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10 Best WordPress Plugins for Digital Marketing

Currently somewhere in the region of 34% of websites are built with WordPress, it’s the most utilized CMS (Content Management System) in the world. Part of that popularity stems from its underlying technologies—PHP and MySQL—which allows for dynamic content in posts, but also enables a rich ecosystem of plugins.

One of the trickiest aspects of launching a website is its digital marketing, and so naturally there are a plethora of WordPress plugins that aim to take care of this for you, from a simple helping hand, all the way to full automation. Today we’re going to roundup the 10 best WordPress plugins for digital marketing.

 

1. Hustle

Hustle is an excellent WordPress plugin for digital marketing. It includes a wide range of features aimed at boosting site visitors and audience. Also, some of its features are designed to make your site as aesthetically appealing as possible. Hustle comes with a set of widgets, slides, pop-ups, and shortcodes among others, This allows users to set up targeted ad campaigns and expand audience reach to generate more leads.

Furthermore, the plugin provides an avenue for swift social media sharing; digital marketers can easily share their sponsored posts (or ad posts) on notable social media platforms to generate leads and facilitate client conversion.

 

2. ThirstyAffiliates

ThirstyAffiliates is another essential plugin for digital marketing, and it’s a perfect tool for affiliate marketers. It serves as an extension for monitoring clicks on WP platforms. Put aptly, the plugin enables you to keep track of visitors on a WordPress site.

ThirstyAffiliates is mainly known for its link management functions, as well as its redirects and uncloaking features. These typically make your site marketable, attracting affiliate marketers and bloggers alike.

 

3. WooCommerce MailChimp

Did you know that you can integrate MailChimp with WooCommerce? WooCommerce MailChimp makes this possible. With this integrated plugin, you can easily optimize MailChimp for your online store.

The plugin allows you to set up MailChimp subscriptions for your clients, you can streamline your workflow and send those digital marketing campaigns to your customers without hassles. Also, you are provided with the opportunity to network or connect with interest groups and like minds, via the plugin’s “opt-in” options.

 

4. Click To Tweet

Click To Tweet is another interesting WordPress plugin for digital marketing. Basically, this plugin creates ad boxes tagged “Click To Tweet” in your WP posts. By clicking any of the boxes, a reader can easily share the blog content with his/her Twitter followers; making your post accessible to a larger audience.

Digital marketers operate mainly on social media; hence, this plugin provides a direct, one-click, avenue to export ad-posts to Twitter. Put aptly, your audience can conveniently share your blog posts on Twitter with ease.

Click-To-Tweet boxes come in various dimensions and sizes, depending on the content, type, and length of your post.

 

5. Envira Photo Gallery

Envira Photo Gallery is another WP plugin for marketers. It’s primarily designed to create photo galleries in WordPress, which is essential for digital marketing.

In marketing, a picture is generally more effective than a thousand-word article. Hence, as a marketer, this plugin offers you a seamless avenue to present pictures of your goods and/or services to prospective clients.

The plugin hosts a simple, yet powerful gallery builder, using a simple drag and drop function to upload photos to the gallery. Also, you can easily add metadata and links to your images/photos, to optimize search results.

 

6. WPForms

A typical marketer carries out market surveys at one point or another, which can be time-consuming. However, with the WPForms plugin in WordPress, you’re duly covered.

WPForms facilitates the creation of contact forms, newsletters, and other web forms. With WPForms, you can easily create web forms, in line with your needs and your target audience. So, if you’re a digital marketer looking to create forms for a market survey, user feedback/feedback report or price comparison/analysis, WPForms is an essential plugin for you.

 

7. Floating Social Media Icon

Just as its name implies, Floating Social Media Icon makes your social media icons float on your WordPress website.

Successful digital marketing is one with a formidable social media presence. Although WordPress is essential for creating marketing sites and curating captivating ad-posts, you still need a link to social media to reach your target audience. Hence, this tool offers a straight-forward avenue for exporting WordPress content to social media platforms. This is achieved by creating social media links, which are then floated in distinctive locations on your site.

 

8. OptinMonster

Another WordPress plugin that should be considered for digital marketing is OptinMonster. This fantastic WordPress plugin has a reputation for its lead generation features which allows you to capture email and boost sign-ups.

With OptinMonster, you can create and manage signup forms that can be added after content, slide-in forms, lightbox popups, inline, and even in the sidebar. OptinMonster also comes with Exit-Intent technology which allows you to convert visitors who are about to exit your website.

 

9. NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster

NextScripts: Social Networks Auto-Poster is another useful WordPress plugin that is aimed at promoting posts from your WordPress site to your connected social media accounts.

SNAP (short for Social Networks Auto-Poster) is fully compatible with popular social media such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Telegram, Pinterest, and more.

Also, your blog posts—which are automatically shared on your social media—are 100% white labeled; you don’t have to worry about NextScripts SNAP from taking the credit.

This plugin is available in either a free or premium version. For the free version, users are limited to only 1 account per connected network e.g. you can only add 1 LinkedIn account, 1 Twitter account, etc., whereas the premium version is unlimited.

 

10. Sumo

Saving the best for last, Sumo is an easy-to-use comprehensive WordPress plugin ideal for digital marketers. With more than 35,000 business users, Sumo makes sales conversion easier, even for newbies.

Sumo can be utilized as an email marketing tool for growing your email list with timed popups. You can schedule email drips or marketing emails to communicate with your email list subscribers. Also, Sumo seamlessly integrates with WooCommerce – the WordPress ecommerce plugin. Hence, online store owners can reduce cart abandonment and increase order value by winning back customers.

If you are looking for a free suite of marketing tools for your upcoming WordPress design project, Sumo WordPress plugin might be all you need.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.



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Apple says it’s healthy to be skeptical about digital health

Is technology really good for your health? Can Apple really make a difference in future healthcare? Questions like this are all perfectly appropriate, argues Apple’s vice president for health, Dr. Sumbul Desai.

You have to test what tech firms claim

Desai leads Apple’s teams in developing health-focused software and sensors, such as Activity, Health, ECG reading on Apple Watch and the company’s selection of health-focused research apps. She joined the company in 2017.

While she clearly believes in the potential of digital health technologies, (as does her boss, CEO Tim Cook), she’s also a health professional in her own right, and understands how important it is that patients and healthcare providers be sceptical as big tech attempts to get into the market.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion in London, she said: “The scepticism from providers and patients is healthy because you should ask questions, and make sure you’re using information in the way you should be using it,” according to The Independent.

She stressed that she believes the best approach to resistance is to work closely with healthcare providers and scientists and across the medical communities to make sure the digital health solutions tech firms provide are actually effective.

Proof is essential

In essence, that’s the big difference between true healthcare product and service provision and snake oil salespeople. In the absence of regulation or effective testing, any tech firm could claim its product delivers health benefits.

Stringent testing and the limitations of tight regulatory environments mean tech  companies must move at a much slower pace than the “move fast and break things” workflow the sector is used to. You really don’t want to break things if those “things” are actually people seeking healthcare outcomes.

And that’s the challenge for all the digital health firms engaged in the application of connected technologies and health. It’s why you see so much of the focus in the space on prevention and lifestyle outcomes – as it’s perfectly permissible to say something “might” be good for your health, but not acceptable at all to say it “will be” good unless a product or service has been tested.

The need to evidence health-related claims is why Apple is investing in research to explore things like women’s medical conditions, hearing and heart health. It is also why the company works closely with key medical organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

[Also read: Tim Cook keeps promising new health features, probably for Apple Watch]

The data-grabbing thing

Many of the potential big picture outcomes around health relate to artificial intelligence, remote patient monitoring and data analytics – all of which rely on patient data in order to function.

The idea that your devices will be able to monitor your habits in order to pre-emptively warn you of an oncoming problem demands sensors to gather your data and machine intelligence to analyze that information.

For quite natural reasons, people are more protective of their health info than most other forms of personal data. That’s why Apple’s approach – it only gathers the information it needs to make its products work and lets users decide whether they want to share it with, for example, research projects – gives it an edge.

“It’s the user’s data and we only ever have access to it if the user is participating in a study they consented too,” said Desai. It helps even more that the information is never gathered in one place in the first place.

Of course, one place medical information is gathered is in your patient records, and this is certainly a space in which there is room for improvement. Many existing EHR systems simply don’t work well together; this is where Apple’s Health Records app is making a difference. (Desai spoke in a great deal of depth abou this just last year).

Once a patient’s data is held on devices equipped with up-to-the-moment personal health data as well as historical data, that’s an opportunity for data analytics to come into its own.

This is the kind of thinking that’s evidenced by the atrial fibrillation detection feature inside the Apple Watch, the efficacy of which is confirmed by the sheer number of reports of people whose lives have been saved by these devices.

The only question around these solutions will be if data is handled privately on the device, or in public using cloud-based systems. The former is secure, if limited by the size of machine-learning models used and device processor efficiency; the latter is far less private and therefore more open to abuse.

There is some work to do until our primary care provider really sits on our wrist, but Apple seems to be committed to engaging in that task.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple says it’s healthy to be sceptical about digital health

Is technology really good for your health? Can Apple really make a difference in future healthcare? Questions like this are all perfectly appropriate, argues Apple’s VP health, Dr Sumbul Desai.

You have to test what tech firms claim

Desai leads Apple’s teams in developing health focused software and sensors, such as Activity, Health, ECG reading on Apple Watch and the company’s selection of health-focused research apps. She joined the company in 2017.

While she clearly believes in the potential of digital health technologies, (as does her boss, Tim Cook), she’s also a health professional in her own right, and understand how important it is that patients and healthcare providers are sceptical as big tech attempts to get into the market.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion in London, she said: “The scepticism from providers and patients is healthy because you should ask questions, and make sure you’re using information in the way you should be using it,” as reported by The Independent.

She stressed that she believes the best approach to resistance is to work closely with healthcare providers, scientists and across the medical communities in order to make sure the digital health solutions tech firms provide are actually effective.

Proof is essential

In essence, that’s the big difference between true healthcare product and service provision and snake oil salespeople.

In the absence of regulation or effective testing, any tech firm could claim its product delivers health benefits.

Stringent testing and the limitations of tight regulatory environments mean technology companies must move at a much slower pace than the “move fast and break things” workflow the sector is used to. You really don’t want to break things if those “things” are actually people seeking healthcare outcomes.

And that’s the challenge for all the digital health firms engaged in the application of connected technologies and health. It’s why you see so much of the focus in the space on prevention and lifestyle outcomes – as it’s perfectly permissible to say something “might” be good for your health, but not acceptable at all to say it “will be” good unless a product or service has been tested.

The need to evidence health-related claims is why Apple is investing in research studies to explore things like women’s medical conditions, hearing and heart health. It is also why the company works closely with key medical organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

[Also read: Tim Cook keeps promising new health features, probably for Apple Watch]

The data-grabbing thing

Many of the potential big picture outcomes around health relate to artificial intelligence, remote patient monitoring and data analytics, all of which rely on patient data in order to function.

The idea that your devices will be able to monitor your habits in order to pre-emptively warn you of an oncoming problem demands sensors to gather your data and machine intelligence to analyse that information.

For quite natural reasons, people are more protective of their health data than most other forms of personal data. That’s why Apple’s approach in which it only gathers the information it needs to make its products work as describe  and give users the chance to decide if they want to share it with, for example, research projects, gives it an edge in this sector.

“It’s the user’s data and we only ever have access to it if the user is participating in a study they consented too,” said Desai. It helps even more that the information is never gatherd in one place in the first place.

Of course, one place medical information is gathered is in your patient records, and this is certainly a space in which there is space for improvement.

Many existing EHR systems simply don’t work well together, and this is where Apple’s Health Records app is making a difference. (Desai spoke in a great deal of depth on this just last year).

Once a patient’s data is held on devices equipped with up to the moment personal health data as well as historical data, that’s an opportunity for data analytics to come into its own.

This is the kind of thinking that’s evidenced by the atrial fibrillation detection feature inside of Apple Watch, the efficacy of which is confirmed by the sheer number of reports of people whose lives have been saved by these devices.

The only question around such solutions will be if data is handled privately on the device, or in public using cloud-based systems. The former is secure, if limited by the size of machine learning models used and device processor efficiency; the latter is far less private and therefore more open to abuse.

There is some work to do until our primary care provider really sits on our wrist, but Apple seems to be committed to engaging in that task.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Former U.S. regulator leads effort to create digital dollar

The former chair of the Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) has partnered with Accenture to create the non-profit Digital Dollar Project, which plans to explore the creation of a U.S. Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

“The digital 21st century is underserved by an analogue reserve currency,” said Chris Giancarlo, former CFTC chair under Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. “A digital dollar would help future-proof the greenback and allow individuals and global enterprises to make payments in dollars irrespective of space and time. 

The purpose of the Digital Dollar Project is to encourage research and public discussion on the potential advantages of a digital dollar, convene private sector thought leaders and actors, and propose possible models to support the public sector. The Project will develop a framework for practical steps that can be taken to establish a dollar-based CBDC.

A cryptocurrency backed by a fiat cash is known as a stablecoin.

A “tokenized” U.S. currency would coexist with other Federal Reserve liabilities and serve as a settlement medium to meet the demands of the digital world and a cheaper, faster and more inclusive global financial system, Giancarlo added in a statement.

Joining him in leading the project is his brother, Pure Storage CEO Charles Giancarlo, and the CFTC’s former chief innovation officer, Daniel Gorfine.

Because of Accenture’s experience working with central banks on digital currency and related initiatives, the consulting firm is an “ideal technology partner” in the Digital Dollar endeavor, according to Martha Bennett, a vice president at Forrester Research.

Chris Giancarlo pointed out Accenture central bank projects that have included the Bank of Canada, the Monetary Authority of SingaporeEuropean Central Bank, and most recently efforts by Sweden’s Riksbank – the world’s first central bank – to develop an e-Krona in a test environment.

“So they were the obvious choice for guiding this process,” Giancarlo said.

While at the CFTC, Giancarlo pressed the agency for clarity around the regulatory framework of cryptocurrencies and once told the Senate Banking Committee it should not ignore cryptocurrencies but embrace technological advances, earning him the moniker “Crypto Dad” by some in the industry.

In general, however, U.S. regulators and President Trump have not looked favorably on cryptocurrencies, cash backed or otherwise, compared to European and Asian nations. Some central banks in those regions are in the final stages of launching digital currencies, including China’s digital yuan and Russia’s e-Ruble.

“The regulators in those countries are on board because they’re either driving the initiatives themselves, or they’re closely involved,” Bennett said via email. “Having a former regulator driving this [U.S.-based] initiative puts it in a different league: this is clearly not about private sector firms launching initiatives that may or may not compete with national currencies, or potentially having a destabilizing influence.”

The race to integrate crypto into global banking is real as public sector projects are already driving interest in fiat-backed cryptocurrencies by central and regional banks.

The U.S. dollar is the world’s “reserve currency” because it represents about 58% of all foreign exchange reserves in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Additionally, 40% of the world’s debt is denominated in dollars.

Some experts believe the U.S. dollar could fall behind as the defacto ecommerce currency if other nations launch state-sponsored stablecoin first.

“In 2020, we at KPMG expect to assist regional and central banks in the development of well-defined technology frameworks that can anchor private-sector initiatives,” Arun Ghosh, U.S. Blockchain Leader at KPMG, said in a recent blog post.

In a blog post, the IMF said recently today’s fiat currencies are in flux “and innovation will transform the landscape of banking and money.”

Among other banking entities, the IMF has shown support for fiat-backed cryptocurrencies, saying they can reduce the reliance on government-issued money, “and unlike bank transfers, crypto asset transactions can be cleared and settled quickly without an intermediary,” Dong He, deputy director of the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, wrote in a post for the agency.

“The advantages are especially apparent in cross-border payments, which are costly, cumbersome, and opaque,” He said. “New services using distributed ledger technology and crypto assets have slashed the time it takes for cross-border payments to reach their destination from days to seconds by bypassing correspondent banking networks.”

Unlike private digital token initiatives, such as Facebook’s Libra digital coin, as well as other financial instruments that are more like derivatives or money market funds, the Digital Dollar Project’s cryptocurrency would be a central bank-controlled money.

JP Morgan Chase’s planned JPM Coin, for example, is neither a stablecoin in its current format nor a cryptocurrency, according to Bennett.

“It’s a token representing a dollar in the current system (in European terms, it would be classed as e-money),” Bennett said. “A CBDC is different in that it’s – by definition – issued by a central bank and hence subject to different control and stability mechanisms. It’s also worth noting that [a] US CBDC has safeguards that a Libra or equivalent wouldn’t have, and not all other CBDCs would necessarily feature: government access to data is constitutionally restricted.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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The Latest Digital News for Web Designers

One of the most powerful tools we have in web design is consumer and industry data. It’s like a gauge that tells us whether we’re still heading in the right direction or it’s time to change course and adopt a new strategy or approach.

Unless you’re combing the web for the latest news and reports in the areas of design, marketing, and SEO, it’s easy to miss this pertinent data. So, in this roundup, I’m going to take care of that for you.

Below you’ll find a recap of 5 recent news stories and reports that need to be on your radar.

 

Comscore Reports on the State of Mobile

Comscore’s annual State of Mobile report focuses on the growing usage of mobile devices to explore the web.

According to the report, users around the globe spend roughly three-quarters or more of their digital time on mobile devices:

Comscore global mobile audience

Even if mobile apps are a key driver of this activity (which they are for certain business types like gaming and social), we know that consumers are glued to their phones more so than they are to their desktop computers.

If you haven’t yet made mobile-first design a priority—especially by bridging the gap between the mobile web and mobile app with PWAs—2020 is the year to do it. Your users already have their smartphones nearby, so why not make your website a must-visit destination there, too?

 

UX Tools Survey Gives Us a Look at the Software Designers Love

UX Tools’ 2019 survey of web designers found an interesting trend when it comes to the toolboxes they use to build websites:

UX Tools - Design Tools Survey

Sketch is the clear frontrunner when it comes to tasks like:

  • User flows;
  • Wireframing;
  • UI design;
  • Prototyping;
  • Design systems.

But Figma isn’t too far behind in all these categories. The surveyed web designers also named it the tool they’re most excited to try and use in 2020.

If you’ve been looking to experiment with new tools for your business, give this short survey a read as there is some really interesting software on the list (that’s not all owned by Sketch, Adobe, or InVision either).

 

MDN Asks Web Developers to Express Their Top Frustrations

The MDN Web DNA Report 2019 is a long read. Since most of it is geared towards web developers (who were surveyed for it), I’m going to zero in on the bit I think web designers may find relevant:

MDN Web Developer Needs

When asked to rank what were the most frustrating “needs” of the web, web developers expressed a lot of anguish over cross-browser design and testing. Bug resolution, privacy and security compliance, as well as tool overload were top concerns as well.

Even if you’re not contending with the problems that go along with coding, these frustrations are really relatable. As for what you can do with them? While I don’t believe we can eliminate these frustrations altogether, I do believe that a greater awareness of what’s happening on the web and more open discussions with our peers will lessen the associated pains.

 

Salesforce Recaps 2019 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Results

For those of you who build websites for retailers and ecommerce companies, the annual data on Black Friday and Cyber Monday performance is one you can’t afford to miss. I realize it might only seem relevant for one month of the year, but you can actually learn a lot about where consumer trends are heading based on how sales performed over the holidays.

Here are some of the more pertinent bits from Salesforce’s summary of Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

  • Black Friday sales reached $7.2 billion in the U.S. (up 14%);
  • Cyber Monday sales reached $8 billion (up 11%).

A lot of this growth can be attributed to consumers’ growing trust in mobile shopping what with 73% of all digital traffic on Black Friday originating on mobile devices and 56% of all purchases made on mobile devices.

So, if you haven’t yet made the switch to mobile-first design or optimizing for mobile checkout, now is the time to do that.

 

Jason Dorsey Suggests Millennial $$$ Woes May Soon Be Over

Jason Dorsey, the president of the Center for Generational Kinetics, has predicted a positive change in the state of millennial finances in the next decade.

Why does he believe that this debt-plagued generation will finally see a turnaround? There are five indicators he references:

  1. As millennials move further away from college, they’ll have a better handle on managing their debt (if they haven’t wiped it out completely);
  2. Many millennials are about to hit peak earnings in their careers;
  3. “The Great Wealth Transfer” is anticipated (i.e. older generations passing on inheritances to millennials);
  4. As the job market strengthens and debt shrinks, millennials may finally feel confident enough to buy homes for themselves;
  5. The same goes for those who delayed marriage during uncertain times.

With more money to spend and confidence to spend it with, millennials are going to be a huge driving force in the coming years. And this will most definitely affect web designers.

You may encounter more millennial business owners with cash to spend. And you’re definitely going to be designing web experiences to cater to the millennial consumer base. So, understanding how they think, what they value, and how much money they have to spend is going to be critical for your future success.

 

Wrap-Up

That’s it for this month’s look at the latest digital news and research.

If you’re interested in staying on top of information that’s going to impact your work, be sure to tune into WebDesigner Depot every month for more data and report roundups.

 

Featured image via Unsplash.



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Making the connection: The role of collaboration apps in digital transformation

Whether it’s retailers plying wares online instead of in brick-and-mortar stores, media companies swapping print for pixels or companies looking to empower frontline workers, one theme is increasingly common in business: digital platforms are now fundamental to success — and that success depends on employees who can collaborate in real time, at any time and from anywhere.

With widely distributed employees and and a more mobile workforce, many companies have had to shift gears quickly in recent years to stay competitive. Critical to that effort is the ability to share information and ideas effectively using the latest communication and collaboration tools. The rise of real-time messaging apps like Slack, videoconferencing apps like Skype for Business and online file-sharing apps like Dropbox has given companies a host of tools they can use to underpin corporate growth and connectivity.

In particular, the growing adoption of team-based collaboration software and revamped business processes has helped organizations become more agile.

“Companies that utilize team collaboration applications report having significantly increased group and personal productivity, have faster time to market, and execute projects [faster],” said Wayne Kurtzman, a research director at IDC.

But getting employees to all row in the same direction — and even use the same software to do so — isn’t easy. Corporate execs, fully aware of the importance of modern digital tools to support their workforce, find themselves playing catch-up to match the apps and devices their employees rely on outside the office.

Better connectivity means smarter, more engaged workers

“Consumers now expect one click to buy, two clicks to return. And when those consumers go to work, they expect that same ease of collaboration, communication, and getting things done that they enjoy when they’re at home and working in their communities or their families,” said Kurtzman. 

A report from Deloitte showed that almost 80% of corporate execs rate employee experience as important, but only 22% called their companies “excellent” at creating a productive environment for workers.

That gap indicates where companies are increasingly putting their efforts as they scour the digital landscape for the right tools to keep employees productive — and happy.

Doing so is critical to both attracting and retaining workers. “After all, why should they be able to collaborate more easily at home or for their children’s football clubs than they can at work?” asked Kurtzman. “It makes sense to have the same depth of communication, collaboration and the ability to get things done that they enjoy outside of the workplace.”

The digital experience for workers should match that of customers, Jeffrey Mann, a VP analyst at Gartner, said in a recent research note.

“…All too often, the employee experience is an afterthought for business and application leaders,” wrote Mann. “They ignore the relevance to workers of the proven lessons from marketing and customer relationship management regarding the customer experience. Many of the same techniques used to create happy customers can be applied to encourage productive employees.”

At Valet Living, a residential concierge and amenities service provider, Facebook’s Workplace enterprise social network is now used to connect 6,000 employees — 90% of whom work part-time — across 40 states. The deployment has helped on-board new staff members faster.

“Understandably, it’s been difficult to on-board associates in a consistent and thorough manner until we adopted online collaboration tools,” said Henry Toledo, chief people officer at Valet Living.

Workers can access relevant training materials through a platform they’re already familiar with in their personal lives, said Toledo.

We know it’s critical to arm our associates with the skills needed to succeed and offer a consistent experience to our clients and residents, so we created a library of training resources, including our online training database, Valet U,  giving all new associates the chance to get up to speed quickly and efficiently,” he said.

The ability to connect a disparate workforce using digital collaboration tools — previously impossible via email alone, said Toledo — has led to tangible business benefits and reduced employee turnover.

“As we increasingly collaborate across the organization, we’ve noticed a direct correlation between connectedness and a steady rise in Valet Living’s associate retention rate,” he said. “We saw a 20% increase in associate retention since Workplace was introduced just a year ago — a testimony to our ability to make our associates feel welcomed from the jump.”

At Weight Watchers, company execs found that rolling out Workplace to 18,000 employees worldwide in 2018 helped with internal knowledge-sharing.

“One of the big questions or challenges [we had] was how do we bring everyone together?” Stacie Sherer, senior vice president for corporate communications, said in an earlier interview. “How do we break down the silos between our different geographies, and how do we break down the silos between our corporate head offices and all of the folks who are out in the field, who may only work a few hours a week but want to feel part of something bigger?”

Employees applauded the move, Sherer said. “One respondent said, ‘I feel like I work down the corridor [from] colleagues in other countries — I feel like I know them so well because of the connections they make on here,’” she said. “Because you can craft your own profile and there are groups around personal interests in addition to all the groups focused on work collaboration and communication, you get to know your colleagues in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise.”

A culture of collaboration

Many businesses now realize the need to improve collaboration to stay competitive; not surprisingly, spending on social software and collaboration tools has been on the rise. According to Gartner, it’s expected to reach $4.8 billion in 2023 — almost double the estimated $2.7 billion spent in 2018.

A survey of roughly 40 digital transformations by Boston Consulting Group found that organizations that focused on cultural change as part of their digital transformation projects had a much higher rate of financial success (90%) than those that neglected culture (17%).

Financial software vendor Intuit, for instance, is using its transformation efforts to focus more on innovation, less on managing infrastructure. “Digital transformation is as much a mindset and cultural shift as it is a business and technical shift,” said Intuit CIO Atticus Tysen.

The company has been using Slack’s workstream collaboration app to bolster idea-sharing among staffers, no matter their location. “Slack is one way we connect our global workforce across different sites and locations through near instantaneous messaging, while also creating opportunities for like-minded individuals or teams to have an area for ongoing dialogue that doesn’t require long meetings or multiple emails,” Tysen said.

“Using Slack, we are enabling the mindset and cultural shift of finding more opportunities to work efficiently at scale.”

Another Slack user, data analytics company Splunk, has had similar experiences.

“For us, Slack was the promise of really starting to change the communication culture,” said Fred McAmis, vice president for learning and development, at Splunk.

Before deploying the app, Splunk relied on a variety of different tools to communicate. “Marketing had one tool, while product and engineering had another,” he said. “When our CTO joined, he chose Slack for engineering. It started as a pilot project and quickly spread across the organization.”

Today, short, targeted instant messages help teams push projects along. “It’s real-time, while e-mail is very formal in comparison,” he said.

Improved collaboration processes are also helping the company stay agile as business scales. “At Splunk, our employee base continues to grow year over year, which means it’s imperative to maintain the company experience,” said McAmis.

Clear pathways for professional development help employees stay motivated, he said. And there is a Slack channel for leadership courses that are available to employees at all levels of the business.

“While training is the main event, I believe learning takes reinforcement,” McAmis said. “So we use Slack to supplement the training and offer a way for our people to stay in touch and remind themselves of what they learned. Slack gives us the ability to share knowledge quickly and create knowledge databases.”

The next big push: digital tools for frontline workers

Much of the focus of digital transformation in recent years has been on office workers. But enterprise software vendors are now targeting collaboration, communication and productivity tools at a wider range of employees, such as retail, manufacturing and healthcare staff. These frontline service and task workers represent a burgeoning area of investment for many organizations.

That’s especially true of Microsoft, which has been targeting frontline workers since late 2018. “[Frontline workers are] a massive segment of workers around the world that are currently pretty drastically underserved by technology,” Emma Williams, corporate vice president of Modern Workplace Verticals at Microsoft, argued last year. “What we are delivering is a customizable experience that really focuses on a mobile-first worker based on their role.”

Those comments came as the company added a raft of updates to its Teams collaboration tool to woo frontline workers. Those additions included new mobile app functions, integrations with third-party scheduling apps and an employee “praise” tool.

One company that’s used Teams to successfully engage frontline workers is Virginia-based Ferguson, a plumbing supply company. The company rolled out Teams and sparked a shift to channel-based communications in a way that helped improve customer service with faster, more effective information sharing.

The change was especially important for showroom consultants who must answer customer questions, repeatedly check stock and generally assist with purchases.

“Historically, the showroom consultant would have to get on the phone or walk to the back office for the physical warehouse and say, ‘Hey, I’m looking for this product; do we have it? Can you bring it out?’ Tony Morris, director of business process at Ferguson, explained last year. “That has not been a great experience for the customer — it can take time.”

Using Teams channels, the sales staffers at Ferguson can now quickly send a request for info to the back office using their mobile device, allowing them to better focus on customers. “They can continue to service the customer, but get feedback right through the Teams app, which is nice because they can give that information to the customer without putting the customer on hold or … [leave] sitting around waiting.”

That kind of change can lead to more efficiency, engaged workers — and happier customers.

Although many organizations are just now beginning to invest in tools for frontline employees, more money is likely on the way as the business case becomes clearer. And the evolution of the workplace, already well under way, will continue.

“We’re at the beginning of making every worker a knowledge worker,” said Kurtzman. “The collaboration of an enterprise runs much more efficiently the more ideas that are there, the more ideas that can be acted upon.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Amid privacy and security failures, digital IDs advance

Frustration over a growing number of privacy and security failures in recent years is driving the creation of digital identities controlled only by those whose information they contain.

Known as “self-sovereign identities,” the digital IDs will be used by consumers, businesses, their workers and governments over the next few years to verify everything from credit worthiness and college diplomas to licenses and business-to-business credentials.

“We are slowly graduating from crawling to walking. It takes one to two years ’til we have reliable capabilities to spark meaningful decentralized identity adoption,” said Homan Farahmand, a senior research director at Gartner. “A major non-technical hurdle is for organizations to learn the concept and take the necessary steps to appropriately adapt their business processes to decentralized identity ecosystems.”

A growing number of organizations is looking to better understand decentralized identity technology, which is predicated on blockchain electronic ledgers. Currently, there are more proof-of-concept projects than production systems involving a small number of organizations. The pilots, being trialed in government, financial services, insurance, healthcare, energy and manufacturing, don’t yet amount to an entire ecosystem, according to Farahmand.

“While these projects help identify gaps such as governance, user experience, standardization and interoperability issues, none of them [rise to the level of] a practical decentralized ecosystem to bootstrap pervasive adoption at this point,” Farahmand said.

What is a self-sovereign identity?

Self-sovereign identity envisions consumers and businesses eventually taking control of their identifying information on electronic devices and online, enabling them to provide validation of credentials without relying on a central repository, as is done now. Self-sovereign identity technology also takes the reins away from the centralized ID repositories held by the social networks, banking institutions and government agencies.

A person’s credentials would be held in an encrypted digital wallet for documenting trusted relationships with the government, banks, employers, schools and other institutions. But it’s important to note that self-sovereign ID systems are not self-certifying. The onus on whom to trust depends on the other party. Whoever you present your digital ID to has to decide whether the credentials in it are acceptable.

“For example, If I apply for a job…, and they require me to prove I graduated from a specific school and need to see my diploma, I can present that in digital form.” said Ali. “And, most likely that credential would have to be cryptographically signed by the school that issued it. So the relying party – my place of work – would have to decide when I present the credential if the signing key is something they trust.”

For example, a place of employment could issue an electronic confirmation or “credential” that could be stored in that employee’s digital wallet saying you work for the XYZ Company. Even something as simple as a health club membership verification could be added to a user’s wallet and presented through a mobile app.

For consumers who are mindful of their online information – credit card numbers, date of birth, annual income, etc. – a blockchain-based network means the user controls who can see their data or get purchasing approval without releasing details such as their annual income or their age and address.

For businesses such as banks, rules such as know-your-customer (KYC) regulations  make blockchain-based digital identities attractive.

How a self-sovereign ID works

Self-sovereign identities can work like this: the user has a bank confirm a credit limit or an employer confirm annual income; that confirmation information is encrypted, but available, on a public blockchain ledger to which the consumer holds the private and public cryptographic keys.

A consumer who wants a car loan from an auto dealership, for example, can give the dealer permission through a public key to confirm that he or she has enough credit or annual income to buy a vehicle – without revealing an exact dollar amount. So, for example, if the dealer wants to ensure a consumer earns more than $50,000 a year, that’s all the blockchain ledger will confirm (not that the person actually earns, say,  $72,587 or some other exact figure).

The confidentiality technique is known as zero-knowledge proof (ZKP), a cryptography technology that allows a user to prove that funds, assets or identifying information exist without revealing the details behind it.

Who’s leading the charge?

Self-sovereign identities extend to businesses or other organizations that want to be able to verify – or be verified – for transactions with other businesses or government agencies. For example, Ernst & Young has created a public blockchain that lets companies use ZKPs to complete business transactions confidentially without exposing sensitive business data.

In another example, CULedger, a cooperative owned by dozens of credit unions for the purpose of providing back-office services, worked with blockchain company R3 to create CUPay, a secure electronic funds transfer (EFT) payment network that is built on R3’s Corda blockchain platform. CUPay acts as an settlement rail for cross-border customer payments.

The blockchain-based settlement system also acts as a distributed identity platform, enabling users to be verified by their credit union and then take their digital ID with them for use in cross-border payments, no matter what country they’re in or what financial institutions are involved.

CUPay utilizes R3’s Corda for organizational identity and CULedger’s MyCUID, a personal digital ID technology created through a partnership with the Sovrin Foundation and digital ID company Evernym. The solution provides integrated KYC and AML services and can be integrated into multiple networks, eliminating the need for manual entry of recipient details and providing built-in compliance management for credit unions.

“So, the PoC they developed was built to use the SWIFT payment rail, but they can use whatever rail they want, and it can even use a cryptocurrency to settle [a financial transaction] if they need it to,” said Abbas Ali, R3’s head of identity management.

R3, created five years ago by a consortium of leading financial services firms, heads up a group of more than 300 companies working to build distributed applications on top of Corda, their blockchain platform. Third parties can develop dApps (known as CorDapps), for use on the Corda platform in any number of industries, including financial services, insurance and healthcare.

“In simple terms, you can think of the [blockchain] platform kind of like the operating system. It provides all parts of identity on the network; it provides a protocol for participants to communicate with each other, but that’s as far as it goes. Any specific use case or business application on top of that would be based in the form of a CorDapp,” Ali said.

“At the application level, we have a lot of partners developing identity access management solutions using what’s called decentralized identity [DiD],” he added.

Credit unions are in the thick of it

CULedger’s CUPay eliminates the need for user names and passwords and relieves  credit union call centers from the obligation of resetting them when a customer loses them. The digital identity, which is encrypted using a public key infrastructure (PKI), is controlled solely by the credit union customer.

CUPay differs from modern payment rail systems in that a user’s identity is attached to every transaction they make. Current systems, such as SWIFT’s settlement rail, don’t send the user’s identity with a wire transfer; it remains separate from the wire instructions, meaning only the bank sending the money knows who is sending it.

“The advantage is for the receiving party,” Ali said. “For them, this is just one example of the use case they developed this PoC for, but they have a bigger vision. They want people to have flexibility to move between different providers. You have an identity on your phone or, let’s say your credit union-issued application…. [If] you decide to transfer to a new state or country or change credit union provider, you can take that identity with you. That’s the bigger use case there.”

CULedger’s MyCUID mobile app  >  Examples CULedger

How CULedger’s MyCUID mobile app works: The image on the left shows a credit union member being asked to verify their identity. The second image (right) shows the member confirming it is indeed them. Had the member pressed “no,” the credit union would be alerted that they might be dealing with be a bad actor or non-member.

The financial services industry as a whole is focused on developing decentralized identity systems that would eliminate today’s method of identifying users by keeping their information in siloes controlled by one company or a federation of partner companies, Ali said.

Key to a DID is that no one entity or person verifies a business’s or person’s identity. The onus for identification verification is on the relying party.

“Whoever you present your digital identity to has to decide if the proofs you’re presenting through the wallet are acceptable,” Ali said. “What’s most important isn’t what you say about yourself but what a trusted organization says about you.”

That means a bank, government, healthcare organization or any other entity verifying information about a self-sovereign identity user becomes responsible for ensuring the info can be trusted.

Self-sovereign academic credentials

For example, in 2017, MIT began piloting Blockcerts, a blockchain-based network and application for storing and sharing academic credentials. MIT worked with Digital ID company Learning Machine to develop the application.

Today, Blockcerts is up and running and used by 69% of graduates. In the last graduating class of 3,718 students, 2,561 opted to have their diplomas digitized and made available through the blockchain-based application, according to Mary Callahan, MIT’s registrar.

Blockcerts creates a single digital identity wallet a graduate can present through a link to would-be employers or other schools to verify academic achievements.

mit Blockcert MIT

MIT’s Blockcerts mobile application stores verified digital diplomas that students can share with potential employers or other schools.

“As you might imagine, having… a piece of paper that indicates you graduated is a valuable commodity in the world. So fraud was an issue,” Callahan said. “There’s also the opportunity to really recognize a student’s lifelong learning. For our students, this is one stop along their learning trajectory. They may be obtaining certificates, badges, masters degrees, PhDs, and this can put them all together in one simple portfolio of their credentials.” 

MIT has aggressively marketed Blockcerts to students through the school’s newspaper, display boards and the administrators of various academic departments – an effort that lead to a doubling of its uptake over the past year, according to Peter Hayes, assistant registrar at MIT.

“One thing we’re doing in terms of outreach now is working with the career services office to raise the profile for potential employers. They host career fairs with 400 to 500 employers on campus,” Hayes said.

Last year alone, the Blockcert application was used 4,124 times to verify graduate credentials, Hayes said. “So, while students haven’t given us direct feedback, we can see … numbers [that] indicate they are using it,” he said.

The movement is real

The self-sovereign identity movement spans industries, according to Gartner.

Examples of efforts to create DID infrastructures include:

A growing number of startups and traditional identity and security vendors are also entering the decentralized identity market directly or indirectly, according to Gartner’s Farahmand.

For decentralized identity and verifiable claim exchanges to become ubiquitous, however, there needs to be industry standardization, interoperability, and autonomous operation by pushing some legal agreements and policies into the decentralized protocols (e.g. smart contracts).

“That’s where we hope to see more collaboration between decentralized identity and blockchain communities to leverage smart contracts and initiatives such as [the] Accord project,” Farahmand said. (The Accord project an ongoing effort to make it easier for anyone to build smart contracts and documents on a neutral platform.)

Decentralized identity and verifiable claim exchanges are key to enabling functions such as user authentication, digital signature, consent and verifiable claims, according to Farahmand. “While we observe implementation of all these use cases for consumers, workforce and business-to-business scenarios, verifiable claim exchange is by far the most impactful because it can disrupt the way we exchange identity data,” he said.

A verifiable claim exchange could be relevant across many industries such as finance, healthcare, education, retail, professional services and even IoT.

R3’s Ali agreed, saying it will take a greater standards effort to advance a global decentralized identity network.

“You need to remove one of biggest hurdles, which is lack of interoperability,” Ali said. “You need interoperability, because we don’t believe one blockchain can rule them all.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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How to Share Your Digital Photos with Your Grandparents

Google Nest Hub Family Photo
Justin Duino

Grandparents may be able to bake a pie that’s out of this world, but it’s no secret the older generation sometimes struggles with technology. With photos moving digital, how can you share them with relatives? Here are some suggestions.

Google Nest Hub

If you’re feeling like an extra sweet grandchild, you can buy your grandma or grandpa what ReviewGeek has dubbed 2018’s product of the year—the Google Nest Hub (previously called the Google Home Hub).

Jason Fitzpatrick, Founding Editor of Review Geek, loved this product so much he called its Ambient Mode the “Best Picture Frame Ever.”

The nice thing about the Nest Hub is it’s not just a digital photo frame—it’s a device that could add a little extra functionality into your grandparent’s life (with a little learning curve, of course).

When the Nest Hub isn’t actively being used, it can be set to display photographs. What’s even nicer is you can sync it with your Google Photos albums, allowing you to add or remove photos for your grandma or grandpa from anywhere in the world.

RELATED: How to Use Your Google Home Hub as a Digital Photo Frame

On another note, this method works only for relatives who have an internet connection. If they don’t, then you might want to look at other options, such as a digital photo frame.

Digital Photo Frames

Digital Photo Frame with Photos and Camera
Khomulo Anna/Shutterstock

If you’re looking for just a digital photo frame without all of the additional functionality the Google Nest Hub has to offer, then you’re in luck. Although most digital photo frames aren’t internet-connected, most include a USB port or SD card slot. You can use these ports to add or remove photos whenever you go for a visit.

With so many digital photo frames out there, it might be hard to determine which one you’d like to get for your family members. Luckily, we’ve done the work of sifting through the different digital frames on the market, so be sure to check out the best digital picture frames currently available.

Sharing Online Photo Albums

For the grandmas and grandpas who sport an internet connection, you could also set them up with a Google account and share your online photo album with them via Google Photos. What’s nice is that with Google Photos, you can add up to 20,000 photos and videos to a single album.

Carol King and her grandson

Setting up the album is easy. Once you’ve logged in to Google Photos, select “Albums” on the left side.

Select albums

Next, select the “Create Album” button.

Create Album

You’ll then be asked to give the album a name and add photos/videos. Go ahead and do so. After you’ve added the photos to the album, it’s time to share.

Hover over the album and click the three vertical dots that appear in the top-right corner.

Three vertical dots

A menu will appear. Here, select the “Share Album” option.

Share Google Photos Album

All that’s left to do is to enter your grandparent’s email address and click send. Once your grandma or grandpa logs into their Google Photos account on a PC (or if they have a smartphone, the Google Photos app), they’ll be able to browse through the photos and videos shared with them.

RELATED: How to Use Google Photos to Store an Unlimited Amount of Photos

Burn a Slideshow to a DVD on Windows 10

This might seem a bit archaic given that it’s 2019, but it’s still a pretty solid option. If your relatives have a computer or DVD player, you can create a nice little slideshow of all your photos, package it up, and burn it to a DVD. To do this, you’ll need either a blank DVD-R or DVD-RW.

Before continuing, you’ll need to make sure you have  DVD authoring software for burning the DVD. We recommend using Wondershare DVD Creator for the purpose of creating a slideshow.

RELATED: How to Burn Any Video File to a Playable DVD

With the software installed, go ahead and open it. In the bottom-left corner of the window, select the “Add Title” button.

Save title

Window’s File Explorer will open. Select the images you would like to add to the slideshow and then select the “Open ” button.

Select and insert photos

Next, hover over the slideshow option (which appears after you open your images) and then select the “Edit” option that looks like a pen icon.

Select pen icon

In the Edit window, you can add and format text, change the slide transition length and give it a slick animation, and add music. Give it your special touch and then select the “OK” button.

Slideshow GIF

Finally, it’s time to burn the slideshow to the DVD. Select “Burn” at the top of the window.

burn

Read through the information that appears, then click “Burn” again. Once selected, the burning process will begin.

Burning DVD

Now, next Thanksgiving when the family gathers at your grandparents’ house, they’ll be sure to have the video playing in the background for everyone to see.

Burn a Slideshow from Photos on Mac

If you’re a Mac user, you’re in luck. With Mac’s Photo app, you can create a slideshow, save it as a video file, and then burn it to a DVD just like we did in the Windows walkthrough.

RELATED: How to Set Up and Use Photos on Your Mac

To create a slideshow in Photos, open the app, select the “+” icon next to “My Projects,” hover over “Slideshow” in the menu, and then select the “Photos” app.

mac slideshow photos

In the window that appears, name your slideshow, and then select the “OK” button.

save grannys slideshow on mac

Next, select the images you’d like to add to the slideshow. Click “Add” in the top-right corner of the window.

Add

Now you need to save the slideshow as a video file. To do this, select the “File” tab, hover over the “Export” option, and select the “Export Slideshow” button.

Save slideshow mac

In the next window, select the options you want, and then click “Save.”

save as video format mac

All you need to do next is burn the DVD. You can use the same software we recommended in the previous step, as it’s also available for Mac.

RELATED: How to Burn Any Video File to a Playable Blu-Ray Disc

Print and Snail Mail

Finally, if you want to make that digital photo into something your grandma can safely archive inside an old shoebox, you can always print the images and mail them. The good news is you can do it all online.

Sites like Snapfish make it incredibly easy to upload photos from your PC, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Google Photos, etc., select the size you want, and then have them shipped out.





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Use a Digital Projector for High Impact, Low Effort Halloween Effects – LifeSavvy

two spooky children standing in an abandoned manor
AtmosFX

If you want all of the wow-factor this Halloween but none of the Geppetto-like effort to bring your spooky visions to life, use a digital projector to create awesome effects with little effort.

So how does it work? You combine a digital projector with a special effects video loop, and then, depending on what kind of video loops you’re using, you then project it onto anything from pumpkins to mesh screens to the windows of your house to create some eye-catching and spooky effects. The industry leader in this arena is AtmosFX—there’s no other company that comes close to the quality of their products—they have incredibly cool loops that range from fun-for-all-ages to downright spooky.

I’ve written a detailed guide to the process over at our sister site How-To Geek, but if you want a summary of how the process works, check out this little video:

And if that caught your eye, I’d definitely encourage you to check out their entire YouTube channel—it’s packed with helpful how-to videos as well as trailers for all their products. Whether you want to set up pumpkins that sing and laugh or dancing skeletons that seem to float in the air, they’ll show you how to do it.

Then, once you’ve wasted an entire workday secretly obsessing over just how cool these special FX loops are, you can head over to the AtmosFX website and grab a loop or ten to decorate your house in style.





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6 Digital Journal Apps to Boost Mental Health With a Daily Diary 

Experts recommend maintaining a daily journal to anyone seeking to boost their productivity or even manage their mental health. These free apps will help you write a daily journal on your phone or computer.

Each app takes a different approach to digital journaling, so pick the one that suits your style. Some focus on privacy, others target beginners and time-constrained users. And there’s even an app that turns the concept of a diary on its head by making your journal entries public.

1. Cactus (Web): Guided Journaling for Beginners

Cactus is a mood tracker and journaling app that guides beginners

If you’re new to journaling, Cactus is a good app to start with. It will guide you through the basics of digital journaling while helping you strengthen and improve the core experiences of your daily life.

Once you register for an account, Cactus asks you to check in once a day. There, it will ask you a question based on one of four essential elements: meaning, experience, energy, emotions, relationships. You won’t know the element till you answer the question, in the form of a journal entry.

Questions vary like “who is a person who makes you smile” or “what experiences are you looking forward to this week?” After answering, you’ll get an idea of why the question matters for your mental health. Each entry is a private note to check back later.

At times, Cactus also encourages you to share your notes with people. It’s a nice exercise for gratitude journaling, and it’s easy to share a single note without unloading all your thoughts on that person.

Psst, sign up now and you’ll also get some cool free phone wallpapers.

2. JournalBook (Web): Create Your Own Q&A Journal

Journal Book lets you create your own Q&A journal

Productivity gurus and mental health experts have several thoughts on what you should record in your journal. Each approach has different apps guiding you with questions that you can answer daily. With JournalBook, you can create a custom digital journal with your own questions.

You don’t need to register or sign up to use the app. Fire it up in your browser and you can start writing. It suggests four popular daily questions to get you started and has extra fields to add your own. Every day, it will prompt you to answer those questions. When you have a particularly big day, you can highlight it, and reflect upon those highlighted days later.

This is a progressive web app that works on any browser. All data is stored on your device, not on a cloud, so you’ll need to use it on the same gadget every day. It works offline and is mobile-friendly to use on a phone. You could even turn the site into an Android app


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3. Sol Journal (Web): Self-Hosted, Privacy-Focused Journal

Sol Journal is a self-hosted journal to protect your privacy

Sol Journal is another progressive web app journal that works offline in your browser. In fact, the developer says JournalBook was an inspiration for it. But the difference here is that you can host it yourself, thus giving you full control over privacy.

Privacy is a key factor in digital journaling. You didn’t let anyone see your diary as a kid, why should you trust that your deepest thoughts would be safe on a web server that someone can hack? Sol Journal lets you deploy a journal to your own server, so the data is protected. The GitHub instructions are simple.

You can try out Sol Journal before installing it. You’ll find a minimalistic interface for a journal, with day and night modes. There’s a handy “Quick Add Time” button to put the current timestamp into an entry. And you can export it all to a JSON file. You’ll need to register to use Sol Journal, but that only means you can use it on multiple devices instead of just one.

4. The Open Diaries (Web, Android, iOS): Read Others’ Journals and Share Your Own

A diary should be kept secret, or so we have been conditioned to believe. The Open Diaries questions that notion and urges you to be more open about the digital journaling experience. What would happen if you could read other people’s diaries, and they could read yours?

Don’t worry, it’s not like your entire journal is open for anyone. You get to choose which entries to make public and which ones to keep private for your eyes only. The interface is a bit kiddish, using a handwritten script-like font that you’ll have to live with. There’s also a decent text editor for formatting, and you can add images too.

On The Open Diaries public feed, you can browse and read entries from anyone. In our cursory browsing, it seemed like an active social network with people from different parts of the world.

Openly writing a diary might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and we’d advise not sharing personal details with which someone can identify you in real life. As long as you’re careful, it can be therapeutic in a whole new way.

Download: The Open Diaries for Android | iOS (Free)

5. Reflectly (Android, iOS): Simple Daily Journal With AI

You can’t escape artificial intelligence, even in digital journaling apps. On a serious note, Reflectly does a good job of using AI in a journal app, especially for those who don’t want to do long diary entries daily.

The app divides journaling into tracking your moods


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and noting major highlights. Every day, it prompts you to note how the day went, what type of activity made it feel that way and note any thoughts about it.

Along with these three, you get a new daily question. The type of question varies but it’s usually a good self-assessment or a place to vent. This is where the AI comes in, as it uses your mood and other data to come up with the questions.

You can also view statistics on Reflectly after you unlock stars by using it regularly. The app aggressively pushes its Premium version, but keep tapping “No Thanks” every time it pops up and you can still use the free version without a hitch.

Download: Reflectly for Android | iOS (Free)

6. JournalFlow (Web): Journal Through Email or Messengers

The term “Dear Diary” was meant to suggest that you’re talking to a friend. What if you could keep a journal by the modern mechanism of talking to friends? JournalFlow is a neat app that hooks into Telegram and Facebook Messenger, so you can chat to add to your journal.

Sign up and add JournalFlow to the messenger of your choice. From then on, it’s like any other chat with a friend. Type into the chat window and it’ll get automatically added to your journal. You can also post photos.

Periodically, JournalFlow will ask you questions pertaining to your day or mood, like any of the other guided journaling apps. You can also use JournalFlow through email, replying to one message a day with those questions.

The downside is that JournalFlow is free only for 30 days, after which you’ll have to pay $2.49 per month to use it. Try it out and see if it’s worth it for you.

Note: At the time of testing, the Telegram feature wasn’t working.

More Diary Apps

The benefits of digital journaling cannot be ignored. There are multiple studies that conclude this daily practice can help in mental clarity and emotional well-being. But different apps work for different people. So if the above tools aren’t your speed, try these other diary apps to start a journaling habit


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