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Next Great Apps are from Kids!

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Are kids these days really as hopeless and self-absorbed as we claim? Perhaps not.

The next wave of tech extraordinaires seem to get younger and younger, and the app-creating students mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg.

Check out the apps below from impressive, pint-sized developers, who’ve accomplished much more before high school than most people more than twice their age.

Chow Checker,

New Hampshire’s Hampstead Academy is a strictly peanut-free zone due to the relatively high number of students with nut allergies.

This inspired the school’s eighth graders to create the cleverly named Chow Checker app, which identifies food allergens to determine if certain foods, from grocery stores or restaurants, are safe to eat.

You can create a profile and select up to 12 allergens, and then search for a product name or scan a barcode. Either option pulls up a list of ingredients in that food, as well as nutritional content.

The app taps into the daily updated Nutritionix food database, which includes more than 300,000 food items. You can add notes about the food for future reference.

Hampstead students worked with the MIT Media Lab to write the app, which was a Verizon Innovative App Challenge winner in 2013.

Available for free on Android.

Bubble Ball,

When he was 14 years old, Robert Nay’s physics-based puzzle game, Bubble Ball, unseated the seemingly indomitable Angry Birds for the iTunes App Store’s top spot in January 2011. Not bad for someone who created his first website in third grade and already owns his own company, Nay Games LLC.

Nay wrote Bubble Ball with Corona tools from Ansca Mobile. It took him roughly 4,000 lines of code.

The app capitalizes on players’ creativity, prompting you to set up lengths of wood and metal, and activate various power-ups to manipulate your bubble for the sake of reaching the goal.

There are 144 official levels, and because anyone can create a new level, the game is constantly evolving. There are already more than 200 community-created levels to explore.

Available for free on iOS and Android.

Back Door,

David Singer’s app, Backdoor, removes a key component of communication — identity.

Backdoor, which launched in July 2013, is an anonymous messaging app that lets you reach your friends by signing in through either Facebook or Google+. The app gives you clues to learn more about the sender’s identity. In-app purchases provide additional clues, such as gender, likes, interests and more.

Cashing in on people’s desperation and curiosity? Color us impressed.

Singer, who considers himself primarily a UI designer, was 13 years old when he wrote the app. He’s the same kid behind YouTell, the popular website that allows you to post questions and solicit anonymous feedback.

Available for free on iOS.

Things To Thing About,

Second through fifth graders from Jackson County, Mich., worked with two high schoolers in the same district to create iPad app Things to Think About.

Its premise is to jumpstart and foster children’s interest in writing and critical thinking, as well as encourage dialogue about challenging ideas and issues.

The app asks kids to dream big, think through “what would you do” scenarios and expands horizons past kids’ environments.

The students brainstormed 100 writing prompts in 12 categories, including Friends, Family, School, Fun and Feelings. A student’s original hand-drawn illustration and the option of a child’s short voice narration accompanies each prompt.

Available for free on iOS. An Android version is under process.

New Thoughts Web Analytics Trends for 2014

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Last year was a great year in the web analytics world. We saw awesome advancements from just about every vendor in the web analytics industry.

Some of my favorite achievements of the past 12 months were:

  • Google rolled out the Google Tag Manager to the masses and launched very cool functions such as auto event tracking.
  • The addition of demographic data in Google Analytics has led to amazing insights.
  • Adobe launched a new (much improved) interface to Adobe Analytics which showed how useful a web analytics solution can be when owned by a company that made its name with UI design tools.
  • Tag management companies such as TagMan and Tealium landed many great new customers as well as big rounds of funding.

With the start of 2014, we have more experienced web analysts out in the field than ever before and organizations are now relying (rather than hoping) upon analytics for improvements in their bottom line.

In the year ahead, I am optimistic that we will see the pace of advancement in the web analytics world accelerate. Below is my top 10 list of trends that I would love to see over the next 12 months.

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Better Content Analysis Tools,

When it comes to engagement with content (text, graphics, video, etc) most web analytics platforms show the same data – views, landing page visits, next page views, exits, goal contribution, etc. To get reporting on actual engagement with the content, analysts need to implement other tools to track engagement such as scrolling, mouse movement, zooming, and highlighting. This divide in reporting is a major challenge for content producers.

Better Tools for Integration with Third Party Data,

If 2013 was the year for “Big Data” then 2014 should be the year for data integration with web analytics. While platforms like Adobe Analytics and IBM CoreMetrics did a decent job at enabling analyst to integrate data from multiple sources (i.e. CRM, Call Center, Lead Nurturing) with web analytics data, most platforms are lagging in this area. This year we want to see web analytics platforms help site owners to have a more 360⁰ view of their prospects and customers by providing excellent tools for integrating data from other platforms into the web analytics environment.

Multi-visit Click Paths,

Unless you’re selling competitively priced pencils at auction, odds are that your visitors are looking at your site multiple times before (and after) converting. But today almost all web analytics platforms focus on reporting for a single visit. There are persistent tracking variables that can be used to show multi-visit attributes. But site owners need to see how visitors’ behaviors change as they learn more about products/services and as they start to interact with the organization offline (i.e. sales calls).

Physical Interaction Tracking,

The way we interact with websites is changing. Touch screen laptops, smartphones, tablets, gaming systems with web browsers, etc all allow us to physically interact with a website. Web analytics platforms need to help us track pinches (zoom), swipes, device orientation, tilts, and other physical movements. With the current platforms tracking this type of activity requires a lot of custom JavaScript. In 2014 we want to see the web analytics tools provide out of the box tracking of this type of interaction.

Better Video Tracking,

Sites have been using more and more video content every year for the last 5 years. But most web analytics platforms still don’t do a very good job of helping analysts understand how visitors engage with videos. There are a lot of fancy things people can do to track video engagement with integrating with players (i.e. YouTube) and custom JavaScript functions. But this level of complexity prohibits most site owners from tracking common video functions (i.e. Play). Web analytics vendors should provide better out of the box video tracking functions. It would be great to see specific video reports in web analytics tools the way we see specific mobile reports today.

Multi-domain Tracking,

Many corporations big and small have multiple sites across multiple domains. Their prospects, customers, partners, employees, etc likely traverse across domains in multiple visits or possibly single visits. But today, most (not all) of the web analytics platforms don’t do a thorough job of enabling site owners to track visitors across domains. While this is not a problem for most site owners, for companies with diverse initiatives in marketing, demand generation, lead nurturing, and customer support this can cause a major gap in tracking the customer journey. In 2014, we want all major web analytics vendors to solve this tracking problem with easy to use configurations.

Compensate for “Not Provided”,

As Google continues to encrypt more and more user search submissions we have seen the percentage of users with Not-Provided search phrases grow by over 100% across sites that we monitor in the last year. This makes measuring SEO performance and optimization very difficult. Analysts need Google to provide some sort of help with this. If not showing the exact search phrase, perhaps they can expose search phrase categories or better integration with Web Master Tools. It would be easy for tools like Google Analytics to create reports that show which search phrases generated traffic without associating the phrases with individual users. This would help site owners with SEO reporting without risking user privacy or website security.

CMS integration with Web Analytics,

The most commonly used administrative tool on most sites is the content management system. This is the area where people making site updates need information on how pages and pieces of content are performing and how visitors are interacting with the site. We are hopeful that some CMS vendors will make big improvements in 2014 by enabling plug and play integration with web analytics tools to empower their internal site owners.

Better Data Exports,

Google made some great strides in 2013 to share Google Analytics data with other platforms and a large number of dash-boarding companies built/updated plugins for Google Analytics. But almost every other vendor in the web analytics space does an insufficient job at sharing data which makes dash-boarding and analyzing closed loop sales cycles unnecessarily difficult. We are hopeful that the other web analytics vendors will follow Googles lead this year.

Data Manipulation within Web Analytics,

Platforms such as Google Analytics, Webtrends, and Adobe Analytics are great at tracking visitors and then presenting the data. But the platforms do no provide much functionality in terms of manipulating the data once it has been brought into the platform. Providing tools for editing fields and values would provide web analysts with powerful Business Intelligence capabilities to fit the tracking to the organization.

This year has barely started, but I am very hopeful that it is a defining year for how organizations worldwide gain and utilize customer intelligence in the digital channel. While few organizations fully utilize the web analytics tools they have in place today, there are progressive teams pushing the limits of what website tracking can do to improve digital experiences and I am optimistic that in 2014 the industry tools are going to evolve even farther to drive the entire web industry to new heights.

Now Navigation made Ease with Sygic’s GPS app

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Sure, most smartphones offer free GPS navigation these days. But unless you have a smartphone mount on your dashboard, looking down at your phone for navigation can be awkward — and potentially dangerous — while driving.

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Popular GPS navigation app Sygic has a solution: Just bring the navigation data to your windshield. Sygic is today launching a heads-up display (HUD) interface on its iPhone and Android apps — no extra gadgets required.

You just need to place your smartphone under your windshield and Sygic’s high-contrast HUD interface will be reflected on it, making it appear as if your car has a futuristic smart windshield. The interface highlights the most important navigation information, like the distance to your next turn, and it works in conjunction with the app’s voice navigation.

Garmin recently released a $150 gadget to enable a similar HUD feature on its $50 mobile app. Sygic’s HUD, in comparison, costs just $5 (plus more for other navigation features).

With 33 million users and $18 million in revenue this year, Sygic is one of the most popular navigation apps in the world. But while it has 3 million users in the U.S., it isn’t as well known in this country as other GPS solutions from Garmin, TomTom, or the free offerings from Google and Apple.

Unlike most GPS apps, Sygic downloads its maps to your phone so you can use its navigation features even without a cellular connection (in those cases, it just relies on your phone’s GPS). The company also differs from many of its competitors by taking a freemium approach: Basic navigation is free, but you have to shell out $29 for voice guidance and other premium features.

“We have a different strategy [from competitors], our business model is very transparent,” said Michal Stencl, Sygic’s founder and CEO, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We don’t want to collect info about the users, that’s why we ask for micropayments.”

Stencl tells me the HUD feature was developed as part of one of the company’s “Innovation Days” just a few weeks ago. That fast turnaround is telling: Sygic has 115 employees, but it’s still far more nimble than navigation giants.

The Bratislava, Slovakia-based company has been around since 2004 and is entirely bootstrapped by Stencl.

Apple’s Spaceship Campus Got Approved in Home City

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Apple has received final approval for its planned “spaceship” campus from the city of Cupertino. The city council gave its formal approval in a vote on Tuesday, after it had unanimously agreed to the construction of the 176-acre California campus in October. Construction will begin with the demolition of the Hewlett-Packard office buildings currently on site later this year.

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CNET reports Apple will enter into a 20-year-long development agreement with Cupertino, and will increase the amount of tax it pays to the city. Last year Cupertino’s council refunded $6.2 million of the $12.7 million in sales tax Apple generated for the city; this year that rebate will be reduced from 50 percent of the tax Apple pays to 35 percent.

STEVE JOBS HIMSELF SAID THE CAMPUS LOOKED LIKE A ‘SPACESHIP’ 

Steve Jobs himself likened the building to a “spaceship” in 2011, with its 1,200-foot diameter dish set to house the corporate world’s largest solar array and its open space used to restore native vegetation to Cupertino. The “spaceship” had run into turbulence on its way to construction earlier this year when it was reported that the project was behind schedule and $2 billion over budget. But the Cupertino city council’s approval of the campus — which will start housing Apple employees by mid-2016 — was the last major blockage on the way to construction. All that’s left for Apple to do is to actually build its new home.

Apple today received final approval for its Apple Campus 2 project from the Cupertino City Council after gaining a unanimous initial approval back in October. “Go for it,” said Cupertino Mayor Orrin Mahoney, following tonight’s unanimous vote in favor of the project. “We’re eager to see it happen. Go for it.”

With the vote, the Cupertino City Council approved the necessary ordinances to allow Apple to enter into an official Development Agreement with the City of Cupertino, which will see the company receiving its full set of building permits on November 20. Apple has already received ancillary permits allowing it to begin demolition of the former HP campus that is already on the site.

As part of the final agreement, Apple has agreed to increase the amount of taxes that it pays to the City of Cupertino, in the form of a reduction of the sales tax rebate that the company receives each year from the city (via The Los Angeles Times). Last year, Cupertino refunded 50 percent of the sales taxes it received from Apple-related purchases, but in the future, it will only refund 35 percent of sales taxes.

Phase 1 of the Campus 2 construction will include a 2.8 million square foot ring-shaped main building with an underground parking facility capable of accommodating approximately 2,400 vehicles. A 100,000 square foot fitness center and a 120,000 square foot auditorium will also be built. During a second phase of construction, Apple will build 600,000 square feet worth of office, research, and development buildings, along with additional parking and energy generation facilities.

Apple’s Campus 2 is designed to be environmentally friendly, incorporating 80 percent green space with 300 different species of trees, orchards, and a central garden with outdoor dining areas. The facility will also use efficient water and landscaping in addition to garnering 70 percent of its energy from solar and fuel cells.

Apple plans to finish the first phase of the Apple Campus 2 construction by 2016.

Now Recruiters have a New Mobile App by LinkedIn

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LinkedIn rolled out a pair of new mobile recruiting tools on Wednesday, building out the company’s mobile presence to accommodate the 33% of users who visit the site using smartphones.

LinkedIn announced Recruiter Mobile at the company’s Talent Connect conference in Las Vegas. The app brings all of the features offered to job recruiters on the desktop version of the site to the mobile device. Recruiters can track updates on job openings and also get feedback from hiring managers on potential candidates while using their smartphone.

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The app also allows recruiters to send InMail messages, call potential candidates and even take notes during that call within the app.

LinkedIn also released “Mobile Work With Us,” a new feature for the existing mobile app that will post a company’s job openings at the top of its employees’ profiles. That way when mobile users click to view a friend’s or colleague’s profile, relevant job openings with his or her company will appear at the top of the screen. On the company’s blog post, LinkedIn refers to this feature as “one of the best ways to reach passive candidates.”

LinkedIn has been working to spruce up its mobile offering to make job hunting and applying simpler over the phone. It released an updated version of its iOS app earlier this month for iOS 7, and has added features like endorsements to its native mobile apps, too.

The new LinkedIn recruiter app is available in the App Store for iOS users, and non-iPhone users can download it from LinkedIn’s web browser, according to the blog post.

The apps are aimed primarily at talent seekers and hiring managers — those who make up the largest part of the company’s business. LinkedIn Recruiter Mobile, for instance, brings the professional network’s recruiting products to the iPhone.

It’s essentially a mobile-focused port of the company’s desktop Recruiter product, allowing hiring managers to keep track of, take notes on and reach out to prospective job candidates from their phone. The other release, “Mobile Work With Us,” is pretty much an ad-like product that lets employers stick job openings on top of their own employees’ profiles to lure outside candidates.

The point of all this is simple: 33 percent of LinkedIn’s unique visits come from mobile, a number that’s only been slowly trending upward over the past two years. If LinkedIn wants to keep its money-making recruiting business chugging along nicely, it’s probably a good idea to bring it to the phone.

Not that the company has ignored the desktop. In April, LinkedIn gave Recruiter a complete design refresh, putting the emphasis on search. The new mobile app is free for those who pay for LinkedIn’s Recruiting service, and is available for the iPhone beginning immediately.

Developer; Should I Develop for iOS or Android Initially

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Developers have to make a lot of decisions when creating an app. One of the earliest is often which platform it should be built on first.

In our latest Ask a Dev video, iOS Architect Kevin Harwood explains that choosing a platform is really a question of audience.

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“I can’t stress how important it is enough for you to do the proper user research enough to understand the users that you’re building your app for, and make educated decisions off of that data,” he says in the video, above.

For example, in the United States, iOS and Android users are split roughly equally, whereas a market like Brazil has many more Android users than iOS users.

Harwood also discusses the best programming languages for aspiring iOS developers. First, he recommends that new developers learn how to program before a they focus on a specific language.

He explains that iOS is developed with Objective-C, which is obscure and is rarely seen outside of Apple. He recommends picking up Ruby as a more dynamic language. Our developer experts are from Mutual Mobile, a leading development and design firm that builds mobile strategies for top companies such as Audi, Google and Citigroup.

Apple’s Plans for October 22 Event

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The worst-kept secret in tech has been revealed.

Confirming the rumors, on Tuesday Apple sent out invitations for an Oct. 22 event that will likely involve the introduction of new iPads.

Framed by colorful silhouettes of the Apple logo, the invite simply reads, “We still have a lot to cover.”

Apple just sent out invites to the media inviting us to a special event Oct. 22, where it’s expected the company will announce new iPads.

The invite simply reads, “We still have a lot to cover.”

The event is taking place at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, and it starts at 10 a.m. PT.

Apple just released new iPhones last month, so the “we still have a lot to cover” line is saying Apple has more goodies planned.

Apple’s big-screen iPad has only had one update to the physical design of the device in over three years on the market. It is expected to get a big make-over with a thinner, lighter casing, and a smaller overall size, though the screen will be the same.

Apple’s iPad Mini, which was released last year, is also expected to get a refresh with a Retina, or high quality, display. The iPad Mini was a smash hit, but critics didn’t like the screen on it.

There’s talk that the Mini could be thicker with a bigger battery to power the new display. There’s also talk that it could be more expensive. That’s just scuttlebutt for now, though.

In addition to iPads, we expect to hear something about Apple’s Mac line. Perhaps updates to MacBooks and the release of the new OS X Mavericks software for the desktop.

Most predictions as to what Apple will release during the event have focused on a next-generation iPad and a new iPad mini with Retina display. But we’ll have to wait until next week to find out exactly what Apple has in store.

What do you think Apple has up its sleeve? A new tablet design? The much sought after Retina version of the iPad mini? The mythical iWatch or iTV? Let us know by diving into the poll above.