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Monday, May 2, 2016

App Review: Get Chatty with GroupMe

Welcome to the latest post in our "All About Apps" series.
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GroupMe is a group chat application that allows a large amount of people to communicate in one connected group message. It usually depends on who you ask or how old they are whether group messages are a good or bad thing. With such a wide variety of cellphones available and their different forms of messaging, it can make group texts sometimes impossible. I am a loyal iPhone user and I know from experience how frustrating it is to have a group text of other iPhone users and being unable to effectively chat because of that one person who uses an Android.

Screenshot of GroupMe
GroupMe makes it possible for all kinds of cellphone users to have the perfect outlet for chatting about anything and everything. I have used this app for several years and I find it easier than using just the standard messaging app on my iPhone. This app is unique because in most group chat applications there is a limit to the number of people who can be in a group message. With this app you can literally have as many people as you want. Now that doesn’t mean you can go crazy and have over 1,000 people in a message, but if you want 200 people in a message then by all means go for it.

This app was founded by Jared Hecht and Steve Martocci in 2010, and it was inspired by a project that was created at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. After its first year of life this app was so successful that in 2011 it was adopted by Skype and has been thriving ever since.

In my experience with this application I have gained a moderate understanding of its features. One of the features that I like the most is that you can control the notifications that you receive. If you are in a group message and are overwhelmed with the number of notifications, and just want a break, then you can temporally silence that group message.  I think this is what really sets it apart from the standard messaging app that comes with a phone. Sometimes my group messages are just too much and I wish I could silence it without totally removing myself from it, and thankfully, that is possible with GroupMe.

Another remarkable feature the unique set of emojis that can be used in messages. From the standard face images to a dog on a surfboard, there are enough emojis for you to effectively express what you are feeling. I think these are so much cuter than what comes with your iPhone.

GroupMe emojis

This app is also not limited to your location or the device you are using. Don’t have a reliable cell phone connection? You can use GroupMe from your computer and all you need is a good WIFI connection and you’re ready to chat.

GroupMe is a reliable and easy way for anyone with a large “squad” to keep in touch and in the know of what is going on. This is app is available for download at https://groupme.com and is free in the app store.

About the Author: Heather Sims is senior speech communication major at Tarleton State University located in Stephenville, Texas. She can be contacted at heather.sims@go.tarleton.edu.

References: https://groupme.com/en-US/about retrieved on March 18, 2016


Friday, April 29, 2016

App Review: Pushbullet - Surprising App to Sync All Your Devices

Welcome to the latest edition of our "All About Apps" series!
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In today’s digital world we have phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, etc., and there are times that we will need to charge our phone or we are not near it. Now imagine, you are at home or work and an important text message, email, or call comes and your phone is in other room or in your desk; you missed it because you were not aware. This happens to people more often that you think and now there is an app that can solve this problem for you called Pushbullet.

Screen shot from Jenniffer Cox
Pushbullet is a service that allows you to connect all your devices and essentially make them one. From seeing your phone's notifications on your computer, to easily transferring links, files, and more between devices, Pushbullet saves you time by making what used to be difficult or impossible, easy. With headquarters in San Francisco, Pushbullet was founded in 2013 by Ryan Oldenburg, Andre von Houck, and Chris Hesse. According to Pushbullet, it originally started as a side-project that bridged the gap between our phone, tablet, and computer so they would work better together.

What services does Pushbullet offer?
Pushbullet is genius when it comes to making all your devices work together. Pushbullet can:
Send text messages
See your phone’s notifications
Follow interesting things
Send links
Chat with friends
Send files

All of this can be done from your computer or tablet without having to locate your phone and the other party will never know that you reply to them from your computer. It is very simple to use and would be great for anyone who uses the computer a lot.

Pros and Cons
Pushbullet is great in my opinion when it comes to syncing all your notifications and SMS messages to your laptop or computer. When you get a text message, a box will pop up and just like messenger for Facebook it has a chat head. The chat heads are great and are only available via the computer. This app is not quite perfect; it does have some issues with updating the text messages on Pushbullet with what is on your phone. I have chalked it up to a bug in the system as here lately they have been experiencing issues with their server. However, with most apps that you get, there will be a few bugs and Pushbullet developers are very quick to fix the problems.

It is worth it?
Yes! I feel this app is great to use and will continue to be useful. The free version is great  to use unless you decide to text more than 100 times a month from your computer or tablet. The best thing to do would be to try out the free version for a few weeks before you decide to get the paid version.
In all honesty, I have been using Pushbullet free version for a month now and I am on the computer a lot, so I wouldn’t benefit from Pushbullet Pro as I am not sending over 100 text messages from my computer. However, this is a great tool to have on a business computer so you are not always checking your phone for that important text message.

What’s the Cost?
Pushbullet has a free version and a paid version. The free and paid versions of  differ in many ways.
Chart created by Jenniffer Cox
Pushbullet Pro is $3.33 a month if you pay yearly, which ends up being $39.99 per year. However, if you want to pay monthly for it then it will be $4.99 a month, which all transactions are paid with credit card or PayPal.

Where is Pushbullet?
First off go to https://www.pushbullet.com and setup an account. The next thing you will do it download the apps for your phone, tablet, or computer. After that there will be some basic setups for your device and then you will be ready to go.

About the author: Jenniffer Cox is a senior business administration major at Tarleton State University. You may find her on Twitter @jkjenn1980.

All Images © 2016 Jenniffer Cox

References
Pushbullet. (2016). About Us. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
Pushbullet. (2016). Pushbullet - Your devices working better together. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
Pushbullet. (2016). Upgrade to Pro | Pushbullet. Retrieved March 20, 2016.

Monday, April 25, 2016

App Review: Tweetbot - Tweeting Outside the Box

Tweetbot is an app for Twitter only available for iOS and Mac devices. Essentially, it combines what all other Twitter websites and applications do (such Klout) and puts them together. It was $4.99, which I thought was a little ridiculous when the Twitter app is free, but it does have some interesting features I did not know I needed. You can see activities such as how many people your tweet reached that day and over time. One of the features I did like is how it tells you who follows and unfollows you daily. There are a few different versions depending on which technology you’re using (for example Mac or iPad) and you do not have to be a certain age to use it. The creators of the app are Tapbots, who have also made one other app called Calcbots, which is for unit conversions.
Image by Aissa Martinez created using Canva 
To be honest, Tweetbot in my opinion is a little out of date. I downloaded Tweetbot 4 for this review. Recently, the Twitter app has made many improvements and now with the same features as Tweetbot, but you save $4.99. Some of the newer features on the Twitter app are the analytics, and being able to switch between accounts. It only takes the Twitter app two clicks to switch between different accounts. In addition to being able to switch from different accounts in Tweetbot, you can also change  information (pictures, cover photo, bio, etc.) and follow and unfollow different accounts. Once again, all of this can be done from the Twitter app. The app features would work better for businesses because they can track their new followers and who unfollowed them.

I think that this app would be interesting after first purchasing it but I do believe the shiny will wear off once people see the app is so similar to the Twitter app. There is not much in it for me. Even though I run a few different Twitter accounts, I find the Buffer app to be better. The Buffer app is the most comparable app and  I prefer Buffer because you can schedule tweets but still see analytics. Not only do they let you schedule, they give you the best time for you to tweet and ideas on what is popular to tweet based on your accounts.

Overall, Tweetbot was an account that was easy to access and navigate. This app is not too different from the Twitter app itself and you can do almost everything and have the same features on the Twitter app. I was disappointed that I wasted almost $5 on this that I could have spent on a Little Caesars Pizza. Shortly after writing this review, the price increased to $9.99.

About the author: Aissa Martinez is a junior communication studies student at Tarleton State University. She works part time as a tour guide, as well as an intern and social media coach for the Texas Social Media Research Institute.

Friday, April 22, 2016

App Review: A Traveler’s Tool to Exploring Language

Enjoy the latest entry in our "All About Apps" series!
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“A little step may be the beginning of a great journey” ~ Anon



Earlier this year, a friend and I put down a payment to take a Europe trip , something I have been dreaming about since I was about 9 years old. Although my trip isn’t until the summer of 2017, I am already looking into tips on what to bring, what not to bring, and what to learn. Although I know I’ll only be in each country for a few days, I would still hate to offend someone or get lost and not know my way back. How do I plan to prepare? Google Translate.

Google Translate is a free app available for Android and iOS. While these apps are more accessible while on the road, you can also go to the Google Translate website.

Here is the Google Translate App Logo

Functions
The Google Translate app has four different translating options: typed text, written-to-text, voice-to-text, and (what I like to call) camera overtake. Here is what the app looks open. Each function is clear to find, without having to search the entire app. You can also see some of my failed attempts at speaking Italian. I honestly can’t tell you what I was trying to say.


Typed text is what I’m sure everyone is imagining — type what you want to translate, hit enter, and what you need is translated to the desired language. The same happens for each of the other parts of the app but with a little twist.

Written-to-text is where you are able to write in a window on the app and it will take what language you are writing in, and translate it into the desired language.

The same goes for the voice-to-text; talk into the microphone, the app will detect the language you are speaking and translate to what you want.

Here is an example of the written-to-text function; although I took the screenshot before the translation could pop up. Spoiler: it translates to “Ciao”.



What I feel is the game changer for this app, especially for travel purposes, is the “camera overtake.” The app is able to access your camera with this function. You simply point your camera to a sign/book/map (etc.) and the app will translate what the sign is saying into your desired language. This is where I feel that this app would be very beneficial to travelers or businesses that come across a language barrier.



Here is an example of the “camera overtake” function. I went to the Trevi Fountain through Google Maps, chose the street view, and found a fairly common street sign. The top half of the picture is the original and the bottom half demonstrates how the app will translate through the camera.
If you are in an area where connection to cell or wifi service is slow or expensive (like out of the country) you are able to pre-download the languages you will be using, and then you won’t need to worry about connecting to wifi or using cellular roaming .

Are There Competitors?
Now what are some competitors of Google Translate? Speak & Translate has the typed text translate and the voice-to-text translation function. Speak & Translate is a free app, but it does have advertisements throughout the app, while I personally have yet to come across an ad in Google Translate. You can pay $9.99 to have a version of Speak & Translate that is ad free. Some noticeable differences, Speak & Translate does have the ability of voice recognition, but does not have the written-to-text or the “camera overtake” functions. Also something worth mentioning, while going through the details of the Speak & Translate app on the Apple iTunes Store, stated in the description is that some of the translation services is provided by Google Translate. Take this information however you like, but in my book, that’s a win for Google Translate.

Pro’s & Con’s of Google Translate
Pro:
  • Full Free
  • Doesn’t appear to have ads
  • Multiple translation functions
  • Original functions to the app
  • Available on multiple platforms
  • Clear instructions
  • Ability to save translations you might use often (i.e. Thank you, Where is ___, etc.)
  • Ability to pre-download languages

Con:
  • While I am not fluent in any language other than English, there is always a possibility of inaccuracy.So the confirmation on how accurate the translations will be, is still “up in the air” 
  • Voice-to-text may not be fully accurate. (This could also be because of my horrible attempts at speaking a different language.)
  • “Camera Overtake” can jump the text around the screen, making things a bit confusing. This is something that needs some getting used to. 


Here is an example of the camera jumping around the screen. This is the same sign from earlier in the article. While this example is not jumping as we may normally think, in the app, the translation was jumping between pedestrian, pawn and a few other translations; this was just one that I could capture.

While this app is suited for anyone, not everyone will have a need for Google Translate. The main target market that I see this app for is for travelers, business people, or even some who are attempting to teach themselves a new language. This app is intended as a solution for someone who has come across a language barrier. While a better solution would be to learn the new language, there may not be the time or the need/want to learn a new language.

The app is free ✓, easy to navigate/learn ✓, quick ✓, and doesn’t take up much space on my phone ✓; so personally, I feel that the app is worth it. While I may not need it now, I still use it. And it is funny to attempt to say something in another language, and see what may be translated.

You can find Google Translate in your devices download store or online: OnlineAndroid, and iOS

About the Author: Danica Hertfelder is a senior business management major at Tarleton State University. You can contact her at danica.hertfelder@go.tarleton.edu.

Sources
"Google Translate - Android Apps on Google Play." Google Translate - Android Apps on Google
     Play. Google, n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
"Google Translate on the App Store." App Store. Google, n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.
Page, Larry, and Sergey Brin. "Company – Google." Company – Google. Google, 4 Sept. 1998. Web.
     14 Mar. 2016.
"Speak & Translate - Free Live Voice and Text Translator with Speech and Dictionary on the App
     Store." App Store. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

Photos by Danica Hertfelder and Google Maps

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#TSUServiceDay Overview: Innovative Ways To Donate and Reflections of the Day


The Texas Social Media Research Institute served the Tarleton Food Pantry of Tarleton State University's Day of Service on April 7th, 2016. The social media coaches and board members teamed up to raise awareness of the university food pantry through a series of Periscopes done throughout the Day of Service.


Food donations to food pantries often have a stigma that it is unwanted food that does not taste good. One of our Day of Service volunteers suggested buying two items at a time when grocery shopping, one for yourself and one for the university food pantry. This could help alleviate some of the issues people have with utilizing food pantries. Watch the video above to see how the volunteers felt about their service and their final thoughts on the Tarleton Food Pantry.

By Torri Carroll
SSMI and TSMRI social media coach


The Texas Social Media Research Institute (TSMRI) is a group of faculty, staff, and students at Tarleton State University with a mission of conducting social media research; sharing social media best practices; and providing social media education for students, non-profit organizations, state agencies, school districts, and higher education institutions.


Contact us:
Texas Social Media Research Institute
Follow Us on Twitter - @TSMRI
Call Us - 254-307-8211
Join Us for Our #TXSocialMedia Weekly Twitter Chats on Thursday Nights at 8pm CDT
texassocialmediaresearch@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

#TSUServiceDay Overview: Couponing For the Tarleton Food Pantry


The Texas Social Media Research Institute served the Tarleton Food Pantry of Tarleton State University's Day of Service on April 7th, 2016. The social media coaches and board members teamed up to raise awareness of the university food pantry through a series of Periscopes done throughout the Day of Service.


This discussion about couponing can help in multiple ways. Not only does it help donors find an affordable approach to collecting items to donate, but these tips can help students, staff and faculty maintain a sustainable method of providing themselves with groceries outside of the university food pantry. Couponing can be a great tool when applied well, and our executive director, Dr. Jennifer Edwards, is a super saver! Donors and clients alike can use her tips to keep a balanced budget when it comes to groceries and home items.

By Torri Carroll
SSMI and TSMRI social media coach


The Texas Social Media Research Institute (TSMRI) is a group of faculty, staff, and students at Tarleton State University with a mission of conducting social media research; sharing social media best practices; and providing social media education for students, non-profit organizations, state agencies, school districts, and higher education institutions.


Contact us:
Texas Social Media Research Institute
Follow Us on Twitter - @TSMRI
Call Us - 254-307-8211
Join Us for Our #TXSocialMedia Weekly Twitter Chats on Thursday Nights at 8pm CDT
texassocialmediaresearch@gmail.com

Monday, April 18, 2016

App Review: Brewster -- Access All Of Your Contacts In One Place

Welcome to the second installment of our "All About Apps" series! Today's app is Brewster.
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Let’s face it, most of us today have multiple social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) and more than double the amount of online friends than we do physical ones. And if you’re anything like me, keeping track of these friends and all of their contact information is nearly impossible unless they are already in our devices’ contact books. Luckily, there is an app that has given us a way to organize and store all of our friends’ information in one place. Using a synchronizing system backed by Google, Brewster builds a complete address book using personal emails, devices, and the user’s chosen social media accounts.

Screenshot of popularity rank in Brewster.

Getting Started
Brewster was founded and created by CEO Steve Greenwood and invested by Fred Wilson as well as others. This app was created in mind to allow the convenience to access information from multiple sites all in one place. When users first use Brewster they must have a Google email as Steve Greenwood and his team deemed that most people hold some type of Google account (Business Insider, 2012). However, Brewster allows logins from Facebook, iCloud, and Twitter as well. Whichever account you choose to log in to, Brewster will automatically upload your contacts from that account. After, users will have the opportunity to import more contact information from the social media and device of their choosing.
Screenshot of Brewster app.

Positives and Negatives
One of the things that makes Brewster a genius app is that if it recognizes multiple contacts/profiles, it can merge all of the important information into one contact by itself. It prevents having to  go back and forth between multiple profiles to gather the good stuff yourself and having to delete the extra. Brewster will gather the contact’s current city, state, school or company, address, other emails, website URLs, and Skype and AIM accounts.

Another unique marketing tool that Brewster uses is that it can identify contacts’ profile pictures from Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and sync them to your phone’s contacts to be used as caller ID photos.

If I had to pick out the best feature from Brewster though I’d have to say it’s the categorization. Brewster can categorize all of your contacts by their interests – work networks, college friends, by location and so much more.

I guess there always has to be a downfall somewhere and just like anything where I’m using personal information, I am skeptical about the privacy. Under Brewster’s “Privacy” tab, it is basically stated that the company only collects the information that a user gives access to and is not shown to other Brewster users. Brewster also claims that it does not post anything to your social site without permission, as well as never storing any passwords from those sites.

Is It For You?
Look, if you’re lazy, but also want to be organized, then this is the app for you! The app is user friendly as it does all of the work for you. Anybody can use this app – professionals, businessmen/women, college students, moms and dads, and so on. On a rating scale I would have to say it’s “kid friendly,”  but I highly doubt any kid really has that many contacts to keep up with, let alone care to have them all organized.

It takes no effort other than to set up your login account, no time as it automatically retrieves all the information for you, and no hassle.

However, if you’re the kind of person who wants to manually do everything then this is not the app for you! As I previously mentioned, Brewster literally does all of the organizing for you. All you have to do is allow access to the social sites that you want Brewster to pull contacts from. Whenever your friends update any new information Brewster will automatically update your contact book as well.

The Real Question... Is It Free?
Yes! Brewster is completely free. But there’s a catch, right? Wrong. Brewster is really free and it is really that simple. If you’re wanting Brewster to do a little more though such as sync your contacts to different devices, sync them with Gmail, remove invalid contacts, merge duplicate contacts, or view emails and phone numbers that contacts may have for you then you must upgrade to premium. Brewster Premium is $9.99 a month or $99 for a year.

Screenshot of contacts in Brewster app.


Other Just Like It
There are other apps out there like Brewster such as FullContact, Cloze, Zoho ContactManager, and CircleBack. As a first time Brewster user I would have to recommend it for anybody looking for a little organization in their life, but I cannot speak on the other apps. I guess a buyer’s best option would be to try the app that works best for you!

Where To Find Brewster?
Access Brewster through its website (https://app.brewster.com/landing) or check your device’s app store.

All Images © 2016 Tayler Young.

About the author: Tayler Young is a senior public relations and event management major at Tarleton State University. You may find her on Twitter @taylermaegan.
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