Category Archives: tools


Never stop improving – and have a plan

‘Never stop improving’ is a great soundbite. With the world evolving so fast, and in so many directions at once, the temptation to keep up is strong. But how do you do it? How do you create the plan, and actually stick to it? How do you keep focus on the skills and knowledge that’s valuable to you? Either personally, or professionally?

The short answer is, it’s not easy – and full of delightful distractions (sound of browser tab being closed, and another one opened – containing a cute cat meme). But I have been exploring this ‘self-improvement’ area for a while, and found a lot of insights, and would love to share them.

For starters, you should explore (and adopt) new digital tools to make your life projects easier (see Trello, Slack, ToDoist), or rely on digital assistants and bots to automate your smallest daily chores (Cortana, Siri, Ok Google). These all help, but they also can take something away. Your valuable time (learning and experimenting with them), and your own, internal knowledge and past experiences. So at what point does a digital tool, a dashboard of activity – stops being helpful and becomes a drain on your time and attention? I’ve been trying to answer that for myself for a couple of years. Again, the answer is not easy.

There’s a fine balance between letting technology optimize your life, and relying on it to unnecessarily accelerate it. Don’t do the latter. Don’t be in a rush to start your next task (I know, gasp!). It’s a time trap. Just improve for the sake of improvement – a part of your daily process. Keep making better habits and testing them out in the wild. And in the spare time (which you just freed up) – do what you enjoy most.  No, not cat memes. Your hobbies. Your actual interests. Do the stuff that makes you smile without even noticing. It matters more.

Before I end this, here’s some recommended reading (yes, there will be homework): there’s a great longread on creating better habits (via @Medium), a hilarious take on the pitfalls of working from home (via @NewYorker), and the announcement of Trello being purchased by Atlassian (via @techcrunch). These 3 were very valuable reads for me. Let’s hope they’re of value to you as well.

And don’t forget to tell your friends that Dmitry (Pixel Studioz) is dabbling with newsletters 🙂

Thanks for your time

Some premature thoughts on Twitter’s Vine

A few days ago Twitter has unveiled Vine (based on previously purchased startup), a cool new iOS app that allows people to share short video clips – up to six seconds long. I wanted to check it out on day 1, but something got in the way, I forgot, but kept reading nothing but glowing, positive, or at least cautiously optimistic posts from Technology blogosphere.

Well, it’s Sunday afternoon, I’m catching up on the week’s reading, and decided to check out the app. Indeed, the setup is very intuitive, it quickly connects to existing FB/TW accounts, allows you to follow people you may know, so you can instantly build a little network of followers/fans. And it starts you up with a little how-to tutorial, you make a video, or rather, assemble together a collage of short clips, give it a description, some hashtags and (similar to Instagram process) hit ‘upload’.

And this is where the app lost me.

It is now Sunday early evening, and I’m still hitting ‘upload’. I’ve restarted the app, came closer to my WIFI spot, made sure that I’m not streamling/downloading anything from the computer – you know – to make the upload of a 0.6MB video file a little faster – to stop seeing the bloody ‘upload failed’ message. No luck.

Disappointed at my fate of never meeting any cool video-making people online, I went online to see how these clips actually look in browser, and guess what – they are not loading either. Now I’m sure that it’s just a capacity issue, first weekend, early adopters, and initial curiosity wave of users. Add to that the media’s ridiculous reports that (GASP!) some people are able to upload rather lewd and inappropriate clips onto the Vine network. Naturally, there will be increased interest in both the app (Apple is notorious for removing apps that allow 18+ material to be easily posted and found), and its content.

But c’mon – it’s a 568KB file. I already emailed it to myself and saw it on my desktop. It’s just not the same. I want my brilliant video creations to be seen by millions (okay, a few dozen) followers, so what gives?

Upload failed? Just how many people are on this platform already? Who miscalculated the server load?

… Ok, rant over. As soon as the platform stabilizes, and I’m able to share vids instantly (as the app intends), I’m surely going to revise this post, and make it into another glowing, positive review of a new social platform. Because, if you think about it – a 6-second video clip can be quite informative, emotional, effective. And I can certainly play around with some of my home videos to put together a nice collage to share with the world. It’s too bad my WIFI and Vine servers cannot upload my massive 568KB #firstpost.

To be updated…

It’s been over a week, VineApp has released a few updates, and I’m FINALLY able to easily upload and share my precious videos:

And now that the upload issues have been resolved, let me take back some of the above, and admit that indeed, once it works ‘as advertised’, the app is very cool. I do wish they added a few tweaks to it – and I’m sure they will be released shortly:

1. allow to upload from phone’s media library. Just in case your last upload failed, or you recorded something earlier and couldn’t share at the time. I UNDERSTAND the concept is to share what’s immediately happening to the user: tap -> record -> upload, but the app will have a much wider appeal if people can upload previously recorded clips

2. give me a basic, simple video-clipping tool. This leads is a massive (content+revenue) opportunity. I want to take a massive 2-3 minute video from my library, and easily (tap, swipe, hold, tap) reduce it into a 6 second clip and share it. I believe this is the future of the app, but the tool needs to be VERY easy to use. This is where brands/publishers can jump on that functionality and add VALUABLE content, and not just some hand-held footage of approaching trains and meowing cats (ahem)

3. to attract the hipster crowd, add some video effects. Yes, you’re replicating Instagram, and yes, there will be criticism. But admit it – Instagram took micro-blogging to a whole new level – got massive following, and just-as-massive buyout. Twitter missed out on that opportunity, and just to keep the social platform scales in balance – should not be coy about replicating the latest-greatest-thing. Just add some video filters. I don’t care what they are. It’s for ‘cool kids’ – it will grow the audience, and again, can simplify video production, and sharing – for all.

4. stop focusing so much on the 17+ issues. Yes, Vine has adult content on it – so does twitter, instagram, path, facebook, g+, tumblr, pinterest and any other social platform. You give people an ability to share something, the first thing they do is show off their genitals. It’s stupid (and rather reckless), but we’ve seen it all before. You can filter it and flag it. You can report abusers and either delete that content, or isolate them in their own ‘x-rated’ sections. But you can’t weed them out. And the longer tech blogs focus on that issue, the more of a distraction this will be for Twitter and Vine engineers and programmers. You have something really neat on your hands, don’t waste time walling it off from adult content, make it more usable for EVERYONE, and deal with filtering later.

I see the latest version of VineApp has the ability to ‘report’ inappropriate material. I hope it puts all those tech bloggers to rest, and I look forward to more features in this platform. It’s really powerful – in both content-sharing, and monetization aspects. And it’s very cheap to get into it – whether you’re an amateur filmmaker, or an advertiser looking for non TV outlet for your visual creations. Or, like me, you just want the world to see your cat meow 🙂

Well done!

Fix those broken URL links

If your site’s content has a lot of external links, you depend on them for back-linkage and your online reach. It’s no longer a secret that your site’s popularity is determined largely (besides the quality of content) by the incoming and outgoing links, so you better take care of them. Sure, you can rely on internal server logs, 404 errors and Google Analytics to find out when your users hit broken links, but the problem with these tools is that they are merely reporting. You can be more proactive.

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Caching external content for site performance

I recently had to re-install some twitter/tumblr syndication modules on a few small sites. Reason: sudden performance issues. The sites were medium-sized, and depended heavily on externally syndicated content. You’ve seen these busy sidebars before: a few recent twitter posts, a few more tumblr pics, another FeedBurner, maybe a dozen of Disqus/Echo comments, Amazon widget. This is all good, and wonderful, to spread your content/community around on multiple platforms, and syndicate them on your site. But keep in mind that all these services – while practical and very responsive – are relatively new technologies. Young start-up companies.

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Social sharing all-in-one tools

Social sharing has come a long way in so little time. Just a couple of years ago the concept of ‘viral’ or ‘widgets’ didn’t exist, and webmasters/publishers were happy just cross-linking to each other’s content, getting ‘contras’, asking to be listed in a directory, etc. But ever since the first ‘Digg’ icon showed up (or ‘tell a friend’, I forget what started it), the idea of letting people share and bookmark their favourite web destinations has grown into a separate web industry. Hundreds of widgets, thousands of chiclets (those little icons you see everywhere), and we’re all sharing, passing on, pushing the content further.

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