Google just added a few more features to Google Now on Android 4.1+. Starting today, Android users will be able to see information from even more third-party services on Google Now, including movie ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, tickets you have purchased on Fandango and, if Google realizes you are looking for real estate, listings from Zillow.
Google has been expanding its list of Google Now features at a steady pace since the service launched last summer. This is the fourth major update to the service and, as Google notes, Now will “continue to get better at delivering you more of the information you need, before you even ask.”
The Rotten Tomatoes listings will appear in the regular movie card that Now already displays, and the Fandango integration is similar to what Google is already doing with other reservations from its partners you may have for restaurants, flights hotels and events.
The new Zillow card will show you nearby real estate listings when Google sees that you regularly look for real estate sites. It’s not clear how smart this card is (does Google know how much house you can afford?), but it will surely drive new traffic to Zillow and could turn out to be useful for those looking for a new home.
Until now, all of this information only lived in the dedicated Google Now screen on Android, but the team also just launched a Google Now widget in connection with the Google Search app that brings this information front and center on your home screen.
The TechCrunch NY Meetup is tomorrow evening, so get ready for a wild night of pitch-offs, pizza and beer.
While we’re accustomed to throwing a solid meetup, we’re introducing a new ingredient into the mix in the form of a 60-second pitch-off, where founders can pitch their products to be a part of Disrupt NY in April.
Applications are currently closed for the event, but we have 20 awesome teams lined up ready to pitch their entrepreneurial hearts out. The winner gets free tickets to Disrupt and a spot in Startup Alley, and the runner up gets two free tickets to Disrupt NY, which is going down April 27 – May 1.
The event is tonight from 6pm – 10pm at Santos Party House. If you’d like to attend the meetup, please register on Plancast here. Bring a print out or screen cap of your RSVP so we can hand you some drink tickets.
And whether you’re an investor, entrepreneur, dreamer or tech enthusiast, we want to see you at the event, so we can give you free beer and hear your thoughts. Come one, come all. It’s sure to be a night to remember.
See the original post: Final Reminder: Tonight Is The TC Pitch-Off/Meetup And We Want To See You There, New York
EXEC, the startup that helps find you local, part-time help with errands, tasks, and other jobs, launched a new iPhone app that branches off its house cleaning service. With the new app, it is also bringing its cleaning service to its third city: Seattle.
EXEC Cleaning isn’t a new service, but the standalone app is. Last October, the company debuted its dedicated service.
Started by brothers Justin and Daniel Kan, and Amir Ghazvinian, the company is to errands what Uber is to transportation. If Justin’s name sounds familiar, you’re right — he’s the man behind the livestreaming service Justin.tv and part of the team that created the video sharing service Socialcam, which was acquired by Autodesk. Now, after going through Y Combinator, his third venture has hit the ground running and is launching a stand-alone product.
The EXEC Cleaning app lets users request house cleaning professionals right from their mobile devices. Kan tells us that the idea to branch off its cleaning service came when they realized that around 50 percent of its business involved cleaning. But when a normal EXEC errand runner was hired to clean a home, they weren’t necessarily trained to be a cleaner, potentially resulting in a poor quality of service. As a result, the company developed an app specifically to help make it easy for users to have their homes and apartments cleaned using proper professionals.
Sure, users can still use EXEC to run errands, pick up groceries, and everything else — its Errands App can be downloaded still from the Apple App store. But it’s too generic for this category of work that’s often requested.
Once downloaded, users need only request a house cleaning team from their home with just a few taps of the screen. Booking and paying is handled seamlessly, very similar to what one would encounter when using Uber to request a car.
Two expert cleaners that the company has vetted through “rigorous cleaning exams” will arrive at the intended destination and take care of what’s needed. There’s the standard home cleaning like mopping, vacuuming, and washing of a bathroom, but users can also specify whether they have pets in the house or if the cleaning is needed because they are moving — these two items clearly take more effort than a standard project.
Users will also need to specify how many bathrooms and bedrooms exist in the home as it will help to determine the cleaning fee. The more rooms, the more that it will cost. Users can specify whether it is a one time affair or something that is needed every 1 or 2 weeks.
Scheduling is simple to do right from the app too as it will scan for availabilities in the coming days for cleaners to come out. Lastly, any additional instructions such as whether the user is going to be home or where keys will be hidden can be inputted before heading to the payment screen.
A percentage of the fees collected will go to EXEC for its service, but a majority will be passed along to the cleaning staff. Kan says that EXEC’s cut will vary depending on the scale of the job.
If you’re interested, the app even has a fun little feature that allows users to choose what sounds they hear when using the app. By default, it includes standard Apple sounds when buttons are tapped, screens swipe, and more, but the EXEC team recorded their own voices and in the Settings screen, the option to choose human sounds is available. Oh, the small things.
In terms of growth, it appears the company is gaining some steam. In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, it has 10,000 customers and 300 service providers. Month over month, it says it has also seen growth, although no figures have been disclosed.
In March, it created company accounts so that startups can handle assignments that they wouldn’t want to do and give them the opportunity to have their own on-demand “personal assistant”. It also launched a charity initiative called #execfounders where people could “rent” time from top founders in Silicon Valley for $100 an hour — that money would go towards Donors Choose.
To date, the company has raised $3.3 million in funding from the CrunchFund and David Rusenko.
Photo credit: MIGUEL GUTIERREZ/AFP/Getty Images
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Continue reading here: EXEC breaks out a dedicated iPhone app for cleaning services, as it expands into Seattle
It’s been a few months since our last NYC meet-up and, in an effort to find some of the best startups in New York for Disrupt this year, we’re planning a 60-second pitch-off competition. The winner will get free tickets and a spot in Startup Alley at the event. One runner-up gets two free tickets to the event. Disrupt NY is being held on April 27 – May 1, 2013 in Manhattan.
Pitch-off applications are closed and we have 20 teams lined up for your pitching pleasure. They will begin pitching at 7pm. It should be a hoot. Last year, we had over 1,200 attendees come to the meetup, so we know the Big Apple’s tech community is hungry for more social opportunities. We aim to please.
But whether you’re an investor, entrepreneur, dreamer, or tech enthusiast, we want to see you at the event so we can give you free beer and hear your thoughts. Come one, come all. It’s sure to be a night to remember.
But before we get too excited, a few details:
The event will be held at a Santos Party House location in Manhattan on February 12, from 6:00pm to 10:00pm.
Remember, to participate in Disrupt and the Pitch-Off you must have an unlaunched product (either in stealth or private beta) and you must be ready to launch in late April.
We’re looking for sponsors for our event, so if you’d like to purchase a sponsorship and be featured on all of our signage at the event, as well as a link and images in the event posts, please email events@TechCrunch.com.
Looking forward to another amazing evening in New York!
See the article here: Reminder: The New York Disrupt Pitch-Off/Meetup Is On Tuesday
A project I’ve been working on launched recently. Well, re-launched. A slick little iPhone app called Postography, which lets you send postcards with messages and pictures from your iPhone. Nifty, but sounds fairly straightforward, right? An app that shouldn’t have taken too much time to build.
Unfortunately, we didn’t build it; we rebuilt it. And the company that took the first crack at it (naming no names here) did a fairly good job on the server side…but epically botched the initial version of the app itself. Oh, it ultimately sort of kind of worked, other than the many bugs and frequent crashes. But quite aside from those, its codebase was such a festering abyss of global variables, spaghetti code, hacks, no-ops and race conditions that extending it or changing it at all was next to impossible without major reconstructive surgery.
This happens a lot more than anyone would like to admit. Behind the shiny UI many applications there lurk Lovecraftian architectural nightmares that challenge the very sanity of anyone charged with maintaining them or adding features. Ask a developer, any developer; they’ll have some horrific tales to tell.
And if yours is one of those–if your company is an app, and that app works, but doesn’t work cleanly, or elegantly, or extensibly, or scalably–then your company has already racked up a pile of technical debt, and whether you know it yet or not, you’re already in big trouble.
I like to use a housing metaphor: just because your house looks good, and its rooms are comfortable and well-decorated, doesn’t mean it isn’t built on such a poor foundation that it may collapse if a heavyset guest so much as runs down the stairs. Add another story? Are you kidding? Forget about it. Indeed, your house may have been built on poor ground to begin with, in which case not even a new foundation will do: you have to scrap it entirely and start again somewhere else.
This happens even at extremely technical companies. I give you RIM as an example. Remember when they released a tablet without an email app? Remember how they silently treaded water for an apparent eternity while iOS and Android left BlackBerry in their wake? These debacles were not design choices or deliberate executive decisions. They happened because RIM had run up an enormous amount of technical debt, and it took them years to pay it off.
Like monetary debt, technical debt is perfectly OK as long as a) you don’t accrue too much of it and b) you know all about it. Of course there are often compromises to be made between, for instance, scalability and speed of development. Of course when a deadline is approaching, and/or the funding is running low, and the task seems immense, the quick-hack shortcut is sometimes the right choice. Of course all developers are understandably biased towards the tools they know–or, sometimes, the tools they want to learn–rather than the one that’s ideal for the job at hand.
But all too often the accumulation of technical debt in favor of short-term success is ultimately a terrible mistake. Like all debt, technical debt compounds with time. Worse yet, many non-technical people — i.e. too many managers, executives, and founders — tend to underestimate its danger, or fail to even realize when they’re running it up by the vault load…until they find themselves spending many months fighting to pay off their technical debt while their competitors are happily zooming ahead. Just like RIM.
So how can startups avoid such an awful fate?
Hiring the right people is critically important, of course. Pair programming helps, as does the primary/secondary model I favor. And I’ve long thought that technical assessments would be a good idea: have a few experienced people take a week or so to audit your code and architecture, once early in the application’s lifecycle and once more midway through. The company I work for has done that once or twice, but alas, it’s not really common industry practice, or at least not yet.
What can you do if you’ve already run up a load of technical debt? First, get your head out of the sand and accept that you have a major problem. Second, stop digging. Stop adding new features, and get things into a semi-stable state so that you can see what you do and don’t have. Then try to determine whether you can keep your metaphorical house, but need to rebuild the foundation — even though things that previously worked will start to break again while that repair is underway, which is always frustrating — or whether you have to throw it all out and start again. (Which can be both the best solution and the fastest one.)
Most of all, though, listen to your developers. If you’ve hired the right people, then they want clean, extensible, scalable code as much as you do. It was almost painful looking through the initial source code of the Postography app. Now I feel a bit like we performed surgery that saved the life of a dreadful-car-accident victim who has gone on to become an Olympic athlete. It’s never too late to rescue your app; but the earlier you start, the easier it gets.
Image Credit: “Images of Money”, Flickr.
Go here to read the rest: Technical Debt Will Kill You Dead (If You Let It)