Still Riding the High from Blerdcon

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It’s Monday morning and I’m still riding high from the Inaugural weekend of Blerdcon, a first of its kind, exclusively inclusive convention for the Blerd in all of us. Even though Blerdcon is a convention produced by and for people of color, everyone of all walks of life, ethnicities, persuasions, and characters were there for three fun filled and action packed days of nerdom.

theSync: To App or not to App

I consult with small business owners when they’re choosing products and services they can use to strengthen their businesses. Ultimately, the questions turn to whether or not they should endeavor to build a branded app. The decision to build an app isn’t an easy one. This week on theSync, I share 3 factors to consider before deciding to build a branded app.

theSync: 5 Apps to Help Your Student Succeed This Year

School is back good people, and after the first week, you’ve gotten the syllabus, expectations, and a new set of challenges for your kid. This week on theSync, 5 apps you can download to help your kid succeed this year.

1. Intro to Letters

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Leading off this list is Montessorium’s great app, Intro to Letters. I downloaded ItL for my first child when she was three. The app helps your child build a solid foundation of letter recognition, phonetics, and writing. It’s good addition to help children who are learning their ABCs.

2. Wolfram Alpha

At some point your grade schooler will need to perform some research. There are libraries, there are encyclopedias, and even Wikipedias, but if you need stats, quick information, and descriptive text you can query on, Wolfram Alpha’s easy to use and multi-sourced query engine makes finding facts a breeze. WA is great, just make sure your grade schooler isn’t using it as their only source.

3. The Elements

The sciences are being taught in full swing by third grade. Lower and upper school kids will both like and benefit from Touch Press’ The Elements. Elements features great looking images of every photographable element of the periodic table with atomic weights, diagrams, and information that’s both witty and informative. My kids weren’t studying physical science yet, but I bought The Elements because it’s just a damn cool app.

4. Math Flash Cards

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Reading may be fundamental, but everything in life can be described mathematically. The US’s math scores as a nation are appalling. Today, many schools are doing away with math drills in favor of…God knows what. What I do know, is that drilling in second grade helped me throughout my life. And three Calculuses, Number Theory, Numerical Analysis, and Differential Equations later, I’m a math god. Plus, it was cool winning all of those blue ribbons in school. Get Robert King’s drilling app, Math Flash Cards to give your grade schooler some good ole fashioned drills.

5. Today in History

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If our kids don’t know their history, they are doomed to repeat it. I don’t understand why more people don’t like history, maybe its the delivery. Download Today in History to turn your kiddo into a history buff and end the cycle.

This the 2014 edition of apps for the school aged student. Please share which apps you’re downloading for your kids in the comments. Please subscribe to theSync in iTunes and download our Android app from the Google Play store.

I’m Will Mapp, thanks for reading (and listening).

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theSync: 3 Back to School Tech Products for the Busy Parent

It’s that time of year again!

BACK-TO-SCHOOL!

Believe you me. If you have have little ones, Christmas and the First Day of School are two of the best times of the year. Unfortunately, today’s modern elementary schooler has a lot going on, and we parents have to nature, nurture, and chauffeur our kids everywhere. This week on theSync, 3 technology products the harried parent can have to help them hustle their kids.

1. Google Calendar

It seems obvious, but you’d never appreciate how many parents don’t utilize the free tool. With gymnastics, field hockey, and science fair projects on the agenda, the average school ager has a schedule chock a block full of activities. Keeping up with play dates, projects, and parties can be daunting. Create a G-Calendar specifically for your kids’ activities and share it with your husband and grandparents. You’ll be able to sync events to all of your family as well as your phone so you’re not having to papier-mâché a volcano at the last minute.

2. Trello

My oldest is entering first grade this year, which means parent potlucks, fundraisers, and group projects are in full swing. You can use Trello can setup projects and events, and task other parents with salads or supplies using an easy to understand and simple interface.

3. Tile

I don’t know about you, but my kid is always losing shoes, backpacks, and lunch boxes. More often than not, these items end up in the lost and found. You can attach Tile’s not out yet, but coming soon, little ID tags on your kids’ stuff and the next time something goes missing, fire up Tile’s iPhone app to seek and ye shall receive.

These are my picks for fast, easy, and cheap tech for parents of modern elementary schoolers to use. Please share the tech you think helps today’s busy parent in the comments.

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theSync: 5 Travel Apps That Will Help You Live the Perfect Summer

I hope you all had a relaxing Father’s Day yesterday. Well, the last week of school has just passed and summer officially starts this Saturday. This week on theSync, 5 apps that can help you live the perfect summer.

1. Know What’s Going on Wherever You Are

After you arrive and you’ve checked into your hotel room or settled in the beach house the first question you’ll ask is, “what is there to do?” Introducing, LocalMind. LocalMind crowdsources Foursquare check ins, Facebook and Twitter feeds, and posts from local yocals to find the “what’s happening” near you. If social media still disappoints, you can send a request through the app and local expert will respond to you. It’s free and available for iOS and Android.

2. Know Were the Deals Are

As much as we like to indulge ourselves during vacation, we still want to find the best deals. Enter, The Entertainer. The Entertainer used to be a coupon book available in 200 of the world’s hottest destinations. Now, there’s an app that serves the same purpose. You can get the Entertainer for free in the App Store or Google Play.

3. Just Get Away

Leaving early on Fridays is a favorite summer past time. If it’s Thursday night and you want to get out of town on the cheap, check out Jetsetter. Use Jetsetter to find discount deals on flights, hotels, and rentals at the last minute. Where the other travel apps are great for plan ahead trips, Jetsetter is a perfect match if you just want to get away.

4. Dine Well

When in Rome, do what the Romans do. When I travel, I like to avoid tourist traps that serve bland food. If you want to eat local, try out Field Trip. The app is a location aware events and sites app, but it also uses local information along with the Internet to find restaurants based upon your preferences. Whereas Urbanspoon and Yelp offer good information and reviews, if you want local data sliced in give Field Trip a try.

5. Have a Place to Stay

And well, where are you going to stay on this trip? Since having kids, hotels just aren’t as appealing anymore. If you’re looking for a place to stay that is outfitted for living and not just staying check on AirBNB. AirBNB helps ordinary people list their homes and properties for rent. I’ve used the service with success and highly recommend it.

These are my recommendations for apps that can help you live the perfect summer. Please share your app ideas in the comments.

I’m Will Mapp, thanks for listening, and reading.

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theSync: HBCUHacks Recap

It was all about making university life better at Morgan State University’s hack-a-thon at McKeldin Center last weekend. Designers, coders, and biz majors came out to hack together a new product idea to improve student life at Morgan State. If you ran out of NoDoz or missed last week’s action here’s the recap.

The competition was fierce this year, as two winners of past hack-a-thons came out to reclaim the top purse of 1000 bucks plus business consulting for their idea.

Strong Runner-Up

The Brazilians arrived on the scene with booth babes, white boards, and network gear to work their ideas into shape. Unfortunately, their app for everything Morgan was cool, but didn’t thrill the judges.

3rd Place

The-Team-Formerly-Known-As-Cognos arrived on the scene with high hopes for capturing this year’s top prize. Not relying on Black Founders to provide them with sustenance, co-lead, Miguel brought in chips, salsa, and drinks to power them through. This crew even had pillows and comforters for catnaps during the night. Their idea, University Rome, a virtual campus giving all students the ability to post books for sale, class notes, and whatever else college students may hock came in third, but beat out other ideas.

2nd Place

An idea for helping students succeed by sharing everything except past tests, Ed-Span, took second place. Ed Span connects current class takers with former class takers to help share ideas, tips, and yes notes, but tests to help each other succeed in the hardest classes.

1st Place

First place went to Note Portal, a skill sharing web app where students, professors, and business people can sign up, upload their skillset, and obtain new skills by sharing what they know with others. It’s definitely a compelling concept, especially since we are in an economy where skills, not degrees, are of most importance. The win by Note Portal this year is especially endearing, because this team, was about to quit and go home by 10pm the first night.

University hack-a-thons are great for bridging the gap between nerds, designers, and business students. More important than the chance to win money, is the exchange of ideas that can make our spaces better.

Do you like hack-a-thons? Please share what you think about them in the comments at my site at innovationisin.me.

You can listen to episodes of theSync by subscribing to our channel in iTunes. You can also download our nifty Android app, theSync in the Google Play store.

I’m Will Mapp, thanks for listening, and reading.

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theSync: The Lowdown on App Development, 7 Key Steps to App Business Success

Even though it’s 2014, everyone still wants to build the next killer app or game like Candy Crush, iShoot, or iFart.

I was invited to speak at Johns Hopkins tonight for the university’s NSBE chapter. In case you’re not in Baltimore or coming to my talk, I’m sharing 7 key concepts that can help you build a successful app business.

1. Research the Market

There are a lot of flashlight apps, music players, and social media aggregators in the App Stores. That’s not to say that your flashlight app, music player, or aggregator can’t do the job better, but there are a lot of ideas that haven’t been implemented or some executions that are just piss poor. Before embarking on your App Store journey do some preliminary research and figure out what hasn’t been done, or what could be done a whole lot better.

2. Nail Down the Idea

Once you’ve figured out what you’re going to build. Refine, refine, and refine your idea until you can explain to would-be downloaders what IT is in one easily understood sentence. Smartphones have small screens, and just throwing a bunch of features in a screen dost not a good app make.

3. Model & Improve

There really is nothing new under the sun. Facebook was a combination of good old fashioned stalking and the Internet. Twitter is antiquated text messaging technologies combined with the Internet. (Source, James Altucher) Your idea probably exists in a couple of different ways. Model what works in previous executions and improve upon those concepts. You’ll be successful if you will.

4. Use the Right Tools

Most people I speak with want to build iOS apps, because EVERYONE knows that Android people don’t want to buy jack squat. Make sure you are using the right SDKs, add-on components, and tools for the right platform. If you’re building for all platforms at once, make sure you know how to use the tools before wasting your time.

5. Start with UX

Users are fickle all ready. Don’t give them a reason to throw your app away. Focus on building a solid user experience before you write a single line of code. Your users will thank you, and so will your bank account.

6. Develop a Promotion Strategy and Tactics

The 1 billion dollars, that’s billion with a ‘b’, that Apple has paid out to developers since the start of the App Store is enticing to many a would-be-app-developer. This means everyone and their grandmama are releasing apps. Knowing what the word is, who you’re going to speak it to, and how you will get it out will help your app rise above the noise. Do this before you write a single line of code. There is something worse than a crappy app. It’s an app no one uses.

7. Release Often

You won’t think it, but users read app description pages and notice little details. Many users will pass over stale apps to download the latest shiny thing. Release your app often. Fix bugs, tighten the UI, implement a retaining strategy. Just make sure your app’s freshness date isn’t too far in the past.

How do I know these steps work? Because I’ve failed in the app business before.

Please share your ideas and tips for app success in the comments. You can download this podcast and back episodes in iTunes. Or if you like download and listen to theSync using our Android app in Google Play. Be a friend and share this awesomeness with your friends.

I’m Will Mapp, thanks for listening, and reading.

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theSync: 5 Tips for Helping Your Mom (or Dad) Get Safely Up and Running with Their New Smartphone

I took the kids home to visit their grandparents this weekend. After getting out the car, I was stunned into disbelief because my featurephone-using-mother had acquired a brand new 1-cent iPhone. Needless to say, going over Apple ID credentials, setting Twitter, and explaining Google Maps was a painful experience. This week on theSync, I’m giving you a quick lessons-learned segment for helping your parent get setup and running safely with their new smartphone.

1. Take 3 Deep Breaths

Trying to explain App Store IDs, demonstrating Google Maps, and setting up Facebook can be a pain. Don’t get upset, remember she is your mother. Take 3 deep breaths between explaining each feature. Especially when you’re explaining the difference between an Apple ID and the other IDs your parent will need to stalk you online.

2. Don’t Keep Passwords Safe

It takes time for feature phone users to make the leap to smartphones. For many, creating secure and memorable passwords can be challenging. When you create your mom’s password, tape a paper copy to the refridgerator and make a document in notes with her Apple ID. Yeah, I know. It won’t pass muster at your local, shuddered, Federal agency, but you have to start somewhere and pray she doesn’t lose her phone.

3. Install All Apps at Once

And then log out of the App Store. You know she doesn’t know what she’s doing so logging out of her App Store account will keep her safe from running up a huge Candy Crush bill. Also, installing a bunch of crap now will hold her over until Christmas. The key here is to put enough crap on the device that she can go around struttin’ with her new iDevice and show the world that she’s not just making calls and texting. Which lead us to…

4. Explain the Concept of Group Text Messaging

Back in featurephone land tt took more steps to get a group text conversation going. You had to hit three buttons to get back to the contacts screen and then tripe tap to search, and yadda yadda. On an iPhone you just start typing names one after the other in the address bar. You don’t want your mother copying you an a message about the many personal uses of Lysol with all of your family members in the conversation. Have the group text conversation now to prevent embarrassment later.

5. Friend Then Block Her from Your Facebook Stream

Moms love telling people how proud they are of you and will post embarrassing photos of your proud 5 year old self, standing naked, holding a broom. Set her up in Facebook, turn on the privacy settings, Friend her for proof, then block her from your stream. It’ll take her some time to figure out what’s going on and she’ll ask how come she can’t post to your stream. On the phone deny and flat out lie that you don’t know what’s going on. Maybe it’s a problem on Facebook’s end.

I’d love to know how your mom is embarrassing you on Facebook or Twitter, please let me know in the comments.

I love you mom!

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theSync: 5 Tips to Make Your Business More Mobile Friendly

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about Android and iOS features, but some of you asked last week, how I can make my business more mobile merchant friendly.

This week on theSync, 5 quick tips to help you make your business mobile friendly.

1. Make Paying for Your Products Easier

Google likes to make a lot of noise about Android phones having NFC. If you have a brick mortar you can help Android users pay with their phones by buying an NFC payment kiosk. For iPhone and Windows users you can adopt a QR-pay system by purchasing a cash register
imager, but you’ll need to implement a custom app to make this work like Starbucks does.

2. Appify

It’s true, it’s true. We always want to be in our customers consciousness, and one way to do this is by building an app that showcases your products, but more importantly to keep your customers in the know of special deals and sales. You can be really effective by sending strategically timed push notifications through your app.

3. Implement Passbook

Yes, seriously think about implementing it. Passbook is an iPhone app that helps you deliver coupons, deals, and itineraries to customers. You don’t need a custom app to implement passbook and you can do it all with a website. Seeing as how most small businesses have a website an additional means of sending deals seems like a good idea.

4. Implement Google Wallet

Google’s converse app is Google wallet. If you’re in a religious fued against iOS Google Wallet makes sense. Wallet relies on the NFC chip in specific phones and you will need more expensive hardware.

5. Build a Mobile Responsive Website

There are still a ton of websites on the internet that just aren’t suitable for viewing on mobile devices. I made this the last tip, but you should really start here. With smartphones making up 57% of Internet usage making a great first impression goes a long way.

I’d love to hear about how you’re making your business more mobile friendly. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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