Don’t Forget to RSVP: RSVP Law

rsvplaw

Looking for a lawyer? Looking for a legal information library? You could RSVP. RSVP Law is an online service whose core offering is connecting clients with lawyers. Users of the service provide their contact information and specific needs, which are routed to an actual live person who will assist in finding matches that meet the criteria. Users can submit a request for a lawyer in very modern ways — by texting, Facebooking (is that a verb?), or tweeting — as well as more conventional ways like using the website form, emailing or by telephone. The service appears to be in the new-er side, as I was unable to find any reviews. You can find more on their website at the link above.

What caught my attention about RSVP Law is its other aspect – creation of a free resource. RSVP Law is building a free-to-access online library of legal information. I would love to check this out, as I really like free resources. From the website, it appears that the resource is focused on offering context (location, type of business, availability) and ease of access (using your thumb, which I presume means mobile-friendly). RSVP Law is also taking requests on resources of interest on the page. However, it is currently in Private Beta. You can request a spot in their early access. To get access, text the number 760-230-0202, with the phrase Beta List #realhelpisfree access#realhelpisfree. Priority access is offered to existing BetaList users. Or you can visit the early access page here. I have and, if I can get in, I will update the post with my opinions on the resource.

Neil Alonzo is the co-founder and Managing Director for RSVP Law. He has a background as an agent through his business Vocal Marketing Group. I have to hand it to Neil on website design – the site looks slick and is very easy to navigate, even if a bit bereft of detail.

If you have used the service or have access to the private beta, would love to get your thoughts in the comments.

Use Hunch To Power Personal Recommendations

It gets exciting when the computers start getting smarter than the concierge at the Park Hyatt. Hunch is seeking to prove that evolution. Hunch bills itself as a “taste graph” of the Web personlized to your specific interests. In essence, Hunch offers a decision engine powered by your own preferences and behaviors on Hunch’s site as well as other, linked sites. The more you use Hunch, the more it learns about you, the better it can answer questions like “what is the next car I should buy?”

It all started as a machine learning experiment by a bunch of MIT-ers. Hunch, the current iteration of the machine, improves its IQ through community participation in the site, as well as your own interactions with it. Hunch strives to provide users with an “educated” response akin to what a panel of knowledgeable experts might provide or hours of internet searching might yield. From the site:

Contributions can take many forms. When Hunch makes a recommendation, it will also show you why it proposed what it did. If you disagree with some of the reasoning, you can correct it. If you think Hunch missed asking a crucial question, you can submit one. And if you think Hunch is missing a good result, you can add that, too. Hunch collects and organizes all this input so that it becomes smarter for the next user.

You start by answering twenty random questions so that Hunch can establish a “taste” profile for you. You get some off the cuff suggestions, which I found pretty strikingly on the mark. As you work within the site, you, as a user, refine questions and topics, making them smarter, and in turn, Hunch smarter. The more questions you answer and topics you explore, the better Hunch will do for you. You can respond to Hunch’s suggestions with your own critique as to their usefulness to you, which further aids the process. So, there is certainly a human element to the education, but this element is fed into the machine to feed the process.

For what it is worth, I kept answering until I had blown through about 50 questions. Hunch then recommended to me that I read the New Yorker Magazine (my favorite) and watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus (yes, I can probably quote better than 50 percent of the lines).

Hunch has to appeal to the masses, so you can follow others and there are ways to increase your social cred within the community and earn badges. All trappings aside, the idea that my computer can help me quickly solve the mundane and the more meaty questions seems very intriguing. Bing is seeking billing as a “decision engine”, but uses human curation to aid its process. And, while Quora opens the door to problem solving via a wiki-like community, it too rests on a human foundation. Hunch is offering to do the same with powerful algorithms supporting its decision engine. Fast forward a handful of years when the machines get more and more fine-tuned and we are turning to engines like Hunch to suggest service professionals (who have maintained enough of a web presence to hit the engine’s radar).

Man or Machine? Not sure yet, jury’s still out, but if you hear me asking Hal to open the Pod Bay doors, and suggest a mixed drink to serve at my next cocktail party, you might suspect I am following my Hunch.

I'm A VIP

It’s true. I love apps. Even apps that don’t work on my own system. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps that run on my iPhone 4 and iPad. And I never miss an opportunity to check out a new one. I am particularly fond of apps that take iOS4 functionality in a whole new direction or create a new method of interacting with these crazy smart phones. As I have often said, “It’s all about the apps.”

Now I am an “apps VIP”. Well, an Appsfire VIP to be precise. I have written about Appsfire before (link here). It is a fantastic way to learn about and share new apps. Appsfire leverages the knowledge of the crowd with its sharing tools and website loaded with goodies. It features apps VIPs – people who make it their business to delve into App Store offerings and share interesting new tools in their on-line endeavors.

After writing about Appsfire here in the Studio, they kindly invited me to submit my “app mix” and join the VIP group. So I did. And they did. You can check out my mix and the mixes of other VIP’s here. The direct link to my apps is here. You can “like” and share my app mix – if you have any questions about any of the apps, give me a shout in the comments here and I will be happy to let you know my thoughts.

Appsfire also has a couple of apps of their own that make discovering and sharing new applications easy and fun. Appsfire comes in a fully iOS4-friendly iPhone version (link here) that adds much of the functionality of the web page interface right onto your phone. You can even compare apps with a friend via bluetooth and use the personal recommendation system to learn about new apps.

Also, check out their iPad app –  Appstream – an “app”solutely fascinating scrolling stream of hundreds of apps that you can click on learn more about. The cool animated wall displays apps in real time:

Appsfire is simply the best way to learn about and share your passion for iPhone and iPad apps on the web or on your iDevice. They even keep you notified when paid apps go free. Check out their website at the jump above. And, if you get totally crazy about apps like me, maybe you can become an App VIP too.

See you on Appsfire!

New Mr. Tweet – From Recommender to Social Director

Since the early days of the public microblogging service Twitter, it has been a challenge for users to figure out who to follow and whose tweets to read. The challenge is getting, well, even more challenging as the number of Twitter users grow. If only someone could just tell you “hey, go follow @so-and-so, they are talking about EXACTLY what you want to be hearing.”

I started using the third-party Twitter directory Mr. Tweet very early on in my Twitter usage, and I am coming up on three years of tweeting. I previously blogged about Mr. Tweet here in the Studio way back in the beginning (link here). I periodically go back and use Mr. Tweet when I feel the need to follow some fresh ideas and, for the most part, I appreciate the personalized suggestions the service yields.

Apparently, Mr. Tweet has not rested on its laurels of more than 400,000 users of the service. The Mr. Tweet blog (link here) just announced that there are major changes to the service on the way. An example of the new Mr. Tweet is live (link here). Mr. Tweet claims to have been listening to users who don’t really want to follow celebs on Twitter and would prefer to connect with members of their “communities of interest” in a more meaningful way. Gee, what a good idea!

From the screenshots, it appears the “new” Mr. Tweet will be more than a simple recommended user-type service. The new interface looks much more like interest-based social communities growing out of Twitter. You can post discussions, get answers from other members of the community, and see top users.

 

You can filter by current discussions, not yet answered, and all activities.

You will still be able to secure old-school Mr. Tweet service at http://classic.mrtweet.com.  But kudos to Mr. Tweet for its innovation – the new service looks to be a promising means for distilling down your Twitter-actions into the topical areas of greatest interest. By doing so, Mr. Tweet will allow you to see the top users in action, including how interactive they are with members of their chosen community. Looking forward to checking out this new, more social version of the service.

Civilizing The Discovery of iPhone Apps

Image representing AppsFire as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

With more than 200,000 apps in the App Store, finding the best of the best is becoming increasingly difficult. iTunes and Genius are not of much assistance and third party sites and services have leaped in to fill the void.

A credible competitor in this field is AppsFire (link here) .With a newly revamped page, desktop tool and download-able iPhone application, AppsFire really streamlines the process of discovering, demoing and sharing iPhone apps and presents a very real challenger to the iTunes monopoly. You can search for apps yourself, or, if you are in need of some expert advise, check out the VIP section on the Web – lists compiled by tech elite and power users. AppsFire also will recommend apps based on your app downloads and history.  The iPhone app lets you compare apps with other iPhone toting friends via Bluetooth.

The AppsFire interface looks great on the iPad. The team is also developing a similar product for the Android marketplace. Take a look at what the tech press has to say:

“there needs to be a way to filter out what you don’t want and find what you do [….] AppsFire may offer just that”
“Appsfire is a service that makes it easier to share your favorite iPhone apps with your friends”
“The must-have App Sharing app”
“AppsFire is an interesting idea [..] It then generates a list you can share with friends”
“The app is a breeze to use on both desktop and the iPhone, and takes app sharing to a new level”
“[Appsfire is] Helping solve the discovery of relevant applications”
“The Perfect Merge of iPhone Apps and Social Media”
“AppsFire is a nice little software piece that[..] can be counted upon for finding apps that might interest you”

And, check out their demo video below:

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Outbrain: A Blog Recommendation Widget

I just added a fun, new plug-in to my WordPress-powered blog called Outbrain (link here). What is it, you ask? It’s a platform for blog, RSS content and news ratings and recommendations. The widget shows recommended additional reading and offers the reader the ability to rate and recommend articles on your blog site. As Outbrain crawls your blog, the recommendations coming into your pages get better and better. Most leading blogging/RSS platforms are supported, including Blogger.com, TypePad, WordPress.org, Drupal, FeedFlare, MoveableType, and others.

You can see Outbrain at work at the bottom of each of my individual posts. For me, Outbrain is free. But for the many large, syndicated news outlets availing themselves of its coolness, Outbrain is a paid service. Correction: Outbrain’s CEO stopped by and informed me that it is in fact a FREE service for all levels of business! Another plus!

You also can buy into an additional tool called Outloud, which actively promotes your content on other Outbrain sites for $10 per month.

Outbrain is no fly-by-night service: it has secured almost $20 million in investment funding over the last three years. And they really know what they are doing: it is the very first free service I have ever dealt with that has a live chat help center! Thank you, Jackie, for helping me get the widget to work on my site! Such a relief not to have to rely on that infuriating GetSatisfaction farce. Right on top of its game, Outbrain is.

If you want to get your content into the social interaction stream, check out Outbrain. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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