My Latest Web App Is A Zombie!

NomadHideout

Well, there’s no nice and easy way to say this, so I’ll just have to say it with as straight a face as I can:

My latest web app is a Zombie.

Not quite the walking and flesh-eating type, but definitely it reminds me of those hoardes of Undead.

NomadHideout

See, when I set out to create NomadHideout, I envisioned an app that would help developers promote their mobile applications developed with React Native.

React Native, a Facebook project, allows a developer to create a native mobile application very rapidly. This is done by using the ubiquitous JavaScript programming language.

JavaScript has a famously low barrier to entry, and so the choice of JavaScript for React Native has made it so that many more developers can now create mobile apps, even if they don’t love the native platform or its default tools.

Suffice it to say, developers already in love with Java for Android or Swift on iOS are going to be the reluctant ones when it comes to making the switch, and I can’t say I blame them.

For the rest of us, however, JavaScript on mobile is huge.

So I naturally created NomadHideout to help something I see a lot of value in myself. I had plans to be actively using React Native for some of my own apps, but got deep into completing my first book, a science fiction novel, which is coming soon!

I toyed briefly with the idea of making NomadHideout cater to the needs of bloggers for simplified access to influencers. I got a lot of inspiration towards this from Glen Alssopp and the Gaps team.

This was a good problem to solve, and applies to me personally as a blogger. However, at this stage, I’m just not doing that much influencer outreach and so I kind of gravitated towards something I was much more directly involved with.

Later, however, I just realized the app I had created was actually perfectly suited to allowing authors to showcase their books and get involved in deep discussions with readers.

kindle publishing app

This is something that appeals to me as I’ve examined the publishing ecosystem, and realize we probably need something like this.

Developing the actual app was, funnily enough, quite easy. I used Backbone.js, some good ol’ JavaScript, a dash of the Elixir programming language and tied it all up with the bold and audacious Phoenix framework. If you are making apps, you can do much, much worse.

I don’t plan to be actively developing the app for a while because I’m taking a hiatus from apps while I work on a small number of digital marketing and writing projects.

But the app itself is back in action. Enter the zombies from left!!!

mission complete

 

Why You Should Choose React Over Angular 2 or 1 For That Matter

reactwins

I remember coding with Angular 1 back in 2013 or thereabouts. Using Angular 1 directives was pretty remarkable at the time. Angular had bold promises about enhancing HTML with custom elements and a whole lot more.

Then you had to deal with transclusion, dependency injection, factory services and a whole bunch of other mumbo-jumbo.

It was hard to see how all that chicanery made you more productive. On mobile, frameworks like Ionic Framework and a handful of others made the slog worthwhile. There were few alternatives at the time that came with a powerful backer like Google. Everyone was jumping on the Angular bandwagon, including Firebase and just about any serious JavaScript vendor with a mission to boogey.

So, About That New New JavaScript Framework…

In a little corner far away the Ember kids were grokking that. And when they came out to see us, the smoke from all the Angular directives and transclusions was enough to drive them back away into their little cave once again.

They were right, of course, duh! It was just that, in that Brave New World, it was easy to mistake factories and snake-oil for productivity. And StackOverflow had not even made it to the promised land! They were still using jQuery, ha! (And doing it very productively, I and a million programmers must add!)

If you were really brave, you could always go nuclear and use Backbone, but among its few faults, hype was never one Backbone weakness. Everybody more or less quickly clambered the Ember train or this shiny new Angular “bullet” train and failed to see the value of simplicity that was core to Backbone.

Until months later, you were slogging through a ton of abstractions that barely made sense. Productivity ground to a halt. An old boss of mine seemed skeptical of Angular’s benefits, and in retrospect, one had to be skeptical of Angular’s cost. It seems the Angular engineers had brought the worst ideas and “patterns” and antipatterns from .NET and Java and somehow transmogrified JavaScript into the worst incarnation of old EJBs. So much for experience! Barebones jQuery had to be better than that mess.

Let’s Start From Scratch

Then React came along and was bold enough to actually throw out all that gunk. Few of us thought so, of course, at first. The Angular love was just too fresh, the dream of the promised land too vividly etched in our programmatic minds, the high priests of Dependency Injection too ensconced in their Olympian perch in Mountain View that few even noticed the tremendous change that had occurred overnight.

A bunch of crazy upstarts had dared to challenge the Emperor in his own backyard. And when you looked at it carefully, they had won!

Good riddance, I thought, when I finally learned React. No more transclusion, controllers, factory this n that, all the weirdness and un-JavaScript-like declarations and code repetition. No more boilerplate and spaghetti. React was simpler, and made plain sense. Why had somebody not thought of this before?

We could now go back to writing straight-up JavaScript like we were back in Backbone.js! But not quite.

React still came with some conceptual overhead, and some rather inelegant semantics. Wrapping your head around JSX was like trying to switch from a QWERTY keyboard to using the OODAA keyboard, like, “what exactly did you say we now need to do with our HTML”?

Still, after the disillusionment of those crazy Angular days, anything had to be better. And it was fast! Shadow DOM! Functional, stateless components! And Atom could understand it!

Then along came React Native, and for me that was really the game-changer. Mobile, the only thing keeping me in Angular, was gone. React Native was even better than anything that could challenge it. It still had bugs and had not even reached release, but in time it would just be better than any non-native solution. Angular was dead! Game over.

The Matrix Reloaded

The Return of Angular
The Return of Angular

So fast-forward and the Angular chefs went back into the kitchen, and swiped some good ideas from React, Ember, Backbone and everyone else, as best as one can see, and went at it again.

Out came Angular 2, like Saruman’s NEW and IMPROVED Uruk-hai, marching across Middle Earth to take over JavaScript everywhere!

And I kinda liked it. The components are nice, the directives, where you use them, seem to have been simplified, no more controllers and crazy patterns, unless you happen to live for that stuff. It actually runs faster. Uses ideas from the shadow DOM and dared to rethink its own idioms. I give em a lot of credit for that.

Mmm, I Thought We Were Here To Code JavaScript

The Angular 2 experience and productivity is much nicer than before, I have to say. However, I wish they had not made everyone learn TypeScript.

And no, TypeScript is not necessary, in my opinion. I fall much more on the CoffeeScript side myself. And I think ES6 and future versions of JavaScript do too. TypeScript is somewhat of a mess. It’s not a zero-cost super-set around JavaScript. It can slow you down considerably. And its benefits can be extracted much more painlessly with something like Facebook’s Flow and similar systems. Having a good linter and JavaScript style guide for your team can keep you fairly safe. And you can use something like Mocha to run tests that keep your code pretty safe.

So, this whole Angular 2 craze? I just don’t see it folks. I’m here to anoint the new king, and React.js it is!

React has spawned off really good side-effects like Riot.js, which in turn inspired Vue.js, and then you have MobX, Redux and a bunch of reactive libraries that have all kinda emerged out of this innovation.

What’s not to like? You don’t need Angular 2 or 1 for that matter. Grok straight-up JavaScript, not some pretentious static monster, and pick React, Vue, Backbone or Riot.js. Even Ember will be a solid alternative. Either way, you run a leaner, faster, more productive, more elegant system, or any subset of those four. Your team will thank you for it!

About the Author

Tendai Mutunhire is a startup React and Node.js developer. He may be found at TowersOfZeyron and hacking on startups like NomadHideout and UnicornPoach.

Building NomadHideout, An Introductions App For Bloggers

nomadhideout

Hey there. If you’re reading this you must be a blogger, or interested in blogging. I’m excited to give a sneak peek at an app I’m building for bloggers: NomadHideout.

The idea behind NomadHideout is to facilitate introductions for bloggers. You know how hard it can be sometimes to get in front of a famous blogger. Whether you need to ask them for a soundbite, or a response to something another famous blogger in your niche said, getting other bloggers to actually notice and get back to you can be taxing.

I’ve been there before. Sometimes your emails just never get a response, or it takes months.

These are the problems I’m trying to solve with NomadHideout. I first came across the idea that there’s a real gap in the market from reading a post by Glen Allsopp of Gaps and Viperchill.com. As a blogger this is something I’m sure I’d benefit from myself, if it existed.

Here’s what the homepage kinda looks like. Hopefully it will help bloggers get timely responses from all those requests for another blogger’s input.

nomadhideout

The tech has been fun to build. The stack I’m using includes the Phoenix framework, alongside Elixir and Backbone.js, and ample helpings of CoffeeScript and JavaScript.

 

The Ultimate List of 200 Greatest Web Apps On The Net: A Product Maker’s Guide

Coursera

For web developers and designers out there, in an effort to be always improving our craft, it pays to see what others have accomplished.

By looking at the brilliance and mistakes of others, we become better and can emulate what works, and discard what doesn’t work.

I realize this list is highly subjective. It is meant purely as a representative sample of some of the best designs available on the web in 2016. However, it will be highly informative as a handy cheat-sheet of what has worked on the web so far, and also highlight what has not worked so well. Think of it as a starting point and guide for your explorations.

Please leave a comment below, if you agree with something like this. Even if you disagree, we can still learn from clashing points of view.

That said, here is my list of 200 of the best products available on the web today.

See any patterns in the list?

If this inspires you to go out and make a world-changing product of your own, I have done my job. Happy Coding!


#1 – #10

 

udacity

Udacity – With Udacity, you can pursue different “Nano Degrees” and attend virtual classes on everything from electronics to artificial intelligence, and a lot more. Helping millions learn almost anything from the comfort of their browser, this web app combines utility and elegant designs to make it the representative ideal of what we strive for on the web.

InstagramThe app Facebook acquired for $1 Billion back in 2012, allows people to connect with others, and share photos of their lives and experiences. Noteworthy design choices.

8Tracks – A design showcase. The app for music. Choose your pick. If Pandora is ever dead, this might be the reason.

Coursera

Coursera – Don’t know what it is with these educational product companies, but yeah, they seem to be popping up everywhere! Learn whatever you want, in style.

WunderList – Doesn’t do much besides manage your todo tasks, but does it with style.

soundcloud

SoundCloud – The app for discovering music you love. Turns a normal afternoon into a delightful adventure through blues, hard rock and Lord of the The Rings soundtracks, or whatever your favorite soup du jour.

Telegram – Delivers a new era of messaging. A case study of solid design.

Pinterest – The world’s catalogue of ideas, great for saving ideas and organizing them in boards, and discovering what others have pinned.

AirBnBActive in over 191 countries, AirBnB makes it possible to travel the world and meet people while saving you money on accommodation.

Quora – Helps you find the best answer to any question. Like Google on steroids, and cutting through the long search to find the best answer.


#11 – #20

VK



VK – Social networking app popular in Europe.

We Heart It – Discover inspiration and beautiful images every day.

Twitter – The app that took micro-blogging to the mainstream. Cutting edge concept and cutting edge designs are the norm here. Lends its name to design products like the famous Twitter Bootstrap. Don’t be too surprised if half the internet begins looking like Twitter.

Postach – The easiest way to blog.

vimeo

Vimeo – Watch and share videos with no ads. Takes a simple approach to design.

Flickr – The home of all your photos.

TED – TEDx is like Woodstock for intellectuals, minus the booze and the drugs. Besides that its celebrities are everything from guys whose books you have read to weirdos whose books you will find yourself reading months after watching their videos without knowing it. Such is the cult impact of TED.

Facebook – The app with a billion users. Its design has fallen behind in recent years, but users still can’t get enough of it. A good way to connect with your friends from high school.

500px – A photography community unlike any other. Stands out for its design sense.

Bebo – HQ for your group. Group video and audio chat.


#21 – #30

postly

Postly – Gives you private threads to share content with friends.

Mega – Focused on encryption and privacy, rethinks file storage from the ground up. You can snag 50GB of storage, and who knows what else.

Trello – Task-management and task-tracking tool famous for its well-designed cards, and inspiring designers around the world.

GitLab – Create and host source code repositories online using the popular Git version control software.

PhotoBucket – The trusted place to store, share and print your photographs since 2003.

couchsurfing

Couchsurfing – Global community of over 12 million travel enthusiasts in 230,000 cities. Helps you travel, live with hosts, and host others in your home town.

ZeroNet – Open, free and uncensorable websites using Bitcoin cryptography and BitTorrent networking.

Digg – A user-driven site that employs social democracy to bring new and upcoming stories to its front page

Yelp – User Reviews and Recommendations of Top Restaurants, Shopping, Nightlife, Entertainment, Services

Yahoo Mail – Free email service to connect you to the world.


#31 – #40

nomadlist

NomadList – Best cities to work and live in for digital nomads

LiveJournal – Discover global communities of friends who share your interests.

Github – Collaborate on code and discover open source projects using the Git version control system. Popular with geeks like you and me.

Alibaba – Find quality manufacturers, suppliers, exporters, importers, buyers, wholesalers, and products worldwide.

genius

Genius – The site allows users to provide annotations and interpretation of song lyrics, news stories, sources, poetry, and documents.

Codecademy – Interactive courses on how to program. Courses are created by community and cover CSS, Java, HTML.

Soup – Easy personal publishing for busy people.

Ge.tt – Share any number of files in seconds. Thoughtfully designed.

UpperPix – Online image manipulation app.

Directus – Open-source headless CMS. Sounds cutting edge, yeah it’s headless after all!


#41 – #50

fetchnotes

FetchNotes – Meet your mind’s best friend Fetchnotes is an easy way to keep track of anything and collaborate instantly.

Pandora – Internet Radio, music of all types. Allows you to discover artists you will like, and some songs you’ve never heard of but that sound like you’ve always known them.

CraftCMS – Focused content-management for web professionals.

LonelyPlanet – Love travel? Plan and book your perfect trip with expert advice, travel tips, destination information and inspiration from Lonely Planet.

news360

News360 – News discovery service with a knack for learning what you like and showing it to you.

TabDay – Organize your photos in a calendar.

Codepen – Show case of advanced techniques with editable source code.

KickStarter – Global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity.

Minds – Create your own blog online.

Waze – Free community-based mapping, traffic and navigation.


#51 – #60

penzu

Penzu – Your private, 100% customizable online journal. Loved by over 2 million writers around the world.

Spotify – Instant access to millions of songs.

Known – Create your own website online with ease.

xing

Xing – The platform for business networking.

Flipboard – Your personal magazine, helps you turn your favorite news sources into one coherent personalized magazine. Edit away, Editor!

Path – Private messaging between two people or many.

Youtube – The site with billions of page views, there’s a reason why. Youtube brings together entertainment, personal vlogging and information sharing by means of video, making for a unique experience.

Baidu – Leading Chinese search engine.

 

amazon

Amazon.com – Amazon, after all these years, still feels like walking into a giant supermarket with all kinds of goodies, from clothes and electronic gizmos, to books and obscure bric-bracs. How they manage to keep all that data organized is a big feat of engineering, so engineers take note.

Medium – It’s all too easy to spend hours on Medium, so beware. An easy way to read the thoughts of influencers all around the world, and post some of your own. This is state of the art for collaborative, open blogging.


#61 – #70

goodreads

GoodReads – Meet your next favorite book. A social network for bookworms.

Yandex Mail – Free, spam-free email.

Reddit – The front-page of the internet. Still has a very retro feel to its design, which is why it’s easy to sit back with a beer on the weekend and read Reddit for hours. Your boss wouldn’t be caught dead on Reddit.

Wikipedia – Organizes the world information for detailed and factual reference. Tells you about everything from the ancient Chinese to 3D printing and Elon Musk. And what JFK was doing on the day he got assassinated. Pretty handy reference.

Google Drive – The Google app that seems to be the best-designed one. It’s a useful tool for backing up your files online. Lots of storage available. I don’t know much about the technology behind the scenes, but it works rather well.

WordPress.com – A blogging platform that puts ease of use above all else. Elegant easy designs, customizable through themes. Still the best option for beginner bloggers, beating out the likes of Blogger and Medium.

livingsocial

LivingSocial –  An online marketplace that allows its registered users to buy and share things to do in their city.

TheCultureTrip – For adventurers, helps you discover the world’s cultures, wherever you are, wherever you go.

Google Maps – Find local businesses, view maps and get driving directions in Google Maps.

Deffe – Upload and share your images.


#71 – #80

leanote

LeaNote – Blog, take notes and organize your thoughts online.

Paypal – Send money, pay online, with the convenience of email.

Bing – Search the internet, Microsoft’s search engine.

BlogLovin – Follow your favorite blogs and discover new ones.

dailymotion

DailyMotion – Video-sharing platform.

Tizmos – Visual bookmarking site.

Noosfeer – Discover content about your favorite topics.

Yahoo – News and search in one big portal.

SubtleTV – Find out what to watch and funny videos from around the internet.

Grav – A modern, flat-file CMS.


#81 – #90

evernote

Evernote – Lets you capture information in a variety of formats, and store it in the cloud so you never forget important stuff.

WhatsApp – Chat with anyone around the world.

Yandex Search – Large search engine with a global footprint.

BobblePic –  Manage your content, create private albums, customize your profile and more.

openstreetmap

OpenStreetMap – An openly licensed map of the world being created by volunteers using local knowledge, GPS tracks and donated sources.

WikiLeaks – Publishes and comments on leaked documents alleging government and corporate misconduct.

HealthCare.gov – Official site of Affordable Care Act, a result of Obama’s controversial Obamacare.

AWS – Amazon Web Services offers reliable, scalable, and inexpensive cloud computing services.

Google Analytics –  Web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic.

Redaxscript – Ultra light blogging platform.

 


#91 – #100

vine

Vine– The entertainment network where videos and personalities get really big, really fast. Unfortunately, Vine is going out of business.

Weibo – Chinese microblogging platform.

CamJamm – Online album that lets you share images and videos.

Media Fire – Share, collaborate and organize your files online.

Schniggen – Allows you to upload images and share them with your friends, whilst keeping them from everyone else.

ebay

Ebay – Bid site to buy and sell electronics, cars, fashion apparel, collectibles, sporting goods, digital cameras, baby items, coupons, and everything else.

Taobao – China’s largest and most used internet portal.

Tumblr – Microblogging and social networking website

Oinker – Chat platform with idea and task management abilities.

Historious – Saves you time by saving pages you’ve seen before for easy lookup.


#101 – #110

todoist

Todoist – Start getting more done in less time.

VolaFile – Live filesharing and chat.

Google Hangouts – Hangouts bring conversations to life with photos, emoji, and even group video calls for free. Connect with friends across computers, Android, and Apple devices.

Hotels.com – Find cheap hotels and discounts. Compare hotel deals, offers and read unbiased reviews on hotels.

Walmart.com – Shop Walmart’s online specials and find savings in electronics, home, furniture, video games, baby, clothing, toys, gifts and more.

UsersCloud – Free unlimited cloud storage.

msn

Msn – Portal for shopping, news and money, e-mail, search, and chat.

GoCinchy – Save bookmarks in the cloud. What cloud? The cloud.

AliExpress –  Global retail marketplace targeted at consumers worldwide.

Youku – Chinese video-sharing website.

 


#111 – #120

slack

Slack – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve at least tried Slack by now. Some people love it, others hate it. Real-time messaging, archiving and search for modern teams.

Faveous – Allows you to store information on phone numbers and bookmark them. A cold-caller’s dream app.

UltraImg – Lets you upload and share your images.

sparknotes

SparkNotes – Study guides and discussion forums offered on various academic subjects. Literature section includes brief analyses of characters, themes and plots.

Groupon – Discover and save on 1000s of great deals at nearby restaurants, spas, things to do, shopping, travel and more.

StackOverflow – The largest online community for programmers to learn, share their knowledge, and advance their careers.

Diaro – An online diary. No matter if it’s a short note or a lengthy diary entry, Diaro user friendly interface lets you organize everything conveniently

Flipkart – Indian online shopping site.

Twitch – Live streaming video platform.

Nicovideo.jp – Japanese video sharing site.


#121 – #130

skype

Skype – Skype keeps the world talking for free. Connect with friends worldwide over video chat, voice or text chat.

Google Play Music – You music in the cloud. Free radio for everything you do. Store 50000 tracks from your personal collection.

ImgSafe – Free Image Host.

JottIt – Create websites at the click of a button. Call me dumb but normally that’d require some JavaScript, no? Haha.

XMind – The most popular mind-mapping tool on the planet.

deviantart

DeviantArt – The world’s largest online social community for artists and art enthusiasts, and others with a sense of design.

Indeed.com – Search for jobs and apply online.

AliPay – Online payment platform by Alibaba.

Tudou – Chinese video-sharing site.

W3Schools – Free tutorials on the web and basic web development.


#131 – #140

angie's list

Angie’s List – Crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses.

TinyPic – Free image hosting, photo sharing and video hosting.

DuckDuckGo – The search engine that doesn’t track you. A superior search experience with smarter answers, less clutter and real privacy.

Booking.com –  Browse hotel reviews and find the guaranteed best price on hotels for all budgets.

netease

Netease Music – Chinese music site.

SlideShare – Offers users the ability to upload and share publicly or privately PowerPoint presentations, Word documents and Adobe PDF Portfolios.

UpToBox – Host your files and share them with friends.

PostImage – Free image hosting.

UpToDown – App downloads for Android.

Snapdeal – India’s largest ecommerce site.


#141 – #150

imgur

Imgur – The best place to share and enjoy the most awesome images on the Internet.

9Gag – Has the best funny pics, gifs, videos, gaming, anime, manga, movie, tv, cosplay, sport, food, memes, and other funny items on the internet!

Putlocker – Watch and share your videos.

etsy

Etsy – Your place to buy and sell all things handmade.

WikiHow – Learn how to do anything with wikiHow, the world’s most popular how-to website

ImgBox – Fast, simple image hosting.

Weather.com – Provides a national and local weather forecast for cities, as well as weather radar, report and hurricane coverage.

Tistory – South Korean blog-publishing service that allows private or multi-user blogs.

WordReference – Free online dictionaries – Spanish, French, Italian, German and more.

Weebly – Create a free website or blog in minutes by using a simple drag and drop interface. No ads.


#151 – #160

ozock

Ozock – Create, share and discover the world’s most viral, funny and newsworthy stories.

Dash Dashboards – Create beautiful dashboards with a few clicks.

Picorator – Community-driven image-sharing service.

AngelList – Connects entrepreneurs to an increasingly large base of angel and venture investors while simultaneously exposing those investors to a stream of dealflow that’s been vetted by the AngelList team.

anydo

Any.do – Free todo list and task manager.

Calm.com – Unique meditations and inspirations every day.

Can I Stream It – Helps you identify where your favorite movies are available for streaming, rent or purchase.

FileThis – Go paperless, track your personal financial accounts and organize bills, invoices, statements, tax files and receipts in one secure place.

clickhole

ClickHole – ClickHole is the latest and greatest online social experience filled with the most clickable, irresistibly shareable content anywhere on the internet.

FlapMMO – A Flappy-bird-inspired game where you fly with the others avoiding the pipes and getting as far as you can.


#161 – #170

foursquare

FourSquare –  Helps you find the perfect places to go with friends. Discover the best food, nightlife, and entertainment in your area.

BuzzFeed – Media site with all the biggest news, videos, quizzes, and trending buzz you’ll want to share with your friends.

Papaly – Cloud bookmarking service.

Draggo – The new way to manage all your bookmarks online.

PixelDrain – Free file-sharing service.

Annotary – Bookmarking for the extremely inquisitive.

skyscanner

Skyscanner – Global metasearch engine for information on the World Wide Web that enables people to find comparisons for flights, hotels and car hire.

Fitocracy – Fitocracy motivates you and helps you succeed at fitness and level up in real life.

Glyde – The easiest way to buy and sell smartphones, tablets, MacBooks, video games, and iPods. Get cash for your gently-used items.

IMDb –  The world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content.


#171 – #180

craigslist

CraigsList – Classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services, community, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums. Looks dated, but insanely easy to use.

Gmail – Google’s consumer web apps look like they haven’t been updated in years. However, in terms of ease of use, you can’t argue much with them. That is the case with Gmail, the mail app of choice for millions of individuals.

Google Search – Google Search definitely puts functionality over design. It is a fast, efficient, search engine with a lot going on in the background.

Forgotify – Discover a previously unheard Spotify track.

SendSpace – Send files that are too big to send as email attachments.

Pinboard – Social bookmarking for introverts.

haiku deck

Haiku Deck –  Presentations That Inspire.

Gruik – Free and open-source note-taking service.

CrimeReports – Helps residents see and understand where crime is happening in their neighborhood and engage with their local law enforcement agencies.

Humble Bundle – Digital storefront for video games where you pay what you want for hidden gems and support charity!


#181 – #190

xkcd

XKCD – Popular web comic.

Pleated Jeans – News bloopers and other funny bits and pieces curated from the internet.

FAVable – Save your bookmarks on the web.

Peek – One-stop shop to discover and book amazing activities, tours, and more

wolframalpha

Wolfram Alpha – Smart online artificial intelligence calculator.

Start.io – Make a start page with a collection of the websites you care for

Blogmarks – Social bookmarking service.

Nick Reboot – Relive your childhood with a live stream of classic 90s television!

Uvibo – Uvibo provides you with a dynamic dashboard for social media. Forget about scrolling, manual updating or prioritizing.

Noisli –  Fantastic background noise and color generator for working and relaxing. Online soothing ambient sounds like White noise, Rain and Coffee Shop.


#191 – #200

lifehacker

LifeHacker – Tips and downloads for getting things done.

ItMages – Host images online.

RetailMeNot – Get discounts with coupon and promo codes for thousands of online stores.

ViaBox – Get a Forever FREE US address. Shop any US retailer. Ship to any country.

make

MAKE – DIY culture and tutorials.

Google News – News curated from major and local news sources.

TinyUpload.com – Perhaps taking the wrong cue from Google’s success with minimalist design, sets the bar unacceptably low for a file-sharing service.

rottentomatoes

RottenTomatoes – Isn’t it funny how your favorite movies seem to all have an unrealistically low ranking on RottenTomatoes? Well, just between you and me, now you can tell em web designers just don’t think their design chops are the best ever either!

Hacker News – Perhaps because it’s meant for hackers, this link-sharing and discussion site is notorious, along with Reddit and CraigsList, for taking a super laid-back approach to design.

ZippyShare – Unlimited Disk Space, online, makes the garish design somewhat more palatable.

And there we have it! 200 of the very best web apps in production on the internet today. Study them, like them, vilify them. But above all, learn from them! Copy what works, reject what fails, and share with the world your own web app creations.

The Real Sci-Fi Challenge: Because Our Best Ideas Are Feeble

our best ideas are not good enough

Here’s a big, bold challenge. Let’s take the best scifi ideas out into the real world, combine them with code and see if that doesn’t yield plausible solutions for today’s boldest challenges.

I’m calling this the Real Sci-Fi Challenge

With good reason. As bloggers and scifi writers our words can remain in imaginary universes and leave the world woefully unchanged so we need to work on implementation.

And for developers, the criticism is no less: we spend a lot of computing power computing useless trivial garbage and our ideas often lack breadth and imagination to engage real problems.

The Two Worlds Must Finally Collide

Hopefully, we can all begin to target bigger problems and begin to solve big thorny problems and address social ills in the process.

Are you ready to take on the challenge? Because our best ideas are feeble.

Today’s tech companies get a bad rap for not doing enough to solve big problems. I tend to agree.

As a sci-fi writer when I’m not coding, solving big problems is how we create exciting societies of the future where today’s problems have all been solved, and newer, more challenging problems are always on the horizon.

Our real-world work, sadly, tends to be a lot less exciting. I mean, a user-dashboard, another CRUD app, a game on an iPhone?

I’m already somewhat ahead in this challenge, but you should seriously consider taking it on and coming up with some ideas of your own to improve things as they are.

I already came up with a few unusual ideas, spanning everything from biohacking to raise our productivity levels to some solutions for water problems in emerging markets.

I came across Jennifer Dewalt’s blog, who was building webapps for a good 180 days, 180 web apps in total. I don’t know where you come from, but where I’m from, that’s a lot of code!

Later, I read a post on levels.io that described his ambitious goal of building 12 startups in 12 months, mostly focused on solutions for digital nomads.

This is not so different from National Novel Writing Month.

So if you a writer, I invite you to this challenge as well.

But now let’s get those ideas off the pages of our sci-fi works and into the real world.

Thus, given my whole intention to move the needle a bit on some of these big problems we have in Africa and the emerging world, I mean, who wouldn’t want…

On the internet people can be anonymous and names get blurred. This is a real problem for authors and entrepreneurs because we are trying to build a brand, and still have something of a private life! Many of my friends call me Ten in real life, and I’m publishing some sci-fi novels by my real name: Tendai Mutunhire. Anyhow, you can call me “Tomahawk”, that’s my scifi-cowboy coder nickname, that way if you can’t find my “About” page and remember my real name, you don’t start calling me “Scifi Challenge guy” haha.

So I’m taking on the challenge. Along with crafting my scifi novels in the Laudian Chronicles series, I’m beginning work on the first few startup ideas from the future, to sort of, bring some of that back here.

Technology can help accelerate the rate at which we solve problems, mitigate some of the problems we already have, and solve some of the massive inefficiencies in our markets and economies. Take, for instance, one of my ideas which is all about tapping into new levels of productivity in the daily lives of potentially millions of people by using these so-called “biohacks”, little optimizations based on the right organic biomaterial, compounds, supplements and dietary hacks to achieve peak productivity. In the far future, such biohacks are likely to be routine, widespread and customizable. If you are interested, read on!

Everything has to be about higher productivity now! If startups are gonna remain relevant, in the future, we need to start building systems that raise productivity, not reduce it. Snapchat, anyone? Nothing against it, but I live in Africa, and what I see all the time is the need for new solutions that can do something to raise productivity levels at a macro level. Easier said than done, so hopefully big thinkers from the scifi community and the coding community will emerge out of the woodwork with promising big new ideas.

We spend a lot of time on email, much of it quite irrelevant to us personally. There’s an obvious area of optimization, potentially applicable for millions of people. So that’s just an example of the scale of problems that I feel drawn to right now. It’s all boldly, perhaps foolishly, ambitious of course. I mean, replace email?! I don’t know, that’s why I’m launching it myself, partly it’s for the adventure, to see what happens. In a sense, the real world can be almost as exciting as the strange worlds we create in science fiction.

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

I need you to take on the challenge for yourself, or get involved in other ways. To make sure you get the updates via email, sign up for my occasional newsletter. I plan to send an update about once every two weeks or so. And leave comments on this blog so we can keep the discussion going. If you want to write a novel yourself, or build a world-changing startup, feel free to let me know so we can keep track and maybe make a bigger community around this.

If you have comments or other things to say, I suggest commenting on the blog, I’ll review comments and stuff but will try to stay off Facebook and other channels.

Except of course, Elixir channels. Sorry, that was a silly programming joke 😉

Now I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned from something like this.

On the writing front, I have a few cozy ideas I’m crafting now and I’ve started reading some inspiring fiction again after a long hiatus so the ideas sort of hit me on the head more often.

For code, this is a good excuse to deploy cutting edge tech, and hopefully create an enduring impact, and learn something in the process.

I came up with a small list of world-changing ideas I’d like to see happen, so this will be a lot of fun. I don’t know how long it will take to implement these 5 or so startup ideas but I expect it to be long and difficult, can’t wait!

But that’s the adventure!

Now to see what the future of computers might look like, let’s do a basic history lesson and identify some of the major movements in software over the last 50 years.

An outline could look like this. (Read this section, it looks boring, but it’s very important!)

  1. Back In The Day, Machines learn to solve hardware problems e.g. pass some current through a wire and warm some wires together, giant giant machines that cost millions of dollars!
  2. In the Second Stage of Computing Machines, computers now learn to operate on a more abstract level, learn to solve math problems. Using 1s and 0s. 1 + 1 = 10 (binary)   2 + 2 =  100, and so forth, now I can just drop into an iex terminal and run: 2 + 2 // 4

And I get the result, but of course it took us a while to get to that point. But finally, computers could solve math problems!

  1. Then computers and software advanced under Bill Gates to the point of learning to solve Business Problems! Yaay!!! Who’d have thought! How smart is that! Can you imagine what a major breakthrough the personal computing era was. Spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheeets baby! VisiCalc! PC, IBM, Macintosh. A computer on every desk, a PC in every home! Truly, that era must have been a lot more exciting for entrepreneurs than today’s dumbed down Facebook era. Happily I’d trade with one of those guys. But yeah, business problems, a major win!
  2. Then, the current epoch, which really started with the internet bust during the Dot.com era, and truly coincided with the birth of the “brogrammer”. But note, computers were able to learn how to solve what I will call “personal problems and itches”. A whole lot of them, anything you can imagine for the “consumer individual”.

“I need to watch the game” Broadcast.com, Netflix.com etc.

“What will my pets eat” Pets.com, Amazon.com etc

“Where my music at!” Napster etc.

“I need to make friends” MySpace, Friendster

“I need to show my pictures!”  Flickr, Facebook, Instagram etc

“I need to back up my files”  Dropbox, Box, MegaUpload, Google Drive etc

  1. The future, an unknown challenge!

And #5 is still a blank.

Let’s try to see what might fill that blank over the next 10 years.

Hint: think some big hairy problem they show in the disaster section of the news!

In the Western World, a lot, if not most, people are already online. Very little growth there.

The major growth on the internet is now happening in places that do not often feature in the public conversation except when discussing what I alluded to above.

Little-known villages in India, small towns in China, places in Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh. Urban centers and not-so-urban centers in all these places.

Mobile phones.

Social network users who have never touched a PC, and don’t need to!

But now we are entering, as I said, an epoch in which the internet’s users are people in unmapped rural areas and under-developed countries, and with a whole lot of new challenges that have nothing to do with posting pictures to Facebook and showing how cute their cats are!

In other words, we are now faced with the predominant issue of big socio-economic ills.

Let’s review the history of computers again and just recollect how well or how badly they did in each of the prior eras, 1 to 5.

i.Era 1. Sure, computers could solve moving current through a bunch of wires.

ii.They could even solve mathematical problems. 1 + 1 = 2.

iii.And business problems. I mean, Microsoft did that so well, you just need to look at the traditional domination of Microsoft on the PC to realize how well!

iv.Same thing for computers solving personal itches, like sharing and doing the stuff that’s all about me! Easy stuff for bits and bytes!

v.But what about the new age of socio-economic problems? These are intertwined, difficult to extricate, noisy, gory, messy, bloody problems. How about that, huh? When you tackle this type of problem, you impact, not individuals and their consuming happiness (which has been done in the prior stages and is important, within limits), but societies and the destination of a civilization.

Where are the limits vis-a-vis what software can help us accomplish today?

Can computers combat radical Islam and protect kids in Somalia?

Can computers deliver better education to young kids in Tanzania?

Can computers help bring jobs to jobless youths in Soweto, South Africa?

And can computers alleviate the flooding problem in the Philippines?

Now the previous rounds of problems look almost too easy, and a bit uninspiring, compared to this. Now you are getting the meat of thorny, big, hairy, scary, life-and-blood problems. And don’t let anybody fool you and tell you it’s easy to solve the big problems in the emerging world. No more “4 Hour Work-week” baby!

Will today’s programmers rise to the challenge?

Boy, I wish Sean Parker was here to see this, am sure he could at least cook something up to begin! A flourish of brilliance or something, to rally the troops!

Or, reaching back even earlier, if only R. M. Stallman could see these problems here! A long way away from Emacsen, but could use that sharp mind!

And what if we could inspire a young Bill Gates to write an operating system that helps deliver secure voting free from interference? Could Eric S. Raymond, Yukihiro Matsumoto or Linus Torvalds concoct a mod to return the global economy to growth again?

Haha, I tricked you! THIS DARK, SCARY, IMPOSING RESPONSIBILITY IS ALL UP TO YOU PROGRAMMERS AND THINKERS OF TODAY!!

As programmers, bloggers, writers and whatever else we do, we need to start pushing ourselves towards solving these big era problems that are the rightful target of the next generation of computer programs.

Let the next Snap-whatever be a way to swipe and deliver love and happiness to a hungry kid in Syria. Or stop the war, or something.

Don’t worry if this appears daunting, it is! Some of our ideas will seem a bit frivolous before the sheer magnitude of the socio-economic challenges of the epoch.

And that’s a measure of the gravity and magnitude of the problems we now face.

And hopefully we can get programmers starting to think about the next billion internet users and the very real socio-economic problems that are a towering facet of their lives, and how our programs and software can meet them where they are as they emerge to join the internet.

So now before I begin, I challenge you, to answer for yourself, yes or no:

Can computers solve socio-economic problems?

The way that they solved electronic circuits, math, business, personal web services, and social networking.

In the past, you could always place a bet on the side of the computer eventually figuring out and being able to solve the stated problem effectively, in a straightforward amount of time:

Math?

Beating humans at chess?

Backing up files and running nuclear systems?

Driving a car?

All easy-peasy problems for our computing tools.

But strife in the third world? Morally defunct governments that destroy societies? Social ills in the townships and villages? Disasters due to inadequate resources and urban planning?

Personally, I think it’s far-fetched.

Particularly because socio-economic problems play with a lot of institutional influence, and quite often, the character of the people that control the social playing field.

So, in a sense, they involve a huge degree of “human problems” and “plain human fallibility”, not so much “tech problems”.

An astute observer will say “There’s no reason why talented hackers of the future cannot bring down evil governments”. We are still to see this really play out in modern times, and the history books will record it for future generations of hackers if, when it happens, but what about constructive type problems? Delivering healthcare to underserved villages? Achieving a redistribution of state oil revenues towards alleviating food shortages in the general populace, instead of the monarchy or dictator’s party lifestyle in the islands, and the like?

Much less dealing with drought preparedness and evacuations when earthquakes and disasters occur in marginalized areas?

Anyone who has sized up computers long enough and considered the possibilities will tell you these are tough things to write algorithms for.

Computers can’t.

But computers and software, utilized right, I think it fair to say, will be a big help to the social workers, activists, missionaries, writers, bloggers, and humanitarians who want to make a genuine difference.

And if programmers want to remain relevant with their little apps and gizmodos, they better start making the stuff that enables these people to do a better job to address the big problems we must solve in the immediate future.  

So this is the challenge I throw down to every programmer and thinker today. Before you deploy your next CRUD app, think about the unspoken billions around the world who have no lights.

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