E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Knowledge Tools

Impact of Data Analytics in Today’s Digital Workplace

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas DunesOver the course of the last few weeks it’s become a bit of a challenge finding the time to focus and write my next blog post over here. Just like that, March is now gone and April is nearly half way through already. ‘We truly live in extraordinary times’ was a sentence I wrote ages ago and it still feels like we are right at the very beginning of a brave ‘new-normal‘, whatever that may well be. At this point in time there is only one certainty: there will be a Before and an After COVID-19. Where do you get the energy and the optimism?

That has been the question I get asked time and time again in the midst of one of the biggest challenges and threats we have faced as a species in this planet, at least, in the last 100 years. And, frankly, I typically answer that question with just a couple of words: the helpers.

Indeed, over the course of the last month it’s been rather hectic helping and supporting, as much as we possibly could, plenty of other knowledge (Web) workers, who, all of a sudden, and overnight, have been asked to work from home as the confinement to contain the pandemic has unleashed throughout the world in full force.

Quite a daunting task, if you ask me, that one of adjusting and adapting new behaviours and work habits, through social, digital tools, when, at the moment, there are plenty of other thoughts in most people’s heads. Mainly, having to juggle with everything but work!

We need to slow down. We ought to do that to ourselves. We are on this one, together, for the long run, not just an interim patch to get us by while the lock-downs continue during the next few weeks, or perhaps, months! It’s a marathon we are all running now. One a whole bunch of us got started with over 15 to 20 years ago when we decided to go #DigitalFirst, so we are helping everyone catch up as best as we can. It’s been one marathon we all knew when we’d start, but we truly didn’t know (still don’t!) when it would be finished. This is it. This is the journeyOur collective journey. 

We are all waking up to the crude reality that for the first time ever, we are all thinking of work as a digital-first, versus just another nice-to-have IT project to buzz around with. We are all, finally, waking up, indeed, to the global reality that work is no longer a physical space, but a mental state. Work happens wherever, or whenever, you are! It’s a mental state, no longer a place we commute to on a daily basis. Times have changed. For the better. Forever. For all of us. No exceptions.

That’s why over the course of the last month and a half I have been relatively quiet over here and in different media tools, as I have spent lots of time with a whole bunch of friends and partners in crime in different Web meetings (whether 1:1s or with multiple participants) helping other folks understand and adjust to what has been our working lives for the last few years for a few of us: distributed work. #DigitalFirst.

This time around though, the conditions and constraints are much different than in the recent past. This time around, while shifting gears and adjusting mindsets towards the digital world, we are all busy learning, and pretty fast!, how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. But I will get to talk about that more in detail with an upcoming blog post I’m currently working on as well …

I guess you are all wondering by now though what is the main topic of this blog post then, right? Well, after 38 days (and counting!) of confinement, I need a distraction, an opportunity to resume my own blogging mojo, after failing to publish an article over here in the last few weeks. There is something that’s been in my mind for a good few months now. Perhaps the time has come for it to, at long last, see the light …

I know I just need to find a way to re-focus back on my own writing over here in order to keep my own sanity intact with all of what’s going on at the moment. So, how about if I share with you all how I got involved into the space of data analytics for online collaborative environments in the first place? I know a few of you folks have asked me about it in the recent past multiple times, so I guess it’s probably a good time now. After all, we aren’t going anywhere else at the moment, right?

As most of you know already, specially, if you have been following this blog for a good while now, I have been involved in the space of Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Change Management, Learning and Online Communities for over 23 years, having gotten started with Social Networking for Business in early 2000. Over time, I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of organisations helping them get a better understanding of the impact digital technologies would have within the workplace. All along, it’s always been a real treat helping them work smarter, not necessarily harder, through open knowledge sharing with networks and communities as the new operating model. Communityship.

The thing is that throughout all of these years lot of the consulting and advisory work I have done was already pretty much based on my own first-hand experiences, my own trial and error, my own ability to learn from what other peers in different organisations have been working on over the years. Essentially, through my own lessons learned of trying and experimenting what would work and what wouldn’t.

Then a bit over three years ago, and after being in the IT industry for 20 years, I decided it was about time for me to move into the next work adventure, but away from everything I had been doing till then in the IT space. I just felt I needed something else in my life. I just felt it was time for me to go back to basics, to my roots: back to teaching (English).

Alas, life had other plans for me, apparently. Through some mysterious ways, I still can’t quite comprehend of how it all happened, I, eventually, joined panagenda. A global software firm that builds solutions around data analytics for collaborative environments, whether for traditional tools like email, to cloud-based productivity apps like Microsoft Teams, to Enterprise Social Networking platforms like HCL Connections. And I have never walked back ever since.

The transition from big large corporate world (My 17 years at IBM) to going solo (for another three years) to then joining panagenda is something that I’d leave for another blog post coming up shortly, because, somewhere in that transition I think I may have just been experiencing the magic without not knowing it. But more on that later.

Anyway, back to data analytics. As I got more and move heavily involved with our various analytics solutions for different collaborative environments, I realised what I had been missing over the course of the last two decades: data. Like I said, in the past all of my consulting and advisory work was coming through based on what I knew would work from over the years. Essentially, that hands-on experience of learning by doing, understanding that some things would work and some others wouldn’t, when doing lots of work around digital adaptation.

Now, with a number of data analytics tools at my disposal, the excitement grew up inside me, slowly, but steadily, to levels I could have never anticipated before throughout my working life. More than anything else, because, for the first time ever, I realised I could corroborate, through different data entry points and visualisations, what I had been doing all of those 23 years and know I was on the right path. But now, showing it with data, with facts, not just with my own thoughts, opinions and know-how.

No more hunches; no more gut feelings; no more ‘Let’s try this now and see if it works this time around‘;, no more ‘Look at what these other folks are doing successfully, let’s give a shot and see how things would work out‘. No, no more any of that. Now I have data that can help me prove all of that hard working experience accumulated throughout the years. Now, I have facts.

Essentially, as years have gone by, I understood how my own value proposition to customers I’m currently working with is no longer just based on my extensive working exprience from the last two plus decades, but also the combination of how I make sense of powerful stories through the different data entry points I may get exposed to. All in all, to help build a particular case that has always been my mantra: transform, at long last, the way we work challenging the current status quo by asking the tougher questions. The questions that no-one seems to be very keen on asking, never mind answering.

Eventually, it’s all about changing the nature of how people connect, relate to one another, share, collaborate and learn through the extensive use of social, digital tools, with both social networks and online communities as the new operating models. In the end, helping a particular working culture shift accordingly leaving behind over 150 years of a poignant legacy and enter the XXI century. Hello, COVID-19, how are you doing? 

I am pretty certain though, by now, you all may be wondering about what I am seeing through data analytics for collaborative tools, or what trends have I seen taking place over the course of the last couple of years, right? Well, I can see how sharing those thoughts across with you all over here may well turn itself into a series of blog posts over the course of time. That’s definitely an idea I have been toying with already for a good while, but perhaps, and in anticipation of those upcoming posts, I could share some glimpses ahead of time, don’t you think? Let’s have a look then …

There is currently a deviation from the good old Social Business & Enterprise Social Networking realms from 2006 (That typically thrive around default to open), into cloud-based productivity tools (that live on default to close). So I have been seeing how for the last 4 or 5 years we are moving away slowly from open knowledge sharing environments into prettier silos, either through file sharing, private chats or small, fast paced, intimate team project related (closed) spaces. Still silos and, all in all, with a minimum set of interactions happening: email, file sharing and instant messaging. Oh, and virtual meetings galore, too!

Yet, there is hope, folks, don’t worry. Ever since COVID-19 kicked in as a pandemic impacting the global business world as we know it, I have seen a comeback (Although it never went away in the first place!) of ESNs. Mainly, because of a couple of rather important and relevant reasons: pace and scale. I’m pretty excited and thrilled beyond belief at the moment in this regard, which is why, in another upcoming blog post, I will expand further on that resurgence of ESNs and the impact they are having, already today, within the overall digital workplace.

It’s why, while going through different data entry points, I keep reminding people that such kinds of interactions where we were deviating into default to close are not enough within an organisation. There needs to be a social layer on top, that defaults to open, to help support enterprise wide communities of practice that can scale and slow down the interactions and conversations to work on the critical knowledge to the organisation beyond just project work. Have you done your homework yet?

The current obsession with Microsoft Teams, for instance, is the same obsession we had with Slack about 4 or 5 years ago (Remember how it was going to kill *cough* email *cough* once and for all?), but that’s now gone for Slack. People are starting to feel that fatigue based on the overwhelming frenzy to keep up with everyone’s busyness. So, through the data, I am seeing the need for that reemergence of ESNs to help us slow down, focus on more meaningful, purposeful conversations and not just for a team or two, but for the entire organisation. But, like I said, I’ll be expanding plenty more on this in an upcoming blog post.

Eventually, what I have realised over the course of the last three years is that, through those different data entry points, I can find emerging patterns of interactions; discovering experts from within closed systems; building hybrid models of adapting to old and new tools, behaviours, habits, business pratices; identifying potential data leaks, or unnecessary costs incurred; or, my favourite one, the final frontier: how are you collaborating with your customers and business partners, perhaps even your competitors, beyond just email and the odd phone call or Web meeting?

I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty much what excites me the most at the moment from the current collaboration and knowledge sharing landscape through social, digital tools. Essentially, understand how data analytics can help me identify, evaluate and assess how healthy, mature and sustainable different digital workplace initiatives are across the board. Just in the recent past, for instance, I gave a couple of presentations on this very same topic.

My good friend, and long time KM blogger, Stan Garfield invited me, back in February, to participate in the SIKM Month Gathering to talk exactly about this very same subject: i.e. The Impact of Data Analytics in Digital Transformation Programmes. If you would be interested, you could grab a copy of the presentation over here and then perhaps listen to the recording below (embedded) while flipping through the slides:

Or, you could also take a look into this other presentation I did in early March at IntraTeam 2020 where I expanded some more on different data visualisations that can help you challenge that status quo of how work happens that I referenced above by asking the tough questions no-one seems to want to ask anymore around the health and maturity, or the overall long-term sustainability, of the Digital Workplace:

If you have been reading this far, I would like to thank you all for your patience and for your perseverance. I know you may well say I am a fool, or maybe a dreamer. I mean, who does believe in data, or facts, nowadays anyway, right? The world has moved on from effective fact-based decision making and more into gut-feeling or, usually, negative emotions (i.e. rage, fear, uncertainty, you name it), as the main triggers of how we make today’s critical decisions.

You are probably right. But then again, if I were to justify my own working experience (and life for that matter!) from over the course of the last 23 years (and still going strong!) around Collaboration and the Digital Workplace, I’m quite happy to say I now count on data analytics to help me prove my own worth and added value to the customers I’ve worked with throughout the years. Having a better understanding of their needs and wants based on the data they themselves produce on a daily basis while they collaborate is probably as good as it gets. Observable work through data analytics, anyone?

Funny enough I know now how I was right in plenty of what I have been working on all along, but also on what I was wrong. And throughout all of that learning journey, it’s now those very same facts and data analysis that guide me through building incredibly powerful stories everyone can relate to, and embrace, while embarking themselves on their own Digital Transformation journey. On their terms. No longer just mine.

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Hybrid Worlds

Gran Canaria - El MonjeOver the course of the last six years, since I went independent, I have had the opportunity (and still do!) of unlearning a few things in the space of knowledge sharing and collaboration tools. One of the most significant and impactful ones has been acknowledging the fact what once used to be the main good old mantra from different Enterprise Social Networking platforms, it’s now pretty much obsolete having lost its touch with today’s more complex than ever business reality. It’s, finally, a good time to say good-bye to one-size-fits-all.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I have been involved with social tools for nearly 20 years, when I first got started with blogs and wikis while working at IBM. Back then, I had the unique opportunity of playing and experimenting with a new emergent set of collaborative and knowledge sharing tools that I knew were not only going to transform how I would get work done, but also how I would live my life from there onwards.

I still think today, if it weren’t for these social tools, my entire professional career would have been completely different altogether. To the point where I wouldn’t be able to tell you all what I would have done instead. I just know it would have been something that didn’t have anything to do whatsoever with technology. That’s for sure. That’s what I call having a massive impact on one’s life, don’t you think?

It should come to no surprise to anyone out there who knows me, or who has been following this blog for a good while now, how as I was getting more and more involved with blogs, wikis, social bookmarks, micro-blogging, RSS newsfeeds, podcasts, forums, profile aggregators, online community spaces, etc. I was pretty exited when IBM Connections became a product in 2007.

Deep inside I thought I would finally have a chance to bring all of that excitement of the huge potential of these social tools to the customers I was working with (Specially, in the KM and Collaboration space) and help them understand how those tools could transform entirely the way they worked AND lived, like they did for me. Oooh, the good old exciting times of early Enterprise Social Networking platforms! It still sends shivers down my spine, I tell you! And you?

During the early 2000s that mantra of one-size-fits-all was pretty much rather dominant across the business world. It was all you needed. Just one ESN within your firewall and the magic would happen just like that! If only, right? At the time, for me, that ESN was IBM Connections. You didn’t need anything else! And I loved it, till around early 2014, when I left IBM and I had a lovely wake-up call with reality.

That was a pretty mind-blowing opportunity for me to open up and discover that one-size-fits-all, if anything, was just a myth. Over the following few months, when I was starting up my own business as an independent adviser around Social Business and Digital Transformation, I realised I was ending up talking to lots of customers who were living a different reality than mine. They were using a plethora of collaborative and knowledge sharing tools to get their work done.

It was no longer about just having a single ESN to do what needed to be done. Quite the contrary, becoming vendor agnostic helps you understand that the Collaboration landscape is completely different today than what it was 10 or 15 years ago. Back then, customers, indeed, would be working with one single ESN. Today, it’s a little bit more complex than that. The wake-up call is that a single ESN would no longer do the job. And that’s a good thing!

Work has gotten a whole lot more complex than ever before. The times where we were working with a single customer, on a single project, with one team, one manager, one set of common goals to execute on is a thing of the past. Nowadays, we have a tendency to work with multiple customers, different projects, blurred reporting lines, somewhat undefined goals and, above all, a completely different set of collaborative tools. We, knowledge (Web) workers, have finally diversified!

Or not. Over the course of the last 6 years I have pretty much become vendor agnostic. I have learned, mostly through the hard way (the most effective one, for sure!), to listen and understand customers’ needs and wants. It’s no longer about me, i.e. the vendor, but more about the customer and what they would want to achieve over time. It’s a truly fascinating journey, through lots of trial and error, that I have unlearned to be vendor-centric and become, instead, more customer-centric, which is where the magic usually happens.

That means that, when listening and paying attention to customers, you understand that different groups of people work in different ways and have completely different expectations from one another. Therefore, they use various social and collaborative tools to get their work done more effectively and accommodate accordingly. And it is just fine. It’s what my good friend Thomas van der Wal frames as Social Lenses.

It’s pretty much the very same reason as to why 19 years later, since Fringe was first born, that I’m still in love with HCL Connections. Not because of what it can do to help organisations transform how they think and can work different, which it still does!, but mostly because through those very same customer conversations I have learned to understand that it doesn’t fit all needs from everyone, but can complement them quite nicely, eventually, making the killer-app combination. And, after perhaps far too many years to count, it’s, at long last, learning to adapt to the new changing conditions through one of my favourite keywords du jour: integration!

That has been one of my key learnings in the last 18 months to two years, as I have been getting more and more heavily involved into the Office 365 ecosystem working with customers who are thriving in hybrid worlds. Customers that no longer buy into that obsolete vendor-centric model, but that truly believe collaboration is a lot more complex, nuanced, and diverse than whatever they have been involved with in the past.

Office 365 is a rather powerful set of cloud-based productivity tools. We all know that. MS Teams alone sparks mind-blowing opportunities to enhance and augment how smaller groups of people work in more dynamic, intimate, fast-paced, project driven environments. But does it cater for all needs? Should it? Is it worth it putting all your eggs in one basket?

I suspect your answer is probably going to be a resounding ‘No!’ So why do people keep questioning your decision as a customer to diversify, accordingly, to meet more of your needs and wants? Why does Office 365 still operate under one-size-fits-all and get away with it? Haven’t we learned anything from the recent past few years? At a time where we all are (customers, business partners, vendors AND competitors) more hyperconnected than ever, we seem to pretty much confirm we haven’t learned much. Sadly.

I’m pretty sure you may be wondering why I’m saying all of this and why I’m putting together this blog post in the first place, right? Well, there is a simple reason, really: I listen actively to customers.

Over the last few months I have talked to numerous customers who keep getting questioned, sternly, to the point of being put on the spot and embarrassed, every time they talk to either Microsoft employees, business partners or its underlying ecosystem, about why they aren’t using Office 365 to talk, connect, or collaborate with them. If you have been using Zoom, WebEx, Slack, Jive, HCL Connections, Chatter, MangoApps, Confluence, or any other collaborative tool for that matter with them their first question coming back is typically this one: ‘Why aren’t we using MS Teams for this?

What a missed opportunity, frankly. If you still believe one-size-fits-all works, if you still think Office 365 doesn’t have any proven alternatives in today’s digital workplace out there, if you still think these cloud-based productivity tools haven’t got a paragon out there, I’m pretty sorry to write this, but you are locking yourself out and missing out big time!

Not necessarily because of these digital tools per se. Frankly, Office 365 is phenomenal about a really good number of different work related activities and work streams. We all know that. What I think is the missed opportunity is in your inability to showcase empathy towards your (potential) customers, or business partners.

Ask them. Listen. Ask again. Listen again (this time around with intent!). Try to learn from / with them about why they have made the choices they have in the recent past for them to use one or another collaborative tool than what you are used to yourself. Leave your bubble, please. Don’t judge them. Open up. You’d be surprised about how the vast majority of times you would have a much better opportunity of generating business together if you show empathy to your customers and business partners and listen to them carefully, versus questioning why they don’t use X,

Exhibiting and embracing empathy as your modus operandi would help you walk miles without even saying a single word. But go ahead, ignore me. What do I know, right? Yes, you are right. I pretty much know nothing. But, please, if I may, allow me to point you to this short video clip where Satya Nadella himself explains quite nicely the effect being more empathetic has not only with your colleagues, but also with your customers, business partners, and why not, your competitors, not just to collaborate, but also to innovate together.

Watch the video, please, and next time you interact with someone outside of your own vendor bubble, whoever you may well be as a vendor, don’t question your potential customers and business partners about why they are using X, X or Z tool. Just ask them, instead,  ‘how can I help you today?’

Doing that you will have already walked half the way where you wanted to in the first place. Believe me, hybrid worlds is where the magic happens. It’s where you start to open up to the world around you. It’s where you start focusing on your customers’ (and practitiners’) needs and wants versus just your own as a vendor.

Then, just watch how the magic unfolds and be ready …

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #13

Gran Canaria - Caldera de Tirajana

 

A bit over a week ago, Ben Evans posted a tweet where he was pointing to a recent presentation he put together as well under the rather thought-provoking title ‘Mobile is eating the world’. In that presentation he gets to talk (there are both slides and a video recording) about the impact of mobile in today’s (business) world, to the point where after you go through it there may well be very little doubt left as to how mobile phones, specially, smartphones, amongst several other technologies, have shaped the world into something completely different than whatever we may have had in the past. The fact that half the world’s population owns a smartphone nowadays is already rather remarkable on its own and equally mind-blowing as I am pretty sure we would all agree it’s just the beginning…

Now, I am not going to spoil it for you the rest of the presentation Ben created, but I can strongly recommend you take a look into it, if you are still questioning whether your business is ready for #mobilefirst or not. If that deck doesn’t convince otherwise, I don’t know what would, frankly. It’s a brilliant piece of work that can give us a glimpse of not only what’s coming, but also what’s already here and that we are experiencing day in day out. Really good work! 

But since I am embarked already with this post into the existing series of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entries for personal mobile productivity, I guess I will just stick to it and share along the next round of iOS Apps I would recommend that may well be worth while giving them a good try. Hopefully, there will be something out there for everyone! In terms of themes, in case you may be wondering, this week we have got Business (Task Management), Productivity (RSS News Feed Readers, Mindmapping, Curation) and, finally, as usual, Photography.

Thus without much further ado, let’s get down to it: 
 

  • Todoist: I think I have mentioned this already, but, just in case, here it is, once again. I’m hooked up to Task Management Apps, along with a couple of other categories as well, for that matter. I just love them all. Over the course of a good number of years I have used several of them and there hasn’t been a single one I may have dropped out to never use it again. They are all still there, in a lovely folder, where I have grouped them all together, ready to be used at my own discretion. Now, at one point in time, I will share with you all a trick that helps me make use of them all at the same time without having that feeling of clutter, burden, hassle, nor even overload. But in its due time… 

    For now though, I will want to share in today’s blog post another one of my favourite iOS apps for task management. In the past, if you remember, I have already talked about Trello, Clear, Productive, Asana, but in case none of them would tick for you here is another one I have enjoyed quite a bit over time: Todoist. And here are two things I enjoy the most from this app: the ability to use labels when creating different tasks I can filter through a specific tab at a later time and see what kind of work I have been doing all along in a nutshell is pretty nifty on its own, never mind as well the capability of filtering those very same tasks by both priority as well as who they have been assigned to. Then the option to have chatting along tasks can be pretty effective overall, specially, if you create group tasks for your team(s), as well as the one of being able to use your own voice to record tasks, work with documents, custom labels, etc. etc. Like I said, worth a try if you are still looking for an effective, user friendly and overall helpful task management app. 

  • Fiery Feeds: Ok, on to the next one. In previous blog posts I have been talking about RSS news feed readers (Yes, I know, I still read RSS feeds daily!) and how, at the moment, I’m using two of them for both my iOS devices as well as my MacBook Air: Feedly and Reeder. However, while both of them are rather good, they are not very advanced in providing you with some extended capabilities that would make it easier for you to work through hundreds of feeds at a time. So, my suggestion, in this particular case, is to perhaps point you to one iOS app that would allow you to handle hundreds of them relatively easy without having to ditch anything else, because it actually integrates it quite nicely. I am talking about Fiery Feeds. Just browse through the Web site and you will see why I’m recommending it as a superb app for RSS news feed reading for power users. Perhaps as good as it gets. 
  • iThoughts: I love mindmapping. It’s perhaps one of my favourite business productivity activities and for almost everything. There isn’t a single day in my work week where I don’t use mindmaps to jot down ideas on whatever the business topic and see where that would take me. Or to gather my thoughts on a specific topic to make sense of it before I may take whatever further steps. In the past, I have already talked about MindNode as the mindmapping app I use the most often, but there is another one, perhaps a bit more complex and advanced in terms of functions and capabilities, I tend to use for more complex work and that is iThoughts

    You may be wondering what makes it special, right? Well, you can import and export pretty easily different document formats and mindmaps, so you can continue already existing work without having to start from scratch. You can multitask with it having side by side windows, or you can use the hand off option where you start a mindmap in one device and finish it off in another one almost instantly. But you can also use this app for task management to keep track of the progress you make within your mindmaps. You can also multiple different formats, layouts, icons, styles, filters, etc. etc. making iThoughts perhaps one of the most advances mindmapping apps for iOS. Totally worth the money, believe me. I can highly recommend it, specially, if you are a mindmapping power user. 

  • Nuzzel: There used to be a time where I was rather fond of Nuzzel to curate interesting and relevant content I would bump into from different Twitter sources, but at one point in time something happened in one of the updates where, to me, they pretty much destroyed the overall user experience making it much more cumbersome and unnecessarily complex to keep up with what you were interested in. Fast forward to 2016 and it’s fast developing into becoming one of my favourite apps to discover new interesting articles and publications not only matching my own interests but also what others may find relevant to them. And the capability of creating your own newsletters through it makes it rather engaging, because, in a way, it feels as if you are building and curating your own magazine of interests, themes and topics. Really cool!

    And if you use Nuzzel on an iPad Pro with all of that screen resolution available to you, my goodness! All of a sudden there it is your Sunday morning news paper over a lovely cup of coffee right at your fingerprints! Simply brilliant! I tell you, if you haven’t used Nuzzel in a little while, it may well be worth while taking a look into it, once again. I suspect it will be worth it for you as well as it has been for me so far. I’m really glad I didn’t remove it back in the day, because when I started this series of blog posts I decided one day to open it up and haven’t walked away from it ever since! Worth checking it out once again, in case you haven’t!

  • Picky: And, finally, the last iOS app recommendation of the week is, yet again, a photography app. Like I mentioned, I have got a couple dozen photography apps on both my iPhone and iPad Pro and I just can’t help it recommending one after the other week in week out, because they all have got something to offer. Take a look into this week’s pick. It’s called Picky.

    It comes with a twist! This one: ‘Picky makes your best photos always ready. It is a trained eye, a virtual artist that lives in your phone. With Picky, you get an intelligent, AI-powered photo curator that scans your photos, selects the best ones, and automatically enhances every detail, from color and light adjustment, to skin correction and toning. It prepares them for sharing as individual pictures, or combines them into a dynamic collage.

    Yes, I know, … Whoahhh! Well, it gets even better. It pretty much nails it altogether! I have been having tons of great fun with this app over the course of last few weeks as it’s helped me time and time again to make the best picks and editing effects on plenty of the pictures I have shared across in different media tools and I’m quite enjoying the overall outcome. Effort required from yours truly? Not much, just open up the app, select what kind of production you would want to embark on and then let Picky do the rest. What an amazing app altogether! This is a must-have app. Without a single doubt, I’m certain it will blow your mind right from the very first moment you get to use it. It’s that good! Take it for a spin and see what you think… Ohhh and in case you are worried about your privacy, here is where Picky excels. To quote: ‘Picky values your privacy. It is an offline app and we never upload your photos to a server without your permission.

    Just wish other iOS apps would treasure and appreciate my privacy with my photos as this one does! Simply stunning! 

And that’s it, folks, for this week’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Next week I will be back with another round of recommended iOS apps although I may post it earlier in the week as opposed to over the weekend. We shall see … For now, I hope you folks may have enjoyed this week’s suggestions as much as I have so far and, again, if there would be an iOS app out there you would want to recommend I should try out, as usual, leave a comment below or reach out to me via Twitter at @elsua. I will be more than happy to take those suggestions for a spin and then let you folks know how it went and whether they would still stick around with me. 

Till next time! Have a great one everybody!

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #12

 Gran Canaria - Puerto de Mogán

It is that time of the year again where we are starting to see the Top N lists of iOS Apps for this year, 2016, and it has been rather interesting to see from the 60 apps (including today’s) that I have shared so far from the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series which ones have been as well some of the favourites from everyone else. Not too many, apparently, and not much of a surprise either, as you can imagine, but that’s just fine, I suppose, more than anything else, because plenty of the ones I have been recommending are apps that have been there available already for a good couple of years, if not longer. However, some of the new ones I have been sharing over here that came out in 2016 have also been picked up by others, so, I guess, that confirms how good they really are, after all, if everyone else in the masses considers they are worth while downloading and playing with as well. Nice!

Either way, it’s that time of the week where I’m due to share over here the next round of recommended iOS apps and this week’s themes are as follows: Productivity (Task Management, Calendaring & Scheduling, Screen Captures), Photography and Traveling. Thus, without much further ado, here’s a short description for each of them as to why I have picked them up for week #12: 

 

  • Asana: In the past, you would remember, I have already mentioned a couple of different iOS apps for Task Management, like Trello and Clear that I enjoy quite a bit. Like I said previously, I’m totally hooked up about such type of apps, so, of course, over the course of time I have tried out a few of them and I suppose I will be including them in different posts over the next few weeks. One other of those apps I have been using for quite a while and that I still enjoy using every now and then is Asana.

    As far as handling your tasks in a very effective manner, it’s pretty impressive, to say the least. I’m pretty sure those of you who may have tried out the Web version could vouch for that. But what I really like about it is that you can use it to handle not very complex projects where you need to complete a number of different tasks, individually or in groups, and need to have some messaging capabilities while working in those projects. So Asana integrates all of that user experience quite nicely altogether becoming a single focal point of entry for tasks, messaging, project work, and what not, making it a very attractive option if you are looking for an uncomplicated task management environment for your small projects while you are on the move. 

  • Timepage: Managing one’s many calendars and agendas in an effective manner has always been a bit of a challenge for all of us. The fact we need to juggle with work and personal events and the many complexities of juggling multiple commitments on a daily basis doesn’t make it any easier. Over the course of the years I have used probably far too many apps to try to handle my various calendars and so far I have struggled to find the one that does the trick for me, which is why I keep trying some new ones every now and then and see what I may find. That’s how I eventually ended up with Timepage earlier on this week. 

    Overall, I quite like the user interface, the ability to access weather related information directly from the app, the fact I can integrate multiple calendars in the same space or the lovely option to show visuals AND colours to distinguish how busy your work days may well be for that week, month, or year. Other rather interesting features are the ability to use an assistant for a number of predefined events, or a pretty nifty searching capability to locate any kind of event from any integrated calendar you may have added already. Now, I am not too sure whether I’m going to stick around with it in the long run, but, so far, I’m enjoying the user experience and the rather engaging dynamics of handling one’s calendar, so that’s going to have plenty more of my attention from here onwards. Perhaps in a few weeks I may report back and share some additional in-depth insights on how things have moved further along… 

  • Skitch: On my MacBook Air, and over the course of the years, there have been plenty of apps I have used to capture areas of my screen to then share them across elsewhere. Of all of those applications there has been only one that has made it into becoming an essential productivity tool for yours truly around capturing screen shots and share them across and that tool is Skitch. Now, I realise Skitch has been discontinued over a year ago and is no longer getting the love it should be, but, either way, I still use it on my MacBook Air and, of course, on my iOS devices, where the apps themselves may not have gotten too much love either for a good while now. Still, it works, it gets the job done, and it’s a no brainer, to me, for simple screen capturing to then be shared across elsewhere. Now, I am pretty sure there may well be other apps out there to grab screen shots, but so far I’m sticking around with Skitch. Will that be forever? No, of course not, I’m pretty sure there are other apps out there I will be exposed to over the course of time, but so far that’ll do. 
  • VSCO: One more week of iOS apps recommendations, and one more week sharing along a new, different suggestion for a photography editing app folks may want to give a try and take it for a spin. Perhaps one of the most comprehensive and thorough ones out there and while I realise a few people have been commenting the app has gotten a bit too complicated to use with the latest updates, it’s still one of my favourites. It’s got tons of capabilities to tweak your photos in any possible way you can imagine and some pretty amazing filtering capabilities with specific packages you can purchase over time as you may see fit, or get them all together with the All Presets Bundle, which is not too bad, although I would suggest to perhaps start easy with the free filters made available already and grow up from there.

    If you are not too sure about the app itself and the kind of work you could do with your pictures, there is always the Explore option where you can check what some other people have been doing with the app already. Pretty nifty if you would want to build community around your snap shots without having to use other (social) media tools and stick around for a little while longer with VSCO. I tell you, it’s one of the better ones available out there. And if you are not too sure about its potential to meet up your needs, head over to YouTube and search for some recent tutorials. There are some pretty good ones out there (no longer than 10 minutes) that may help you decide as well whether you download it or not. As far as I am concerned, I would recommend it big time. 

  • TripAdvisor: And, finally, one of the many (social) apps that, over time, has become rather indispensable for yours truly whenever I am either traveling or staying at home and would want to find out some lovely place to eat & dine, specially. I must confess I quite like it when I’m traveling into a new city to open up TripAdvisor and see what it recommends in terms of nearby places to go and eat, or have a drink, a coffee or what not. Now, mind you, it’s not that I faithfully follow to the extenuation the different reviews from places, but it gives me an indication of what’s around and see what people think. I will give you an example with what I mean … 

    A couple of weeks back I started a new series of blog posts over here on what I called back then ‘Gran Canaria – A Mini-Continent to Rediscover’ with the sole purpose to start writing down the different recommendations I would share across of places to eat & dine, or have a drink, or any outdoors activity in Gran Canaria, where I live, because friends who come over on holiday keep trusting TripAdvisor for some amazing reviews from different people and when they go to some of those places they are utterly disappointed because while there reviews were incredible the reality would tell a different story.

    Ouch! That’s why I wanted to start with that series, because, like I said, I rely quite heavily on TripAdvisor to help me discover new, interesting places that I think may be worth while exploring and if I find they are any good, they will go into that series of blog posts like I have blogged about earlier on this week. So TripAdvisor, as an app for discovery of what’s around you it’s just perfect. To trust dearly plenty of the reviews shared across, that’s a different story, at least, it has been in my experience. Either way, still worth a try, don’t you think? 

And that’s it, folks, for this week’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Next week I will be back with another round of recommended iOS apps and for now I hope you folks may have enjoyed this week’s suggestions as much as I have so far and, again, if there would be an iOS app out there you would want to recommend I should try out, as usual, leave a comment below or reach out to me via Twitter at @elsua. I will be more than happy to take those suggestions for a spin and then let you folks know how it went and whether they would still stick around with me. 

Hope you folks enjoy this week’s selection and till next time!

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #11

Gran Canaria - Countryside

 

Week #11 of the series of My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog posts and it seems as if it was just yesterday when I was sharing my first entry over here of recommended iOS apps. I must admit I’m having a blast though going through each of the different screens of apps in both my iPhone and iPad Pro and challenge myself really hard whether I can continue to make use of one app or another that I would then go ahead and recommend on these blog posts. And if the answer is ’no’, I just go ahead and delete the app and move on. So far, I have been sharing over here about 55 of them, including today’s post, and I think I may have removed from my devices a few more than that, so it’s proving to be a rather good housekeeping exercise on its own, because it’s helping me focus quite a bit on figuring out what I want out of my iOS apps and ditch everything else. I think it’s far from going minimalist and everything, but if, so far, I have been able to remove for good several dozens of unused apps I think I’m on the right track towards just focusing on those that provide the most value, which, I guess, is what we should all be aiming for, after all, don’t you think? 

Either way, here we go again with another week of recommended iOS apps I find rather helpful and I hope most of you may find useful as well. The overall themes for this week are Productivity, Finance, Task Management and Photography. 
 

  • Notes: Well, this one won’t be much of a surprise to anyone out there, since it’s one of Apple’s own iOS apps that comes pre-installed in the operating system already, but I must confess, after iOS 10, it’s proved to be a rather noteworthy competitor from other note-taking apps. The integration between devices is just superb, seamless, almost instant. Sharing notes with others, or inviting them to chime into your notes, is a pretty nifty capability if you would want really easy ad-hoc collaboration for the not too complex interactions to work just right. But what I like the most about it though is its simplicity and immediacy to the point where it’s become my digital moleskin. I no longer write things down on paper, but on Notes on my iPhone, specially, while I’m on the move, making it incredibly easier to then work on those notes in whatever other device. At one point in time I even used it to draft some of my blog posts that I could then finish off in MarsEdit in my MacBook Air before I would go ahead and publish them across. Like I said, if you already have got iOS 10 installed, Notes is worth another look, for sure. It may surprise you and in a good way. 
  • 5coins: One of the many things you learn, early in the game, as a freelancer, is to keep an eye on both revenue and expenses, specially, the latter, so you can make ends meet month in month out according to the income you may have and live somewhat comfortably while still paying all the bills. And while I realise there are a number of different iOS apps to help you manage your finances quite nicely, one of my favourites, is 5coins. Uncomplicated, very easy to use, very light in terms of features and capabilities and incredibly helpful to manage your expenses without getting the usual headaches while trying to make sense of it all.

    Now, it’s not really fancy nor complex in terms of what you could do with it, but if you are looking for an app that can help you document your expenses really easy, keep an eye on daily, weekly, monthly and yearly expenses, as well as helping you visualise it all in a clear, straight to the point manner 5coins may well be it. You can export the data as .CSV files, you can add a monthly budget to help you stay on target, sync with iCloud and a couple of other features, but what I like the most is its immediacy in terms of annotating the expenses quickly and off you go! Worth a try, in case you may not have done it just yet. 

  • Clear: I mentioned in a previous blog post how there are a number of different note-taking apps I use in my iOS devices on a rather regular basis. Somehow I’m hooked to them for the variety of user experiences they provide, but there is also another category of apps I just can’t get my hands off and, of course, have multiple of them as well. Task management. Yes, I know, I have got a whole bunch of them I use regularly and I think I’ll start sharing along a few of them, so today, I am going to begin with Clear.

    Talking about speed and performance, those are two of the main features Clear excels at. Using gestures to mark as complete, or delete or create new items (tasks) is really good fun and it’s surprising how intuitive it can well be. Now, it’s probably not the best app to manage and handle complex tasks (from projects, team work, etc. etc.), but if you are looking for something relatively simple to annotate your daily tasks without too much hassle and doing it all really quick, Clear may well be what you are looking for. Take it for a spin and you will see what I mean in terms of fun task management being taken into a whole new level.

  • Productive: This is an app specially meant for you to help you build up on your own daily and weekly habits. And stick around to them. Whether they are related to health, fitness, home, hobbies, social, or efficiency, or whether you create your own, Productive helps you build a solid library of habits to execute on at different times of the day: morning, afternoon and evening. And reminds you, in a rather friendly way, so you can complete them accordingly.

    Obviously, it takes some effort to put together the different habits you may already have and some new ones you would want to build further upon, but once you pass that initial hurdle the rest is quite an amazing experience of helping your habits stick around in a fun, enlightening, and overall rather engaging way. My good friend, Bernie Mitchell, recommended it to me a few weeks back (Thanks ever so much, Bernie!) and after having played with it already for a good while, it’s a keeper. Why? Well, because it will help you stick to your habits and complete them accordingly effortlessly. That simple. That good. It just works.

  • Lightroom [iPhone App]: Yes, I know, another week of recommended iOS apps and here I am, once again, recommending another photography app worth while looking into for your iOS devices, in this case Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and, specially, on the iPad Pro with the Apple Pen. Whoahhh! If you love tinkering around with your photos and play with all sorts of different effects and filters like a pro (without being one, for that matter!), Lightroom is a pretty good choice altogether out there! It’s a whole new world of possibilities to discover and play with, but without having to go through an entire course around photography, which, at this point in time, I appreciate very much!

    I got this app recommended by Mauro Fuentes, a.k.a. @fotomaf, via an Instagram Story where he was entertaining questions to answer about photography, which is one of his many different passions. Yes, I know, those of you who already know him could vouch as well he is really good with photography, but Mauro is also very good at something else: sharing generously what he knows about his many passions, so that others become just as passionate about them as he is! So when I asked him which one was his favourite app for photo editing Lightroom was his first suggestion and after having played with it for a while he was right. Even someone like myself, who is nothing more than an amateur at photography, can get some gorgeous photo editing results with Lightroom in just a few steps. I am very thankful, indeed, for his recommendation, because more than anything else it’s opened up a whole new world of good fun, editing capabilities of pictures without going crazy as a result! So many many thanks, Mauro, for your generous help and guidance! I very much appreciate it. And if you get a chance, folks, that is, if you are still looking for an app to edit your photos from your iOS devices, Lightroom is a pretty good start altogether! Highly recommended!

And that’s it, folks, for this week’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Next week I will be back with another round of recommended iOS apps and, as usual, if there would be an app you would want to recommend yourself, reach out to me via Twitter at @elsua or leave a comment below and I will check it out and see if over the course of time, after I have used it for a while, I can go ahead and add it in an upcoming blog entry over here to recommend it as well to everyone else.

Thanks a lot for your contributions shared across so far! Keep them coming, please. 

Hope you folks enjoy this week’s selection and till next time!

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My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week – Week #10

A photo posted by @elsua (@elsua9) on


It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster week so far leaving me with hardly no time to go ahead and put together the usual round of weekly blog posts, but I just couldn’t let this week finish off without sharing another entry to add further up into the My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week series. Tomorrow I will be launching a new series of blog articles over here about something that’s been both in my mind and heart for well over a decade, but that I never dared it would come to light, and after giving it plenty of thought, tomorrow will be the day, at long last. So you can imagine how my mind, right now, is truly buzzing away which is why I need to do something else to keep me, well, … distracted. So what a better way of doing that than sharing this week’s set of recommended iOS Apps that you folks may want to have a look into and see if you would find them useful as well like I do. This week’s suggestions cover the following themes: Productivity, Photography, Traveling and Games.

Are you ready?

  • Reeder: In a previous post, I mentioned how my current favourite RSS news feed reader at the moment for iOS is Feedly. Yes, I know, I do still read RSS feeds. I am weird 😜. The thing is that Feedly is superb for when you are online, fully connected and everything, but when you happen to be offline you are out of luck, which is why I use in parallel another RSS news feed reader that allows me to read my favourite content from blogs and Web sites without being connected and that news reader happens to be the very same one for my iOS devices, as well as my MacBook Air. Of course, I’m talking about Reeder, my all time favourite app to keep in the know about what’s going on without having to hunt down hundreds of Web sites day in day out.I have tried out many feed readers over the last decade or so, whether on Windows, Mac or iOS, and Reeder has been the only one that I keep having installed in my various devices no matter what. It’s incredibly intuitive and very user friendly, it still works with OPML files, (Remember them?) and it allows me to help classify the different feeds based on folders / topics of what I’m interested in, which helps me keep things rather tidy while reading offline the various articles. So if you are looking for an offline RSS newsfeed reader for your iOS devices, walk no further than Reeder itself. It’s all you would need. Highly recommended, for sure!

  • Opera Mini: I think I have been using Opera, the Web browser, on my desktop machines for the last 15 years, if not longer, and all along I have been truly in love with that browser experience. Yes, I know, in the world of Chrome, Internet Explorer, FireFox and Safari as the main options, it’s kind of awkward to admit I use a fifth browser: Opera itself. The thing is that even today, 2016, it’s still my default Web browser and for a good number of reasons, although the main couple of them would not be very much politically correct to mention them over here. I would suggest you download it, install it, play with it, and then you would know what I mean … So when Opera announced they were doing Opera Mini for mobile devices I just couldn’t help it and install it right away and till today. I rely on it quite heavily, along with Safari, of course, but so far it’s the main Web browser I use on my iOS devices. Main reason why? Well, two of them: speed and performance. When you are on the move on a regular basis you get to appreciate both of them and Opera Mini delivers quite nicely on both of them! A keeper, for real, if you are looking for alternative Web browsers with a twist. It has it.

  • Prisma [iPhone Only]: Once again, and pretty much like the last few weeks of the series, one of the recommended iOS apps for the week would be one related to photography. In this case, one of the most innovative, creative and overall enticing apps you can bump into. I tell you, if you would want to apply some pretty funky filters to your photos and get your creative juices going, Prisma is as good as it gets, if not more! The overall user experience is just gorgeous and the outcomes are quite remarkable on their own. There is always a filter in the app that would fit everyone’s needs, regardless of your tastes, aesthetics, or quest for beauty. Prisma delivers and big time!As an example, I have shared a snap shot above of what it did to a picture I took of the London Eye a few months back when I was visiting there for a good few days. WOW! Just WOW!

  • Kayak: If Trivago is currently the main iOS app I use whenever I need to book a hotel for an upcoming (pleasure or business) trip, in terms of booking flights without going crazy in the attempt my choice has always been Kayak. It uses pretty much the very same principle as Trivago does: a single user interface to look into multiple airlines and Web sites and find the best deal for your flights. It also helps you search for hotels, rental cars, etc. etc. but, to me, it’s booking the flight the one option I always end up with when heading to Kayak itself, specially, on my iPad Pro, where the overall user experience is pretty neat. So there you have it, that’s my trick, whenever I am on the road, and need to embark on a flight to a city and stay there for a couple of days, for work, or personal, the combination of both Trivago and Kayak is what it does it for me. I just love both of those apps!

  • Threes!: And, finally, I thought for today I would include another game, next to Elevate that I wrote about a few weeks back. It’s the second game I play the most on my iPhone at the moment and for multiple reasons. It’s called Threes! and not only is it somewhat addictive (will entice you to keep playing game after game after game!), but it’s got a delightful user experience. It’s rather engaging, quick (as in you can play it anywhere!), not too complicated, but not too easy either, the mechanics are easy to grasp and within a matter of minutes, off you go, you are now playing it and you are doomed. You won’t be able to uninstall it anymore! It’s just that good!Oh, and it’s not as easy as it may seem at first sight, I tell you. It’s one of the main games I have now been playing for a good few months that I keep recommending folks taking a look into. And if you would want to learn some more about why, take a look into this article that explains a little bit more in detail why it’s a superb user experience and why you should install it in your mobile device(s) right away. Yes, indeed, design matters 😀👍🏻 heh

And that is it for this week, folks! That’s My Top 5 iOS Apps of the Week blog entry. Hope you get to enjoy the recommended iOS Apps I suggested above and next week I will be back with another round of apps I’m hoping you may be taking for a spin and see if you like them, just as much as I do. For me, it’s now time to go and explore some more new apps I have installed in the last few days, thanks to your wonderful feedback and recommendations!, and see whether they would stick around, and therefore I will include them in this series, or whether I’d go ahead and move on and try out some other ones. Thus keep that feedback coming further along, please, and thanks ever so much for those wonderful suggestions so far! It’s greatly appreciated, if anything, to confirm you may find these articles as helpful as I do. Way too cool!

Hope you folks enjoy this week’s selection and till next time!

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