To paraphrase Cracker, I would wager what the world needs now is another content management system like I need a hole in the head. However, I’m pleased to note that I will allow Ghost a pass.
Ghost is an open source publishing platform with Markdown compatibility and a real-time preview features as well as a very robust statistics-gathering system. It is on Kickstarter now and is fully funded. Funders will get early access to the platform which will be free. $16 gets you access to the service.
“I came up with Ghost due to the frustrations of trying to manage both small and large blogs with other platforms. They generally fall into two categories. Either complicated content management systems which can “do everything” – or overly simple social networks which are pretty much just for sharing photos of cats. Ghost is about bloggers, it’s about publishing, it’s about journalism, and it’s about promoting and enabling real writing for the web,” said the founder, John O’Nolan. O’Nolan worked as Deputy Head of the WordPress UI Group until he decided to strike off on his own.
“Ghost is different from competitors in that it’s open source, completely focused on publishing (not content management like Squarespace/WordPress), and non-profit. And it’s lead by a designer (me) as opposed to most open source projects, headed up by devs,” he said. O’Nolan has built websites for Microsoft, Nokia, and Virgin Atlantic. He is working with Hannah Wolfe, senior developer at Moo.com, and Rob Hawkes of Mozilla.
The product allows WordPress programmers to convert their code quickly and easily into Ghost’s native framework. The open source version of the software will launch in September 2013, a month after the launch of the Kickstarter version.
The real value of the platform isn’t quite ready to demo but thus far it looks quite promising. The Markdown compatibility is obviously important as is the multi-user features that O’Nolan is building in. Furthermore, any new publishing platform is worth a second look – or a $16 investment – especially when it looks so darn beautiful.
See the original post: Ghost Will Take Your Boring Blog To The Next Astral Plane
If you watch a lot of online videos for education or research, you’ll find VideoNotes a really useful tool.
It’s as simple as this: sign in with a Google account (VideoNotes uses Google Drive for storage) and then paste in the URL for a YouTube or Coursera video. Then as it plays you can start making notes on the right-hand side of the screen. The clever bit is that as you click on previous notes you’ve made, the video will jump to that point, making this a really useful tool for navigating documentaries, study guides and other long, involved videos.
The Web app comes from France-based, education-focused startup UniShared which offers collaborative note-taking for documents. VideoNotes doesn’t have to be a solo pursuit. Because it’s based around Google Drive, you can set sharing permissions for any notes you’ve made, making it easy for, say, a teacher to share notes on course video with a whole class.
VideoNotes is free and available now.
Image credit: Medioimages / Photodisc / Thinkstock
Members of Want Me Get Me, a startup promising its members a VIP experience at any partner hotel, should have an easier time finding the right hotel starting today.
The site connects travelers with luxury and boutique hotels looking to attract new customers and build loyalty. Every booking through Want Me Get Me includes a spot on the hotel’s VIP list, free Wi-Fi, and a room upgrade when available. Users can search for other free perks, too. And the startup even sends users’ Facebook profile photo to the hotel so that they can be greeted by name when they arrive.
Today’s upgrade isn’t a full redesign (that’s something Want Me Get Me did in February). Still, co-founder and CEO Tristan Gatsby Mace told me that the map functionality in particular is something that a lot of users have been asking for. Now when they search for hotels, they can see their geographic location via Google Maps.
It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but Mace said it’s a significant change for the site, which previously used a grid-like interface for search results. That format was more experience-focused, with an emphasis on perks and on photos of the hotel. However, Mace said a large number of Want Me Get Me users seem to be business travelers, and they want to know how close their hotel is to their meetings.
At the same time, the VIP treatment is still the big selling point, and Mace said Want Me Get Me has revamped its presentation for those perks. Now, instead of toggling between different hotel search results based on different perks, you can use use perks as filters on a single set of results. It’s a subtle distinction, but Mace pitched it as a more logical approach, where users can see the perks that interest them without making them the dominant factor in their search.
“It’s much more intuitive to treat these perks as a filter,” Mace said. “It’s not the thing that makes the final decision, but it has a role in that decision.”
He added that Want Me Get Me has been focused on improving its conversion rate. That focus has been paying off, with more than 50 percent of visitors to the site becoming members. More than 200 hotels have signed with the startup, and Mace said it has verbal agreements with another 150.
“What we’re providing ultimately provides loyalty,” Mace said. “There are too many undifferentiated products in the purchasing/booking space.”
SmartAsset, a Y Combinator-incubated startup that built tools to help you answer tough financial questions, is expanding its offerings today with features for choosing the right neighborhood and the right mortgage.
Founder and CEO Michael Carrvin said that there are four broad stages to the home-buying process. The company’s initial product focused on the first part — whether it makes sense to buy a home, how much you can afford to put down, things like that. With today’s launch, SmartAsset now covers three out of four.
Carvin took me on a quick tour of the new features. As with SmartAsset’s previous products, the new features are structured around a question-and-answer format, with SmartAsset surfacing data that makes it easy for visitors to understand the implications of their decisions. On the neighborhood front, SmartAsset tells you things like the quality of nearby schools and the length of the commute. Some of this data is available on other sites, but now you get to see it in the context of the larger home-buying decision. Plus, Carvin said SmartAsset is the first site to incorporate data from Moody’s with investor predictions about the annualized change in home prices in a neighborhood over the next five years.
As for choosing mortgages, SmartAsset doesn’t just include a mortgage calculator, but also helps visitors wrestle with issues like whether they should buy mortgage points. (Carvin suggested that in many cases buying points is a bad decision.) And similar to other topics that SmartAsset addresses, Carvin said that most of the existing online mortgage aids are limited to “content and financial calculators.”
“Would you rather read about someone’s sister’s experience buying a house, or read real analysis about whether you should buy points and what mortgages you qualify for?” he said.
Carvin has plans to continue expanding the home-buying product, specifically by adding features to help close deals. At the same time, he said SmartAsset has formed a separate team that’s focused on building completely new products, revolving initially around car buying and going back to school.
Here’s the full list of new questions that SmartAsset answers as of today:
Section 2 – Finding the right home
1. What Neighborhood Is The Best Fit For Me?
2. Am I Overpaying for This House?
3. Will This Home Appreciate?
4. What Will My Commute Be?
5. What Do I Need In A Home?
6. What Type of Home Should I Buy?
7. Do I Need an Agent? How Do I Find One?
8. How To Make An Offer
Section 3 – Getting the right mortgage
1. SmartAsset Introduction to Mortgages
2. Mortgage Calculator
3. Should I get a Fixed or Adjustable Rate Mortgage?
4. Should I Buy Points?
5. Do I Need Mortgage Insurance?
6. How Will My Mortgage Amortize?
7. How Do I Get A Mortgage?
8. Do I Qualify For An FHA Mortgage?
9. FHA Loan Limits
10. VA Loans
11. VA Loan Limits
12. VA Loan Requirements
We’ve written about Famo.us a time or two before, but for those who missed it: Famo.us was started in 2011 by Steve Newcomb, just three years after his language processing company Powerset was snapped up by Microsoft for $100 million and rolled into Bing. While it confused a few of the judges when it debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012, Famo.us went on to raise a $4 million dollar Series A just six months later.
In a way over-simplified nutshell: Famo.us pulls off a whole lot of clever trickery to allow web developers to tap the GPU of a device (be it that of a computer, smart TV, tablet, or a phone) for calculations, no plug-in required. To the developer, that means being able to build interfaces that are simultaneously richer and faster. To the end user, that means super-snazzy user interfaces without having to install any plug-ins.
Check out a demo of a Famo.us-powered UI below (or check out http://www.famo.us yourself.):
So with a few million dollars raised, how will Famo.us start bringin’ the money in?
They could charge developers. For-pay frameworks aren’t unheard of, though they tend to be the exception. That’s not Famo.us’ plan, though. As of this morning, Famo.us has confirmed that their framework will be free to developers for “as many … apps as you’d like, for as many users as you’d like.”
Instead, Famo.us is relying on the interest of a few huge hardware vendors who are looking to Famo.us to power their UI on future devices. They’ll build (or help build) the UIs, then charge the vendors for licensing. Additionally, Famo.us will offer optional enterprise add-ons (think analytics, or the ability to record/replay user sessions to see how they navigate your design).
Exactly which hardware vendors have taken an interest here is currently under strict lock and key, but we can certainly narrow it down a bit. There are only so many “huge” hardware companies with the financial swagger to make something like this worthwhile. Apple is focusing mainly on native code right now (though they’ve done more than their fair share of contributions to HTML5 by way of WebKit), so it’s presumably not them. Meanwhile, both Samsung and LG have been dumping cash into HTML5-focused operating systems (Tizen and webOS, respectively) for their upcoming hardware.
Finally, Famo.us is also announcing that their framework, which has thus far been focused solely on rendering, has picked up a physics engine along the way. Steve says they set out to find a physics engine that fit three criteria: it had to be fast, it had to work on mobile, and all of the data had to render to the Document Object Model in a way that left it Google-friendly. When they couldn’t find one that matched all of the above, they decided to build their own.
It may seem strange for a framework that’s meant primarily to be used with interfaces to offer up physics functionality — it’s not a game engine, after all — but it makes sense: when you’re working with objects being thrown around in space (be it 2D or 3D space) it’s hugely advantageous to be able to work with forces that parallel the real world, like mass, gravity, and drag.
Plus, it fits hand-in-hand with the way Steve explained Famo.us to Anthony Ha just last month:
“We built a shitty game engine which is basically the best app engine ever built.”
Famo.us is currently in beta sign-up mode, and Steve says they have around 27,000 developers waiting to start building. Interested developers can find the sign-up page here.
Disclosure: We like to note when there are potential conflicts, so it’s worth noting that TC Founder Mike Arrington is one of the investors in Famo.us’ Series A.