reMail Pays foursquare a Compliment

I’ve been using reMail, a great little email search app for the iPhone, and it’s proven very handy. It has all the features you wished the built-in iPhone mail search would have, and the app is now free for google apps/gmail users.

The reMail app was updated recently with a new UI and some other new features, and I noticed a new screen called “Usage” which I took a screen shot of below (and edited out the bottom portion which shows the most popular email addresses for emails searched):

Notice anything familiar ? :) Seems like reMail has copied the whole ‘game’ aspect of the popular foursquare service, where app/search usage equates to different levels, much as foursquare does:

I like the direction of showing usage stats in reMail, as it feeds into all of our obsessive thirst for stats.  But in this particular instance, I think reMail could have focused on a more interesting sets of stats instead of putting in work to make it a game — but who knows, maybe this is helping with their usage numbers.

In any event, if imitation is the highest form of a compliment, foursquare should be feeling pretty good :)

WordPress.com: The Hero Is In Your Pocket

We had our company off-site last week, and we worked on a ton of really interesting projects that will be launching in the coming weeks.

The first project is now live, and it’s the launch of mobile themes on WordPress.com to specifically format the blogs for smart phones, and also for standard mobile phones. It works automatically to detect mobile visitors, and even pulls in a custom header to make the look & feel unique:

So if you have a mobile device handy, check out raanan.com on your mobile browser to see it in action.

WordPress for iPhone App Development Update

Lots of activity on the WordPress for iPhone app lately as you can see from the timeline.

A ton of work has gone on behind the scenes to make the app faster and make it work with nearly any WordPress theme, something the current app struggles with when it doesn’t find the required XMLRPC/RSD info. In addition, the app is receiving a pretty big UI update, as you can see from this screenshot below that I took tonight running the latest version in trunk. Keep an eye on http://iphone.wordpress.org for more details soon:
WP-iPhone-8-29-09-v2

Google Maps Adds a Raanan.com Feature Request

Well, I’m sure there were other compelling reasons too :)

Google today rolled out an update to Google Maps that adds crowd sourced traffic congestion data:

When you choose to enable Google Maps with My Location, your phone sends anonymous bits of data back to Google describing how fast you’re moving. When we combine your speed with the speed of other phones on the road, across thousands of phones moving around a city at any given time, we can get a pretty good picture of live traffic conditions.

Sound familiar ? :) In April 2007, I wrote about “Why I love in-car GPS, and how it can be made better“:

What we need, in my opinion, is an opt-in, open standard for sharing in-car/traffic information that any device and any opted-in person can tap into…
And as GPS is incorporated more and more into our mobile phone devices, that should give us a huge installed user base of in-car and mobile devices sharing information about traffic and other conditions. That would be infinitely better than participating in the manufacturers small group of users, and would dramatically increase the chances of having tons of good data on the highway you were looking to avoid b/c of traffic

What’s also really interesting to watch for me is how companies like TomTom, who now have a compelling iPhone app, will deal with Google Maps. My hunch is that they’ll incorporate Google Maps and their own navtech/maps database into some kind of hybrid best of both worlds model. They’ve done a bit of integration already with their TomTom on Google Maps.

Stinson Beach

Was out at Stinson Beach tonight — probably my 7th or 8th time out there — and still one of the most photo friendly places I’ve ever seen:

Upgraded to iPhone 3GS from 3G. Veridct: Worth it !

Read lots of coverage last week that for those with iPhone 3Gs, you may want to hold off on the 3GS upgrade. Most reviewers had two rationals — 1) the upgrade price with how at&t works wasn’t very attractive and 2) that the spec upgrade wasn’t dramatic.

So a few thoughts on the upgrade and the whole 3G vs 3Gs debate:

On the pricing, it is true that at&t handled this pretty poorly and “penalized” those who bought the 3G in that they weren’t eligible for the new 3Gs pricing. On the other hand early adopters have traditionally always paid a premium. But more importantly, even at the non-upgrade price, if you look at the annual “cost of ownership” with monthly cell bills easily in the $100+ range, adding $200 to a device price isn’t as dramatic as one would think. I have a few accounts with at&t, and was lucky that one of them was upgradeable, so I got the better price.

Re: the spec upgrade. For anyone like me who started with a TI99, moved to the Apple IIe world, and then upgraded to 286s, 386, 486DX, etc — you remember what a big deal it was when the processor got a speed bump. It made tasks that once took 10 second takes just 2 secs.

It was with that in mind that I read the excellent blog by John Gruber, Daring Fireball, and his post titled “The Next iPhone” that I knew I would upgrade:

So, that guy was the first one on the team to get a Pentium-based machine, running at, if I recall correctly, 90 MHz. (The rest of us all had 486-based machines.) A few hours after he’d started using the new machine, word started to spread about just how fast it was. “You should see him do a build.” Soon there were a dozen of us crowded into his office, marveling, maybe even slobbering, at the speed of his C compiler’s progress bar.

A new computer almost always feels faster than the one it replaces. In the old days, though, every few years you’d get a computer with not just a faster processor but a next-generation processor, and the resulting performance increase was dramatic. For the Mac, those were bumps like the first 68030s and 68040s, or the first batch of PowerPCs. For the PC, the 386, 486, and Pentium.

Based on information from informed sources, I believe the processor in the next-generation iPhone is going to be that kind of upgrade.

(emphasis mine).

So last week I ordered the new 3GS, and after going through a day where all my phones were bricked as at&t sorted out the activation ( 3 phone calls to “611″, 2 trips to the at&t store, and 4 sim cards ! ) I can now safely report that the processor upgrade makes a huge difference.

The way I use the device I’m often switching between applications, clicking on links, etc — and things now just bounce right open without delay. Search is snappy, and that annoying text entry lag that still popped up on occasion is totally gone. Browsing is faster too, and many iPhone optimized sites like Google Apps actually feel like native apps now. Add in the video feature which rivals Flip for quality (original, not Flip HD) and the 32 gigs of space, and it’s a big upgrade.

Bottom line — just the speed improvement of the processor and the underlying performance makes this a worthwhile upgrade for heavy users out there. Speed wise, everyone I’ve shown the new device to who also has the original 3G , comments that it’s hard to go back to the original 3G after using the 3GS for a few minutes.

P2: The New Prologue

Since we are very distributed company here at Automattic, we use lots of online collaboration tools including IRC, Skype, blogs, and wikis.  The other big thing we’ve been using internally is a WordPress theme called Prologue that we developed last year.

Prologue is essentially a group twitter theme, and we’ve been hard at work updating it ( we are calling the new version P2 ) to include ajax updates, growl-like notifications, threaded comments, and a few other really clever features.  It also looks great on the iPhone !

It’s available right now on WordPress.com, and will be available for self-hosted WordPress within a week or so.   Definitely worth checking out.

Help Beta Test New WordPress for iPhone App

I’m looking for beta testers to try out the new app on their iPhone/iPod Touch device.  Details on the iphone.wordpress.com blog.

The new version includes new features such as:

  • Landscape mode with the extra wide keyboard
  • Link creation help
  • Support for editing and creating Pages
  • Comment moderation
  • Asynchronous publishing
  • Photo resizing options

A quick video overview below:

FreshBooks Open Sources iPhone App

“We learned first hand that it’s not easy to make an iPhone app. Taking some inspiration from the folks at Automattic (who open sourced their free WordPress iPhone application), we’ve decided to give back to our customers by sharing what we’ve learned.”

SVN: http://github.com/freshbooks-addons/freshbooks-iphone-project/tree/master

Very cool.

[ FreshBooks iPhone App ]

Catching up on the last two weeks: Ad Tech, BlogWorld Expo, Quigo & Yedda, WordPress iPhone plugin, Writers strike, and WSJ & Digg

Been traveling and just super busy the last couple of weeks, and started a bunch of posts that are still saved in draft.  So here is a wrap up of what I would have posted, and using a very John Paczkowski-like long headline :)

* Ad:Tech New York. Was in town for a few meetings, and a great dinner put together by Mike Hirschland (aka “VC Mike“). It was my first trip back to New York since I moved to San Francisco in July. My overall impression: every industry segment and media outlet is finally aligned to make the online ad world take a huge leap forward. Lots of smart people looking at significant ad dollars moving online and how best to capture them. Measurement will be key.

* I attended BlogWorld Expo in Vegas. I was impressed by the attendance and diversity of companies & speakers. It was also great to meet people in person that I had only emailed or Skype’d with previously (Shoutout to Karen & Dana of ContentRobot and John LoGioco of outbrain). Mark Cuban gave a great closing keynote, and our very own Matt Mullenweg was the opening keynote q&a session and interviewed here by webpronews. Lots of photos of the two day event on flickr.

* Good week to be an Israeli tech company. Quigo, founded by Yaron Galai, was purchased by AOL — congrats to Yaron & team ! Later in the week word spread that Yedda, a Y! Answers like service, also was purchased by AOL.

* On the WordPress front, the winner of the WordPress iPhone plugin challenge was announced. You can download the plugin here.

* The writers strike shows no signs of coming to an end. On how it might all shake out — Marc Andreessen has a superb post titled “Rebuilding Hollywood in Silicon Valley’s image“. A definite must-read.

* Great to see wsj.com and Digg working more closely together. Kevin Rose posted details on the Digg blog and TechCrunch has some thoughts too.