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Avatar of Tara Ross posted March 23 2013
on Tara Ross

18 Buzzworthy Apps for the TV Marketing Community

I recently gave a presentation at the PromaxBDA Europe Conference, which is the largest gathering of marketing, promotion and design professionals in European television and entertainment media. I was there for Appsterdam to talk about the “best, most innovative and breakthrough applications of the last 12 months.”

PromaxBDA Europe Conference 2013

A Snowy Paris for the PromaxBDA Europe Conference 2013

Among many other things, people in the PromaxBDA community make a lot of cool promos as part of their work. So to try to speak their language, we put together some videos of our own for the app reviews. The guys from One More Thing provided the on-air commentary. They usually do their live streaming broadcasts in Dutch, but they did these special videos in English just for us. Thanks Jesse, Jan David, and Koen!

Many thanks also to MediaMonks who provided the final editing of the videos.

I hand-picked this group of 18 apps over 10 categories for the conference presentation–apps that have either launched or exploded in buzz and exposure over the past 12 months.

Of course there are many other great apps out there. We want to do more Appsterdam/One More Thing reviews in the future, so please add your suggestions in the comments.

Below are the reviews. Enjoy!


Photo and Video

  • Vyclone automatically makes an edited 4-camera movie that you can then share with the community.
  • Scoopshot is a professional version of the citizen journalist apps out there.


Design and Creativity

  • Paper is so successful because of its simplicity, elegance, and how much of a pleasure it is to use.
  • POP is a tool for making an interactive wireframe for your app using paper drawings.



  • Syncpad allows brainstorming on a whiteboard, even if everyone is in a different location.
  • Clear “has no interface” and uses only simple, intuitive gestures for your to-dos.


Social Media

Vine is the Twitter for video that lets you capture and share short looping videos of 6 seconds or less.



  • Stevie pulls videos from your friends’ social media feeds and presents them to you in a “lean-back” experience.
  • Snagfilms lets you watch films and shorts for free on your iPad. They have more than 3,000 items in their library–you only have to watch an ad first.


Augmented Reality

Blippar has a special system for brands to use for building their augmented reality experiences.



  • Figure makes a musician out of everyone, with a unique but intuitive interface.
  • Nodebeat helps you make dreamy songs by pulling “nodes” into the field.
  • 22tracks is a streaming music app with curated playlists from well-known DJs from Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Brussels.


News and Inspiration

  • Flipboard pulls your news feeds into a unique but intuitive interface that invites browsing and exploring.
  • Prismatic figures out what news you’re interested in by looking at your existing social media, music libraries, and whatever else it can find.


Second Screen

  • Walkers Kill Count for The Walking Dead TV series syncs with episodes and makes a game out of predicting the zombie kills.
  • American Idol is about the community around the TV show and keeping the experience going between episodes.


One More Thing

TshirtOS is a concept in beta. It’s a programmable t-shirt controlled by an app.


posted March 20 2013
on Mike Lee


I’m a very lucky man, and one of the things that makes me so lucky are my friends. These are the nicest, most talented people I’ve met in my life, and many of them have skills that have made them vital contributors to my success over the years—not only in making my products and building my brands, but in getting my message out there (for what it’s worth). For example, a bunch of them have started great podcasts with unbelievable guest lists, which they have generously allowed me to be part of.

My friend Saul Mora has assembled one of the finest collections of interviews in our industry with his NSBrief podcast. Seriously, look at his archive—it’s like a who’s who of NSCoders, and he’s had me on not once, but twice.

What’s cool about NSBrief is that the audience is just as illustrious as the guest list. Both times I’ve been on the show, I’ve ended up getting amazing, life-changing feedback from its audience. Most recently, I talked about trying to blend consulting with making our own apps, and ended up basically having the implementation details of that handed to me after the show.

Short version: we’re setting thresholds for when our consulting flag goes up or down. If we drop below 3 months burn, we have to accept consulting until we get back up to 12 months burn. Since we don’t have capacity for business development, we’re doing all our contracting through Big Nerd Ranch Europe. (So if you’d like to hire us, contact Marcel and Bolot!)

My friend Dave Wiskus and I were recently able to celebrate our strange relationship on his show, Unprofessional. Because Dave is the protege of my protege, I am always busting his balls. He wanted to do a show themed around being offensive, so I spent the whole show pretending to hate the show (which I actually love) and ripping on Dave (who I actually love).

It’s a beautiful piece of performance art. At one point I even insulted Dave while the call was muted, an act so dickish it calls to mind the old Dutch expression, to wipe one’s ass on the door. I had a really good time. Given how successful the show has been, it should come as no surprise that Dave (and everybody’s best friend, Lex Friedman) are not only genuinely great people, but incredibly good sports.

Finally, although the episode is not up yet, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by my old pal Guy English and Rene Ritchie on their show, Debug. I was so excited when they started this show, because of Guy’s skill as a conversationalist. Really, of all the many things to envy him for, that’s the one I envy the most.

Maybe it’s my internal journalism major, but I always pay attention to people’s interview styles. Saul sets up the guests and lets them talk. Dave and Lex relate to their guests by sharing their own anecdotes. Guy and Rene ask probing follow-up questions to encourage their guests to dive deep in exploring their topics.

I know the key to great conversations is asking great follow-up questions, but that’s easier said that done. I’ve always admired Guy for this, and I listen to their show as much for the interviews as for a case study on how to talk to people.

That’s what makes me respect my friends so damned much—they have so much to teach me, just by doing the things I can’t.

posted March 04 2013
on Vincent D. Warmerdam

Developer in South America

People tend to romanticize traveling and working and although it is an amazing experience there are a few things that you should keep in mind. It is not for everybody and I get the idea that people only see the plus sides of doing it. Traveling is awesome with good parts and bad parts. Although it is easy to focus only on the good stuff when you are preparing your trip there is a small list of things to be aware of.

  • Initially I was thinking that I would be ‘earning euros and spending pesos’. Basically, this would allow me to love like a king by only working for a few days a week. For most countries this is true, generally in latin america you will have the upper hand economically. The downside however is that this does involve ‘working european hours in a latin american country’ as well. Sure the exchange rate and purchasing power can be preferable but you DO need to get the work done that your western employer expects. This can be a bit of a challenge at times. The lifestyle of latin america is generally less focussed around being productive, largely due to the sheer amount chaos but mostly because they are just not used to it. If you are in the same climate, you will be tempted to act alike.
  • Be honest. Why do you want to travel? To sit at a desk but in a different country? Of course not. You want to tango and party in Buenos Aires? You want to hike in patagonia? You want to climb machu pichu and visit the amazons. Go for it! Be mindful though that all these activities take time which is not spent on work. And recovering from these activities also do not allow you to get much work done. Be honest of how much time you must work and how much time you can party.
  • The economies can collapse. One of the reasons that pesos are generally cheap is because they hold little value to foreign investors. Buenos Aires at the time of writing (March 2013) has been having 20% inflation for the last 3 years. This also puts pressure on the euro’s that you earn and the value that you can spend.
  • You will be alone in what you do. I am from Amsterdam where we have a lot of meetup communities (like appsterdam) that allow you to get in contact with people from the tech industry. Don’t expect a massive community of developers in latin america. You might be tempted to hear that a lot of big companies are active here (Google has lots of offices in latin america) but most of these companies will only have sales offices here. Expect the research and development type of jobs to be someplace else. The start up scene is not that great here. Chile in my opinion is a small exception, something seems to be starting there. But other places did not really show a proper entrepreneurial atmosphere.
  • You will most likely experience the ‘NOTHING WORKS ARGH!’ moment. Welcome to a non western country. Governments, institutions, roads, mentalities and things just work completely different here, which has surprising consequences. Small example: an ipad is about $100 more expensive in Argentina than in any other place in the world because of the import taxes. These import taxes are meant to boost the production of Argentine goods by blocking the goods from other countries. Unfortunately this means that a lot of goods that are affordable are usually terrible. I got a bike and within a week it broke twice (the pedal fell off and it turned out that there was a staple in the inside of the tire). Some goods just need to be imported and these trade laws sometimes make it hard to get anything of quality here.
  • Trafic is different here. It is very normal to be late to a meeting (or a party) because you get stuck in two demonstrations while in a taxi. The busses usually don’t even come with a time schedule because even the bus drivers think they are inaccurate.
  • You will need to be mindful of your things. A stolen laptop is worth a fortune in this place. One laptop easily means one or maybe even two months of not having to work for the person who stole it. You will always need to be a little bit on your guard at hostels, cafes and public transport because of this.
  • Besides the obvious time difference which is a bother for communication it also seems that the clock works different here. When somebody says they will meet you at ten then they will be there around 12ish. Everything is immensely tardy here. When taking spanish classes it took me about two hours to find out what ‘tarde’ means but only after 6 weeks did I learn what ‘temprano’ meant. If you want to really enjoy the nightlife you also need to keep in mind that it completely changes your flow during the next day. Clubbing starts at 3 am and ends around 7. The next day you are worthless.
  • The deadliest ‘ARGH! NOTHING WORKS!!!’ moment as a developer is with wifi. It varies per region but it can happend that the connection fails you right in the middle of a skype call or a backup. Especially when you want to go to the more rural places or countries like bolivia you should not expect the wifi to be sufficient.
    Also hostels that offer wifi often have problems when more than two people are using it at the same time. Especially if there is somebody using skype, the rest of the hostel might be without internet for a while. You will find out how much you rely on stackoverflow during your travels here, although it is manageable. If I had to give a title to a movie about my profesional life right now it would be ‘Vincent and the search of wifi’.

Don’t expect comfort when traveling much, expect an adventure. The things listed above do make life a little more rough but also a lot more worthwhile. Your life will become a lot more like a movie and you should prepare for the chaos a little.

One thing I sometimes really miss is the structure of a western European country. There is no ‘off’ button for the chaos in the larger southern american cities.

If you are on a serious project for a client please be aware of all of these things. The lifestyle is intensely rewarding, albeit very tricky.

Avatar of Olga skp posted February 27 2013
on Olga skp

Open Data 2013: City SDK follow up

In mid February we invited  Laurens Schuurkamp and Bert Spaan from Waag Society to present the City SDK project. They talked about Open Data, their role in the project, the application they are building and their future plans. 

The City SDK project is a joint effort between 8 European cities, and a big network of partners that counts in total 23 organisations.  The goal of the project is to make it easier for developers to access open data.

Waag Society is working towards making that possible for Open Data sets in Amsterdam. Laurens and  Bert are working on 30 existing datasets of the city to make them available in one structured format.

“To open data is only the 1st step. We need to link the data and make objects addressable”

In Amsterdam lots of data is available and mostly structured but the datasets are not linked, and there is a lot of work to be done before having 5-star Linked Open Data.

The City SDK project in Amsterdam, tries to solve one piece of the puzzle: mobility data.

Developers at Waag Society are creating an Open Data Globe, to visualize available data and enable other EU cities to do the same. They have also imported statistical data, from all municipalities and neighbourhoods. That means that with the same API someone can get all available stats for Amsterdam.

How can developers use this API? You may take a look at a map-based demo of the API and keep up with the progress. You will be able to participate as soon as the project is on Github. City SDK plans to make this project open and give it to the community. Only if developers start using it and making it better, the project will live longer and be sustained.

“Apps4Amsterdam: Open for Business” is co-organised by Appsterdam. The programme kicked off in January 2013, and will continue till April 2013. There will be more lectures and hands on sessions about Open Data and opportunities for creating business models. Contact us at
Avatar of Tara Ross posted February 04 2013
on Tara Ross

Kickstarting Business with Open Data


There’s been a lot of buzz about open data over the past couple of years in Amsterdam. The city has put significant investment and energy into making data available and raising awareness–through sponsored app contests, hackathons, forums, and software development kits.

These efforts are great for stimulating discussion about open data, and some interesting apps have been created. But actually making money with open data is still experimental, and we have yet to see truly viable businesses and products come from it.

So to help bring the open data potential to the next level, Appsterdam is launching Open for Business, an initiative to work with three local start-ups to support them in making successful businesses using open data.

Appsterdam is collaborating with the Waag Society and the Amsterdam Economic Board on the initiative, which kicked off last month with a lecture on Who’s Who in Open Data, a great primer on the open data resource landscape by the guys at Glimworm.

Over the next couple of months, NoobTools will profile and follow the progress of these start-ups on their journey to build companies using open data. Check back here for updates.

To get things started, check out this list of resources for finding and working with open data in Amsterdam and the rest of Europe. (Thanks to Matteo Manferdini and Glimworm for compiling the list.)


Update: check out the Open for Business startups:

Open for Business Profile: iKringloop

Open for Business Profile: Voradius

Open for Business Profile: Bike Like a Local


Avatar of Tara Ross posted January 15 2013
on Tara Ross

International Genius Grant Week

I partnered with Appsterdam and the Amsterdam Economic Board to bring a high-profile technologist and entrepreneur to the city for a week-long publicity and information-sharing event. The purpose was to generate international awareness and build the brand of Amsterdam as a city for innovation and technology. The invited Genius was William Hurley (or “Whurley”), a Read more about International Genius Grant Week[…]

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Avatar of Tara Ross posted January 02 2013
on Tara Ross

Texas Innovator Finds Alternative Universe in Amsterdam

  I had the pleasure of organizing the 2013 Amsterdam International Genius Grant week, along with Appsterdam and the City of Amsterdam Economic Affairs. We invited William Hurley (a.k.a. “Whurley”) to receive the award. He is the second recipient, which brings one of the “world’s smartest and most interesting people” to share knowledge and learn about the creative, business, …

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Avatar of Tara Ross posted November 01 2012
on Tara Ross

Creative Amsterdam: Act Like a Startup

Tara Ross (NoobTools/Appsterdam), Gilles de Smit (22tracks), Steven Blom (TomTom Taxi), and Simon Neate-Stidson (Blast Radius) The “Creative Amsterdam: Act Like a Startup” event happened at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam on 25 October: In recent years the number of people starting their own company has grown and grown, despite an economic down-turn. During the time …

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posted October 29 2012

Mapping out the startup scene

A small team of us have been busy with the InnoViz research project. The InnoViz project tries to visualize the entrepreneurial activity and innovative synergies in the Amsterdam area and as such, Appsterdam is a great place to harvest data. We’re collecting a lot of interesting data from all the major sources (Linkedin, Meetup, Twitter) but we can always use more.

Right now we want to know more about actual digital companies in Amsterdam and how they are related to Appsterdam. That is why we are collaborating with StartupMap, a small webmap that shows where startups are located in the Netherlands.

If you are part of a startup (or even better: the founder of one!) then we encourage you to add your company to the website. Not only will it be good for your company to be listed in the research findings but it will also show how vibrant the tech community is in the Amsterdam Metropolitan area.

So go check out and let your company be known if you haven’t already. If you are interested in knowing more or getting involved click here.

Avatar of Tara Ross posted October 19 2012
on Tara Ross

Public Speaking for the Rest of Us

It doesn’t matter how great your idea is if you can’t communicate it to others–in writing, but also verbally. One of the best ways to propel your cause or idea is to get out there and speak in front of anyone you can–conferences, meetups, and club meetings are all great opportunities.

Preparing for and giving a talk is also a fantastic way to get your creativity flowing, and to clarify and organize for yourself your knowledge about something. Through the process of researching and preparing an hour-long talk, you will become at least a semi-expert on that topic.

The best way to get started is to just sign yourself up for any opportunity and start doing it. It’s like a muscle that has to be exercised. The more you do it, the easier it gets. It’s best to start small in lower-risk environments and work your way up to bigger events.

There’s a lot of information out there about public speaking, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here’s a great video by Mike Lee, with tips geared particularly toward speaking at conferences and similar settings.

Mike is the Mayor of Appsterdam, and an entrepreneur/engineer who is highly sought after to speak at various events and conferences. Mike knows how to give a great talk, and he was kind enough to pass on some of his tips and tricks in this video. He describes a practical and concise method that’s easy to incorporate. It’s a slightly different angle than you might have seen before, touching on the logisitics of speaking at an event as well as actual speaking tips.

Here are some highlights:

Your Mission as a Presenter It’s a mistake to think you’re up there to teach and educate people. You’re not. Because in order to educate people, you first have to engage them. This is a critical point.

Your job is to do the following, in order of importance:

1.  Entertain. If you get them laughing, there’s oxygen flowing to their brains, they’re paying attention, engaged, and ready to receive information. Even if they leave without retaining any information, if it was funny, at least they will feel they had a good time. And that’s worth something.

2.  Inspire. For example, if you’re showing an API, say “look at all the great things this API will let you do”. Get them inspired to learn more about it after they leave.

3.  Educate.  Only after you have entertained and inspired them do you try to educate them. If you try to educate first, it doesn’t work.

Make them laugh, make them interested, and then make them smarter.

Your first job is to entertain. Jonathan Carter of Glimworm knows how to do that.

Being Prepared As a speaker at any event, no matter how big or small, you need to plan for the failure of all of your systems and tools. Being a professional means pulling it off even when everything goes wrong. This includes:

  • Being ready to present without slides or notes. (Sometimes, all systems fail. It happens. You still need to be able to do your presentation.)
  • You and only you are responsible for your presentation coming off well. (You cannot trust the event organizers or anyone else.)
  • Bring your own speaker kit (even if they say they will have one at the venue):

-Laptop with slides

-Video adapter

-Power cord

-Clicker (Most important. You do not want to be walking up to your laptop each time to change the slides. And not a wifi clicker. Get one with a USB dongle.)

Stage Presence You want to command the room and have the entire audience focused on you. Be animated and passionate in a way that would be completely unacceptable on the street. Be dynamic, move around, and get excited. Also, always stay positive. Always think “how can I say this in a way that is positive?” Forget the negative when you’re up on stage. And a great tip–don’t look back at your slides while speaking, because not looking back is so cool. It says that you’re so good that you know exactly what’s happening behind you without having to look.


Mikey Ward from Big Nerd Ranch demonstrating how to command the room.

Feeling Nervous Everyone feels nervous on-stage. It’s how you deal with that nervous feeling  that matters. If you say to yourself, “I suck. This is going terribly,” then you’re right. But if you say, “well, there’s that familiar feeling”, but push through it? It’s go time. You embrace the adrenaline rush, and just go.

Know your material There are three steps to success: practice, practice, and practice. Don’t wing it. The great speakers who look like it’s so natural and off the top of their head? They have practiced. Know what you’re talking about. Make it so deeply burned into your consciousness that you can switch it on and present without thinking about it. Be able to do the presentation backwards, forwards, in your sleep, on your bike–and you will always be able to deliver it without a hitch.

Giving Demos Do not do live demos. Even after reading this, you still may be tempted to do it, thinking it’s the only way to truly show the functionality of your product, etc. But really, don’t do it. Especially if it relies on wifi. If you do, you can bet it will fail. Create a movie or canned demo on your hard drive instead. This isn’t cheating. It is an assurance that your demo won’t fail.

Be passionate and animated on-stage, but watch those fingers! Samantha Hosea of GRASPe is a wonderful speaker who would never make this gesture intentionally–caught by the camera in a funny moment.

Creating Buzz Make it easy for your audience to talk about you. Let them know your Twitter handle, right at the beginning (put it on your starting slide). Speak in 140-character sound bites, so people can text or tweet about it right there. Take your main points and boil them down to a single sentence so they are easily transmitted. If it’s something you really want people to talk about, write the tweet yourself ahead of time, then say it. And put it right there, on a slide, in big letters. Try it–it works. Even if you’re only giving a talk to 20 people, you can still get some buzz going.


There are more great tips in the video.

If you’re in the Amsterdam area, check out the Appsterdam Meetup page for the speaker training events (last Monday of every month). It’s a great way to get practice in a low-risk environment, with honest and helpful direct feedback.