Kick Apps: My Top 5 Apps of 2014

Apps are taking over. From food and fitness to games and banking, there truly is an app for everything. And fuck yeah I love getting turned on to a new one. It’s almost replaced the excitement I used to get around a new song or movie. Plus, it’s become one of my favorite questions to ask people, “Got any new apps that are blowing your mind?” Since the homescreen is the new holy grail, I thought it’d be fun to put together a list of the top 5 kick apps that have taken up real estate on my phone. And like Apple now says, “Get it.”

 

Caviar

 

Caviar – recently acquired by Square, Caviar has replaced Seamless as my go-to food delivery app. They offer an amazing selection of premium restaurants and every dish is shot beautifully by (clearly) a food photographer. The UX is flawless and the Apple Pay integration makes ordering drop dead simple.

 

Reporter

 

 

Reporter – dubbed the app for understanding the things you care about, I’ve been hooked on Reporter all year. The design is stupid good and what’s great is the full-on personalization that allows you to jump head first into the quantified self movement.

 

Canopy

 

 

Canopy – Amazon Prime is a godsend but shopping the site is about as bad as finding shoes on Zappos. Thankfully, there’s Canopy, an app (with no affiliation to Amazon) that curates the very best of Amazon. It makes discovery super fun and I’ve become addicted to creating collections and following tastemakers. Plus, it’s opened up a whole new world of products I had no idea Amazon even carried. Canopy is proof that good design equals good business.

 

SportsCenter

 

 

SportsCenter – Sure, ESPN has had an app for a while but this year’s refresh was a game changer. Scores, news, highlights…they’ve got it all in a layout that makes my thumb very happy.

 

Flipboard

 

 

Flipboard – if there’s one app that’s truly dominated my home screen, it’s Flipboard. They’ve completely revolutionized how I consume content and there’s no turning back. Creating custom magazines is my jam and there isn’t a day I don’t check-in with Flipboard to read The Daily Edition.

Leave love bombs everywhere

I just got excited about an app. Wait, I’m not sure you realize how significant this is because I’m usually slamming them as a complete waste of time. Recho is different. It allows you to leave audio messages that can only be listened to when other users are at the location you recorded the message at.  The possibilities are pretty endless: city guides with insider tips, stories, jokes, music, love notes (don’t worry, there’s a privacy setting so you’re not professing your love to some creepy dude).

recho

So far I haven’t stumbled across any messages in my daily routine, but I did leave a message right outside the Mission library branch in San Francisco. I’m all about apps that inspire us to get creative and interact with strangers.

Our Karaoke Mixtape

I wasn’t always a fan of karaoke. It was only when my friend Scotty started hosting a night in San Diego that I would find myself up on stage each night embarrassing myself. You know what though? It was fun. Karaoke isn’t about being a great singer, it’s about singing the songs you were never meant to sing.

After a long hiatus, I recently found myself back at it, eight songs deep before I felt the need to call it quits. Still feeling those good vibes the next morning, I asked the HM team what their favorites were and threw them together in this karaoke mixtape. I hope it inspires you to get up on the the mic and let your questionable vocal talents take center stage, even if it takes a couple rounds of liquid courage.


Mobile // Rdio // Spotify

A Mixtape Story

It all started as a project to keep myself occupied. I was insanely stressed about my mother’s cancer, and as it turned out, she had under six months to live. I needed as many distractions as possible.

I met Dave the year before and started contributing to Holiday Matinee. I always enjoyed the music he was into. I mean, the guy had worked with Connor Oberst, Jimmy Eat World and Death Cab for Cutie in their early days. He appreciated old-school hip-hop the way I did. I figured we would be as good as anyone at making mixtapes. And if no one liked them, it didn’t matter. It was fucking fun and that was reason enough to make them. After our first tape received some mild praise from a couple friends, we kept it going. Every month I’d ask Dave to suggest some songs, add my own and put together the mixtape. We kept it simple. We weren’t the kind of guys that wrote lengthy dissertations on albums. There was just music that we dug and felt like deserved to be shared.

Our first mixtape in June 2009 : If you don’t see the tape, listen here.

It wasn’t very long before I became obsessed. I’d listen to the transitions between songs so they made sense. Was the next song too abrupt of a change or is that what I wanted? I’d cut the silence at the end of tracks if it was too long. I had to pick the perfect handwriting typeface that made our tapes look like something someone recorded off the radio. Eventually we started hosting these files on a CDN so it didn’t kill our bandwidth. I learned a ton about file permissions and had frustrating experiences getting files to play or making typos in the playlist file that would render the whole tape useless. Nonetheless, it was a routine I grew to love. If one other person enjoyed them, I considered it a success.

When we added more contributors we brought them in on the mixtapes. There was Hannah, editor of Indie Shuffle, who turned us on to some great tunes. Her brother David would submit obscure tracks that I really looked forward to. Catrina shared my love of Voxtrot, Gregory of dream pop, and I could always count on Monique to send me Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin songs. Meanwhile, we experimented with adding standup comedy and movie quotes on our tapes. Sometimes I spent way too much time agonizing over what tracks made the cut. It had to have a final seal of approval from one person, but I worried there could be music a lot of people loved that I just wasn’t that into. I’m sure some of the team got fed up of me using Neon Indian and Toro Y Moi every chance I got. Not Hall and Oates though, because let’s be honest, you can never have enough of that. After years of putting together these mixtapes, I could tell who submitted which track just from becoming so familiar with their tastes. I instinctively know if we’ve used a song before without even looking.

We were ushered into the era of online streaming services. It would have been much easier to only use tracks on Rdio or Spotify, but that wasn’t good enough. We wanted to be able to put rough tracks with alternate lyrics that Donald Glover sent us via Direct Message on Twitter or ridiculous Kenny Powers rants. We wanted to include songs that hadn’t officially been released and old TV theme songs. We were proud to have something uniquely us — something born out of getting to dive bars early to listen to openers, late nights listening to bands play in our friends’ living rooms, basements and attics. Even the girls we’ve dated and the music they turned us on to had an influence.

Along the journey, we’ve earned a little recogntion. Sometimes it’s a college freshman telling us they look forward to those posts every month and other times it’s a creative we really admire. Either way, kind comments can carry you when you think about taking a break. That’s the real reason it’s been 5 1/2 years and we haven’t missed a month. Maybe they are just mixtapes that a few people listen to, but somehow that really matters to me.

Make Your Mark [review]

Part of what bothers me about startup culture is the number of products and services created that don’t seem particularly important. As a friend of mine once lamented during a space launch, “We rarely do anything ambitious anymore, we just make websites.” What I enjoy about 99U’s latest release is that it’s helping to spread of the stories of people building businesses that matter. It’s a business book written for makers.

Make-Your-Mark-review

Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide To Building A Business With Impact is a solid read for anyone thinking about starting a business or whose existing one needs some work (hint: you can always improve and evolve). Just like the last two 99U volumes, this book is divided into sections of essays. The four main chapters are Defining Your Purpose, Building Your Product, Serving Your Customers and Leading Your Team. Contributors are of diverse backgrounds, from seasoned authors on creativity to a submarine commander.

While I won’t recap every section, I did want to mention some that stuck with me. Warren Berger’s essay on asking the right questions struck me as particularly actionable and useful. In it, he details the types of questions you may want to consider grilling yourself over – things like why your business exists and if you disappeared, who would miss you. A few different contributors touch on finding a purpose greater than profit and how focusing on others is not only just good business, it’s being a better person. The Leading Your Team chapter was also particularly thought-provoking. These essays explain how many creatives have an aversion to lead, but how we can overcome that, and why leadership roles are in desperate need of creatives. It made me reimagine the role as less Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and more makers that are in touch with the people they are serving.

I cannot limit this book as just for people starting businesses because there a number of handy exercises, whether it’s finding your personal purpose in life or a kick in ass the pep talk from Seth Godin to close out the book. At around $10 (paperback or digital) I know I found it to be a better investment than my third Old Fashioned of the evening.

Make Your Mark is available primarily on Amazon. But if you see it lounging around at your local indie bookseller, pick it up right there and then.

Previous 99U reviews from us:

Manage Your Day-To-Day
Maximize Your Potential

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