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iphone Archives - Benjamin Caro

Benjamin Caro

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I like to describe Medium as YouTube for text. There’s a big community of writers running on on likes, comments and engagement, hoping their writing pushes through the noise. Because it’s the brainchild of one of Twitter’s founders, there is a vast majority of writing about startups, tech and digital nomad-tinged life advice. This is why when I wanted to write a satirical piece about an iPhone app that rates and organizes your photos, I chose to publish it on Medium.

The Roll is admittedly a pretty neat app that assigns your photo an “aesthetic score” and then describes your photo using keywords. The best photo on my camera roll, a picture of my girlfriend exploring the rocks on a beach, scores a 96%. I decided to test The Roll to see how it would do with a “random sampling” of photos pulled from the internet. I posted the score and keywords it assigned them. As you could guess, my “random sampling” includes some instantly recognizable famous photos, known for not only their aesthetic beauty but for their political and historical impact.  Here’s a sampling from the piece:

Kevin Carter, "the vulture and the little girl"

Kevin Carter, “the vulture and the little girl”

Aesthetic score: 35%
Keywords: animals, field, livestock, grass, nature, landscape, herbivorous, outdoors, day, grassy, brown, rural scene, selective focus, animal, beauty in nature, tranquility.

While The Roll is able to detect the “beauty in nature” this photo exhibits, The Roll is unable to comment on the responsibilities of Western journalists in the third world, their conflicting roles as both objective documentarians and active players in the horrors in front of their lenses; nor quantify the tragic consequences of photojournalism in the public sphere. But it’s early. Looking forward to the next update.

The story behind the vulture photo is disturbing, one of the reasons that the photo matters. Check out the full article  on Medium for more misguided photo analyses, and my conclusion of whether technology will eventually be able to replace humans when it comes to judging visual art.

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We now know what it takes to form a good habit, but sometimes it takes a little help. You might see an increasing number of “habit-tracking” apps in the iTunes store that promise to help you form and keep those habits. Here are five of the top contenders.

LIFT

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Backed by Bay area notables like self-improvement fetishist and 4 Hour-Chef author Tim Ferris, Lift is an all-in-one habit-tracking app with social features. Do you want to set a reminder? Go ahead. Do you need an entourage of strangers giving you “props” to keep you motivated? That’s there, too. You can browse trending habits if you’re feeling uninspired, and there are no limits to the habits you can stack up. The ability to add text to every “check-in” allows for some innovative uses. For the popular “set your priorities for the day,” instead of, I don’t know, closing your eyes and meditating on this, you can write it down right there in the app. In this way, Lift can also serves as a mini journal.


Best feature: Lift recently rolled out Coaching Plans, habits like “Six Weeks to a Half Marathon” or “Be a More Outgoing Introvert” which provide suggestions to tackle each day. The novelty is an exciting reason to keep working on that habit.

Needs work: It’d be nice to see a notification function inside the app. On iOS, you must rely on the Notifications Center to navigate directly to recent conversations or likes.

 

DAILY INSIST

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Daily Insist focuses on one thing and one thing only: a place to remind you to do one thing for a certain set of time. If you screw up and don’t do the habit during that time period, you have to start over. You can set the time interval to 7, 14, or 21 days.

Best feature: A habit-tracking app is only as good as the satisfaction you get from checking off that habit. In this sense, Daily Insist wins with it’s minimal design and satisfying animation.
Needs work: The inability to go back and edit whether you’ve done a habit is a deal breaker. Perhaps you went to the gym, but were too busy to let Daily Insist know? You are punished for your diligence if you don’t get to your phone by midnight.

 

BALANCED

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Balanced is the cutest, really, and allows you to set reminders for five different habits. By completing the habits, you earn rewards including, yes, the ability to add more habits!

Best feature: The design makes it very clear where you are on track and where you’re really screwing up. The ability to edit the frequency of each habit allows for simple flexibility.
Needs work: The concept is similar to Lift without the coaching plans or social functions. On the other hand, it is more manageable, and not everybody might want to share to a quasi-social network what kind of sickening habits they’re trying to break.

 

EVEREST

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Everest is unique in that it’s specifically designed to help you on your way to knocking off that nearly unachievable goal you have. There’s no coaching nor suggestions, really, but bold automated visuals and a social element will make you want to come up with your own baby steps toward your goal, posting pictures and updates along the way.

Best feature: This is the only app that allows you to post pictures with your habit tracking. What better way to celebrate your milestones, show off, or add a bit of humor?
Needs work: The design is a little confusing and it’s hard to tell how to add a step vs. check off that you’ve taken a step.

 

YOUREXTRALIFE

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Unlike these other apps, YourExtraLife is here for fun. Like a board game, you head down different paths – there’s a culinary path, a culture path, a social path – unlocking more challenges as you go on. It’s not strictly here to help you form habits or better your lifestyle, but by the time you’ve cooked a three course meal for yourself, you’re going to feel like you’ve come a long way.

Best feature: Fun visuals, the ability to upload Instagram photos, wanting to unlock the next challenge, and earning emblems and awards… it’s all fun and games.
Needs work: Some of the paths really do feel like self-improvement, but other tasks, like “Geek” and “Photography,” start to amount to Googling a picture then taking a screenshot with your iPhone.

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