Hey.com →

The next big thing in email is here! I haven't been this excited about email since Gmail.

My favorite features?

  • ability to classify unimportant emails into The Feed
  • ability to merge different email into your own threads
  • ability to rename emails, threads
  • permalinks for each email, email thread, and person
  • enable/disable notifications on the per thread or per person basis
  • ability to add stickies to emails and threads
  • ability add Notes to Self in emails and threads

And as a web developer, this is by far my favorite web app ever. In a world where React and full-on javascript apps have taken over the internet, this is a refreshing take on static HTML with just the right amount of javascript to feel delightful and efficient.

My Solo Travel Packing List for Japan

For the past eight months, most of my purchases had been towards things that would help me in my first trip to Japan and first time traveling alone.

There were four key ideas I adopted in preparation for this trip:

  • Bite-sized vlogs with my iPhone. GoPros are great and all, but I couldn't justify $350+ on an action camera I'd rarely use ever again. And the last thing I want to do when I come back from vacation is spend hours compiling a highlight video for YouTube. With a 256 GB iPhone, I'd have plenty of space to record 4K video, plus I'd be able to edit & upload bite-sized videos on-the-fly.

  • Carry-on backpack only. Having everything in a single backpack means not dragging around secondary luggage as I explore the city between the 10am hotel check-outs and 4pm check-ins.

  • "Capsule wardrobe". Bringing only neutral-colored clothes & layers would give me plenty of possible outfits for the trip, making it easy to adapt to the weather as needed.

  • Unique experiences instead of typical hotels. Standard hotels are expensive and for the most part, the exact same. With Airbnb, I can stay at better locations, pay way less, and experience what it's like to live like a local.

With that said, here's a list of everything I brought, what worked, what didn't, and what I'll bring next time.

Killer Purchases

  • 256 GB iPhone X. The extra space was crucial for recording all my 4K videos throughout the trip.
  • Unlimited 4G SIM card by JAL ABC at Narita Airport1. This was definitely better than the other option: renting a pocket wifi that I would have to recharge and turn on/off throughout the day.
  • 33L travel backpack by Aer SF. This bad boy literally carried everything for me.
  • Outbreaker Daypack by Tortuga. A super light-weight backpack I used to explore the city while I left the rest of my stuff at my Airbnb/hotel.
  • Ultra Light Down Jacket by Uniqlo. The ratio of utility-to-weight is ridiculously good with this jacket. It's super comfortable, loose-fitting, and kept me plenty warm in 45 degree weather.
  • merino wool t-shirts by Unbound Merino. It was my first time relying on (only two) merino wool shirts for an entire week, and it totally lived up to the hype that backpackers have sworn by for years2.
  • merino wool socks by Unbound Merino.
  • Long Sleeve HeatTech t-shirts by Uniqlo. A key clothing layer that helped me manage my temperature throughout the trip.
  • extendable selfie stick with tripod attachment by Smatree. This was invaluable to me as a solo traveler because I wanted pictures of myself without asking other (non-English speaking) people for help.
  • quick-release tripod mount for smartphones by Glif. A handy attachment that allows me to connect my iPhone X — and any future smartphone — to whatever standard tripod or selfie stick I want.
  • 2-in-1 battery pack & wall charger by Anker. Helped me cut down on the extra wall chargers needed for all my devices.
  • Cut Story app for splitting my vlog recordings into 15-second clips for Instagram Stories.
  • Apple Watch 3 for keeping track of two timezones and useful as a camera remote for my iPhone.


  • First Cabin capsule hotel room. This has been on my bucket list for years, but I won't be doing this again because I really disliked having to be completely silent the whole time, especially when I need to zip/unzip for stuff in my bag.
  • 12.9" iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard. I love my iPad, but my iPhone was simply enough for everything I did on my trip.
  • running waist pack by Flip Belt. I wore this to hold my passport so I could keep my pockets empty, but the tight size caused my passport to fold/curve up awkwardly.
  • water-resistant sneaker boots by Nike. Would've been useful had it rained, but it was a bit heavier than I'd like for travel.

Next Time

  • another merino wool t-shirt. I felt a little weird rotating between just two shirts for a whole week, especially with people were watching me in my vlogs every day. A third shirt merino wool would be perfect for my next one-week trip.
  • lighter sneakers in case of rain.
  • a smartphone gimbal, so I can record smoother video with my iPhone as I walk around. I still can't justify a $350 GoPro, but I think I can justify a $150 gimbal.

Overall, my first solo adventure was a huge personal success. I learned how to get by with much, much less. Solo traveling — especially with one backpack — is so freeing, I could do whatever I want, whenever I wanted. I didn't have to wait up for anyone. I didn't have to rush for anyone. Everything I did, I did on my terms, and no one else's.

I can't imagine traveling any other way anymore.

  1. Before using your smartphone abroad, always make sure your phone is unlocked. For me, my iPhone X was already unlocked as I purchased it through Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program. 

  2. Merino wool shirts are well-known among backpackers as the best base layer for travel. The fabric is finer than typical wool, handles moisture very well, has a natural ability to regulate temperature, and is odor resistant. As long as you air it out every night, rotating a few merino wool shirts can last you for days without wash. 

Second Thoughts on App.net →

I'll admit, I had some serious doubts on App.net. At the time I was still close-minded and thought of it as a Twitter clone.

Then I came across this post by Andrew Chen:

  • To build a feed within your app, you’d publish every action that any of your users do within your product, and then you ask App.net for the subset of the global feed that was published with your application.
  • To build an API to let other apps publish on your feed, you don’t have to create your own API. Instead, you would just configure your app’s filter of the global feed to show posts from other applications, and voila, they would show up.
  • To post to other feeds, you would just write into the global feed, and then ask the other apps to allow posts of your type into their feeds.
  • To build a reader client for any other app or collection of apps, you would just filter the global feed based on posts from those apps.

That's the part that caught my eye.

Today we have cross-posting across multiple social networks (and mini-social networks), which is awesome. I can post on Instagram and have it go to my Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, etc. But as more of these mini-social networks pop up with cross-posting abilities, our various newsfeeds get flooded with more and more duplicates.

How many times have you seen a friend do this:

  1. post on Instagram
  2. Instagram pushes to Twitter
  3. Instagram pushes to Tumblr
  4. Tumblr auto-pushes to Twitter
  5. Tumblr auto-pushes to Facebook
  6. Instagram pushes to Facebook
  7. Facebook auto-pushes to Twitter

That's the same Instagram post published seven times. I don't know about you but I still see that happen. And that annoys me to no end.

The more I thought about this, the more I started to appreciate the dream behind App.net.

What if everybody just published everything into this giant river and then developers give us the ability to selectively choose exactly what we want to see? Sounds to me like that could be the next generation of real-time information.

From a non-developer standpoint, going back to my original thoughts of App.net, I was concerned about none of my personal friends forking over $50/year. But you know what? Just because a technology isn't mainstream doesn't mean it can't change the internet.

Just look at RSS. I would say that 95% of my friends -- including the social media saavy ones -- don't have the slightest clue of how to use RSS feeds. But for geeks and influencers of the tech industry, RSS feeds are CRUCIAL. And its these influencers that eventually have an affect over the mainstream.

So on second thought, I was totally wrong about App.net. Instead of thinking App.net as "another Twitter" that will never go mainstream, I've embraced the idea of it as potentially becoming the next generation of RSS feeds for the tech industry. Even if it never grew past the 10,000 initial backers of the project...that 10,000 could be the most influential people on the internet.

And that would make it worth the $50/year.

Pledge App.net

Day One - Now with Photos, Foursquare Places →

For the longest time, I used my blog as my personal diary (saving my diary posts as private, of course).

And then I started to get lazy and just wrote everything on an endless, totally insecure, text file. I would tell myself, "at the end of the month, I will paste my entries onto my blog."

Two things sucked about this process:

  • There were a couple times when I accidentally published a diary post as public.
  • For a solid 2 years, I stopped moving my diary entries from the text file to my blog.

When Day One for iOS/OSX came out, I debated for weeks on whether it was worth the money. Ever since I bought it, I've wished I had this thing 10 years ago.

One thing I love about Day One is its more in-tune with my journaling habits:

  • I tend to write diary entries in short, tweet-like bullet points.
  • Lots of times I want to write something private on the spot, not when I get home.

And now, with today's update, Day One supports photos and Foursquare places.

Photos is a really, really awesome feature because a photo really is worth a thousand words. And sometimes all you really need for a diary entry is a good photo of that precious moment. As a bonus, when you attach a photo to Day One, it'll automagically time- and geo-stamp the information to that diary entry. I just added a photo from this past weekend of my friend dancing with his mom at his wedding, and BAM, Day One already sets the date, time and location for it

If there's one thing I wish Day One had, it would be the importing of all my social networking activities. I still have this iPhone app called Momento which imports data from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare and more...but the developers of Momento don't show nearly as much dedication as the Day One guys.

Download from iTunes

One Night Out with GroupMe

Karol: The show starts at 7pm, right?

Mel: Yeah. I'm heading there 5:45ish with Marlo.

Mel: Ness, are we supposed to save seats for you or you guys gonna be backstage the whole time?

Nessa: We're in the first act, so we'll sit with you guys after intermission.

Krystal: Save two seats for Karol.

That is a texting conversation I had with my friends on Saturday with the group texting app, GroupMe. We actually started playing with the app a couple nights before, but Saturday we finally saw its true value.

GroupMe as a Utility

As shown in the conversation above, GroupMe comes in super handy when going out with friends. Simple situations like, "Hey, I just got parked. Where are you guys?" can be easily addressed with GroupMe.

Without a group texting app, how would you solve this situation?

Twitter? You can, but you'll easily piss off your mutual followers because you're spamming their timelines with a private conversation that doesn't concern them.

Call/Text people individually? Messy and inefficient. Plus, it leaves the possibility of someone accidentally getting left in the dark.

With group texting, you're in touch with everyone that needs to be informed. Everyone is on the same page. Everyone is in sync.

GroupMe as Entertainment

During the concert, GroupMe switched from being a utility to pure entertainment. In a setting where it's rude to talk to each other while the performer is on stage, GroupMe gave us the freedom we wanted.

(Okay, texting each other during a performance isn't exactly the most polite thing to do either, but hey, at least it's discrete.)

Because the chat is private and everything goes directly to everyone's phones, the experience is a lot more intimate than Twitter ever could be.

What about Beluga, Disco, Fast Society, etc?

One thing that made GroupMe stand out to me over its competitors: it's compatible with Google Voice.

Personally, I am a very, very loyal user of Google Voice. It's the only number that I give out. I am absolutely addicted to how I can type out & send text messages from my computer. And so far with all of the competing apps I've tested, GroupMe is the only app the lets me use my GV number.

This is important to me because when friends install GroupMe and the app scans their Address Books, I will actually show up as a suggested friend.

With the competing apps, I simply couldn't use my GV number; I was forced to use my cell phone number, which is the number that nobody has.

Closing Thoughts

With just one full day of using GroupMe in the real world, I can tell this app has serious potential for my nights out with friends.

Will it go mainstream? I hope so but I'm not sure.

There is always the possibility that Facebook might integrate their Messages 2.0 feature with Groups, Places, Events, etc. And we all know how Facebook has a knack for making early adopter ideas into mainstream hits.

Google has the opportunity to come up with something too. They have all the pieces: Gmail, GTalk, Google Voice, Disco for iPhone...I'd LOVE to see them integrate all of those technologies into one seamless experience.

Hell, Apple has the same opportunity as well, with Facetime, iChat, and iPhones. It'd be like adding that Steve Jobs magic to RIM's precious BlackBerry Messenger.

But those are all pipe dreams of mine; 100% speculation on my part based on zero insider information.

In the meantime, I've got a group of close friends on GroupMe. The cool thing is, if I want more friends to get on this, I don't even have to wait for them to install the app -- I can just add them to a group.

Even if the app never catches on with the rest of my friends, I've already got my closest friends on it.

That's good enough for me.

Get More Out of Your iPad with Instapaper

This isn't exactly breaking news...but man, Instapaper is a REALLY GREAT app.

For months I was hesitant about forking over $5 for this app. I constantly said to myself, "I already have Flipboard and Reeder...do I really need another reading app?"

A couple weeks ago, I said, "screw it" and finally bit the $5 bullet.

What happened? Instapaper quickly became my most-used app on the iPad.

I should note that I am addicted to RSS feeds. As of now, I follow 528 different feeds. So anything that helps me get through those feeds faster, I immediately fall in love with. In the past, that's been Firefox's tabbed browsing, Reeder for iPad, and somewhat recently, Flipboard for iPad.

A typical morning at the desktop, I will:

  • load up Google Reader.
  • go up and down the list with the "j" and "k" shortcut keys.
  • when I find something I want to read, I open it as a background tab and continue skimming through Google Reader.
  • once I finish going through Google Reader, I read each one of the background tabs.

Now with Instapaper for iPad, I have a similar routine while on the go:

  • load up Flipboard.
  • swipe through the pages, skimming through all of my Google Reader feeds AND Twitter feed.
  • when I find something I want to read, I'll read it right away or send it to Instapaper.
  • once I finish going through Flipboard, I load up Instapaper and read each article there.

And that's not all.

In the States, I spoiled myself with 3G plans for both my iPad and iPhone. During my recent 10 week trip to the Philippines, I didn't have that luxury for either device. But that was okay because Instapaper absolutely shines with offline reading.

Every time I was about to leave the house, I'd have several articles waiting for me. Hell, for my 16 hour flight back to Los Angeles, I queued up almost 100 articles. And when I came across an article that I wanted to come back to later, I'd file it under a folder like "Reblog Later", "Tweet Later" or "Watch Later".

Now that I'm back in the U.S., I really don't need to start up my iPad's 3G plan again. With Instapaper for iPad, I can enjoy my RSS feed reading list anytime, anywhere...with or without internet.

So thank you, Instapaper. Before I bought you, I had no idea how important you'd be to me. I was so hesitant on spending $5 for you...but you ended up saving me $25/month.