Monday, January 19, 2015

A Game of Whatchyamacallit With Apps

I spoke at a conference today at Rutgers and fielded a couple of great audience questions about different apps that can make you more productive.

When people outside the tech industry ask for recommendations, I often find that they can describe what they need but don't have the words for it.

In a search-engine-centric world, that's a problem. If you don't have the language to search, you can end up shit out of luck.

It's a problem not only in technology but in any, ahem, "discourse community."

Technology, however, is spreading to all facets of life rampantly. In other words, everyone needs to partake in the discourse.

Here are a few examples of questions people asked me today:
Can you recommend an app that will brings together information from different accounts I use? 
Yes. If by "accounts" you mean both email and social media, you're in the market for an aggregator app. If you just want to consolidate email, you are better off with an email client app. (The person was looking specifically for email, and I recommended Inky, which is free.)
Are there any apps that let you build your own circles of productivity with friends and assign points and win conditions so that you are playing a game as you do your work?
I don't know of any, but the idea you're describing is gamification.
This kind of thing happens all the time. When I covered the video game industry, a lot of people would ask about the larger category of games made for military, education, and training, and I'd explain, "The search term you're missing is 'serious games.'"

If you don't know the language that's used, it's really hard to find information.

One trick, however, with technology is to use a site called AlternativeTo.net. Say you don't know the name of the category of app, but you know of one app that does loosely what you need. You can go to AlternativeTo and type in the app or software product you know, and the site will suggest similar apps, or ones that are an "alternative to" the one you have in mind. Read through the descriptions and look at the tags on the resulting entries, and you're likely to find the category name. 



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