Monday, October 25, 2010

Chumby screen saver

Having a little fun with chumby as a software

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blogging at work

Just made my first work blog post here. Will keep things mostly personal or unrelated to work on this place.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Androidboss website plagiarized my post

My post yesterday about the G2, was directly lifted by some guy named shadow at a website called Unbelievable. No attribution, no changing. They directly copied it and posted it as their own. I think this article here is a good gameplan for people who face a similar situation.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

My G2 review

Today is the day most people can buy the new Tmobile G2 phone. I was fortunate to receive a device late last week and have had almost a week to play with it. As this is my fifth Android device (G1, Droid, Nexus One, Samsung Galaxy) I have a lot of experience with this mobile OS. For the purpose of this post I think there are 5 areas worth commenting on: hardware, setup, usage, HSPA and applications.

Hardware - The G2 is a hefty little device. I actually feel like having some heft is a good thing in a device. Of the devices I have had, the G2 weighs in as the heaviest at 6.5 ozs. I thought the Droid was actually heavier but it in reality is lighter at 5.99 ozs. Maybe the boxy industrial design gave me that impression. This is contrasted with the G1 which was 5.6 ozs. and the ultra light Samsung Galaxy device which is an amazing 4.59 ozs. For a non-Android comparison, the iPhone 4 is 4.8 ozs. It is interesting to me how close in weight the iPhone and the Galaxy are, but how much more solid the iPhone appears. As far as durability, I think the G2, Droid and iPhone all seem fairly similar in that regard.

The G2 to me, looks a lot like a beefed up Nexus One. The faceplate appearance is a slightly more squarish version of the Nexus One, but that is where the difference ends. The G2 has an amazing spring loaded slide action that is as strong as what I saw on the Helio devices back in the day. Not quite a switchblade locking action, but a strong spring loaded slide up. The keyboard is gorgeous and most closely resembles the Sidekick 2 with slightly raised rubberized buttons.

Setup - Like all Android devices, you need to be bought into the whole Google thing to experience the full range of the device. In my case that means I am a user of Gmail at work, I have all my contacts in Google Contacts and I use Google voice. With a simple login with your Google credentials you have a quick OTA update of the relevant services and before I knew it, my 1800+ contacts were loaded and ready to go. Two additional comments on setup. Thus far, I have had to load back every application when I set up a device. It would be great to have your application profile saved so that when you migrate from one device to the next you don't have to go back and redownload all the applications. iTunes has Google beat on this front in that an iTunes sync to a new device does all that the Google OTA stuff does but it also brings over your applications. I am sure that is either fixed and I don't know it, or it will be fixed.

Usage - The device works great. One of my big concerns was that the processor has a slower clock speed than the Nexus One with 800 mhz vs. 1 gigahertz. I am not sure if there are memory optimizations or other things that make the speed comparable, but I have yet to notice any speed differences between the two devices.

One last thing on Usage, one of the primary things that I love about 2.2 Froyo, is the Car mode and how unbelievably amazing voice search and voice controls are when I am driving. I connect my phone with my Blue Ant hands free and basically toss the phone in the seat next to me.

HSPA - I can't say that I have any concrete comments about the HSPA network speed vs. my previous experience with Tmobile's network in general. I am sure that with time I will have a clearer perspective. Two things I have done to test out speed that are worth noting were traveling down the freeway at maximum speed limit and streaming NFL Sunday ticket this last Sunday morning between San Onofre and North San Diego county. I wasn't watching the video necessarily (wink) but rather was tracking the audio via my hands free as a means to listen to the game. I had zero interruptions over approximately a 30 mile drive while streaming video. I think that is a positive test. The second and less tasking has been streaming Sirius XM over the device over the last several days, which also has worked well.

Applications - It is probably worth another post sometime as I use about 20 different applications frequently, but there are a couple worth mentioning now. Vlingo does a great job filling the gaps for me when I feel like Google Voice products don't quite do the job. Car Home is a noteworthy 2.2 application, providing an easy to use card dashboard for search, calling and navigation.

Summary - Since I am not in mobile anymore, I was really hoping that the G2 was a phone I can use for the next year or two. After a week of putting it through the paces, there is no question to me that this phone definitely fits the bill. My only concern is that all the innovation by OEMs is going to make me want to switch sooner than I should. HTC has done a great job with this device and I am sure the other leading OEMs are going to do their best to one up them.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Some Nice Press

Local tech press did a nice write up here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I am an Android

As the various smartphones have emerged in the last several years one of the interesting by products of the carrier model in the US is that the carrier that you do business with is a big determinant in the type of smartphone you own. ATT and you are an iPhone user. Verizon and you use the Droid. For me, I have been a Tmobile customer for something like 10 years.

One of the advantages of Tmobile (and also ATT) is that you can use whatever unlocked phone you want. In the US, that is the exception as most people purchase subsidized phones. My initial phones with Tmobile were Sony Ericsson candy bar phones. I think that was the T610 and T635 if I recall correctly.

As I went to Intercasting, I wanted to see where phones were going(unlocked) and became a fan of the Sony Ericsson P series of phones purchasing the P910 and later the P990. Man were those phones big! I have to say though that I loved those phones and even became fairly happy with Symbian UIQ at the time. Unfortunately for me, Sony Ericsson made the decision to go with Windows Mobile on the Xperia and I was lost to them. This of course happened around the same time that the G1 was about to come out. Per my earlier point, since I was a Tmobile customer, I was happy to be an early adopter of Android and was extremely pleased to get my first G1.

Arguably the G1 paled in comparison to the iPhone. While I think that was true, I still loved the device especially the fact that it had a keyboard. During most of my time at Intercasting I was also a Sidekick user, spanning 3 different models of Sidekick before abandoning the devices as the product cycle times extended and much of the differentiation was absorbed by smartphones.

I faithfully used Android/G1 up to the Good acquisition, which resulted in my change in focus from feature phones to smartphones as it related to an increased focus on enterprise mobility and thus higher end devices. For the last year, I have been using the last 3 versions of the iPhone, The Droid and the Nexus 1. Interestingly, while I think all three of those phones were outstanding, I was the biggest fan of the Nexus One. The Droid certainly had the best network with Verizon, and the hardware from Motorola was very hardy (I think you could bludgeon someone to death with it and it's sharp corners), but I found the keyboard very disappointing, which has been the case for me with most Moto QWERTY devices historically.

Certainly the iPhone is an amazing device from a usability perspective and from a services perspective, but the lack of keyboard and some of the better features on Android devices leave me with more interest in that platform. I have to note that this is really only as it relates to smartphones as I use a Mac, have Apple TV, and love my iPad.

The reason I write this is that on my last business trip with Good before coming over to Chumby was that I lost my personal Nexus One at Seatac airport my last week of work. I can't tell you how angry I was when that happened. I knew that Tmobile had rumors of the G2 coming out but I needed a phone immediately so I headed over to the nearest Tmobile store and bought a new device. At the time, the hot device for Tmobile was the Samsung Galaxy phone called the Vibrant.

I think Samsung is an amazing company, and has amazing hardware, but I have to say that I was very disappointed in this device. There were 3 big issues for me. First, the GPS didn't work right. My two major differentiators for Android over iPhone are Google Voice (I was previously a Grand Central user) and Google voice related car functionality like Navigation, Voice search etc. No GPS means no navigation, no foursquare check ins, no Twitter location lookups. While it is true that the phone actually allowed me to call people, so did my old T610 and it was free.

The second reason was the lack of Android 2.2, which isn't a total problem, but it did highlight to me the issue of platform fragmentation with the various OEM UI overlays. Add special stuff and it takes a while to roll out new versions of Android to make sure that the are no integration issues.

The 3rd issue, which is relatively minor was hardware related. This one is sort of a mixed bag for me because there are both highs and lows on this. The high is that the screen on this devices in unbelievable. The low is that the device is super lightweight to the point of almost seeming flimsy.

Bottom line though is that I think that the Galaxy line is a great product but the GPS piece was a P1 bug for me that is not the sort of thing I would expect from Samsung given their general commitment to some of the highest quality devices across product lines.

With this in mind I decided to return the device and went searching through my closet for something I could use to cover the time between the return and the eventual release of the G2. The best answer for me was to dig out an aold N97 that a friend at Nokia had given me.

Before I trash this device, I want to say that the N series of phones are among some of the best devices I have ever used. Both my N95 and N85 are among my favorite phones in terms of reliability, battery life and industrial design. The N97 on the other hand is clearly an example of how Nokia completely lost track of the competitive landscape of the smartphone business.

Instead of editorializing some of the hardware specific issues, I would rather focus on my experience as a user. On the good side? The battery life is in another world compared to all other smartphones I have used. Where Nokia made the investment on top shelf items there is no comparison (the camera). Long battery life = good. Good camera = good.

Software. Aaargh. I hope that Nokia gets it right eventually with Ovi, but if you compare the experience of setting up an Android device, with setting up a Symbian smartphone, they aren't even in the same league. I think I spent two days setting up the N97. Worse yet, I ran out of memory on the core device early on in the process. This was tragic because the device is loaded with memory, just not on the primary device where all the software goes to in default.

Once I got a decent configuration set up with some reasonable synchronization between services I use, I was left with two other things worth commenting on. One, the navigation was top notch, but not up to snuff compared to Google Maps and Navigation. Close but the lack of workable voice support was a big miss for me. Second, the lack of applications really stands out as a gap when compared with iPhone, Android and RIM. Nokia will have to address this somehow.

While it is easy to see how Nokia is in a precarious position in the smartphone space, I will only add that there market share in devices below smartphones is impressive and I am a huge fan of Maemo/Meego as a potential way out of darkness for Nokia. I am an owner of both the N7790 and N800 and love the devices although they too have a shortage of software. I would love to get my hands on an N8 but since I am not in mobile anymore, I don't see me buying one anytime soon. :-(

All of this is a long way of saying that I am hooked on my Android devices and can't wait to share my thoughts on the brand new G2 device that I am playing with this AM.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

TripIt Pro Discount Code

Tripit is without question one of my favorite services. I signed up for Tripit Pro earlier this year and it has paid for itself many times over. I get text messages when I land telling me of gate changes. I get flight delay updates before others. The point tracking system is simply amazing.

With all that said, I am basically shilling for Tripit right now. They have lowered their annual price to $49 and have sent a discount code to distribute to friends for $5 off. If you travel at all on a frequent basis, I have to say that you will be amazed by this service. If you are interested, the discount link is here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My new gig


Yeah. Well I didn't really take much time off between gigs.

A couple of weeks ago, I took over the ceo position at chumby from Steve Tomlin. We had been thinking about external communications and for the most part wanted to talk to partners like Sony and Best Buy and some others prior to saying anything in public. Somewhere along the way, I forgot about this press release which hit the wire as I was coming back from NYC and Boston last night, so I guess it is time to say, this is what I am doing!

I have been close to the chumby team over the last several years, but certainly the most with Steve Tomlin who founded chumby and was also my investor and board member at Intercasting. Beyond Steve, the founding team of Bunnie, Duane, Ken and the rest of the team at chumby have done an amazing job creating not just a product, but a product that people actually buy!

In addition to having success with their own product, the idea that the chumby network of flash applications can be proliferated on other devices has been validated with their work with Sony on the Dash and with Best Buy on the Infocast. Expect to see more of that on devices like tablets and televisions in the coming months.

For me this gig brings some new challenges and some familiar ones. A significant part of the job going forward will involve working with content companies, which I have done throughout my career and also marks a return to the advertising world, where I cut my teeth at and at Vivendi. The new challenges are consumer electronics and working with retail distribution. My past two gigs at Good and Intercasting involved working with some of the same players that I expect to work with in the future, although in a different context.

I am excited to take the helm at chumby and look forward to helping to scale the business beyond the success achieved thus far. It is a great honor to take the reins of a company that you have watched someone build from scratch and I will do everything in my power to deliver on that promise to the team, to our partners, and to the many people who have become great fans of what chumby has done thus far.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Trails

Today is my last day at Good Technology. While it is the end of a run at Good, it is actually the end of my run with Intercasting and mobile as well. It’s been a bit over 6 years and besides saying, gee how time flies, I have to say that it has been a great adventure and a period of time that I know I will look back on with pride and a sense of accomplishment.

Much like my run at and Vivendi, which was almost the same amount of time, I am pretty sure this is a marking point for a move into a new sector. I have really enjoyed mobile and think that mobile is more exciting today than when Shawn and I started Intercasting in 2004. It’s just that, like digital music before it, I find that I am looking for some time in a different place. That is not to say that I won’t go back to mobile in the future, or digital music for that matter, it’s just that for me, I think a change is a good thing at this point.

At a point like this I think it is important to ask one self, what have I learned these last six years? Aside from some industry specific things, which I don’t feel like exploring in this post, I think I have learned a lot of similar lessons to my time in digital music. It’s probably worth pointing out a few. First, markets in technology are extremely volatile, fast moving, and not prone to any great amount of predictability. In 2004, there was no iPhone, there was no Facebook, and messaging revenue was king. Because of this, winning and losing is something that is driven by luck to some degree, but most important for an entrepreneur is the ability to pivot in a market when the path to success isn’t necessarily all that clear. Flexibility, the ability to slaughter your sacred cows and a focus on execution are key. With that and a little bit of luck, you might get a win.

Second, and actually more important that the first, is that it is all about the people. The people you hire, the people you do business with, and the people you compete with in the marketplace. To me the most rewarding part of the last 6 years has been working with some of the most talented people I know, getting to know new friends and acquaintances in my day to day interactions, and finding a number of inspirational people along the way. Without that, I can’t imagine how I could pursue my dreams every day.

Third, it is extremely important to always remember the most important people in your life, which in my case is my wife and my four kids. While I have traveled over 120,000 miles this year already, I always made it home on the weekend, and I always did everything in my power to keep things at home as important as my work. My kids will grow up with good memories of hanging out in my office with my team and that thought will always make me smile. More important than that though is the unending support my wife has given me with this venture and in our marriage of 16 years. She is without question the best and most important part of my life.

So other thanks. I have to thank the team that I worked with at Intercasting for this entire time. They are, without exception awesome. Their hard work and innovation were the key to our success. Shawn and I could never have spun the tales we spun if they didn’t give us the tools to back it up. I also want to thank my team at Good. While most of my previous team went on to various roles at Good, I inherited an entirely new team and added some others and I have to say that my time spent with them was great and I really value the time I got to spent with each one of them as well. I wish it had been for a longer time but that is what the future is for!
I also owe a great deal of gratitude to our various business partners who took their chances with us and in many cases formed relationships that spanned a number of years. One last point of thanks is owed to my investors who I have stayed in touch with to this day. We were extremely lucky to end up with the team of investors that we did and it is only with time and experience that you figure that out. I would work with any of them again any time.

There are five people I met along the way that I want to call out who I was fortunate enough to encounter during this adventure who either influenced me, inspired me, or just became good friends. The first one is Paul Palmieri, who was the head of data services at Verizon when we started talking about a community called Rabble. Paul went on to leave Verizon and started one of the more successful advertising services in mobile, Millenial Media. Paul is a great guy who deserves all the success that is coming his way. A lot of people inside big companies aspire to be entrepreneurs and Paul is one of the few who have the savvy and intelligence to actually go out and do it. I hope to know Paul for years to come.

I met Greg Clayman at one of my first CTIA’s in New Orleans I believe and have much respect for Greg. Greg did the opposite track of Paul going from an entrepreneur to running the digital strategy at MTV/Viacom. Greg has been a great success and is one of the funniest guys I know. He has the added distinction of creating Twitter many years before Twitter was created with a service called UPOC. I am pretty sure my path will continue to cross with Greg’s in years to come.

Sometimes you run into your long lost brother who you were separated from at birth. In my case I met that person when I met Mike Clark from Photobucket. Mike is a great entrepreneur, an outstanding friend, and someone I am sure I will work directly with sometime in the future. I know that if I ever need any help in any situation personal or professional, I can call Mike. Mike founded a fascinating called Safety Web earlier this year and I have no doubt they are going to be a runaway success.

I met Tasso Roumeliotis shortly after our company and his company were pitted against each other in a bake off that ended up getting snaked away from both of us at the 11th hour. That episode, while very irritating to both of us ultimately resulted in the start of a great friendship that lasts to this day. Tasso is super smart, an operator and a guy with a hell of a lot of vision. I am not sure that we will be running in the same circle in the future, but I will certainly keep in touch. Tasso helped drive home the lesson that competition should be something that is done in an honorable way among competitors and hopefully as friends.

Shawn and I have worked together for something like 12 years in 6 different companies so I am hard pressed to say that I have had a better timer with anyone other than him in business, but without question the time I spent with Jean Tripier was certainly a close second. I am pretty sure that the main reason that Intercasting was sold to Good/Visto was in a large part a result of what we thought of Jean. Jean is funny, intelligent and a consummate deal maker. My only regret is that I didn’t get to work side by side with him for a longer period of time. Jean went on to become the CEO of Worldmate and I am sure he will be a great success with that company. I only wish I could share some of the funnier moments, but I think that could get me in trouble so I will have to hold off on that.

So mobile has been good on that front. I could easily rattle off about 50 other people(Mark Ewen, Dan Shapiro, John Hiler, Rick Heitzman, John Smelzer, Adam Lavine, Alex Panelli, Joe Waltman come to mind immediately) and I mean no slight to any of them by not mentioning them, it is just that the above folks had a particular impact on me.

Earlier in my career I had two amazing mentors in Paul Casella and Robin Richards. Their impact on me last to this day and reminds me to spend time with those in my organization who have the potential to grow into something great. While there were many outstanding senior people in our company, there were a number of people who we got to watch grow and who I think have great careers ahead of them who I would like to say something about. Kristen Jourdonais has had something like 6 different jobs with me. She has grown into a superstar and unfortunately I think we have wrecked here from ever working at a normal company. While she is still very early in her career, she is certainly destined for much success.

Ben Reesman came to work with us part time out of UCSD and unfortunately we ultimately got him to come to work with us full time. Unfortunate only because it took him away from UCSD. Fortunate because Ben has grown a ton and I can’t wait to see where he ends up in his career. His big brains and passion will serve him well in the future.
Tom Demas was one of the cofounders at Intercasting and I would be lying if I said that we had it easy between us. Tom and I went round and round for something like two years but I have to say that Tom may have grown more than anybody at Intercasting and he has moved on to have great success at Good. I am sure that there are many good things ahead for Tom and I wish him the best.

One last person I want to mention, who unfortunately I didn’t get to spend as much time with as the others was Brian Spencer. Brian worked closely with our CTO Josh and it was awesome to see him grow into one of the top guys in our company. His positive attitude and can do leadership are something to see. Big things are going to come from Brian in the future.

Like before none of this is meant to come at the cost of the many awesome others on our team (Josh, Scott, John, Matt, Chris, Kang, Cassie, Tim all come to mind immediately) but to point out how good it was to see some of our friends and co-workers grow before our eyes.

Two last things and then this windbag will cease. Deborah Critten has worked with me for over 10 years and even today I continue to be amazed at her instincts, hard work and am entirely envious of her sense of style/understanding of consumers/knowledge of the zeitgeist. I want to thank her for her support and friendship.

And of course the best for last. Working with Shawn is and will always be a great adventure that is unlike any experience I have had. The two of us work together very well and complement each other and we have fun in the process. Shawn is more than a business partner, he is a good friend and family to me and my family. This run has been a blast. I am sure there are more to come. Can’t wait for the next one.

Monday, March 08, 2010

What's In My Ipod?

At the end of the year every year, I like to use some of the down time between December and January to comb through the various MP3 blogs end of the year lists to discover new music. While I love Led Zeppelin, REM and Radiohead, I have found that taking the time to find new music is something that keeps me in touch with what is new and exciting that I would otherwise not necessarily discover. As a kid, the radio was my number one discovery tool. Today, my radio listening is about zero, and when I do find myself in the car, I tend to listen to the NFL network which feeds my football obsession. The radio has been replaced by sites like Hype Machine and Motel de Moka.

So what am I listening to right now? A bunch of good stuff.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros - The song Home is without question my favorite song right now. The band's music is very reminiscent of early California folk/psychedelia. I don't know a bunch about the band but in this track and several others I have listened to, I really like the sound, which doesn't sound like The Mamas and Papas or Jefferson Airplane, but certainly evokes that sort of feel.

Phoenix - Their release Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was everywhere on people's lists this year. The big track 1901 is a fun and uplifting song. If it wasn't everywhere already, the recent Cadillac commercial has certainly made it all the more familiar.

Passion Pit - Tim in my office turned me onto this band and while it didn't click the first listen or two, it certainly has now. Sleepyhead and Little Secrets are played over and over again in my car. I haven't listened to all of Manners, but I would definitely recommend it as a catchy, upbeat sound that doesn't necessarily remind me of MGMT in style but certainly in spirit.

The xx - This band had a lot of buzz on the same level of Phoenix. I heard them first on NPR on an end of the year music special, and while the first track I heard didn't do much for me, some repeated listening of the various tracks got me hooked. I especially like Crystallized and Night Time. Their sound is haunting and dense, but the male female vocal teaming and the ethereal sound really is something that I keep coming back to.

Julian Casablancas - Whatever happened to the Strokes? I don't know as I was only really into their debut release, but a listen to the latest effort by their frontman reveals a high charged, almost disco revival sound that has hints of the initial Strokes release although more lively and I guess danceable?

The Rest - I discovered this band on some obscure indie music blog whose name escapes me. This band out of Canada is way up my alley. The track Coughing Blood/Fresh Mountain Air reminds me of Radiohead and U2 with a more haunting backdrop. Seriously, of all the new stuff I have heard, this one song has blown me away the most. I hope to hear more like this from them.

Atlas Sound - I can't put my finger on the sound of this band, but the track Sheila, is something I never tire of listening to. The chorus "And when we die we will bury ourselves" is very Wilco in a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sort of way, but much more catchy and earnest way. The link here is to a live video of the song Sheila.

Metric - Not sure how to describe Metric, other than it has hints of fast paced electronica and the lead singer's voice is just great.

Major Lazer - My kid's favorite right now. Somewhere between hip hop (T-Pain) and dance hall with a bit of Daft Punk to boot. The song "Keep it Going Louder" just defies you to sit in your seat and not move.

White Rabbits - I tend towards the punk or heavy rock sound and I wouldn't describe anything in this list as of that vein with the exception of this band. While not really punk, The White Rabbits have a great fast paced beat and a stripped down sound with some hints of what I would say is early melodic punk stylings.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Google Maps Navigation

It didn't take me long to actually touch mobile and last week while traveling, I forgot another super useful tool for travel that I have to mention. That tool is Google Maps Navigation. Last year Google rolled out a turn by turn navigation component as an add on to their existing Google Maps product. I have historically been a user of both Google Maps and Mapquest although over time I have slowly migrated to Google Maps. When driving, using Google Maps can be a bit problematic as I have to keep looking at the phone as you go from point to point. Because of this, I would usually just print out the directions and refer to them if I got confused.

Once I upgraded Google Maps to use the Navigation plugin, I was blown away. Immediately, I thought that this was a game changer. Certainly the market did as shown by the share price of Garmin show here. Or more pointedly, the move by Nokia to offer a similar free service on the backs of their recent acquisition of Navteq for over $8 billion.

While I am interested in the underlying infrastructure and market implications, the real winning piece is the consumer experience which is second to none. In addition to being free, which is a price that is hard to pass up, the application also combines the ability to use layers to see things like gas stations, restaurants, etc. and also when you arrive at your location, Google Street View pops up and it shows you a picture of the place you are trying to find. I can say that I for one, will never rent a GPS machine from a rental agency ever again.

If you haven't tried this yet, I would highly recommend putting it on your phone.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tools For Travelers

There are a number of tools for travelers but there are three that I use all the time that I find very good and are ones that I think are totally worth telling others about. The three that I want to tell you about are Tripit, Tablet Hotels and Expensify. Each one of these is either a website, or a combination of website and application that make my life easier each week.

Tripit. I don't entirely recall why, but when Tripit initially launched on Linkedin, I signed up to add a Tripit widget in the mad rush to find apps that are useful on Linkedin. I still honestly haven't found others to use but that isn't that they arenĂ­t out there, it is just that I am not a Linkedin power user, and in general use Linkedin as a business card collector. After designating where I was going for a trip or two, I quit using the widget and forgot about it.

One night I was at a dinner with a number of folks from Sony Music, and one of the guys was raving about Tripit. I was shocked. How the hell could it be useful? He explained the big missing piece I hadn't understood. Tripit is like a virtual assistant for keeping all of your travel information in one place. How so? Well, the real use case for Tripit is to email all of your confirmation materials, like flight, hotel reservation, car reservation and dinner reservations to . Once you do this, Tripit parses the various emails and assembles an itinerary that can be viewed on he web, or more importantly on iPhone or Android devices. Once I figured this out, I became a rabid user. So much so that I actually broke down and subscribed to an Tripit Pro account, which lets my wife keep track of me and provides some other added benefits like SMS flight update information for gate changes and flight status as well as a consolidated view of all your loyalty programs. There are some other similar products in the market, most notably Worldmate which also provides this intelligent parsing of emails which I think is an interesting opportunity in a number of application areas.

Tablet Hotels - I have blogged about Tablet a long time ago, but thought it worthwhile to plug it again. While I am primarily focused on booking through SPG as I have loyalty status with them, I often find their choices or locations in Europe either too expensive, inconvenient or frankly a little too old school for my tastes. I originally happened upon Tablet back in 2003 when I was staying at The Standard Hotel in Los Angeles a fair amount and they used Tablet to manage their bookings. From that time, I became a frequent user, especially looking for cheap, hip hotels in places like New York. While Tablet, whose tagline is "Hotels for Global Nomads" tends towards the cheap chic, they also have super high end places as well for the Hollywood or Media crowd.

Three other things worth noting on Tablet. 1. They have a Tablet Plus membership that has guaranteed upgrades. I haven't sprung for this but figure I should break down and do that soon. 2. They have a social networking aspect that might be of interest I suppose, but in general, I am not looking to meet up with the random hotel guest in say Milan. 3. They have some screaming last minute booking deals for "members" that are available each Tuesday.

Expensify - Expensify has a great tagline: "Expense reports that don't suck". What else can you say? It is true. Expensify automates a lot of what you do when filling out expense reports. It has the ability to link a credit card account with your web based account and as transaction enter, they are lined up for you to add to a new expense report. For certain low dollar items, they provide you with an electronic receipt that is IRS approved. For other receipts, like say an airplane booking, you can forward the email confirmation and attach that to the charge. You can do similar things with PDF and web page receipts. For the vast majority of the little piece of paper receipts, you can take a picture with your iPhone or Android device and upload the photo to your account where you can match them to the charges as they appear on your credit card. For cash receipts, you can manually enter the details into the respective smartphone application, take a picture of the receipt and upload them as well.

While there are a number of little items they can and should add over time, I am pretty confident that this is by far one of the fastest ways to process what is otherwise a real pain in the ass. I highly recommend you check this out.

There are obviously a number of others that are great and if any of you want to share them with me, feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


One of the hardest things about re-starting something is the fear of stopping again. There have been a number of moments when I sat down with a list of possible blog posts and fired up Blogger and then said, “Not enough time.” That may still be the case, but it seems like something I have been missing a lot when I think about things. I have moved on from blogging to the very occasional posting on Flickr, and more frequent updates on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, but a review of those things are like a laundry list of places I have been and brief snapshots of where I was and where I am going, with very little for me to remember or take on as me. A vanity search on Google still has this blog as the number one result yet it also has a stream of SAN, SFO, etc. of social media sites abandoned or used as placeholders of my travels and not much else. Frankly, that isn’t necessarily something I want to remember.

Work, travel, and business. Going from a startup to a bigger company makes one much more sensitive to what you can say or discuss. One of the things I have some insight on is the mobile industry but I really can’t talk about that. Can’t really talk about devices. Can’t really talk about partners. A lot of what I do every day is a lot of not being able to share. So that has been an excuse I suppose, yet in it’s place I am left with LHR, JFK, and you have the wrong @derrick on Twitter.

So I want that to stop, or rather I want to occasionally post something, anything, other than some geocoded outbursts or other brief comment to a close group of friends. The reality is for me, that long hours on planes, while spent in a large part thinking about work, also involve a lot of thoughts about other stuff. Stuff that is of great interest to me and which I think I have some pretty good perspective on, if not only as a user, but as someone who have been around long enough to hopefully have some insight. At the very worst, it is a means to share and a way to keep in touch with friends who for whatever reason I haven’t kept in touch with between work, travel, family and life.

So there it is. Not so hard. Music? Food? Cooking? Technology tools. Random stuff. I think that should be worth some fun and get me back into the habit. At the very least it is a start, or a reboot if you will.