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 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.

Q) What's your Daily Social Media Routine?

asked by @TheRayson.

Here we go:

Wake up.

Check notifications on Boxcar (iPhone). Notifies me of new @replies, followers, DMs, and emails. Also notifies me of breaking news about Apple.

Check text messages.

Catch up on my feeds with my Flipboard app (iPad). Tech News then links/pics from Twitter.

Check personal Twitter account on my iPad. (It's easier to skim through these since I've viewed all of the Twitpics with Flipboard already)

Promote with the @btvfam account. (Lots of the YouTubers like to promote late at night. I'll (re)tweet the morning after to give the information a little boost for the day.)

Catch up on Tumblr and other feeds with Google Reader at the desk.


Respond to text messages via Google Voice.

Respond to emails.

Take off DND from AIM, Skype.

Check professional Twitter account. If there's any breaking news that has been tweeted, I've probably already read about it from the news feeds.

I use Growl notifications on my Mac to passively update me with incoming tweets. Otherwise, I'll catch up with Twitter every few hours.

I also tend to load up a ton of background tabs on my browser for things to check out when I have time.

Tech I Couldn't Live Without in 2010

Inspired by Michael Arrington's 2009: Products I Can't Live Without, here are my vital tech products of last year:

  • Google -- Chrome, Voice, Gmail, Reader
  • Apple -- iPad, Magic Mouse, MacBook Air, iPhone
  • Twitter -- Twitter for iPad, Hootsuite, TweetDeck
  • Boxcar for iPhone
  • Skype
  • Tumblr
  • Flipboard for iPad
  • Foursquare
  • Facebook
  • BlogTV
  • TokBox

Honorable Mentions: Adium, Mozy, Dropbox

Heating Up for 2011: Mac App Store, AT&T MicroCell

Lost That Loving Feeling: Firefox, Google Wave, Netflix, Hulu

Top 10 Companies I Couldn't Live Without in '09

Inspired by Michael Arrington's 2009: Products I Can't Live Without, here are my vital tech products of last year:

  • Google -- Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Reader, Voice
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Skype
  • BlogTV
  • Apple - iPhone + Push Notifications, iTunes
  • TokBox
  • Adium
  • Wordpress

Honorable Mentions: Mozy, Dropbox

Heating Up in 2010: Foursquare, Tumblr, Google Chrome, Google Wave, Netflix, iPad

Lost That Loving Feeling: Blockbuster Online, Delicious, Digg, Flickr, MySpace

My Favorite iPhone Apps

What apps do you guys have installed? I have a bunch but my favorites are:

Let's me make a quick status update that'll push to my blog, Facebook status, Myspace profile and AIM profile.
Local chatting. I used this to chat with people within *x* miles of me. This came in real handy when I was looking for the best theater to watch Dark Knight.
When you're listening to the radio and you wanna know what the song is, just run this program, let it listen for 12 seconds and it'll tell you all the song info.
Cuz I'm a Myspace whore like that.
Cuz I'm a Facebook whore like that.
AIM Mobile
Occassionally used to chat when I'm on the move. Add my mobile screenname: **mel so hungry**.
Cube Runner
Super simple and fun flying game that uses the whole device as a steering wheel.
Uses your GPS to find nearby restaurants and bars.
Streaming radio while on the move, cuz sometimes your music library isn't big enough.
Uses your GPS to find nearby movie theaters and movie times. Even tells you ratings from Flixster!

What about you guys?

How to Cram 30GB into Your 8GB iPhone

Even though the iPhone 3G is all sorts of sexiness in a handheld device, memory is limited to 8GB and 16GB. That's fine for people with only 8 or 16 gigabytes worth of music and videos...but what about the rest of us? You got four options:

  • Buy a bigger iPod or mp3 player
  • Hold out a few months for a larger iPhone
  • Manually drag and drop songs you like, one by one, onto your iPhone
  • Use iTunes' Smart Playlists feature

I've used that latter option -- Smart Playlists -- for years, when I figured out a way to cram 24 gigs of music to a 4GB iPod mini.

The basic idea is this: you set conditions on what you want to hear and the Smart Playlists will automagically build itself. For example, I may want:

R&B, at least 3 stars, that have not been played in the past week.

To do this in iTunes, just click on File, then New Smart Playlist, and then fill it out accordingly:

Cool, huh? Now whenever you add music to your iTunes, as long as it matches these conditions, it will automagically get added to this Smart Playlist.

Here's what I did for my 4GB iPod mini back in the day:

Up to 4GB's of the most recently added songs that are rated at least 2 stars, that haven't been skipped in the last month, and haven't been played in the last week.

If you notice, I have Last Skipped and Last Played in there. These are what make it powerful; as I listen to music on my mini (and skip the ones I don't like), the Smart Playlist will essentially learn what I like/dislike and rotate in songs from my 24 GB library.

Easy as pie.

For more Smart Playlist ideas, check out

Backup Your Shit!

Something bad happened at work the other day. A big folder for one of our projects was deleted. Nobody knows how, but it just magically disappeared. The backups we have of that folder also disappeared. Months of man-hours, by multiple coders, just went bye-bye.


But wait, there's some good news and bad news.

Good news. There was one sole surviving backup, tucked away safely on an old server.

Bad news. The backup is over three months old.

We've employed the services of a data recovery specialist (the same kind of forensics that the CIA and FBI use). But that shit is hella expensive and can take a few days. Even then, 100% data recovery is not realistic.

Luckily, we have notes, bits and pieces of our work on our personal computers. It'll take a few days, but we'll be able to recover.

The point I'm trying to make here is the importance of backing up your shit. And no, I'm not just talking about your work, mp3s and porn. I'm talking about the important shit like your digital photos.

A few months ago I read someone's Facebook status message that said, "[I'm] depressed cuz my computer died and lost all my photos."


Work can be redone. Mp3s can be re-downloaded. And porn really isn't that important.

But those photos you've been taking on your digital camera of all your since high school -- shit like your graduation, your wedding and the birth of your first born -- are absolutely priceless. Photos are something that should last for the rest of your life. Something that you can show to your children and your children's children. Not backing up your stuff is just as bad as taking all of your parents old photo albums, putting them out on the sidewalk and hoping nothing bad happens to them. That's just retarded.

And to those of you who don't know, lemme tell you something about hard drives -- they will die on you. 100% guaranteed. The same way that a car engine will break down completely.

So please, do yourself a favor. Buy an external hard drive and use some kind of backup software. Or use an online backup service like (secure, unlimited space for just $5/month).

I use both. :bigthumbup:

My New Aeron is #1 Butt Love

Those infomercials say that the average person spends a third of their life in bed. So why not spend the money for a really great bed?

Well, I easily spend over 13 hours of the day at the why not spend the money for a really great chair?

$1,200 is a big chunk o' change, but with a 12 year completely-covered warranty, I think it's worth it. I mean the chair I've been sitting on is the same chair I've had since 7th grade. If that chair could last that long, I'm sure the Aeron can too.

The Aeron by Herman Miller

It's like sex. For your ass.

The Comic Book Effect with Photoshop

If you haven't seen any movie trailers lately, there's this crazy-looking movie coming out called A Scanner Darkly. The first thing you'll notice is their trippy comic book effect, which the director said that it took almost 500 hours to edit one minute.

The Rotoshop software that they use to do this isn't available to the common consumer, but one guy figured out how to create the same effect in photoshop.

I tried it out once and this is what I came up with:

Pretty cool, eh?