Publish, like, and find: building an open and curated ecosystem

Most ecosystems such as app stores are either open or curated. But why can’t we have both? Well, we can — all you need is three verbs: publish, find, and like. That goes for technology and anything else.

Usually there are two options when you want to publish an app: publish it to something like the iOS App Store (where people will find your app, but Apple reviewers can deny your submission) or just put it on your website (where it’s easy to publish, but there’s no guarantee anyone will see it.) Not the greatest set of options.

Isn’t there a way to combine the strengths of both of these to make for the best possible experience for both publishers and consumers? I think there is. It’s called an open and curated ecosystem. Let’s take a look at:

  • What open and curated ecosystems are
  • Examples of open and curated ecosystems
  • What you need to make an open and curated ecosystem
  • Examples of these ecosystems beyond just technology

and see if we can discover something about the power of crowdsourcing, innovation, and the three verbs publish, find, and like.

Curated vs. open ecosystems

The iOS App Store and open internet, among others, are app ecosystems — places where apps can be published and found. And I think the big factors that differentiate one ecosystem from another are whether the ecosystem is open, where anyone can publish apps and whether it is curated, where the best apps rise to the top and users are assured quality apps. That’s the major difference between the iOS store and the internet at large, which I mentioned earlier.

Let’s look at examples of curated and open ecosystems and what differentiates them.

5 invaluable free productivity apps for college

A few years ago I wrote about useful apps for high school — but now college is here, and it brings a whole new set of demands. Since I arrived at Harvard, I’ve had to do more, and my apps have had to do more too.

These new apps need to run on all platforms (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS), sync seamlessly between them, and help me keep my data organized. They have to be versatile, robust, and easy-to-use. And they have to be free.

With that in mind, here are the five apps that I’ve relied on most at Harvard and that I recommend to anyone in college or anywhere else in life. They’re ranked in order of usefulness.

Evernote, Wunderlist, Mailbox, Sunrise, Pocket
5 free, essential apps for college: Evernote, Wunderlist, Mailbox, Sunrise, and Pocket.

Self-expression on the internet: a hybrid approach?

The internet should help you express yourself easily and ensure you have control over the content and quality of your writings. But is that possible?

The internet has always been called the great platform for self-expression. The claim goes that you no longer need to be talented and lucky enough to get your work into a book or newspaper or magazine; anyone can publish anything to the internet, and if it’s good enough, it can get found.

It’s definitely true that the cost of self-expression has gone down with the internet, so people are much more likely and able to use it to publish their ideas. (The idea of economic cost, or amount of effort it takes to do something, is a very powerful one, by the way. When it gets easier to do something, that thing explodes in popularity. It’s pretty self-evident, but it’s a powerful way of looking at things like the rise of self-expression with the internet.)

There are two main ways of publishing content online:

  • Publishing independently (making your own platform)
  • Using someone else’s platform (hosted publishing)

Both of these fall short of the goal of allowing for easy self-publishing. I think, though, that there’s room for a hybrid that would bring the best of both.

On “social” media, weak ties, and Snapchat stories

How social media is designed to help you build relationships with acquaintances, and why Snapchat (yes, that Snapchat) is the most effective social media platform

It was late enough that I’d stopped thinking for the night, so I proudly proclaimed to my nearby friends that I was getting a Snapchat account. It had always struck me as a bit vapid and narcissistic – you’re swapping carefully-chosen selfies with others to try and win favor – but I figured I’d give it a go.

But I quickly learned that Snapchat, like any other social media platform, gives rise to a number of use cases that the creators probably never intended. (For instance, Twitter probably never foresaw that it would contribute to the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.) What I saw was this: Snapchat and other social media platforms are surprisingly effective ways to grow and maintain your network of weak ties (acquaintances) by reducing the costs of communication and increasing the number of “hooks,” or chances to strike up conversation, you have. All social media can do this, but Snapchat, by its very nature, is the king of this.

Resurrection, and updates

I could tell from the sheer number of WordPress updates that awaited me that it’s certainly been a while since I wrote here on this blog. But part of my pre-New Year’s resolution is to start writing here more – hopefully I can develop some more interesting ideas and keep growing as a writer.

I’ve learned a ton from my first semester at Harvard – where I think I’ll study computer science, though I don’t declare a major till next year – and I’ve developed an interest in seeing how technology impacts other fields – politics, economics, education, sports, whatever – in addition to technology for its own sake. So with this reboot of the blog, so to speak, I’ll work to explore the intersection of technology and other fields.

How to make a website, part 1

I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but there’s this thing called the internet that people these days tend to use a lot. As I’ve said before, it’s extremely important nowadays to now how to develop for the web.

So what better way to learn and practice web development skills, all while making a name for yourself on the world’s biggest platform, than to create a website?

This is the first in a series of tutorials where I’ll show you, step-by-step, how to build an awesome website from scratch.

Let’s go, yo.

Why care about web development?

Say you want to write about how awesome your pet toaster is and publish it for everyone to see. Say you want to make an app where users can interact with their own virtual pet toasters. Say you want to start selling pet toasters online once you’ve convinced everyone how awesome they are.

In this case, I’d probably be a bit concerned about your sanity. But, more importantly, you’d want to learn some web development – that is, the art of creating web pages like the one you’re viewing right now.