TwinkleTrail

As I mentioned in a post last week, I have been hard at work (w/ Mitchell Hislop and Pete Barry) on a project that just went live last Thursday. The project is called TwinkleTrail and its goal is to make the process of finding christmas lights in/around your city significantly easier. The site allows users to add locations, search for locations already in the database and ultimately create their own customized list of locations that they want to see. When users visit the site they immediately have the ability to search for locations, add new ones and view the most recently added locations. This interface makes it easy to do a variety of tasks right from the home page which provides users with a lot of flexibility. I had thought about posting a series of screen shots from the home page but I think it would be a lot more beneficial for users to check it out for themselves.

Once you have added points to your trail you can click the "View My Trail" button to get a list of all the points you have added as well as the option to create your route/map. By simply entering a starting location and an ending location (these can be specific addresses, zip codes or just 'city, state') TwinkleTrail will find the best route for you and provide you with a map and detailed directions to find all of your locations.

TwinkleTrail - My TrailTwinkleTrail - Map

As you can see the UI is very clean and simple which makes managing your trail a breeze. Points can be added and/or removed at any time and it only takes a matter of seconds to generate a new set of directions/map.

All-in-all we are very excited about this project and would like to hear any/all feedback from our users. Please feel free to post comments here or contact me on Twitter.

For more information please check out our official press release.

Google+ Thoughts and Review

I have been using Google+ for about two weeks now and I have to say I am really impressed with the service. There are a few things that I want to highlight because in my opinion they are what make G+ great. The first is the integration with Gmail. Not only do you see a handy little notification icon in the top right but you can add/remove people from circles right from the notification box, comment on posts, mute posts and pretty much interact with everything that you are involved with on G+ right from the notification window.
Google+ Notifications   Google+ Notifications

The next "game changer" for me is Google Hangout. This is by far the best video chatting experience I have had online and aside from it not being available on some mobile platforms (yet) I have no reason to use Skype ever again. Hangout supports up to 10 people communicating via video with the ability to share links (via the chat feature), watch Youtube videos and share other content. It is the best implementation of this type of technology that I have ever used and I can already see a lot of cool ways to make use of it.

Google Hangout

I am a big fan of using lists on Twitter and without them I really couldn't consume data nearly as effectively as I do. Google+ takes this a step further with their implementation of circles. Circles serve a number of purposes: they allow you to organize people into groups as well as enabling you to target exactly who sees what content. This means you can view content posted by people in a given circle as well as share content with people in a specific circle or circles. This is great when you have a question about something specific to a given area or topic if you have a circle that is made up of people in a specific area/region or who share a similar interest you can easily target only those users. I really think the intuitive and useful nature of the way circles work is what sets G+ apart from Facebook when it comes to consuming and sharing content. Google+ Circles

I know it is a fairly new service so the novelty has not worn off for most users yet but the level of engagement that I have seen on Google+ is astounding. In the last week the #1 traffic source to my site has been Google+. This is really surprising when you consider the fact I have ~170 people following me on G+ and nearly 850 on Twitter. The G+ community is highly engaged and incredibly active.

If you want to add a redirect to your website that takes people to your G+ profile you can easily do with a quick .htaccess modification. If you visit http://104.236.173.199/+ you will be taken to my G+ profile. The implementation may vary depending on how your server is configured but all I added to .htaccess was:

redirect 301 /+ https://plus.google.com/profile_id_goes_here

My hope is that the high level of activity and interest continues on G+ and that as more people start using the service things will continue to evolve and scale. At this point the response time on G+ is exceptional and I expect Google is intentionally doing a somewhat phased rollout in order to ensure that things continue to scale and perform at a high level.

All-in-all, I am a big fan and highly recommend checking out Google+.

GitHub for Mac

GitHub just launched a GUI client for OSX and I am ecstatic. Git/GitHub are fairly easy to work with from the command line but having a GUI client for managing local/remote repositories is really nice. Github App - Launch

Just launch the app (see above) and you will be presented with a clean, simple and functional UI. Your repositories are broken out by local repos on your computer and your remote repos on GitHub. One thing to notice about the screenshot below is the "Clone to Computer" option. This is such a handy feature and provides 1-click cloning to your local machine for any remote repository that you have created or forked.

Github App - List Repos

Naturally you can create local/remote repositories through the app as well and the process really couldn't be easier. Just click "New Repository", fill out the input fields and boom you have new local and remote repository depending on the options you select. Again, all of this is fairly easy to accomplish through the CLI (Command Line Interface) but having it all available through an OSX GUI client is really nice.

Github App - Create New Repo

Managing a repository through the application is a piece of cake. From viewing commit messages to checking for changes, branching, etc you can do it all through the app.

GitHub App - Manage Repo

All-in-all I think the folks at GitHub did a great job with the application and I have heard the same from other developers as well. The response on social networks has been incredibly positive and I was quite surprised to see how excited people got when the release of the application was first announced. I think there are some areas in which additional functionality would prove to be useful but for a first release I am quite pleased.