Last month, we wrote about mmhmm, a virtual presentation startup that turns boring Zoom meetings into entertainment like presentations. Brought to you by Evernote founder, Phil Libin, the tool has cool features that make you look more than just a bland head-in-a-box. And, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that we’re a little bit tired of being one.
One month into beta, mmhmm already had 100k people on its waiting list. And, for those of you who’ve patiently waited, the wait is finally over! mmhmm has launched today on Mac and is available for download. So, to get a little more information on how mmhmm came about and what new things we can expect down the pipeline, we chatted with Phil himself.
When asked whether he expected such a big turnout for the beta, Phil said it was totally unexpected, and he said they weren’t trying to instill FOMO by not letting everyone get a peek. “The purpose of the beta was very scientific. Every day we invited a few hundred people, just enough so that we could have a statistically significant test; whether the previous features and bug fixes were working or not.” By running the beta the way they did, Phil said they were able to build a “good product quickly”.
Another thing that helped move things along quickly for mmhmm was that timing was just right. Before the pandemic, we were able to perform our roles in our daily lives at work, school, social functions, etc, but the pandemic took that away. Phil said that everyone “knew how to be a little bit of a performer. We just lost that when we all went on video because it’s just like a new language of how to be engaging on video.” And, the video tools available to us were no fun. So, Phil took what he learned from Twitter’s Cofounder Ben Stone — fuseful. “It’s a combination of fun and useful. So the idea is like, we do these things that are like funny, but they actually serve, you know, an important purpose,” Phil said.
Thus, the idea of mmhmm was formed. This new tool aims to take back a little bit of what we lost, such as being able to present alongside another team member; and debating if our slideshows, or our faces are more important to display. And, a lot of people were here for it, especially investors. “Everyone that we pitched it to believed in the size of the opportunity. They also all wanted to use it immediately,” Phil said. This helped in acquiring funding easier.
So, let’s get down to the features!
Copilot: Interestingly enough, the copilot feature has come in handy for more than just office presentations. The feature, which lets two people work and present together has been used by teachers in a very interesting way. Educators in South Dakota are using it for storytime. With the book in the background and the educators in front, they can read a book to children in both English and Lakota languages. And, while they speak, the book is synchronized in the back just like if you were turning a page. “Things couldn’t be done like this before,” Phil said.
Dynamic Rooms: The library of beautiful, animated backgrounds has grown. There are now more places for you to visit (or, rather display) in the background. This is partially due to mmhmm’s acquisition of Memex. Memex creates cool filters that you can apply to videos. “We’re going to have so much more interesting effects and backgrounds,” said Phil. “In fact, a lot of our dynamic rooms were made by the Memex guys.”
Laser Pointer: This laser comes in multiple colors and even rainbow mode. This feature lets you add a pointer effect to your mouse so you can point to specific pieces of information on your slide.
Away (or more like the Terminator’s “I’ll be back”): Selecting this feature will bring up a screen with a cute graphic of an mmhmm character juggling and text that reads, “Be Right Back”. You can say goodbye to empty cameras when someone goes offscreen.
Big Hand Mode: This feature is mmhmm’s way of perfecting gestures. This mode lets you nonverbally communicate without interrupting the presentation. The feature uses gesture recognition. By turning it on, your hand turns into a big foam hand you normally see at sports events. How cool is that!? “[You can] quickly communicate visually without interrupting. To agree with someone, you can just like give a thumbs up you know, or thumbs down,” Phil said. Unfortunately, this feature is only available on the new Apple M1 powered Macs just announced. Fingers crossed we see it on older Macs soon.
So, mmhmm is here. For now, it’s only available on Mac, but Phil says it will eventually be available on Windows, iPhone, iPad, and Android. The holdup is that they are looking at “what is uniquely good” about each device so they can develop work that will make it really great.
The basic version of mmhmm is free. But if you want more fun and flexible features, you can subscribe to unlock the fun! For those lucky enough to be on the beta, you will have access to three months of the premium features for free. New subscribers will get a 7-day trial. Every day after that, users will be able to use the advanced features for one hour each day. To get rid of the time limits, you can subscribe for $9.99/month or $99.99/year. And, all teachers and students will get the premium version for free for one year.
“The mark of a successful product is when you see it being used in ways that the creators just didn’t imagine. That’s a good sign that you’re succeeding,” Phil said. Will you step up to the challenge to do something the creators couldn’t imagine?
Nate app: $38M Series A fintech startup you should keep an eye on
(TECHNOLOGY) The nate app combines the best of social media and shopping into one platform, streamlining the check-out process for hassle-free purchases.
No one likes to hop around from store to store searching aimlessly in aisles for all of their necessary items. That’s why the big guys win, like Walmart, Amazon, and Target – they have all you need in one swoop! Users choosing to shop online feel the same way. Having to reenter payment, billing, and shipping information over and over again becomes a pain – or worse, a deterrent to purchase, resulting in cart abandonment- that’s where the nate app comes in.
Nate combines the best of social media and shopping into one platform.
The well-funded, series A startup utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to complete purchases seamlessly without all of the fluff a user discovers when checking out at various online retailers. Once a user inputs shipping and payment information into the app during sign-up, nate keeps the data on file for subsequent purchases, virtually eliminating the time-consuming check out process. If a user sees a product they like from an online merchant, they simply have to “share” the item to the nate app, and it will take care of the rest.
Unicorner’s startup analysis states, “In essence, nate is bringing the benefits of shopping on a centralized platform like Amazon to a decentralized shopping ecosystem.”
With a nod to Pinterest and LikeToKnowIt, the platform allows for users to create visual product lists on a personal account that can be shared with followers. If a follower likes an item they see, they can purchase the item in-app in just a click or two.
In contrast to the big wigs of the social media world, the nate app hopes that users will purchase based on true inspiration and not a targeted algorithm suggesting what they should buy. Instead, the app runs its business model on a $1 fee for each transaction which covers the ability to issue virtual cards, protect online privacy, and apply available discounts.
The nate app simplifies gift giving as well. Users are able to select a gift item and enter the recipients phone number – if the recipient is a nate app user, it can be shipped directly – otherwise, they will receive a text asking them where to send their new gift! This makes it a perfect choice for the upcoming holidays (yes, 2021 is almost over…whew).
To stay up to date on everything nate, download it now on the App Store.
Facebook deletes developer over ironic browser extension invention
(TECHNOLOGY) Think a muted week for a nipple shadow is bad? Facebook just permabanned this inventor for…helping others to use the platform less.
It must be true that corporations are people because Facebook is pulling some seriously petulant moves.
In a stunt that goes beyond 24hr bans for harmless hyperbole, and chopping away at organic reach (still bitter from my stint in social media management), Facebook straight up permanently banned one of their users for the high crime of…aiming to get people to use the platform a little less.
Developer Louis Barclay came up with Unfollow Everything, an extension that basically instantly deleted your feed without having you unfriend anyone or unlike anything. Rather than have users manually go through and opt out of seeing posts, they’d now opt IN to keeping who they wanted front and center.
In his own words on Slate: “I still remember the feeling of unfollowing everything for the first time. It was near-miraculous. I had lost nothing, since I could still see my favorite friends and groups by going to them directly. But I had gained a staggering amount of control. I was no longer tempted to scroll down an infinite feed of content. The time I spent on Facebook decreased dramatically. Overnight, my Facebook addiction became manageable.”
Since more time spent on Facebook means more ads that you’re exposed to, means more you spend, the add-on started slowly making headway. I myself pretend to be a ranch owner to keep ads as irrelevant to me as possible (though my new addiction to hoof trimming videos is all too real), and Unfollow Everything probably would have been a great find for me if it hadn’t been killed by a cease and desist.
Law firm Perkins Coie, representing the internet giant, let Barclay know in their notice that Unfollow Everything violated the site’s rules on automated collection of user content, and was muscling in on Facebook trademarked IP.
They also added, in what I can only assume was a grade-school narc voice, that the add-on was “encouraging others to break Facebook’s rules.”
Barclay, not having the resources to fight a company with the finances of a small country, promptly ceased and desisted. Practical.
Officially speaking, Facebook might have actually have some ground to stand on vis-à-vis its Terms Of Service. The letter and legal team may have been warranted, not that we’ll ever truly know, since who’s taking Facebook to court? But then they followed up with a ‘neener neener’ deletion of Barclay’s 15 year old account – which was still very much in use.
Look, Facebook is the only way I connect with some of my friends. I don’t take enough pictures to make full use of Instagram, I fully hate Twitter, my Tumblr is inundated with R-rated fanfiction, and any other social media platform I’m happy to admit I’m too haggish and calcified to learn to use. So a complete WIPE of everything there with no notice would be pretty devastating to me. I can only imagine how Barclay felt.
And in light of the fact that the browser extension wasn’t hurting anyone, taking money, or spewing hateful rhetoric, there’s really only one thing to say about Facebook’s actions…they’re petty.
Sure, they may have the legal right to do what they did. It’s just that when you notice every fifth post is an unvetted advertisement, their high ground starts to sink a little. I mean nothing says ‘We’re being totally responsible with user information’ like the number of add ons and user tactics popping up to avoid seeing the unnecessary. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Facebook put up a fight against losing ad traffic.
We all know all those stores with amazing deals aren’t actually going out of business, or even using their own photos right? Right?
Barclay added in his article, “Facebook’s behavior isn’t just anti-competitive; it’s anti-consumer. We are being locked into platforms by virtue of their undeniable usefulness, and then prevented from making legitimate choices over how we use them—not just through the squashing of tools like Unfollow Everything, but through the highly manipulative designs and features platforms adopt in the first place. The loser here is the user, and the cost is counted in billions of wasted hours spent on Facebook.”
Agreed, Mr. Barclay.
Now I’m off to refresh my feed. Again.
Glowbom: Create a website, using just your voice
(TECH NEWS) Talk about futuristic! This app allows you to create quizzes, surveys, an online store, and even a website in minutes–without typing.
In the past, we’ve discussed things like simplified coding and no-code app creation. Now, a San Francisco startup has taken the process a step further with no-type app creation.
Glowbom is a voice app that allows you to dictate steps to an AI – from adding information all the way to exporting code–in order to create a simple app, survey, or game. While the built-in options for now are limited to four simple categories, the power of the app itself is impressive: By asking the Glowbom AI to complete tasks, one is able to dictate an entire (if small) program.
It’s an impressive idea, and an even more impressive product. Glowbom founder and CEO Jacob Ilin showcases the power of Glowbom in a short demonstration video, and while he only uses it to create a simple survey, the entire process–up to and including the exportation of the API–is accomplished via voice commands.
Furthermore, Glowbom appears to process natural inputs–such as phrases like “Let’s get started”–in the context of an actual command rather than the colloquial disconnect one tends to expect in AI. This means that users won’t need to read a 700-page manual on phrases and buzzwords to use before jumping on board–something the Glowbom user base was probably hoping to avoid anyway.
As of now, the options one can use Glowbom to create include a quiz, a survey, an online store, and a website. It seems reasonable to expect that, as support for the app grows, those categories will expand to comprise a larger library.
Glowbom certainly opens a few doors for people looking to take their businesses or ideas from an offline medium into the digital marketplace. As coding becomes less centralized in computer language and more contingent on processes such as this, we can expect to see more products from folks who may have missed the coding boat.
Perhaps more importantly, Glowbom and products like it make coding more accessible to a wider base of disabled users, thus taking a notable step toward evening the playing field for a marginalized demographic. It’s not true equality, but it’s a start.
This story was first published here in October 2020.
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