Automate your life or business with Zapier

Zapier is in the business of connecting over 500 of the most popular online services by connecting triggers (such as new Stripe transactions or new Instagram posts) and creating actions from them (such as publishing tweets or entering transactions in QuickBooks) which can make predictable, repeatable business and personal tasks much easier by automating them.

It is no secret that I’m a huge fan of automation. I’ve previously discussed how to create items on your To Do list from form entries and how to automatically track all of your deliveries in an iPhone app. So when I decided to move my accounting to QuickBooks and employ my mother-in-law as my accountant to maintain my books, I sought to overhaul how my books were managed and to make the process as easy as possible for my new accountant.

This is where Zapier comes in. I had long known about Zapier since it was a fledgling service, aiming to join up the mountain of online services which provide and/or receive information but don’t necessarily speak directly to one another. For example, you might want to create a new tweet every time you posted a new image on Instagram or create a new message in Slack whenever you received an email matching a specific set of criteria, such as a new statement notification. Continue reading “Automate your life or business with Zapier”

This is what the websites of central governments should look like – a homage to gov.uk

gov.uk is the gateway to everything that the UK Government has to offer online and since 2012, it has been a shining example of how so much information can be well organised and provided for people for all abilities (both technical and physical) to use.

Government is not usually at the leading edge of, well anything, but not least technology.

As the noughties rolled on, the UK Government had a wealth of information online, but it was so fragmented that you couldn’t be sure if you were reading the most up-to-date information or whether you were getting the information from the right source.

This is very typical of most governments in the modern age. If anything, we were probably ahead of most just by having that information online somewhere as opposed to other countries which may have been slower to put this information online.

In 2011, the Government Digital Service was created with a mandate to completely revolutionise the Government’s digital offerings and to adopt a “digital by default” approach where every service and piece of information is planned from the outset to be available or delivered digitally. Continue reading “This is what the websites of central governments should look like – a homage to gov.uk”

Read the Internet at blazing speed with Squirt

Squirt is a sweet little tool that allows you to read online at ridiculously fast speeds by showing the text in one spot rather than forcing your eyes to move, which can more than double your reading speed.

Today I was introduced to a nifty little tool. Have you ever seen tests or demonstrations where people are shown to be able to read faster if their eyes don’t have to move?

In fact people can typically read at between 120-200 words per minute, which isn’t bad, but this methodology of reading without moving your eyes can easily double your reading capability.

With so many of us doing a lot of content digestion online, there’s a new tool to bring this capability to this realm of your life. Continue reading “Read the Internet at blazing speed with Squirt”

Pocket – Read what interests you on your own time

Pocket is a simple and powerful way of saving links so that you can read them whenever is best for you, instead of trying to rush through before you forget. With the Chrome extension, iOS app, web app and OS X app, I’m always able to save content sand then read it later, meaning I don’t miss out on what interests me.

Pocket is one of my iOS apps that I don’t think I could do without. In the age of the Internet and mobile connectivity, we’re bombarded with information and often we come across things that we might want to read or buy, but just not right this second. With so much going on, if we don’t do something with it, we’ll probably forget in 30 seconds.

Enter Pocket.

For the uninitiated, Pocket is fairly simple in principle: it’s a (free) service that allows you to save articles and information for consumption at a later time. Its integration and simplicity of use is what makes it so seamless and essential to my workflow online. Continue reading “Pocket – Read what interests you on your own time”

Free high-security SSL certificates through Let’s Encrypt

Let’s Encrypt is making the Internet much more secure by providing strong SSL certificates completely free.

Ever tried installing an SSL certificate on your website? Sucks, doesn’t it? The whole process around procuring and installing SSL certificates is so archaic and cumbersome that it sends shudders through the body of anyone facing it.

After Edward Snowden let the world know that everyone is watching everything you do online, we started to realise that we should be able to use the Internet without every benign and every private bit of data being visible to others. The answer to this problem: encryption.

Encryption scrambles data between the provider (say, a website, server or application) and its end user, such that if the data is intercepted anywhere between the two, it can’t be read. If you own a website, the way you encrypt data sent to and from it is through an SSL certificate.

Late last year, several do-gooders came together and agreed that the status quo for producing and installing SSL certificates was terrible. So they set about changing it, and with the vision of allowing anyone to produce and install an SSL certificate with the greatest of ease and with zero cost, they created Let’s Encrypt: a non-profit certificate issuing authority. Continue reading “Free high-security SSL certificates through Let’s Encrypt”

Take your email privacy back

Your email archive tells a lot about you, which is why Andy Chen’s team created a new, better system from the ground up: ProtonMail

Don’t know much about Internet privacy? Think your email is private and secure?

Andy Chen’s brief TED talk explains how email works, why it’s not as secure as you think and discusses his team’s alternative: ProtonMail. Continue reading “Take your email privacy back”

Using a VPN to protect your online activity

The Internet of today is much different than the one of 20 years ago and it’s well worth considering using a VPN to protect yourself from the prying eyes of criminals, governments and corporations.

There was a time when the Internet was used by just academics, governments and a few major corporations as a way of sharing information. The data was very intentionally public and was intended for consumption by all.

Now of course the picture is much different. Few may have foreseen just how quickly the Internet would be adopted in our homes and businesses and just what we’d be doing with it. The ways in which we use the Internet has changed drastically. We now use it for all manner of transactions, like banking, shopping and entertainment. Many of these activities are no longer things that we would like to be public.

Adding security to the Internet has long been an option but only recently is it becoming more of a standard. Web addresses used to run over HTTP, which means that information is transmitted unsecured, allowing anyone to intercept it between its source and its destination. More and more, site owners are switching to HTTPS, which encrypts the data between the users offering another level of security.

HTTPS is somewhat effective, but still won’t do much good to those who are really intent on seeing what you’re doing online, especially those with unlimited resources behind them, like governments and large corporations. Continue reading “Using a VPN to protect your online activity”

Dollar Shave Club epitomises the power of marketing

Dollar Shave Club made a name for themselves with their now infamous online ads, proving that marketing is probably more powerful than we’d like to admit.

Ever since I first saw Dollar Shave Club’s first ad, I was in love. Their marketing is genius. I was so in love with their ad that they really got my attention and made me wonder what their service was about, building on the introduction that they gave in the video.

Had I just seen the name “Dollar Shave Club” online, I almost certainly would have ignored it and passed on it, but DSC’s branding genius used the power of humour and social media to deliver their message.

The video above has been viewed over 18 million times and their follow-up, about their “One Wipe Charlies” has been seen nearly 3 million times and is equally representative of how powerful their brand is. Continue reading “Dollar Shave Club epitomises the power of marketing”

The coolest and most unique t-shirts courtesy of Cotton Bureau

Cotton Bureau offers a new way to buy t-shirts, ones that are cool, unique and well-made. Only those that sell more than 12 go to print to make the system financially viable and all designs are available for just two weeks.

Are you bored of wearing the same old crappy t-shirts? You know, the ones that you got free at some fun run or the ones with hilarious jokes on them.

It’s time for your wardrobe to grow up without getting less comfy or more formal.

Cotton Bureau is a nice little website that has been around for about 18 months now. They invite designers to submit high-quality designs. Users pledge to buy the ones they want and if the t-shirt gets more than 12 sales within 2 weeks, it goes to print. If it doesn’t, no one pays a penny and you find your next favourite design instead.

This is great for a few reasons:

  • The designs are available for a limited period and usually only sell 12-30 items. As such, you know that you’re getting a really unique piece of clothing. Furthermore, once it’s sold, no one can get the same shirt as you. How’s that for unique?
  • You’re supporting designers: Cotton Bureau lets the designer set their own price and gives them a cut of each sale.
  • You support several small indie businesses in the rust belt. Cotton Bureau is based in Pittsburgh, PA and uses a local print shop to print the shirts.

Continue reading “The coolest and most unique t-shirts courtesy of Cotton Bureau”

Camel camel camel

I’ve been shopping online for quite some time, but I haven’t encountered a tool quite as useful as Camel Camel Camel in quite a while.

Despite its ridiculous name, it’s very helpful for being able to make educated shopping decisions on Amazon.

At this point in my life, I’m quite dependent on Amazon to deliver everything from paper towels to car parts in a couple of days at the lowest possible price.

There are two types of products that I buy on Amazon: the kind that I need right away (well, you know, in two days) and commodity items which I’ll snap up when there’s a good price. Continue reading “Camel camel camel”