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Archives for: July 2014

There were 6 posts published in July 2014.

Stories Behind the Apps: Trunx

Greetings CitizenTekk readers. We want to briefly introduce this new feature Stories Behind the Apps, where we will be interviewing mobile app developers on the process, pains and pleasures in creating their apps. We hope that this series gives some unique and valuable insight as you develop or think about your next app and the lessons these folks learned. If you have an app and would like to be featured as part of the series, find the link at the bottom. Now on to a unique and powerful visual library app, Trunx. Enjoy!

Tell us about TrunxMore than just an app, Trunx is a platform designed to hold your entire visual library - all of your photos in one place in the cloud, accessible to you at all times.  Our vision is to be the world’s biggest memory bank.

With Trunx, users can easily browse, manage, store and share photos in addition to importing all of their visual memories from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Dropbox to ensure that they never lose a moment. Users are also able to record videos via Trunx and store them directly in the cloud. The new, beautifully designed app brings usability, functionality, and design together to offer the best possible user experience in cloud-based management and mobile accessibility.

Available for free, Trunx allows users to organize and search for using tags and share any individual photo to multiple social platforms. Trunx’s SharedPix feature (available now on both Android & iOS) also allows users to create private albums to share with friends and family on the app, enabling any member of the album to contribute photos. By providing a place for people to store all of their photos from various platforms as well as videos taken with the app, Trunx ensures that everything is always accessible and easily searchable.

With Trunx, you can utilize:

  • Integration: users are able to export files from Dropbox in addition to transferring and integrating photos from hard drives, phones, Facebook, and Instagram
  • SharedPix: create shared photo albums for friends and family to add to and view together
  • EchoPix: add audio recordings to pictures, a new, unique way to tell a story
  • Organization: arrange photos by date, time, and tags to easily find a clip from any moment

How is Trunx different from similar apps?  Trunx is squarely focused on the experience of making and keeping photos.  We’ve designed our app specifically to solve the issue of findability and accessibility of users’ visual lives. While other players are coming into the space from a utility or storage perspective, Trunx is only focused on making peoples’ visual lives safe, secure, and always available to you no matter where you are.

Tell us about the design and UI. Our app was designed with experience and ease of use at the forefront. Additionally, we wanted to ensure that the brand was represented in the product. Our elephant mascot Max is a character designed to represent our maximum storage offer, while communicating a sense of relatability and peace to our users, knowing that their visual lives are safe and secure. You’ll see that character as well as our purple brand colors infused throughout the product.

What tools assisted you in building the app? For our design cycles, we find Flinto really helpful to mock up and test experiences on our phones. We also spent a lot of time with our community, interviewing potential consumers that came from our target markets.  We spoke with moms, students, young professionals, and more, watching the way they navigated within the app and gathering their feedback.


We learned to engage with our market regularly and religiously. We learned that by involving consumers in our early design conversations, we could eliminate future confusion and frustration. Additionally, using Flinto helped us save time and avoid wasted development resources by giving the team the ability to get a feel for the experience on their phones.  Even when it seems like everyone is on the same page about how something should work, there is no substitute for actual, real-time interaction.

What went right and wrong with the release? In terms of release, we found that a major misconception is finding success by achieving a Top 10 ranking in the app store. Most developers are beyond crazed with a coveted spot on that list, however, we found that this obsession can lead to poor decision making. This includes using boost campaigns to rocket your way into those top positions, when the focus really should be on internal app development and creating a tool that will make users flock to it organically. At first we almost fell into the trap, but we shifted our focus on creating an app that is exceptionally beautiful by weaving together utility, accessibility and design. Trunx’s interface and usability keeps users coming back, and since our initial beta launch less than six months ago, it has experienced an average monthly growth rate of over 190%.

Who is on the team and what are your roles? Jeff Chen - CEO & Founder, Jay Shen - CTO & Founder, Sandra Ponce de Leon - VP, Marketing , Joe Frabotta - Director of Marketing, Juan Francisco Veramendi - Lead Product Designer, Ariel Phipps - Community and Support Manager. We also have several developers working internationally.


What was the team doing prior to building TrunxMost of us were working at other tech startups, but we came together through our love of mobile and photos.  In Sandra’s case, she was leading marketing for B2B Saas company but eager to get back to her passion of consumer mobile marketing.  Jeff built Maxthon from the ground up and it’s now the world’s 6th largest browser.  Jay has had a number of successes - he founded Billpoint and later sold it to eBay, and more recently he work with TVU networks, a leading provider of wireless electronic news gathering equipment for broadcasters.

What other apps inspire you? While we’re working we all listen to music, so music apps like Spotify and Pandora are naturally a major source of inspiration for us. Other apps that we love and that have inspired some of Trunx’s design and interaction include Wechat, Path, Instagram and Facebook.

Head over to iTunes or Google Play to download Trunx!

Hey app devs!  Wanna be featured like our friends at Trunx? Click Here.

Zombie Apps: Mobilizing Lotus Notes

Some have pronounced Lotus Notes/Domino dead, a career killer, a zombie app. Lotus Notes is facing unprecedented user resistance due to perceptions that it is difficult to use and outdated with a tired user interface. In fact, this might also be one reason that IBM recently re-branded Lotus as IBM Collaboration Solutions. Despite these perceptions, CIOs should be wary of rip-and-replace strategies for Lotus Notes.

Lotus Notes and the Domino Server represent far more than just an email solution. True to their new branding, they are collaboration solutions used for many purposes like applications, databases, documents, sharing files, communication, calendars, and activities management. Huge investments have been made in the use of its reliable, full featured, and stable development platform which allows complex applications to be built that meet the exact needs of the business. Some may be surprised to learn that Lotus also supports both SaaS environments and offline use on demand.

At first glance, IT managers may decide that getting rid of Lotus is a good idea, but on further inspection some of the intricacies of this decision begin to lead former anti-Lotus crusaders to a change of heart. “Many migration projects have failed because IT managers underestimated the cost of moving away from Notes. In one case the business was trying to move Notes apps to SharePoint, but even after several years the migration remained incomplete, and had grown into a multi-team project across several countries, and users complained that the migrated apps lacked the functionality they had previously enjoyed,” says David Akka, Manager of UK and Nordics for Magic Software. “In another case, a migration away from Notes, initiated due to a merger, was cancelled because user requirements for apps were too difficult to meet with other systems.”

A migration project from Lotus Notes will often have hidden costs that eliminate the perceived savings. Unless a company is willing to abandon its significant investments in digital assets based in Domino servers, the savings in annual maintenance fees by switching to Outlook or Google for email are often surpassed by the expenses associated with converting Domino databases, applications and other assets within the Lotus realm. Many IT managers conducting the initial cost-benefit analysis of email migration have overlooked the costs of rewriting legacy Lotus Domino-based solutions.

Don’t worry zombie killers, we’re not making an argument that Notes should be retained as an email platform because it is just too hard to replace the related Lotus Domino apps. On the contrary, one can make the move from Notes and implement new collaboration solutions while leveraging the legacy Domino solutions in a coexistence model that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. So why do we say you need to make a move from Lotus Notes?

As most users can tell you, the Lotus Notes client is a memory hog, bringing overall system performance to a crawl and the user interface is dreary and drab. Many users report bugs that have gone unresolved for far too long and system administrators complain that upgrades are too few and unreliable. They muddle on using workarounds for what should be ordinary tasks and suffer from a lack of integration options out-of-the-box.

But as implied in our title, we get to the real reason: Lotus Notes and Domino are not mobile friendly and they desperately need to be. Lotus users want to access underlying capabilities on their smartphones. The traditional desktop Notes interfaces does not transition to mobile well at all, requiring too many windows, too many clicks, and too much mouse and keyboard interaction. The ubiquity of smartphones in the workplace requires interfaces that leverage touch screens and single finger input for faster user experiences and greater convenience. The changing nature of mobile usage represent a context-shift that demands the redesign of collaboration workflows as well. These are the realities of dealing with a mobile workforce that is in need and on-the-go.

CIOs with good survival instincts are demanding solutions that leverage its stable environment for imports, legacy data and business logic. The solutions they are finding are process-based integration and multi-channel application development platforms. Application development and integration platforms with Lotus Notes and Domino adapters can be used to create modern feature-rich desktop, web and mobile apps with intuitive and optimized interfaces that match the needs of enterprise users regardless of whether they are connected via a mobile phone, tablet, web browser or desktop computer.

Mobile apps built on top of Lotus Notes and Domino perform efficiently, look cool, and scale to any number of users. CIOs can beat the zombie apocalypse by directing their organizations towards integrated mobile solutions that leverage their existing investments in Lotus applications. The benefits may be far more than mere ROI, they could mean CIO survival.



How to Be Secure With an Insecure Internet

Governments have been spying on their citizens since the dawn of time. From McCarthyism to PRISM, the scale of surveillance throughout history has varied according to the resources it took to dig up information on people.

Back in the 1950s, it cost tens of thousands of dollars to investigate one person, and it might have taken days, weeks, months, or years to find anything. Now, it costs the NSA just 6.5 cents an hour to spy on you.

Of course, the everyday low, low price of surveillance is great for unraveling terrorist plots, but what happens when it costs practically nothing to spy on thousands or millions of people?

These government agencies are going to collect whatever information we put out there, and we’re putting out a lot.

Think about a government or corporate entity having access to your entire Google search history, private emails, instant messages, purchase behavior, or even location data that shows where you’ve been. This is information we readily volunteer when we agree to many “free” services’ terms and conditions, trusting that companies will be responsible stewards of our private data.

The Reality of the Internet

While we’d like to believe that changing our passwords constantly is enough to protect the vast amount of information we supply on a daily basis, data security is a mathematically impossible myth. You have data; that data is private or public, sensitive or immaterial. The more powerful the data, the more you have to think about how to protect it.

Just as governments can potentially investigate anything they deem a threat due to the low (or nonexistent) cost of advanced surveillance, so can “the bad guys.” Large bureaucracies are no longer the only entities that can possess and utilize such powerful and precise resources. There’s a cyber war underway today, and we’re all in a battle to protect our privacy and integrity.

Guarding Your Digital Self 

Ultimately, the responsibility of security on the Internet rests in your hands. You can control how much information you share or supply digitally.

1.     Your Stream

Any time your data is online, you have a personal responsibility to exercise due diligence. You can’t necessarily control what your kids do with tech out in the world, but you can keep them secure by teaching them responsible device usage at home. The more powerful the data you possess, the more you have to think about how to protect it.

Always encrypt your data, and if your data is important or extremely sensitive, think very carefully about where you share that information. This idea applies to your digital integrity and even your family’s personal safety. Consider these factors when deciding how much control you need to have over your child’s Facebook posts or your sharing of family information. Unguarded information can, unfortunately, provide anyone the opportunity to see what your child likes and where he or she hangs out. Be proactive in protecting your data. The costs of not doing so could greatly outweigh the inconvenience. 

2. Governments and Corporations

If you trust data to make decisions — which you do every time you turn on your phone or swipe a credit card — make sure that data has integrity. Pressure the companies you do business with to protect your data, and realize that once it’s out of your hands, you have to trust that company’s encryption and integrity. Make sure you choose those companies wisely.

Again, the safest data that exists is the data that isn’t connected to the Internet. That’s why some of the most sensitive government and corporate environments have air gaps, meaning they literally aren’t connected to the Internet.

Resetting the Internet

If you don’t trust other entities to handle your data, you may be thinking, “Can’t we erase it and start over?”

The simple answer is no. Some have tried to imagine what an Internet 2.0 would look like, but the Internet is just an agreement between individuals on how they communicate with each other. As long as people are generous with their data, there will be those looking to exploit it.

The chaos of the Internet is part of its beauty, and a lack of central authority has been its strength. Not until very recently have we started to allow corporations and governments to control that here in the U.S., and it’s a slippery slope that will continue to push the Internet into a controlled environment until we say enough is enough.


Daniel Riedel is the CEO of New Context, a systems architecture firm founded to optimize, secure, and scale enterprises. New Context provides systems automation, cloud orchestration, and data assurance through software solutions and consulting. Daniel has experience in engineering, operations, analytics, and product development. Previously, he founded a variety of ventures that worked with companies such as Disney, AT&T, and the National Science Foundation.


5 Keys to Keeping Your Developers Happy

Developers! Developers! Developers!

Steve Ballmer made this chant infamous, but the fact remains that developers are the lifeblood of software companies. This is especially true for web startups, where a good developer can be the difference between success and failure.

Most leaders understand this on an intellectual level. They know that good developers — especially those equipped for the startup world — are hard to find and even harder to keep. But in the day-to-day shuffle, it’s easy to take your developers for granted. This can be a fatal mistake.

Major companies like Google and Intuit (not to mention other startups) are always looking to poach rock-star developers, so it’s more important than ever to keep your developers satisfied.

Here’s how to keep them happy and make sure they’re productive:

1. Manage your expectations. Businesspeople often try to tell developers how long it takes to do things, but this approach doesn’t make any sense. It would be like developers telling you how long it should take you to raise your next capital round.

Understand that no one has ever built your exact requirements before — otherwise, you wouldn’t need to build anything. You will change your mind after the project begins (as you should), and things will come up that no one thought about before. That’s the reality of building complex software — and most custom software is complex.

Having unrealistic deadlines not only frustrates developers, but it has the potential to disappoint shareholders who might not realize how many unknowns there are when it comes to building software. Communicate with your developers throughout the project to stay on top of any obstacles or unforeseen circumstances that may require a shift in deadlines and expectations. Everyone is working toward the same goal; the road may just be longer than expected.

Work together with your developers to create mutually realistic estimates. Better yet, use Scrum agile methodology and build out your stories with complexity levels. Using an agile framework provides a continuous gauge on the anticipated completion dates based on the team’s actual “velocity” on the project. This “velocity” takes into account delays on feedback, internal politics, level of cooperation, and possible tool setbacks.

2. Pay them. Well, of course you’re paying your developers, but make sure you’re paying them enough. If your programmers feel like they’re not being paid what they’re worth, they won’t be as motivated to work hard. Pay them enough to take the money issue off the table entirely.

3. Challenge them. Programmers, especially the best ones, are driven, creative people always looking for the next interesting problem to solve. The best developers will get bored if they don’t have a challenge every now and then.

Let your programmers build something in a new framework or build out an internal tool to help your business operations. Intuit challenges all its employees to come up with game-changing ideas during its “unstructured time,” and Facebook has a long tradition of all-night hackathons, where the only rule is that developers must work on something different from their day jobs. You could even consider giving them free time on Fridays to build whatever they’d like — that’s how Google made Gmail, after all.

4. Let them make decisions. Good developers will be adults if you let them. If you create extremely tight policies and highly structured environments for developers to work within, you’ll limit innovation, creativity, and motivation. Like Daniel Pink wrote in “Drive,” “People need autonomy over task (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with), and technique (how they do it).” So give them some autonomy.

You should also implement a framework in which developers can give input on the direction of a product. Make sure they have ownership of the idea or product. At Path, all employees have access to the social network’s source code, and they’re encouraged to make changes if something is broken or if they have an idea to improve the user experience.

5. Give them a direction. As the leader of your company, it’s your job to come up with the vision and communicate it to your employees. If they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing, they won’t be as motivated. Give your developers a driving purpose that they can get excited about. For everyone to be in it together, everyone must know exactly what “it” is.

Implementing these key steps can help put your developers into a state of flow. You can do this by giving them meaningful projects, ensuring that they have the ability to set their own schedules around their peak performance times, allowing them to customize their working environment, and challenging them. Otherwise, you might want to start learning Ruby yourself.


Zach Ferres is the CEO of Ciplex, a full-service interactive agency that helps clients succeed online by creating award-winning digital solutions for online marketing, E-commerce and content management systems, and social network platforms. Follow them on Twitter.


Productivity CliffsNotes: What I Learned From Tim Ferriss

When you’re starting up a new venture, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Sometimes, it seems as though your startup is running you, not the other way around.

For me, this meant spending too many hours a week working where I wasn’t needed. Tim Ferriss’s book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” hit me in the right place at the right time and helped me become an efficient leader (instead of an exhausted one).

If this is the first time you’re hearing the name Tim Ferriss, chances are it won’t be the last. A successful startup founder in his own right and a prolific angel investor, Tim’s biggest success comes from his skill at lifestyle design: managing your life to be your most productive without losing sight of your priorities.

After he founded his nutritional supplement company, BrainQUICKEN, Tim Ferriss went on to write “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which became an enormous success in the Silicon Valley tech scene. Like many startup founders, Tim had been running himself ragged, devoting nearly all his time to running his company.

It was only when he reevaluated where he was actually needed that he began to realize that more did not necessarily equal better. I took the lessons in this book to heart and still use many of the techniques he evangelizes today.

What I Learned From Tim Ferriss (and How It Can Help You)

The law of the “vital few and trivial many” is a recurring theme in “The 4-Hour Workweek,” and it’s the jumping-off point to changing how you do business.

Ferriss uses what is known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule. As used in Ferriss’s book, the 80/20 principle means that 80 percent of your output is a result of only 20 percent of your input. In other words, 80 percent of your efforts are misguided or wasted; it’s the vital 20 percent you should be focusing your energy on.

The 80/20 principle isn’t about cutting corners or working less, but working smarter. It taught me to analyze where I was most useful and concentrate my efforts there, freeing up the rest of my time to recharge or work on other things.

There are a few practical ways to discard your wasted “80 percent” activities so you can achieve real productivity.

1. Manage by Absence

This might be the hardest thing for a startup founder to do, but it’s also the most important. Step away from managing things for a while, and see what starts to fall apart. It sounds dramatic, but the fact is that once you’ve set the wheels in motion, many aspects of the business can run on a daily basis without your oversight. When you can see what those things are, you can put your efforts to better use.

2. Interrupt Interruption  

Another thing that prevents you from achieving 80/20 is the sheer amount of distraction in everyday life. The habit of constantly checking the news or social media, refreshing your inbox multiple times per hour, and trying to keep up with the flow of information online can trick you into feeling productive without actually getting anything done.

In the “The 4-Hour Workweek,” Tim discusses going on a low-information diet where you essentially tune out news and time-sucking distractions altogether. To keep yourself off social media and other time-wasters online, try StayFocusd for Chrome or LeechBlock for Firefox.

Stop answering the phone, and direct calls to your email. To avoid becoming a slave to your inbox, use a tool like SaneBox or Mailbox to categorize your emails and have them reappear automatically if you need a reminder.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource

Outsourcing can be a dirty word, and, in some situations, it’s warranted. But outsourcing doesn’t just refer to manufacturing and customer support. In this context, it’s more about delegating. It’s easy to find skilled freelancers and virtual assistants online who can do basic tasks at a lower cost. (Tim even outsourced his online dating.)

While this is an extreme example, eliminating the busywork from your life — and from your key employees’ lives — means you can increase your efficiency and allow everyone to focus on the most important things.

4. Get Analytical

Part of what makes Tim brilliant is that he’s all about experimentation. He’s a scientist of business, writing, cooking, and exercise to find the most efficient way to do things. Think of it as A/B testing your life and making small changes that have a big cumulative effect on the way you manage your time.

The underlying lesson I took from “The 4-Hour Workweek” is the notion that you can define your own reality. It’s not just about having goals; it’s about going back to the beginning and figuring out the steps that will take you where you want to go.

For me, utilizing the 80/20 principle allowed me to go from working on one startup 40-50 hours per week to working 12 hours a week. Not only did I work more efficiently, but I used the extra time to start another company with profits that were 10 times that of the business I’d been spending the whole week on.

Spending time where you’re most needed and cutting out everything else can open up a world of possibilities for you. You just have to be willing to step back and unabashedly change your daily reality.


Stephan Aarstol is the CEO and founder of Tower Paddle Boards, an online, manufacturer-direct brand in stand up paddle boarding. Tower Paddle Boards was invested in by Mark Cuban on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” was named one of the show’s “Top 10 Success Stories” by Entrepreneur Magazine, and was featured by People Magazine as one of “Shark Tank’s Biggest Winners.” Stephan is an entrepreneurial thought leader and online marketing expert, and he welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Google+.


Top Tech Devices to Enhance the Classroom

Any tools that enhance the classroom learning experience should be embraced – whether those tools are tried and tested or brand-new. One such tool is digital technology, which provides a unique opportunity to improve overall learning outcomes by making instructional materials and information more accessible than ever. Digital technology can put the world at the fingertips of young boys and girls, and present the world in such a way that students actually want to engage with it. Text books, for as thorough and comprehensive as they may be, often fail to achieve like results.

There are a wide range of tech devices available that can benefit the classroom. For the purposes of this article, you’ll notice that we’ve left off software programs and Internet connectivity – their inclusion is a foregone conclusion. In many ways, what is more important is the devices on which these programs are accessed. After all, a software is useless if it doesn’t find its way in front of a user – that’s what these devices allow.


When it comes to buying computers for the classroom, cost is a factor that must be taken into consideration. It’s simply a fact of life: classrooms have limited budgets and any cost savings can reap huge dividends when purchasing dozens or hundreds of a particular tool. What the Chromebook offers in spades is incredible performance and capability at an extremely competitive price. It also helps, of course, that the Chromebook is a laptop, making it portable and easy to move about a classroom. With performance to match entry-level desktop devices, a full keyboard, and a full suite of software programs, the Chromebook should be the computer of choice for schools looking to empower their students.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

As powerful as modern laptops may be, many schools are finding that their educational and instructional needs are better served by tablets – children in particular seem to find their touch-screen interfaces to be intuitive and engaging. For schools looking to bring tablets into the classroom, there is one choice in particular that bears consideration: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. This latest version of the popular Galaxy Note tablet is more powerful, advanced, and useful than ever. Among its unique features – and the features that make it a great option for classrooms – are its stylus, which allows students to write on the tablet in a natural manner, and its split-screen functionality. It is a tablet that makes serious inroads into the world of the laptop computer, and with some carriers offering free 4G LTE coverage for schools, it’s a no-brainer for the classroom.

Nintendo Wii U

It may not seem an obvious choice for inclusion onto this list, but anyone who has ever played with a Nintendo Wii device can tell you that it’s no ordinary game console. It eschews outright performance and adult-oriented games for colorful and fun graphics, a collaborative play mode, and titles that encourage both physical activity and mental aptitude. The latest device from Nintendo, the Wii U, carries forth with this tradition, offering a number of unique game titles that are perfect for the classroom, such as ScribbleNauts Unlimited, an open-world game that allows for creativity and exploration, Big Brain Academy and National Geographic Challenge. The Wii U, perhaps more than any other tech device, has the ability to make the learning process interactive and fun.

SMART Whiteboards

Digital whiteboards, such as the line of SMART whiteboards, combine the features of a projector with a traditional chalkboard or whiteboard for an enhanced learning experience. Images can be projected onto the whiteboard and the teacher can interact with the whiteboard in a range of novel and compelling ways, all of which can help him or her make the teaching experience more engaging for the student. SMART whiteboards also allow for the teacher’s notes – in effect, the day’s lesson – to be saved with a simple touch of a finger. No longer does the day’s notes have to be permanently forgotten once erased from the chalkboard.