Kik’s new hashtags reveal the potential of a chat network

Kik continues to ship new features for its chatting application. Following on the heels of Promoted Chats and its in-app browser comes the hashtag. It’s an easy way to create a group chat and invite people to join it within the Kik app. You send them the hashtag name (like #SFSoccerMoms or #CollegeDebateFriends). When they click it they’re taken to a group chatting page, which allows up to 50 participants.

“It’s a way to let you be whoever you want to be, with whoever wants to talk to you,” Kik CEO Ted Livingston wrote in a blog post announcing it. “It’s a social network on your terms.”

Kik’s group hashtag isn’t news that will particularly excite many people over the age of 25 (Kik’s prime demographic is under that age). But it’s a compelling feature, if only because of what it represents.

Group hashtags offer a rudimentary look of what could constitute a social network focused on “chatting.”

It’s almost a Path-like feature, recreating the intimacy of the Facebook of yore. With a chat cap of 50 people, it keeps conversations to smaller, more contextual groups. You don’t have to worry about sharing the details of your weekend with the world, trying to whitewash it for grandma, while simultaneously entertaining your friends. Instead, you can embody your particular sense of self with each individual group.

Group chatting is nothing new of course, and as a standalone feature, it’s not a company. But in conjunction with Kik’s other features, like individual messaging, promoted chats, and an in-app browser, the group hashtag element has great promise. It allows users to communicate easily, without the hassle of an administrator having to invite select members. It provides the same kind of thematic discovery and social organization that hashtags do on Twitter, for tracking news events, or on Instagram, for exploring similar images.

This is what a social network with a core of texting, instead of a newsfeed, could look like.

Animated Gif showing how Kik's hashtags feature works

Animated Gif showing how Kik’s hashtags feature works






iPhone OS 4.0: Mail, Folders & iBooks

iPhone fans around the world will rejoice with the improvements coming in Apple’s iPhone 4.0 OS this summer. Support for organizing applications within folders, an improved Mail app and the new iBooks app are among the most notable.

The Smart Mac: iTunes, iPhoto & Aperture

iTunes PlaylistsThe last stop in our series of better file management through ideas based on smart folders brings us to iTunes, iPhoto and Aperture. All of these apps provide support for organizing your files similar to Address Book and Mail. The beauty of “smart” file management, of course, is once you have defined the frameworks for the album, folder or playlist, new content will automatically fall in place if it meets your rules.


The first time you noticed a smart “anything with a purple icon” was probably in iTunes. Besides OS X, iTunes is the only piece of software to ship with several built-in smart items. You’ve seen them before, specifically the 90’s Music, Classical Music and Recently Played playlists, to name a few. If you’ve read our previous articles, you know how those work now (and can just right click them to edit their criteria). Read More about The Smart Mac: iTunes, iPhoto & Aperture

The Smart Mac: Address Book & Mail

Apple’s original implementation of “smart” file management isn’t just limited to the Finder, and in fact, you’ve probably seen it more often in other applications like Address Book and Mail.

Here are some ideas of how you can harness the power of these two applications using the same idea as Smart Folders.

Smart Groups

Address Book provides support for smart groups which allow for dynamic content, just like a smart folder. As new content is added that meet your guidelines, the group will automatically update.

Creating a Smart Group is as simple as going to File and selecting “New Smart Group…” or by clicking the plus icon (+) in the lower left corner of the Address Book window. Then give your group a name and set of criteria. As you add your second criterion, you’ll have the choice for your group to consist of any of your rules or all of your rules.

Here’s some ideas for useful smart groups. Read More about The Smart Mac: Address Book & Mail

The Smart Mac: Smart Folders in OS X

Smart Folder icon

Mac OS X offers a computing experience that, according to many, is still unparalleled by its competitors. Built on a rock solid UNIX foundation and continually adding refinements that make interaction easier, OS X has a lot of powerful functionality that many users were unaware existed. One of these is the idea of “Smart Folders” and with a little primer, you can begin using them to make your Mac experience easier (and faster).

A Brief History

The idea of these Smart Folders are not unique to OS X. In fact, the idea started originally in the mid ‘90s with the now defunct BeOS. When Dominic Giampaolo, a software developer for Be, began working for Apple in 2002, some of the best elements of the BeOS made their way into Apple’s modern operating system. We know these features as “Smart Folders” and Spotlight, both of which launched in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, two years after Giampaolo began working for Apple.

A “Smart Folder” (or “Search Folder” as Windows Vista calls them when Microsoft introduced its version in 2006) is based on the idea that this folder is basically a “virtual folder” of its actual contents. This virtual folder doesn’t physically store copies of its contents inside but rather utilizes a database to store attributes about the files (defined either by the system or the user). This offers several advantages: they have a small file size, the ability for on-the-fly fine tuning of the criteria used to define the content as well as allowing the content to dynamically update as new files meet the criteria. Whoa. What does all of that mean? We’re getting there. Read More about The Smart Mac: Smart Folders in OS X

iTunes 9 Wishlist: 10 Ways Apple Can Improve Its Media Organizer

iTunes Icon

With Apple’s (s aapl) music oriented media event right around the corner, everyone is abuzz with thoughts about new iPods, Apple TV updates, tablet rumors and more. The one thing we can all but guarantee besides new iPods is an update to iTunes. But what will this version bring? Social aspects have been rumored, but there is still room for improvement. So, here’s my Top 10 wish list for iTunes 9.

1. More Stable & Efficient On Windows

This particular point doesn’t apply to me, as I am a Mac user, but I do know that the Windows version of iTunes has suffered in comparison to its Mac brethren. Though some of the programming technologies in the Windows world are not as robust as their Mac equivalents, I do hope Apple will continue to optimize iTunes as it adds new features. Currently, it’s just a resource hog.

2. Better Audiobook Support

iTunes is a great application to manage your audiobooks and Apple’s partnership with Audible makes it even easier to buy them. What really strikes me as problematic though is how cumbersome it is to sync specific audiobooks to your iPod or iPhone. At the moment, it’s either “all” or “none.” When you consider that some audiobooks have multiple files and some users have insanely huge collections of audiobooks, it really seems like an issue Apple would have refined already. Due to their length, most users listen to one or two audiobooks at a time and don’t need to bring their entire collection with them. The only solution to this dilemma is creating playlists for specific audiobooks and that’s more time consuming than it should be. Read More about iTunes 9 Wishlist: 10 Ways Apple Can Improve Its Media Organizer

How to Alter Your Work Schedule to Accommodate Personal Projects

544232_calendar_series_4One of the advantages of working from home is the flexible schedule. No matter how many things you need to accomplish, or how many simultaneous projects you have, you can still control when you can perform certain tasks, as well as how long they take. While this is more true of freelancing than it is for employees, it’s this schedule flexibility that makes the prospect of teleworking more attractive.

Whether it’s a do-it-yourself renovation of your home office, a one-month trip, or participating in NaNoWriMo, there’s always the big, personal project that you’re trying to fit in your schedule. How do you make sure that it won’t have much of a negative impact on your work? Read More about How to Alter Your Work Schedule to Accommodate Personal Projects

Managing Email With Postbox

A number of different email clients are available for the Mac, but a new piece of software announced at MacWorld takes a new and different approach. Postbox is a new way to manage online communication, aiming to let you spend less time managing messages and more time getting things done. Built with powerful search and organization features, finding and browsing old messages is a simple process.

A video of the application in action can be seen at a recent presentation, and gives a great overview of what the app is capable of. The system supports all manner of email accounts and formats; IMAP, POP3, SMTP, Mobile Me, Gmail, RSS and Newsgroups. The software is noted to scale well, having been tested on databases of up to 30,000 messages.
Read More about Managing Email With Postbox

Was Ribbit Sold? Maybe, Maybe Not

Ribbit, a Mountain View, Calif.-based company that is pushing a VoIP platform that marries web with voice is subject of acquisition rumors this evening. VentureBeat reported that the company was close to being acquired by British Telecom (BT), but later changed their story. When contacted by me, Don Thorson, Ribbit’s Vice President of Marketing dismissed the rumors but declined to comment any further.

It wouldn’t surprise me if BT (or some European telecom) acquired Ribbit (or any other platform) to expand across the borders and find a way to stay relevant. We had pointed out that a consortium of incumbent carriers were developing their competitor to Skype. Ribbit-type platform could be used to develop apps for the incumbent supra-net.

Ribbit has so far raised $13 million from Allegis Capital, KPG Ventures and Alsop Louie Ventures. The company has attracted about 4000 developers to its platform, though it is hard to tell if it is making any revenues from its platform. Over past few weeks, I had heard about Ribbit being in “play” and talking to likely buyers, but there is nothing concrete to add.

Desperately Seeking Dream Tools

As I search high and low for tools to make my work easier, more efficient and more productive, I start having dreams about the Perfect Web App. I become obsessed, thinking through the details of the features, functionality and even toying with names.

Unfortunately, I’m not a programmer, so the ideas for these apps simply take up valuable space in my brain. So I thought I’d do a brain dump of a few of them to make some space. When someone actually comes up with a Web App that gives you more brain capacity, let me know. I’ll sign up for the beta. But until then, here are two of the apps I wish existed (and if they do, please point me to them).

Read More about Desperately Seeking Dream Tools