Pro and my Apple Pencil Paper is, by far, the single app I enjoy the most for a good number of different productivity related activities, going from Note Taking (Although I use a few other apps in this realm that I will be talking about over the course of time), to sketching, to doodling or just simply try to get out some of my crazy ideas into whatever the visual that comes along, if at all. It’s just such an amazing app that even I, someone who doesn’t even have a single skill for drawing anything, can get something done with it! With a bit of time, and tons of practice, it helps you get better and better by the day to the point where whenever I have got those idle moments where I’d want to jot down something Paper is the app I am, almost always, ending up in. But then again, upon watching in YouTube a number of different tutorials about how to make the most out of it, I can only realise I’m just getting started, but I’m loving it! Highly recommended if you would want to venture into the world of doodling and sketching with a superior user experience! 
  • MindNode: And talking about love, I love MindMapping, did I tell you about that before? I think I have been using MindMapping apps for over 10 years, if not longer, and during the course of that time I may have used several dozens of applications in a good number of computing devices, yet, the one single app I keep coming back to is MindNode. It’s, by far, one of my favourite MindMapping apps and while I know I will be talking about a few others over the course of time that may well be worth while checking out, the one I’d recommend using nowadays first would be this one. Most people may not know this, but I usually get to prepare my initial sketches for presentations in MindMaps where I get to develop different ideas, connect them, word them, and then start looking for some kind of order and visuals to go along with them. They are incredibly powerful and when thinking about writing down different ideas or list items there is no better way to make sense out of them all than using a MindMap. It’s one of those essential productivity apps I would definitely recommend everyone to take a look, even for personal use! 
  • CityMapper [iPhone Only]: Whenever I get to travel to a major city (They are currently listing over 200 of them at the moment!, if I recall correctly) and I happen to be lucky enough to be connected either via mobile data or WiFi, CityMapper is one of the main traveling & map apps I use on a regular basis, specially, when I may need to resort to public transport to get out and about in the city. It’s one of the most comprehensive and user friendly traveling apps I have used in years and one that becomes part of the survival kit when going to a major city in order to avoid getting lost. Of course, not all cities are available just yet, but you can either vote for your own city or for other potential candidates which means it keeps getting updated on a regular basis with more city maps. But, again, if you are going to a major city some time soon, and are connected to the Internet via your mobile phone, CityMapper is one huge assistant to help you not get lost in the process! It’s saved me a few times already in the last couple of years and just can’t take it off my iPhone at the moment. 
  • Spotify: I know there are tons of live streaming music services out there, going from Google Play, to Tidal, to SoundCloud or even Apple Music, but the one I keep coming back over and over again has always been Spotify. You see? There are a lot of things I quite like about Spotify itself, including as well the wonderfully inspiring capability of pretty much nailing it in terms of helping you build the playlists you know you’re going to enjoy the most (Discover Weekly, Release Radar and the Daily Mixes are some of my favourites). There are also a lot of things you can stream via Spotify that you may not even have heard about in the past to make it even more useful. It even claims that it knows you better than yourself. But the main reason why I keep coming back to Spotify to livestream music, or listen to it offline, is because the overall user experience is far superior, in all devices, to everything else, helping you focus on what you just want to focus on, i.e. listening to some really good music, versus trying to figure out how the app really works.

    And to get all of what you get for the monthly prize of being a premium user, it’s just too tough to beat it. To the point where I eventually resisted the temptation of going elsewhere, as most folks may have done already, and decided to stick around with it. A few months later, still no regrets and loving it as if it was the very first day of listening to unlimited music in your own terms, at your own pace, while enjoying all the benefits. Plus plenty more!

And that’s it! That’s the next round of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week. Hope everyone gets to enjoy them and, like I have said in previous blog posts, if there is an app you would want to suggest, recommend I try out, let me know in the comments and I’ll be more than happy to and then report back on how I got along with it and whether it’ll be making it for good in my iOS devices over time. Who knows, there may well be a great chance for that to happen, because you never know what’s going to enhance your own productivity or even make you enjoy your mobile devices just a little tiny bit more!

That’s how we roll, right? 

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The State of Surveillance We, The Good People, Are Creating

 Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes at sunset

Over the weekend, the one and only, Dave Snowden, put together what I think would probably qualify as one of the top 3 blog posts you may well read during the course of 2016. Just the first paragraph will do. It is that good on its own. In fact, if there would be a way to describe what this year has been like so far (thinking we still have got three more months to go), I don’t think it would get any better than that. I am hoping my good friend Dave will forgive my liberty, but I’m just going to reproduce over here that first paragraph, so you may have a look and judge for yourselves. I can strongly encourage you all to then go and read through out his entire blog entry and sign up, if you can help. It will totally be worth your time. To quote: 

There was a wonderful, if depressing, tweet from J.K.Rowling yesterday: If we all hit ctrl-alt-del simultaneously and pray, perhaps we can force 2016 to reboot. Brexit, the rise of Trump, the failure to support the peace initiative in Colombia, support of elderly white socialists, Universities are closed in South Africa by riots arguing for education and so on. Racism and misogyny are legitimised by popularism. The Chinese curse to live in ‘interesting times’ might have been made for this year and its not over yet. It’s been called a post-fact society, a world in which reason has little or no place, people vote against their own interests and the establishment is rejected as an act of rejection, not an act of reasoned protest. Syndicalism and being part of a movement is more important that to actually change things. We live in echo chambers, augmented and enabled by social media, to prevent encounter with any uncomfortable truth. We live in a world where despair legitimises any protest and in a world of pre-victorian levels of income inequality and opportunity who can dispute the morality of those who are the victims of a system which is maintained for the elites?

WOW! I mean, just WOW!! Yes, it’s one of the most thought-provoking, mind-boggling paragraphs you will be reading in a long long time. And yet, there is one single sentence that, when referring to media tools and their current impact, it pretty much nails it for me as to why I’m no longer as comfortable and confident, as I used to be, to continue making heavy use of them to change the world we live in. Why? Well, because, if anything, we are doing everything else but change the world. In fact, we are probably making things even worse. Allow me to explain further what I mean with the sentence itself from Dave I am referring to: ‘We live in echo chambers, augmented and enabled by social media, to prevent encounter with any uncomfortable truth.’

You know, I don’t necessarily mind the need to have echo chambers per se, as I feel they may well be somewhat necessary to make us all feel somehow more comfortable, to a certain degree, with the unknown territory of the complexity domain, so that we can attempt to make some sense out of it all, collectively. However, when those echo chambers turn on their own filter bubbles to just augment the worst in all of us showcasing our very own dysfunctional behaviours, and, specially, through the impact of the so-called social media, I am no longer sure that amplified through media tools echo chambers are good to humanity, in general. Indeed, welcome to the awfulness of the social media shaming phenomenon.

Sharon Richardson, also over the weekend, reminded us all of such dreadfulness pointing us to this rather poignant TED Talk by Jon Ronson under the rather provocative title ‘How one tweet can ruin your life’, where he gets to talk about how voiceless people like you and me can now, finally, have a voice with media tools like Twitter, for instance. A new, ‘powerful and eloquent tool’ that inspires ‘a democratisation of justice’ where ‘hierarchies would level out’ and where we would be doing things better. Except that, after a while, we didn’t. At one point in time we realised ‘we want to destroy people, but not feel bad about it.’ And we did oblige accordingly. 


My goodness! When did we transform ourselves into ‘unpaid shaming interns of Google’? When did we decide to turn Twitter, as one example of many others, into a ‘mutual approval machine’ where we get to approve one another, even to the worst of both our individual and collective behaviours? Where did we lose our capacity for empathy? That seems to be at the heart of it all as Jon himself nicely concludes on his TED Talk referenced above: 

The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to the voiceless people, but we are now creating a surveillance society where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless. Let’s not do that!’

Indeed, Dave himself also puts it rather nicely with this particular quote, along the very same line: 

’But escape we must and that escape will not come by condemnation, indulgent sarcasm or condescending humour (and that was as much confession as condemnation). If I pickup the very basic lessons of what I have taught over the years then we have to start from where things are, not from where we would have liked them to be, or think they should have remained. 

I am pretty certain you would agree with me that today’s media tools, compared to, say, 10 or 15 years ago, are not the Social Web I think we would all want to build, create, nurture and sustain over the course of time. More than anything else, because there seems to be a complete lack of both constructive feedback and healthy critical thinking, as well as adding value into the conversations by not only creating and making, which I realise is way tougher than just destructing, but also by showing empathy for others to the point where we seem, instead, to first seek that self-assurance and approval by others, usually, of our worst behaviours and within our very own echo chambers, than try to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else, specially, if they are total strangers, just to see what it feels like.

Dave himself writes in that stunning blog post referenced above already what empathy is all about: ‘the ability to see things from different perspectives is creating something sustainable. That means exploring not only the ways in which we engage citizens, but also how we create meaning.’ And if we ought to lead by example, and, believe me, we surely should be leading by example, we probably have got to start here, that is, questioning what kind of smart use do we want to give to all of those media tools and figure out for ourselves, and our future generations, what kind of Social Web do we want to have and thrive in? One where we all turn into voiceless humans, once again, because of the ill-behaviours of a very few amplified and augmented by the good people or do we want to continue with that Social Revolution I blogged about three years ago and that we started over two decades ago when the first instances of social software tools came about? 

Tons to reflect upon, I am pretty certain, but perhaps this week is just the perfect one to get things started as tomorrow we get to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day. In fact, as we continue to make use of these (social) media tools, we probably should start asking ourselves this initial question, without even venturing, just yet, to have an answer for it: Is today’s Social Web the one Ada would have wanted all along for our future generations?

Something tells me that’s not the case, so the follow-up question would be then, ‘what are we doing about it?’ How do we prevent and enable those human voices from becoming voiceless once again? Something tells me that empathy will play a key role, and since empathy is actually a choice, it may well be down to us all to start questioning what do we want to get out of all of these (social) media tools in the first place. If not just for us, for Ada herself. How can we treasure and celebrate her legacy? It’s the least we owe her, don’t you think? 

Happy Ada Lovelace Day!

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #3

Barcelona - View from Montjuic's Castle

Last week I didn’t have much of a chance to put together another blog post from the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series, as I was away on a short holiday break to Barcelona, Spain. This time around I decided to keep a low profile, on purpose, in the different media tools I use more or less on a regular basis and remain, for the vast majority of the time, disconnected from the online world. Phew! That surely was a liberating experience, I tell you. I very much enjoyed every single minute of it more than anything else because it was, most probably, the first time in a couple of years I went in the dark without saying anything. I can highly recommend it, for sure!, as the end-result can be quite intriguing and refreshing altogether. Now, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t using my iPhone, nor my iPad Pro, of course, I was still using them more often than not, as I still needed to go out and about, get round different places, get together with real life friends and what not. I suppose that for next time around I will do a bit of an experiment leaving them both behind and see how that would fair along. But that would be the subject for another blog post at some point in time…

Now that I am back home here I am, once more, sharing along the next round of Apps hoping you may find some of them useful as well. Oh, and watch out for a little gift I will be sharing along for one of them at the end of this post…

Thus, without much further ado, here are My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #3. Oh, and remember, unless I specify it accordingly, all of these apps are universal in iOS, whether for iPhone or iPad, so you can make your pick as you may see fit:

  • CityMaps2Go: Before I was going on holidays last week to Barcelona, I briefly mentioned on Twitter how I was very eager to give a try to a new app Google has put together called Google Trips that is supposedly going to fix all of the potential issues with traveling, wether for work or for pleasure. Well, errr, nope! It didn’t do it for me. I downloaded the details for the trip to Barcelona offline, even though I have got 4G on my iPhone / iPad, just to see what it would be like if I were going abroad, and overall I wasn’t convinced by the choices of places offered whether for sightseeing or eat & dine. Overall I thought it was just a bit too over-engineered with very little room for serendipity to kick in, to explore things and places further along, to let yourself get lost to then find yourself again, in short, to improvise. In a nutshell, far too organised for my tasting. Mind you, I may well give it a go though next time around I travel to another city that I may not know from before and see how it would go, but this time around it just didn’t cut it.So I went back to one of my all time favourite maps & traveling apps, CityMaps2Go. It allows me to combine perfectly, a well organised offline map to get around, but also the improvisation of discovering new places wherever I may well be, plus recommendations from real people on what to check out and what not. My favourite capability from the App though is the compass that comes with it that points me back in the right direction in case I get lost heh Oh, and one other activity I love doing with the app is to accumulate all of the various different offline city maps I have used during the course of the year with all the trips I may do and reflect where I have been that year, before I start the new year with a clean slate. Pretty neat, if you ask me.
  • Human: [iPhone Only] Over the course of the last few years I have made extensive use of a good number of different Exercise & Fitness Apps, such as RunKeeper Pro, Runtastic Pro, Strava, Nike+, RockMyRun, Zova, etc. etc. that I may include in this series in the long run, we shall see, but right now there is only one of them that’s still installed in my iPhone and that is Human. It’s my favourite exercise and fitness app by far, more than anything else, because its main premise is not to put too much strain in your body with the exercise you do, but to remind you, kindly, you need to remain active and a minimum of 30 minutes of activity may well do. I like that!I also like the fact you don’t have to compete with other people, or even with yourself, through the app, so the gamification component is just not there. Yes, I quite like that, indeed! Yes, I know, there is Clubs in the App, but I am not part of any at the moment and there is also Pulse which I never check anyway. And that’s what I really like about the app, because its focus is in the long term activity, not the short bursts of competing with others, till you are bored to death and you move somewhere else. Not my kind of game, I am afraid, which is why I heart Human so much. 30 minutes of daily activity for the rest of your lifetime. That simple. Yes, of course, you can do so much more than that, but, you see?, there is no real competition, just you and your daily healthy activity check. heh
  • Kindle: Yes, I know, I know, the Kindle App is an obvious one, everyone has it, but I just had to include it as this past holiday week in Barcelona was the perfect opportunity for me to catch up with plenty of reads I have meant to be done with by now, but that they have may dropped out for whatever the reason. I can’t remember the last time I had a paper book in my hands, or that I may have bought one. Ever since the Kindle app came out, I have defaulted to ebooks, in whatever the form or format, and I just love it. Why? Well, because everywhere I may well go, whether work related or not, and for those spare minutes where something needs to happen, but it doesn’t, I take out my iPhone and continue reading where I left it. Oh, yes, the screen of the iPhone 6S Plus does make a difference. A huge difference altogether! (So you can imagine how it would work on my iPad Pro, too!). ‘Oh, what kinds of books are you reading at the moment, by the way?’, you may be wondering, right? Hold on, I will talk about that soon enough when I share the App I’m currently using to store notes / reviews of the books I have read or I am reading at the moment… Yes, there is an app for that, and I would say it’d be totally unexpected for most of you when I share it along in this series at a later time 😀
  • WiFox: This is probably my favourite new app that I just installed last week and that I am surely looking forward to taking it for a spin on my next business trip I may well do and see how it would play along, but, I tell you, it could well be a game changer for all of the road / air warriors out there. Imagine this, an app that contains all of the WiFi hotspots at airports, and other public spaces, along with their passwords and all of that available for free! My goodness!, my dear WiFox, where have you been all of this time?!?!?! Which world have I have been living myself in for not having found you sooner?!?! Either way, if you are a frequent world traveler and are in clear need of remaining connected at whichever airport you may well be, this app might be the answer to all of our ever growing pains and headaches to continue working online while on the move! Yay!![Of course, I will report back in this post next time around I get a chance to use it to confirm how accurate and helpful it may well be, thus stay tuned!]
  • Elevate: And, finally, games! Of course! Why not, right? I don’t think I have mentioned it on previous blog entries from this series, but I’m hoping to be able to share as well some of my favourite games that I keep playing over the course of time. There used to be a time where, at one point, I had several dozens of games in my iOS devices, but right now there are only a couple of them that I keep playing  every so often and, perhaps, one of my all time favourite ones is Elevate.Despite the growing skepticism and research about the potential benefits of Brain Training apps, I keep enjoying Elevate quite a bit and mainly for three different reasons: a) I am not a native English speaker myself, so plenty of the different games inside the app help me improve my overall English skills around writing, listening, speaking and reading, which I very much appreciate to help me keep up, as I graduated as an English teacher a few years back; b) It also has got a Study section that allows me to improve my overall skills around public speaking, speed reading, math and vocabulary building, which is just perfect for when I have got that spare minute and I’d want to learn or improve on a specific area; c) And, finally, through Performance, it allows me to keep track of my own progress and identify those areas where I’m doing well, and those other areas where I may need to improve a bit, which is just perfect to help me define what my own learning needs may well be at that point in time and act upon them. Just brilliant!

    Now, at the beginning of this blog post, I mentioned how I had a little gift for you folks out there who may be interested, in this case, to check out Elevate itself, and more specifically, the Pro version, because I have got the lovely opportunity to share across some promo codes with you all to give the pro version a try for a full week. So if you haven’t tried Elevate just yet, or if you are using the free version and would want to check the full one, leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter (@elsua) and I will go ahead and share that promo code across. Happy gaming, happy learning!

And that’s it for today! Hope you folks enjoy this week’s suggestions and favourite iOS Apps from yours truly and if you want to enjoy that little gift to try out Elevate Pro for a full week, reach out to me and I will share it right away!

Enjoy them! 😀👍🏻

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #2

Gran Canaria - La Culata's surroundings

I never thought I would be enjoying this much putting together this series of blog entries around my Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week as I am currently doing at the moment. More than anything else, because of the trip down the memory lane from over 8 years ago till today to see whether my own work habits and productivity hacks, while on the move, have evolved a fair bit, or perhaps not so much. Or whether, maybe, I have completely changed my own user behaviours so drastically that it has morphed into something completely different altogether. Quite an interesting and intriguing journey, if you ask me. As I get to write down today’s post, it makes me think that, perhaps, for the core group of tasks I do on a regular basis I haven’t really changed much my own habits, which seems to confirm, pretty much, how hard it is to just change for the sake of it, but somehow it’s the good fun around the edges that I’m enjoying the most so far, as I get to explore new apps and new ways of getting work done. After all, it’s all about working smarter, not necessarily harder, even in a mobile world, right?

One of the several things that I have found rather enlightening, and eye-opening at the same time, is how, instead of having a single app to perform a specific action, or complete a particular task, I almost always have a handful of apps to handle such kinds of interactions without really having a single favourite one, since I enjoy all of them for what they do and the overall user experience they provide me with. It’s happening to me, for instance, with apps around photography, RSS news feed readers, blogging, podcasting, note taking, drawing / sketching, mindmapping, web browsing, maps / traveling, etc. etc. So I am hoping that, over time, I get a chance to share them all over here as well with an opportunity to indicate what makes me want to keep using multiple of them based on their different nuances, because somehow I feel they all contribute into a richness of productivity hacks I suspect some of you may find useful as well. So, we shall see how that goes as we move further along …

For this week, though, it’s now a good time to share my Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week, indicating whether they are available for iPhone, iPad, or both and explain with a single one-liner or two the main reason as to why I use each of those iOS Apps. Thus without much further ado, here we go:

  • Blogo: On my MacBook Air, I don’t have a single doubt in terms of my favourite offline blogging app and for a good few years already. It’s MarsEdit. On iOS things change substantially, because I don’t have a single favourite one, but multiple of them, so I suppose, over time, I may have a chance to include them all in this series of blog entries and explain why for each of them. For now, I will start with the one I like quite a bit lately and that I have been using extensively to draft my blog posts while on the iPad Pro. It’s Blogo.There is also a desktop app, but again MarsEdit does it for me, so for those folks who may be looking for alternatives or new options, Blogo may well be worth a try. What I like the most about the iOS app is that’s incredibly focused on the act of writing blog posts, no interruptions, no distractions, no fuss, just cut to the chase on ideas you may want to jot down and develop further and keep on writing those drafts further along. The set-up process of WordPress blogs is a gem, too! So easy and user friendly to do that anyone can start their own blog right away! Oh, and the use of images in your blog posts is rather cool as well with tons of options you can toy and play with, if that’s what you are into heh.
  • Feedly: Yes, 2016 and I still read RSS news feeds. Every single day, actually. I spend a significant amount of time just browsing through my RSS feeds while I continue to prune and re-build my own blogroll, which I am hoping to share it along in the next few weeks… And in terms of iOS RSS news feed readers, and like I said already, I have got multiple apps I use on a regular basis and for different purposes, mostly whether it’s an app I can use offline or not, for instance. Right now, one of my favourites is Feedly, more than anything else, because it’s one of the most popular and extended ones and because it allows me to syndicate online as well as offline resources given me something I quite enjoy: choices!One of the little things I appreciate the most from Feedly at the moment as well, ever since I got it working again on my iPad Pro, is how much it feels like just reading a news paper, an online one, to the point where there is only one other app that makes it a superiour user experience than what Feedly provides, but that I’ll talk about that app in an upcoming post. Still, at the moment, for online RSS news feed reading, Feedly does it for me.
  • Pocket: You could say that Pocket is also a fancy RSS news feed reader and I would probably have to agree with you on that one. Not like Feedly or other traditional RSS news feed readers, but it certainly does the job of helping you curate content you bump into that you find relevant and equally interesting but that perhaps you may want to read at a later time, specially, when offline and disconnected from the Internet. This is where Pocket excels in terms of providing one of the most enlightening user experiences for browsing the Web while offline, if I can say that. But there are a couple of other things I enjoy a fair bit from Pocket that have made it an indispensable productivity and learning tool for yours truly.As a starting point, it allows people to share across their recommended reads, so, in a way, you can connect with other people who may share similar interests to yours and read each other’s recommendations. Pretty nifty if you would want to nurture your networks based on content you all may be mutually interested in. And the other rather nifty feature is how pervasive it is. I use it on my Web browsers on my Mac or the desktop app to save items to read later. I use it on my iOS devices, but what I like the most about it is that it’s fully integrated with other apps, like Tweetbot, allowing me to go through my Twitter feeds and save for later links shared by my networks that I may find of interest. Then at the end of the day, usually, I will go through them, read along, save, recommend, share across, etc. etc. The combination of Tweetbot and Pocket to curate interesting links is a killer. Loving it.
  • Haiku Deck: On my MacBook Air, Keynote is the main productivity tool I use to put together presentations I then use for public speaking events or for client work. I often use Keynote for complex presentations where I need to follow certain flows, do hands-on demos (with screen shots) or more complex visuals, etc. but when it’s a presentation that needs to become very visually appealing to go further along with a powerful story then I resort to one of my favourite iOS Apps out there: Haiku Deck.You put together the words, the story, and Haiku Deck gathers and presents you with plenty of absolutely stunning visuals you can then toy with to make it one of those presentations to remember. What I like the most about the app? Well, it allows you to craft beautiful presentations without too much wording or far too complex visuals / graphics in them, so death by PowerPoint can be happily avoided and save you tons of unwanted headaches. It just works: a powerful story + a handful of powerful images and off you go to rock the main stage! Perhaps the way presentations should have been framed all along…
  • Telegram: Yes, there are tons of Messaging & Chatting apps out there. Probably, far too many to count them all with both hands and still fall short! Yes, we all know that WhatsApp perhaps dominates that market at the moment. Yes, we know that plenty of the big players (Google, Facebook itself, Microsoft, etc. etc.) keep trying to debunk it and, eventually, they keep failing. Well, there is one Messaging App out there that has certainly done the magic for me, helping me move away from WhatsApp itself and still use, rather heavily, messaging for both work and personal use. It is Telegram.To me, it’s one of the most powerful chatting and messaging apps out there at the moment, allowing me to be on top of the conversations I have in it without getting too overwhelmed by the different notifications from each of the group / individual chats, but if there would be a feature that I’d enjoy the most it would be how pervasive it is. There is a Mac desktop app, so you can continue with your messaging along while at your desk; there is an app for iPhone and for iPad, fully in sync with each other, so depending on what you may be doing you can pick and choose whatever may suit you best, something that, for instance, WhatsApp doesn’t seem to handle too well, never mind the fact there isn’t one for iPad. Oh, and Telegram handles with grace the ability of mixing work and personal use, so you get to experience a bit more of a biz app than, say, WhatsApp. I tell you, if you are looking for a pretty decent messaging app that does a beautiful job at it, Telegram it is!

And that is it! That’s this week’s Top 5 iOS Apps for me that you can take for a spin yourself either on your iPhone or iPad and let me know what you think about them in the comments section below. Oh, and if you’d have some additional suggestions or recommendations of apps I should give a try and share my twopence on them, please do let me know as well. I’m always open to try new apps and see how they would fair further along with my day to day work routines.

Hope you folks enjoyed this week’s selection as next week there will be some more!

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How Social Networking Tools Enable Heutagogy in Learning Organisations

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Imagine one day you read this quote: ‘The way we teach in our schools isn’t the way I think you create successful (and happy) adults, it’s the way you create the society we’ve had until now.’ Now imagine you swap the wordings ’teaching’ for ‘learning’ and ‘our schools’ for ‘our workplaces’. Read it out loud again, please. Slowly. Imagine if you then read this other quote at some point in time later on: ‘I don’t want to grow up and 30 years later find out that I’m an office worker unhappy in life and that hasn’t done anything to improve this world. Because that’s my main goal now: leave a positive mark here’ and ask yourself how many of your work colleagues you could name up out loud that would fit that description. Yes, I know!, I had the exact same problem. Not many! That’s why Workplace Learning is broken and why heutagogy may need to come to the rescue to save us all…

Heuta… what?, you say’ …Hang on for a minute, before I go into that topic a bit deeper, allow me to give you all some context as to why I have started this blog entry with those two quotes. Those absolutely mind-blowing and rather provocative sentences, as depressing and as exciting as they may sound, don’t come from a knowledge worker working in a particular corporation protesting about the poor state of workplace learning or learning in general. They, actually, come from a letter written to Roger Schank by a 15 year old girl in Central America protesting herself about the poor state of the education system in her own country and the very few choices she has got to change the situation herself on her own. Roger himself recently published it in his own blog for all of us to be wowed, and not in a positive sense, by the way, more than anything else, because, upon reading through it, one has got to shamefully admit that current state of education / learning is incredibly pervasive and available in most countries throughout the world, and, of course, in vast majority of organisations. Ouch! 

After publishing the letter in his own blog, which I strongly recommend you go ahead and read through it in its entirety, Roger comes forward to share a couple of uncomfortable reflections that, upon reading through them, reminded me as to why I heart, so much!, heutagogy, not only within the overall education system, but also with workplace learning inside organisations, in general. To quote: ‘We just let kids be miserable, or, we use school for its true intention: indoctrination’. Again, replace ‘kids’ for ‘knowledge workers’ and ‘school’ for ‘workplace’ and, once again, we would have the reaffirmation as to why workplace learning is currently broken within the business world.

But perhaps the most mind-boggling, and rather troubling!, quote from the entire post he shared is this other one: 

Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilisation, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.

That quote, you may be wondering, is from Edward Cubberly, Dean of the Stanford University School of Education, from around 1900. Yes, you are reading it right, it’s not a typo, 1900!! 116 years ago!! Whoahhh! 

My goodness! No wonder the current education system is totally broken. It’s been broken from well over a century, already! Yikes! And I’d dare extend that sentiment as well towards Workplace Learning, despite notable efforts of wanting to wake up into a new reality and see if we can still save it all. Even Roger himself already hints in that blog entry part of what the potential solution(s) may well be. To quote him: ‘Let kids learn what they want to learn in curricula design by professionals’.

This is where heutagogy kicks in beautifully, because that’s exactly what it is all about: 

Heutagogy is the study of self-determined learning … It is also an attempt to challenge some ideas about teaching and learning that still prevail in teacher centred learning and the need for, as Bill Ford (1997) eloquently puts it ‘knowledge sharing’ rather than ‘knowledge hoarding’. In this respect heutagogy looks to the future in which knowing how to learn will be a fundamental skill given the pace of innovation and the changing structure of communities and workplaces.’ [Emphasis mine]

First time I ever got exposed to Heutagogy, as a concept, was back in March 2013, when I was invited to speak at the Welcome Heutagogy conference event in Prague, where Dr. Stewart Hase (Founder of Heutagogy himself), along with the delightful Lisa Marie Blaschke, were the keynote speakers (Links to the presentations AND recordings can be found here and here, respectively). Little did I know, back then, I have been practising it actively myself for 13 years already, and still going strong today, more than anything else because, if anything, heutagogy is all about making learning a change experience, indeed. But it’s also about placing ‘the learner at the centre of the learning process not at the end of a linear process starting with the curriculum, through the teacher, to the resources and finally ending with the learner’, as Stewart himself wrote about in this wonderfully inspiring blog post a little while ago.  

Fast forward to 2016 and this specific tweet may be particularly helpful in describing some more in depth what it is: 

That is, certainly, one of the many reasons why I heart social networks and social networking tools from all along, because thanks to them, we have been given the incredible and unique opportunity of being in charge of our very own learning, a la self-determined learning, whether at work, or elsewhere, based on a specific set of needs and wants, to the point where it’s always each and everyone of us, and not the system, deciding upon what we would want to learn more about, how we would want to learn and with whom (i.e. our networks) we would want to learn with / from. In other words, thanks to all of these social networking tools, specially, in a work context, and thanks as well to applying those heutagogy principles referenced above, we may be, at long last, working really hard towards making that successful transition from being a knowledge (Web) worker into a learning (Web) worker: 

So you can imagine how happy I was when earlier on this year, while serendipity was doing its magic and I was searching for something else, I bumped into the recording of the presentation I did back in 2013 about how I was applying heutagogy myself into my day to day work routines using social networking tools (IBM Connections back then and nowadays it would have morphed a fair bit into a combination of IBM Connections, Twitter and Slack) in the context of #NoeMail to get work done more effectively WHILE I was learning away.

The mind-blowing thing is, upon watching myself deliver that very interactive presentation, I realised that pretty much what I said back then it still applies to how I learn AND work nowadays, even though I’m no longer a salaried employee and don’t work in major corporation, confirming, therefore, if anything, that a combination of both heutagogy and social networking tools have managed to convert me into a lifelong learner with a completely different mindset of work, one where you realise your knowledge, and what you learn further along with it, is no longer just yours, but from the communities and networks you spend the vast majority of your time with, which is just too funny and perhaps a tad ironic because that’s, essentially, the main reason why, even today, I am still even so keen on sharing openly my own knowledge. Indeed, to learn even more! 

PS. By the way, in case you folks may be interested in going through the recording of the presentation I did back at the Welcome Heutagogy event in Prague, I have taken the liberty of embedding the video clip over here in this blog entry, so you can watch it right away, as you may see fit. It’s about 35 minutes long, plus Q&A, and in it I describe, through my first hand user experience, what A Day in the Life of Luis Suarez using IBM Connections was like to learn AND get work done more effectively through my own social networks and online communities, still today two of the most powerful enablers for the adaptation of emerging social technologies in the workplace without having to rely too much on email per se, which, if you ask me, it’s a good thing altogether, don’t you think?

Welcome Heutagogy – Luis Suarez from HR Kavárna by LMC on Vimeo.

Hope you enjoy the presentation, just as much as I did back then, and I still do today, as a self-empowered lifelong learner through applying heutagogy’s principles and making extensive use of social networking tools 😀👍🏻

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