How's the New Year's resolution thing going? I used to think they were a hopeless exercise because, really, what can possibly tip your reserves of will between December 31 and January 1st? But then a few years back I made the resolution to floss everyday and I literally haven't missed a day in two years.
Anyway...here at NYDesigns HQ, we've resolved to become a more productive team. That means better organization, synchronization and communication - making sure things get done efficiently and well. It's a broad and abstracted undertaking but we're approaching it from many perspectives, one of which is taking advantage of the exploding market in productivity applications. Here's a rundown of what we'll be trying out this year:
1. InDinero: InDinero was created to help business owners improve their abilities to manage their company’s financial health. The founders have described it as Quickbooks for the 21st century. What this means in our experience is an extremely intuitive and well-designed user platform that allows you to scan big picture conditions without being mired in individual lists of transactions. Best of all, it's free up to the first 50 transactions and less than $30/month up to 500 transactions. Free = great incentive to try it out to see if it works for you. Our accountant is impressed - but was frustrated by the difficulties in synching with our bank. Turns out it was the bank's fault for being so crushingly low-tech.
2. Prezi: Don't let the appalling logo deter you. The tech/venture blogs have been buzzing about this for a while and we just couldn't help trying it out. Prezi is a web-based presentation tool using a map layout and zooming to show contextual relationships, resulting in a more playful and dynamic exposition of ideas. Unlike Powerpoint or Keynote, it eschews the linear slide presentation model for a more flexible, free-form sequence of information. We all know how painful it is to sit through a Powerpoint presentation that's just slide after endless slide of text. This tool may help ease the pain: their innovative features are new narrative techniques that greatly enhance the presentation format. However, I can see how people lacking a visual sensibility can screw up just as badly in Prezi as they already do in Powerpoint.
3. Remember the Milk: We like lists, yes? There is nothing more satisfying than seeing items being struck off a list, whether they're for chores, work tasks, or unlike-ables on Facebook. With RTM, you can make lists galore, categorize them according to your social roles (work, home etc.), set personal reminders by email or SMS, postpone them, and just generally get your life in shape. When shopping around for comparable tools I was leaning towards Teux Deux [http://teuxdeux.com/] for its clean design and appealing strike-through motion for completed tasks but ultimately, I prefer the rich functionalities of RTM.
4. Gift a Follower: This app might be better for you readers out there who manufacture and sell products than it is for us. You can reward socially networked friends and followers by giving money to these guys, who'll then fix your audience up with a "grab bag" of goodies, which may include donations in your name, gadgets, gift cards, and potentially weird and wonderful online finds. It's also an effective marketing outlet, as you can also offer you wares to them as grab bag items. We like how they've streamlined the human gesture of gifting into social commerce.
5. Google Notebook: Google is not a mysterious entity, but we needed something that would make taking collective notes easier. Yes, one can do that in Google Docs...but if you're using Google Apps already, you might as well try everything they've got. This is an ideal brainstorming tool and a repository for early-stage ideas, which you can organize and hierarchize after the fact. You can browse, clip, and organize information from across the web in a single online location that's accessible from any computer (and you can share it all). One last thing tipping us towards Google's version over other notebook-like apps is our oceanic hope to be awarded Google Chrome laptops for the entire office.
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We were moved to investigate the origins of the humble yo-yo after a five-minute investment in this amazing video of the reigning yo-yo world champion/ illustrious titleholder.
It's difficult to define "design" but one of the aspects that hits the nail on the head is the pursuit of innovation. "Innovation" has become cloyingly overused. Banks use it to describe new services and approaches, consulting firms structure themselves around it and the term's ubiquitous deployment as an advertising buzzword triggers images of an endless parade of increasingly complex cell phones. Innovation's essence, however, is an engagement in renewal: asking new questions and going for it in order to generate ever-more useful applications.
"Yo-yo" is a modern designation, trademarked in 1929 by the Duncan Company after it acquired the manufacturing rights from the Filipino entrepreneur Pedro Flores. He brought the idea for the toy from his native Philippines; "yo-yo" is Tagalog for "come-come." "Yo-yo" entered the lexicon as a generic term in the 1960s.
It is widely claimed - though not entirely verified - that the yo-yo in a different, larger guise was used as a weapon. Allegedly, Filipino tribesmen used to flick yo-yos from canopy hideouts to stun invading marauders. Sir Ian Fleming found this factoid inspirational and added a yo-yo killer to thwart James Bond in the film Octopussy.
After the doll, yo-yos are claimed to be the world's second oldest toy. That's right folks - the accompanying image is not photoshopped. It's taken from a Greek vase dated to 440 BC. Since ancient history, the yo-yo has gone in and out of style until the contemporary period, cresting at one point in the 18th century in France and acquiring the name bandalore.
In primitive yo-yos (hypothetically, the ancient Mediterranean variants), the string is tied to the axle using a knot. With this technique, the yo-yo just goes back-and-forth; it returns easily, but is harder to pause.
In the Filipino design a continuous piece of string is twisted around itself to produce a loop at one end, which is fitted around the axle. This seemingly minor modification increases stability and suspension of movement during free spin, allowing the user greater control over maneuverability...and setting the stage for competitive showmanship centuries down the line.
1970-1990 yielded the innovations that would enable the gentleman in the video and others like him to really strut their stuff. These included:
- The Yomega Brain, a yo-yo with "centrifugal clutch transaxle technology." It has a free-spinning plastic sleeve linkage, spinning much longer than previous fixed-axle designs. In addition, the axle is weighed down with spring loads, facilitating the return of the yo-yo if speeds drop past a certain threshold.
- Ball bearings, which significantly reduce friction when the yo-yo is spinning (sleeping), enabling longer and more complex tricks.
- The SB-2 yo-yo with both transaxle and ball bearings, ensuring extremely long spin times and effortless returns. Incidentally, this model received the inaugural prize for excellence awarded by the yo-yo industry.
- New materials, such as aluminum, the lightness of which helped with friction issues (string rubbing against axle); particularly effective when paired with grooved axle.
So there you have it. There's always a story behind every jaw-dropping Youtube video, more often than not guided by some obscure innovation.