Tag Archives: review

Aaron Brazell

Threadsy Aggregates Email, Facebook and Twitter (plus invites!)

TechCrunch 50 startup and runner-up Threadsy reached out to me earlier to look at their service. I’m not usually one to do that but I had some time and their street cred seemed legitimate (TC50, etc).

The service is an aggregation tool that pulls email accounts (Gmail, Yahoo, even IMAP to name a few) together. I couldn’t get my IMAP email account functional but that could just be me. It’s been awhile since I had to configure email addresses manually. My Gmail account imported successfully without any special configuration.

In addition to email accounts, Threadsy also aggregates your Facebook Inbox as well as Twitter. Though no differentiation (visually) seems to exist for DMs and public messages in Twitter, it did manage to aggregate everything nicely and order them in the proper order. I’ve noticed that other products that trie to do this always seem to be a little glitchy on timestamps and sorting, so I appreciated this.

What you get is a consolidated inbox, as seen below. It’s very interactive and clicking on messages brings up helpful information about the sender.

The experience is also very smooth with interactive visual elements (swooshes and what not… to be technical).

My big question surrounding this service is why? There already seem to be a lot of social inbox tools. Gmail is increasingly becoming one everyday with the addition of Buzz, though it does not yet support aggregation of Twitter and Facebook content. I can see the benefits, but I wonder how many users will be sold on it.

Try it for yourself though. The first thousand people to click on this link get into the private beta program. Let me know how you feel about it.

Aaron Brazell

Thummit: Food Reviewing Comes to Your Phone

picture-4Have you ever found yourself sitting in a restaurant and completely turned off by the service you received? Or maybe you experience the best crab cake you have ever had?

Up until recently, the best you could do was go submit your review to sites like Yelp – if you remembered when you got home. Thummit, a Launchbox Digital incubation company based in Washington, D.C. hopes to solve that and similar problems for you using your cell phone.

The idea is simple, and builds on the successes of other mobile companies like Twitter: You send a text message to a designated number with your thumbs up, thumbs down, so-so markup and the service stores that review.

In a demo given to a small group of bloggers in their hip office space in the middle of Chinatown, co-founder Sean Greene outlined use cases where Google local results for pizza in Dupont Circle yields chain blasé such as Pizza Hut and California Pizza Kitchen while Thummit yields much more acceptable results for a foodie in Dupont: Pizza Paradiso, Alberto’s and Anna Maria’s Italian Restaurant.

The service is not open to the public as of yet and there is still a lot of work to be done. The service has been seeded by review content (fair use) from sources like Zagat and other restaurant review sites so new users will not feel like the community is dead.

Socially, the service assumes that as a user, you will get your most use out of it if you have trusted connections of friends and contacts who provide great reviews and might be inline with your own tastes. By cultivating that community and social network aspect, they hope to provide tailor-made results to you based on your preferences and trusted social connections.

Text messaging is the cornerstone, but even that remains to be fleshed out completely.

The usefulness of this service is, of course, the immediacy of mobile and content. I may not be inspired to write something on Yelp when I get home, but I am now and by God, I have a phone! This also takes the web technology aspect of reviews to a new level, further marginalizing the one-way communications of your daily circular’s restaurant reviews.

Aaron Brazell

Revolution vs. Thesis: The Premium Theme Cage Match

Now that WordPress 2.6 has been released and you’ve got yourself upgraded (you have upgraded right?), you might as well take some time to spruce up that old dingy theme of yours and replace it with something attractive and practical.

If you can afford your own custom theme development, then by all means, do it. Nothing says professional like a completely unique theme that has been professionally designed with not only appearance, but functionality and practicality.

However, maybe you can’t afford a $3500 theme or maybe there is something that, out of the box does what you need.

While I won’t get into the merits of “premium themes” and if themes should ever be mass marketed AND paid products, I would like to do a compare and contrast on two separate premium themes by two very competent designers.

Revolution Theme

If you believe your WordPress powered blog is more than a blog, you probably want to check out Revolution Theme. Revolution currently has ten different variations designed with the intentions of various industries in mind. If you’re using WordPress more as a content management system and your business is in real estate, pro media, tourism, online magazine, sports, tech news or other corporate variety – Revolution might be the theme for you.

Brian Gardner, the creator of the Revolution Theme commented to me that he “developed the Revolution themes in order to take WordPress to a higher level ““ to stretch the capabilities, and to show that it can be used for so much more than a blogging platform.”

Indeed, we used the Revolution Pro Media theme over at The District of Corruption and found it to be very suitable for displaying all our content in a sexy way.

Revolution was not without its problems though.

For instance, the out of the box CSS is not compatible with Firefox 3 which handles the


property incorrectly. We were able to hack the CSS with a different solution. In addition, the video box on this particular theme assumes that video content is going to come from YouTube which is an incorrect assumption, in our opinion, with all the video formats available.

Also a problem with our use of the theme was the requirement for every post to have images attached to them via custom fields. We had to hack the theme files to not display images when no images are available.

Revolution Pro (which again is only one variant) offers few options for power users. It does offer a WordPress administrative page but jumps to vast conclusions that are probably not relevant to bigger publishers.

Picture 6.png

Revolution Theme is an incredible sexy and well designed theme from the code point of view. Semantics are paid attention to and the use of the WordPress API ensures that the theme will be compatible with WordPress for, likely, years to come. I would recommend that Brian does not rely on plugins to accomplish tasks. Include that code in the theme’s functions.php if the code is GPL and use an

if( function_exixsts() )

check to find out if the extra code is needed.

The Revolution theme is available for as little as $79.95.

Thesis Theme

Unlike Revolution, Thesis comes in one variety. It is a good variety though. The brainchild behind the Thesis theme is Chris Pearson. Chris is never content just building a theme but making the theme as braindead simple for anyone to use in a wide variety of situations.

To that end, Thesis is mainly configurable directly from WordPress admin and I have yet to have to significantly modify the out of the box code base. Granted, I have not had the length of time with Thesis as I have with Revolution.

One of the things I get to do is maintain my church’s website, which was in desperate need of overhaul and maintenance. I did not want to spend tons of time on it as, let’s face it, I’m not paid to do so. ;-) Thesis allowed me to stand up new content, new organization and a completely different look and feel in less than an hour. There’s still work to be done, but Chris has done most of the work for me.

The key to this ease is the amazing configurability directly from WordPress admin. With the interface, I have granular control of my navigation elements, formatting of posts, ad and analytics software, etc.

Picture 7.png

Thesis does not allow me to modify some of the basic layout rendering to my heart’s content, however. Fortunately, I could write little plugins to do little things like apply different CSS to elements but, as robust as it is, more could be done.

The Thesis theme only comes with one variety and it is available for $89.95.

Comparison Chart

Revolution Thesis Winner
Ease of Deployment (1-10) 6 8 Thesis
Variations 10 1 Revolution
Plugin Dependencies Yes No Thesis
Price $79.95 $89.95 Revolution
Support Forum Blog + Forum Thesis
CSS Firefox 3 Incompat Support for custom CSS Thesis
CMS-Friendly Yes Kinda Revolution

Winner: Thesis 4-3.

Both are great and Chris and Brian should be commended for providing great resources.

Added: I forgot to mention one thing that I really wish theme authors would do more of. The Thesis theme has some of this but it could use more. Hooks, people! Add hooks everywhere in a theme.

The main reason for this is that people who want to modify the behavior of a theme can do so without editing the theme at all if there are hooks built into the theme.

Aaron Brazell

Now is Gone is Here

Good friend of mine and sometimes-columnist here at Technosailor, Geoff Livingston, is celebrating the launch of Now is Gone, the book he’s been working on for quite some time (it also has a blog associated with it as any good new media book does). Now is Gone is described as a “Primer on New Media for Executives and Entrepreneurs” based on his own knowledge and experience running a social media-oriented PR firm.

So, Geoff is a friend of mine but I told him I’d give him an honest review of this book, and honest review I will do. Overall, the book is brilliant. I’m glad this is not “yet another book on blogging”. It doesn’t provide a how to. It doesn’t provide options for choosing your platform or describe how to subscribe to RSS.

It’s obvious that this book was written mostly for executives. This is not a bad thing as Executives are the ones steering companies and the reality is that if companies don’t embrace social media, they will be left behind. It is presented in a very philosophical way, describing the challenges that companies face today when it comes to the social media landscape, brand management and public relations. The simple message is, “Hey guys, you need to get what is going on today and you need to do it fast because Now is Gone”.

The book starts with an intro from Brian Solis who you may remember was a member of the PR Roundtable discussion hosted here in November, 2007. I love Brian, but the foreword was too lengthy and off-putting. As a reader, I wanted to get into the meat of the book and it seemed to take awhile to get to that point.

Geoff makes some common sense analogies between social media mirroring real life. It stood out to me that people do not like to be controlled but they will allow themselves to be influenced – as long as you don’t try to control them! His 5 steps to the basis of an effective social media message could probably be broken out further, but were effective for the book:

  1. Giving Up Control of the Message
  2. Participating in a Community
  3. Is Your Community Social Media Savvy?
  4. Dedicating the Resources
  5. Ethics and Transparency

This book as a whole is a slam dunk, effectively communicating a message that is very much needed and, is very timely at a time where companies are embarrassing themselves more than ever in their engagement with social media. In that way, this book could not be more timely.

I would suggest for the next book, however, (There will be another one, right Geoff? :) ) that fewer callouts be used. It seems that call outs were half the book and if that was the intention, you might as well have made them part of the book. :) That’s a minor point though.

Bottom line… 4 out of 5 stars (does that mean anything anymore?). Job well done. Go buy Now is Gone (aff) today.