Sometimes you see something that looks so cool that you want to use it, but quickly realise you don’t have any actual compelling need or interest. I’ve raved a few times about products I’m using at the moment and really enjoying but wanted to mention a few deserving products that I wish I used more often but for whatever reason don’t.
Posterous is named as such because they make it preposterously simple to blog. It’s very easy to use and a great product — I’ve even heard people on the T to work raving about how much they love it. I think their landing page, with its three steps of use, says it all:
I’d really like to enjoy that simplicity myself — I love the site, the implementation, and the look of posterous blogs, but with my comfy custom WordPress installation, I can’t see myself using it anytime soon. Bummer.
Balsamiq is what I spent years wanting to have. It’s a very simple-to-use but powerful creator for wireframes. Instead of doing the smart thing and inventing my own version of it, I languished in Visio, PowerPoint and Photoshop. Balsamiq provides a great toolkit for quickly creating digital sketches of UIs and is a joy to use. While it’s been very useful for my own personal projects on occasion, unfortunately it doesn’t fit in with my current work flow at TripAdvisor where we’re doing a pretty decent job with Photoshop and paper sketches. I would’ve loved having a tool like this at Trovix though. Oh, and a hearty congratulations to the Balsamiq team for what sounds like a very successful 2009.
I got to borrow one of these from Google over Thanksgiving and I loved using it. It meant I had plenty to read while on vacation (where I get the bulk of my book-length reading done), without the bulk of the books. I bought Under The Dome by Stephen King recently, and wow, there’s a book that shows the utility of the Kindle (1074 pages).
Unfortunately the clunky update speed and grayscale screen doesn’t do it for me. The lure of the mythical Apple tablet is proving too strong and I can’t pull the trigger on one just yet. More than happy to keep borrowing one of Google’s though.
I managed to snag a GrandCentral account a while back, but the inertia of my existing phone number meant it was more of a technical toy than a serious phone replacement. I do love the idea of a unified phone system, and with realtime voicemail and transcription, call recording, conference calls and a slew of other great features, it seems like an amazing product… but only if you can get around the limitations of having to change your number, and to call the Google Voice service to take advantage of said features. I think the rejected-by-AT&T iPhone app would’ve gone a long way to helping me switch.
RadRails is one of the few products where I’m not sure if it’s me at fault or them for not using it. As someone who got very comfortable in Eclipse and is a little lazy, I’d like to continue my Rails hacking in a familiar IDE. Unfortunately I just can’t seem to get RadRails to play nice with the latest releases of Ruby and RoR. When I get more time I’ll take another crack at it.
In theory though, it’s a great environment for us ex-Eclipse users. I’m not sure about other users, but I spent a fair bit of time in Eclipse using J2EE/Spring as a framework, and RadRails feels like home.
Edit: updated to add…
Google Website Optimizer
This is an amazing free product that allows for A/B and bucket testing. Happily we have some very nice pool testing at TripAdvisor already, but perhaps I’ll get to use it on a future side project.