New Emoji Coming in 2014

I probably use more emoji than I should but it is definitely the easiest way to get my point across.  It lets you say how you're feeling in a few presses rather than telling a story in text and sometimes it can be more powerful than words.  

In the 2nd half of 2014 we'll see a lot more emoji to the already large list.  And while it doesn't seem to have a few I've had on my want list for a while, it's progress.

My one fear is that it's going be harder and harder to find the ones I wan't now, and it's already tough.  Here are a few that I want to see.  Check out the whole list at Emojipedia.org

  • Hot Pepper
  • Weight Lifter
  • Fork and Knife with Plate
  • Camping
  • Beach with Umbrella
  • Hammer and wrench
  • National Park
  • Dagger know
  • Portable Stereo
  • Reversed Hand with Middle Finger Extended

Volkswagen -> Ford

I've been a super loyal customer to the Volkswagen brand for over 10 years.  I'm not sure 100% sure why but ever since I got my first Jetta; a 1995 manual transmission speckled gold beauty I hadn't really felt the desire or need to find something else.

Well, start with a chronic problem with electronics, some (in my opinion) bad design in my most recent VW, and a completely h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e dealer experience and it was time to make a change.  I looked at a bunch of different makes but after a suggestion from my boss I decided to test drive a Ford Focus ST.  

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I never considered Ford a company that made cars with good technology but I was definitely mistaken.  This car, at least for me, is the perfect intersection of power, comfort, and technology that I've seen in a while.  It handles great, gets pretty decent gas mileage, and has a ton of great features.  I highly recommend it to anyone in the market for a hatchback style car that looks and functions great while at the same time being zippy as hell.  It is such a joy to drive this thing!  If this car is any indication of things to come from Ford, they are on the right track.  Good riddance Volkswagen!

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Kevin Spacey Explains Why TV Content Delivery Needs to Change

This is a little old but pretty relevant given that House of Cards, the Netflix only show in which Kevin Spacey is the star, recently won several Emmys.  It is a great little speech in which he really hits on a lot of great points about content delivery.  The TV networks have been screwing us for a long time, giving us tons of channels we don't want or need for a super high price.  

A lot of people are starting to realize they don't need 200 cable channels.  They just want to see a few shows, pay just for those shows only, and complement them with other things here and there.  Netflix is at the forefront of this change and it is awesome to hear someone like Kevin Spacey so dialed in on the subject.  

Last.fm: Everyday I'm Scrobblin' (Track What Music You Listen To)

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"What music have you been listening to lately?"

If you listen to a lot of music and have friends who do the same you might get asked this from time to time.  Even though I listen to music as much as I possibly can, I still sometimes have trouble answering this question.  

Luckily for me someone told me about Last.fm, a great service for tracking music you've been listening to and discovering new music using that same data.  While I don't use it for the discovery piece much, it is a great way to get an idea of what you've been listening to over the last few days, weeks, month, year, or overall.  

Here's some of my most listened to bands in the last month:

Last.fm Music Tracking

One of my favorite things about Last.fm is that you don't need to listen via their service to have your music listens tracked.  As long as you have an account your music plays can be tracked whether you listen via Spotify, iTunes, tracks synced to you mobile device like iPhone, and a few other services.  As long as all of your devices are setup properly, the songs you listen to will be logged automatically.  

To track plays on your computer through things like iTunes you'll need to download the Last.fm "Scrobbler" but for services like Spotify the integration is built in; all you need is to sign in with your Last.fm account.  

From all the listening data that Last gathers the service can then recommend new songs for you to listen to as well as radio stations based on the same.  With all the music listening I do I am always in need of something new.  

It is a pretty cool service that is free.  How can you go wrong?

Want To Be A Better Photographer? Do a 365 Project

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I've been into tech stuff and art since I was very young.  I took a few photography classes before I went to college and really thought it was great.  In college I took some photo classes a did a little work in the dark room.  It was ok but for some reason I really didn't like the idea of developing film and strayed a bit from photography.  Fast forward a few years and all of a sudden digital cameras are coming on strong, are getting better in quality, and are finally somewhat affordable.  Marrying technology and art, my new obsession with photo had begun and it has not stopped.  

Fast forward a few more years.  I had been playing around with dinky point and shoot cameras for a while when I finally decided to get a DSLR (I got a Canon 60D).  I was in heaven.  This brand new camera that took amazing pictures that also takes video and has a ton of options and knobs to tweak.  I knew the new camera would help me become a better photographer but that there was still plenty to learn.  After doing some reading, I decided that the best way for me to learn about my new camera, learn how to edit photos better, and get a feel for myself as a photographer would be to do a 365 project. 

In case you aren't familiar in a 365 project, the idea is that you take at least one picture a day for an entire year straight.  Sounds easy enough but this is a tough undertaking but it will help you grow as a photographer in ways you couldn't imagine.  Here is the very first picture I took for my 365 project.

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Did I take a picture every single day for a year straight? Nope. No way. But I came close.  There were points in time during that year that the last thing I wanted to do was take a picture.  There were points in time during that year where going to take a photo took my mind off of things.  Either way I learned a lot about photography and what I wanted out of it.  And I learned how I preferred to use my camera.  

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Here are the main reasons I feel this is one of the best ways to become a better photographer:

  • It forces you to try new things - In the first few weeks of the project I naturally started taking photos of things in and near my apartment, but you use those things up quickly.  A 365 project forces you to go to new places and look at things differently to get a different shot.  

  • It requires you to learn your camera - Taking a picture a day seems easy but it really isn't.  Finding the time to do it is tough and your conditions will vary.  This requires you to play around with your camera to get the desired shot for the conditions of the scene.

  • Editing!  I learned that at least for me, editing is a huge part of the way I do photography.  During my 365, I learned the software I prefer to use (Lightroom) and I learned the look that I prefer and how I can achieve it, both in my camera settings and my edits on the computer after

  • It helps you explore - This is similar to my first point on the list but I have to say I have found some really cool places both in my city of Boston and throughout the country and other parts of the world, just because I wanted to find a new spot to snap a photo.  There is something to be said for this.  There are lots of places I am happy to have visited and know about just because I went exploring for the purpose of photography.  

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In closing, I want to reiterate that this wasn't an easy thing for me but I grew as a not only a photographer, but a person because of it.  It is certainly a challenge but it is one of the best ways to explore and become better at photography as well as get to know your equipment.  If you have a few minutes, take a glance at my entire 365 project on Flickr.

Quick Audio Messaging is the New Texting (I Hope)

Have you been getting sick of texting?  Do you feel like you get too many texts in a day and that it's a pain to respond to them all?  We message in so many other way these days through Facebook, Twitter, and Google on top whatever messages we may get directly from friends on our phones.   I feel like since we are so connected these days we are constantly messaging and at least for me it feels like an overload at times, and it is making commutation suck.  Here's why I'm sick of texting.  

  • It's impersonal and the actual message is often lost or misinterpreted.  Even with emoticons, it is pretty emotionless.

  • You should never do it when you are driving (as much as you really want to)

  • Your phone company makes way too much much off of them (although this has changed a little with things like iMessage, Kik and other messaging services) but either way, your wireless carrier charges way more than they should for texting. 

Luckily it seems like audio messaging is starting to take off.  It is much easier than texting and solves the issues I have above.  I've been trying to get people to use audio messaging for a while (you could do it early on with most smartphones but people just had no idea).  But now there are dedicated apps that do it on all platforms and recently Facebook launched the service to the US & Canada.  Here's a quick overview of the ones I consider the main three options, all of which work on multiple platforms over wifi or cell connections:

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1. Voxer

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A friend of mine told me about Voxer a while back.  I have it a quick try and didn't really look at it again for a while.  It is always tough to get your friends to start using something new but I've seen this one catch on as of late.  Voxer if free on all platforms, is very straightforward to use, and reminds me of the old Nextel walkie talk functionality we don't see too much of anymore.  It's very easy to set up, find friends and start sending audio messages.  It stores your previous "Voxes" so you can look and play them back, and you can even audio message in groups.  It works great

2.  Facebook App Audio Messaging

Most people would prefer something they know rather than having to download an app like Voxer to get set up and start using right away.  Most people know Facebook and use it daily so I can really see this one taking off soon.  Facebook started slow and this functionality only works in the US and Canada right now.  I'm sure if people knew it was there they would use it more.  The couple things that I'm not really liking are that it takes too many steps to to send an audio message and that Facebook would store all of your messages on their servers, although if you have a problem with this you should stop using Gmail, Whatsapp, Voxer, iMessage, and just about every other messaging service out there.  Here's how you do it and keep in mind that this is only working in the US and Canada right now and coming to more countries soon.  

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  1. Tap the messaging tab and choose someone you want to message
  2. Tap the plus sign and then tap audio message
  3. Press and hold the record button while speaking.  Release.
  4. Done!

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3. Use Your Phones Built-In Audio Recorder

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I was doing this since I had an iPhone 3G.  I got a few friends to do it but not for any extended period of time.  I'm sure there are one (or many) equivalents on Android but I'm not familiar with any.  I like it because it is simple, but its still a few more steps than I'd like which is why I prefer Voxer.  This will work on all smartphones and some older feature phones as well.  On iPhone, all you really need to do is find the Voice Memos app, which comes built in:

  1. Hit the big record button to record your message then tap the menu button opposite the record button to view it.
  2. Tap Share
  3. Add there person (or people) you want to message.  
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So there we have it , a few ways out of many that you can send audio messages today. I think this type of messaging will take off because it is more personal, is easier than typing out a humungous text message to tell someone something, and in the long run it is cheaper than true texting.  I think in the next year or two we'll see a lot more of this and video calling, especially now that we have super fast 4G LTE available which makes sending these even faster when on the go.  How much do you want to bet this will be built into Apple, Android, and other smartphones in the near future?  

Why I Still Use Foursquare (And Why It's Not Just About Being Mayor Anymore)

I see it from time to time these days. I arrive at a bar or concert venue, take out my phone, and load Foursquare.  Then I see the looks. Some people even ask:

"Is that Foursquare"?

"Yup".

"People still use that?"

Most people I know think of Foursquare as "just that app to use to be mayor of a place". That is not the case at all anymore.  Over the years it has morphed into a useful took for tracking the places I go, finding new ones, and even remembering certain meals and drinks I had at certain places.  It is one of my favorite social discovery apps.  

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When I am using Foursquare, only about half the time am I using it to check in.  The other half, I am scouting new places I might not have been to yet.  If I am in the mood to have dinner and want to try something new, I will most likely be using Foursquare over Yelp.  Why?  First, Yelp review suck.  People are friggin idiots and will give a 1 star review for the most stupid reason ever.  When I am looking for some info on an restaurant or bar, I don't want to take the advice of some tool who didn't like a place because his sandwich wasn't cut the right way.  I want to know who out of my own friends has been to a place, how many times, and what they like on the menu.  


Thats why the explore feature on Foursquare rocks and completely blows Yelp away when it comes to discovery.  It will tell me places I haven't been to and if any of my friends recommend anything there.  I can filter those results by "Best Nearby" which seems to be based on how well the place is scored by people checking in as well as if my friends have been there.  I'm sure other things factor in like  if there are deals going on at that spot, or more simply, the type of food/drink I am looking for.  I can also look through non food & drink related items such as shopping areas and sightseeing places.  Out of all the categories though, I find that the ones I peruse most are "Trending" and "Recently Opened".  You can find some GREAT spots this way.    

Recently opened spots

Recently opened spots

Trending spots

Trending spots

Even more, if I see a place that looks good that I don't want to visit today, I can easily save it to a to-do list or even create my own lists to get really specific on things I want to remember.  

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Finally,  one of my favorite things about Foursquare is that is tracks where I go and how often (as long as I am checking in of course).  This is great for knowing how often you go to the gym, or in my case, yoga.  While it is pretty basic, the stats are a nice little feature that give you little factoids about where you've been and the last time you were at a similar place.  Some might not care but I find it all pretty interesting.  

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Like lots of things out there, Foursquare might not be for everyone, but what most people don't know is that is has evolved a lot over the past few years.  What was once an app that primarily let you know how many times you have visited a bar or restaurant and who exactly has visited the most has become a tool where you can find new places, mark ones you want to visit later, find deals, and find out what the best cocktail on the menu might be.  It is one of my most used apps and I think that if you haven't tried it in a while, you'd be presently surprised with what you find.