We moved to the US full-time in February with just a couple of suitcases, so I’ve had to accumulate a lot of new stuff this year. (Spatula, bike pump, wooden spoon, pillow case, toothbrush holder, shower curtain, trash can, trash can, trash can… kill me).
In that sense, it’s been a big products year for me.
I’ve broken the list of Products I Couldn’t Live Without This Year into nine categories: Family, Recreation, Home, Travel, Productivity, Creativity, Health, Personal and Lowlights (products that sucked!).
- Path — The first app I check every morning when I wake up. I have 4 friends on it: my Mum, my sister and my two brothers and we use Path to keep up with everyone’s daily goings-on. Couldn’t live without it.
- Skype — The greatest reflection of your priorities is your time. Whatever you say about what matters to you, the true test is where you place your time. When I realised that, I was embarrassed to think how inconsistent I was with my phone calls home. So now, every Friday after work, I call Mum from my Skype to her cell phone to catch up.
- Whatsapp — After reading Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’, I kicked off a new practice where I get my Mum to send me a message every morning when she wakes up in Aust. She is frequently travelling for work to remote parts of Australia, so I rely on Whatsapp to make sure I know she’s all-OK.
- Bose Sport Headphones — Brilliant for calling home whether I’m cooking, riding or running.
- All Hario Everything — 15 Oz. glass, 100g Ceramic Grinder, 800ml Server, Drip Scale/Timer & the Bonavita Kettle is the coffee quiver you need. I was mostly a Ritual beans guy this year, save for a few weeks of Sightglass. I’ve just signed up for Mistobox and am experimenting with having them send me a bag of beans every month. Their first bag from Dillan Coffee Roasters was outstanding.
- Amazon Prime — Not just for the free two-day shipping, Prime also gives you access to the entire HBO backcatalogue. We did an entire Wire rewatch in November through Prime. Also: Nathan For You.
- Logitech Mini Boom — Great, portable sound, not much bigger than a deck of cards.
- Soda Stream — Water with bubbles!!!
- Bill’s Sydney Food — Bought this recipe book for $2 second-hand on Amazon and it’s truly amazing. We have a pantry full of Jamie Oliver and Ottelenghi and we just keep coming back to Bill’s. Especially the scrambled eggs, for which he’s probably best known.
- Kitchen Cart — Having a movable chopping board that doubles as storage has proved to be a cooking masterstroke.
- Spotify — $10/month for more than 1,000 hours of joy might be the best money I spent this year.
- Twitter — Twitter is my main source of news, the way I publicly share what I’m doing and the easiest way to keep up with friends and acquaintances. This year, I’ve started using it as a second screen for watching sport. When #hellastorm was on its way, I used Twitter to track its progress. Most telling was watching the Sydney siege unfold. Twitter was updating faster than the 24 hour news channel we were streaming. Then to see the #illridewithyou response just take off was just incredible. Twitter is deeply embedded into the way I live. I tried using it desktop only (to limit distraction), but it kept creeping back to my home screen.
- YouTube —YouTube is TV for me. I subscribe to channels (NBA, Vice, BBall Breakdown, Letterman, Fallon, Kimmel, Grantland, the NY Times, Cricket Australia, ABC News, ATP World Tour, NRL, NPR for example) and then most nights, I’ll scroll through my subscriptions list to see the latest video updates and create a mini-playlist of 5–15 videos to watch straight through. YouTube broke my ability to do that at least 5 times in different ways this year (there was a two month stretch there where playlists just didn’t work at all). For such a juggernaut, it’s still an incredibly broken product. But you can’t argue with the depth.
- The Web — Kottke, Stellar.io, Brown Cardigan & Pitchfork are my consistent, Saturday morning go-tos.
- Email Newsletters — Benedict Evans, Mattermark, Mobihealthnews, BioIsChanged, Dispatches, Undercurrent, FiveThirtyEight, Rock Health Weekly & TheSkimm. Unroll.me (covered below in Productivity) makes email newsletters manageable by delivering them to me in a single, daily Rollup.
- Overcast — Marco Arment’s podcasting app was my favourite (I tried them all). Most importantly, it allowed me to listen to the Triple M Sydney Grill Team every morning on my way to work. Hearing the previous day’s Sydney morning traffic updates while I rode down Harrison St. was always a kick. If it wasn’t the Grill Team, it was the Serial, Grantland & Zach Lowe podcasts.
- New Yorker — I paid for a physical subscription, but I ended up accessing the online archives just as much. Still the best place there is for writing.
- Timehop — My daily drip of nostalgia. The second app I check every morning when I wake up.
- Instapaper + Longreads — The best app and source for reading longform web content on my phone or iPad.
- Airbnb — Probably the greatest startup idea of my lifetime. Makes for a better world. Highlight for me this year was staying in an earthship in the New Mexico desert.
- Kayak — The simplest place to book flights and cars.
- Uberpool/Lyft Line — Instead of a car, we have Uberpool & Lyft Line.
- Expensify — An absolute godsend for reimbursing expenses.
- Slack — I’ve never seen a tool change so completely the way an organisation communicates. Funny, viral, intuitive enterprise software. Whodathought that could ever be a sentence!
- Apple Stuff — I run my life on my MB Air, iPhone 6 and iPad.
- Google Stuff — Google, Gmail, GCal, Chrome, Maps, Docs, Hangouts, Youtube… this is the infrastructure on which I communicate, move, think, plan, browse, watch, and share.
- Squarespace — After 5 years on Wordpress, I made the jump and nickcrocker.com now runs on Squarespace. Incredibly simple software, thoughtfully made.
- EveryTimezone — How people who need to worry about timezones live without EveryTimezone is beyond me.
- Self Control — For those times when you’re own self control is not enough.
- Sony MDR Headphones — HQ sound on the cheap.
- Workflowy — Lists have run my life since Law school and thanks to Workflowy, now they have a home.
- Unroll.me — Saving me from untold daily spam waves. My favourite Gmail plugin.
- Rapportive — Powerful for providing context about the person you’re emailing.
- Killerspin Jet500 — Table tennis caught on at MFP in a big way this year and my KillerSpin was a big reason I climbed to #4 in the company rankings.
- Venmo — “Don’t worry about splitting the bill, just Venmo me.”
- Instagram — Changes the way I look at the world. Makes me more aware, always looking for the beautiful, interesting things I come across. My favourite app, period.
- Hyperlapse — Some minutes are better remembered as 10 seconds sped-up. I LOVE Hyperlapse and think it was the best new product released this year.
- Medium — Simply my favourite place to write. Beyond the best ever WSIWYG writing experience, Medium has been an incredible forum to share my writing — resulting in millions of views, more than a decade of ‘read time’, and even a book deal offer. If you think about the value exchange between Medium as a platform and me as an infrequent writer, you can see why I’ve transitioned all my writing here.
- Strava — Still the best place to track your runs.
- Yoga Studio App — The best exercise instruction app. A product masterstroke on iPhone and iPad.
- 7 Minute Workout App— My go-to workout in a time or space squeeze.
- Klean Kanteen — Best drink bottle alive.
- MyFitnessPal — If you haven’t, you should try tracking your macros for a week. You’ll be shocked at how easy it is to over-eat carbs and under-eat protein. Knowing calories is one thing, but macros is where the advanced value lies.
- Fuelband — A little bit of dead man walking on my wrist, but I’ll wear it until the day the Apple Watch is launched.
- The Peugeot—Bought this 63cm, steel-frame beauty for $200 on Craigslist and it’s been with me every day. I.love.this.bike.
- The Lazer Genesis — Finally, a helmet that doesn’t make you look like a mushroom.
- The black Marmot Precip — Protected me running in Boulder snow, SF rain and Oregon sub-zeroes.
- Standing Desk Mat — Switched to standing desks at work and this mat is a lifesaver for end of day achy legs.
- Cavaliers Hat — Bandwagon jumpers need a cheap way to make the switch. I found mine with this throwback snapback.
- Dollar A Day — Along with 1000 other people (and growing) I donate $1/day to a charity selected by the Dollar A Day team. Every morning I get an email to see where my donation went. Founded by Perry Chen from Kickstarter and Joshua Kushner from Thrive, Dollar A Day makes charity simple and fun.
- No-Show Socks — As someone who (1) hates visible socks (2) makes shoes stink and (3) wears a lot of Vans and Sperry Topsiders, the no-show socks are low-key, somewhat emasculating but nonetheless oh so necessary option.
- Nike — The brand above all brands, Nike was good for my Dri-Fit Hill Runner’s T’s (pictured in Volt above), my Roshes & my Tech Fleece Sweatpants — the three best bits of my wardrobe this year.
- Beard Trimmer, Scissors Comb Combo & Beard Oil — As a bearded man now, I have had to learn the ways of bearded men. These tools helped.
- Acorns — Promising to invest my “spare change automatically from everyday purchases into a diversified portfolio”, the Acorns app experience ended up turning into a month-long debacle of fees, scanned and emailed pdfs, radio-silence, inexplicable error messages, warning icons and general suckage. The worst app experience of the year by far.
- The World’s Worst Comforter — While it cost just $38, the true price we paid for this suffocating thing was a month of night-sweats and bad dreams.
- Rental Cars (I’m looking at you Hertz)— Bring on the downfall of the rental car industry. One of the remaining areas of modern commerce where the customer is always wrong — the long waits in line, the inexplicability of aiport taxes, state surcharges, concession fees, license fees, facility charges, ‘service’, ‘energy’, state tax, multi-level insurance offerings, pre-paid fuel scams, hidden toll fees—all add up to generate the very worst of semi-regulated, bureaucratic capitalism.
- Riedel H2O Longdrink/Highball Glass — Purchased specifically for Soda Stream consumption, these things lasted a single round in the dishwasher before shattering.
- Gyms — For the exorbitant joining fees, the monthly dues, the prison atmosphere, the can’t-get-out-even-if-you-try cancellation policies… gyms deserve every % of the 100% customer churn they have to deal with annually as an industry.
- Instacart — Originally I loved the service, and even went Instacart Plus, but when I realised it was costing me $50+ a shop on top of Whole Foods’ already hefty markup, I soon reverted to Lyft Lining there and doing my own thing again.
- Uber/Lyft — A customer-centric taxi service is best thing to happen to city life in a long while, but why all the drama? Why does Uber have to flip the Google-ism and seemingly embrace ‘Just Be Evil’ as the company motto. Lyft, which benefited from sitting back and watching the blood splatter, wasn’t immune either — raising prices by 100% on Lyft Lines without saying a thing and then sourly refusing to admit it when asked.
- Head Youtek Radical IG — I bought this racquet thinking I was getting Andy Murray’s in-game weapon, but I mistakenly purchased the Youtek Radical IG ‘S’ (apparently the S makes a big difference) which is a lightweight beginner’s racquet. By the time I’d figured it out, I’d already broken a string and it was too late to return it. ☹
- The US Medical System — You have got to be kidding me. With 2/3 of the US population overweight or obese, diabetes spreading like the plague, a tidal wave of aged care costs just around the corner and medical bills the single biggest source of bankruptcy in America, it is mind-boggling that this isn’t a bigger crisis. Even in the very best of circumstances (One Medical Group membership+killer coverage through Blue Cross) the system is just fantastically shattered. No-one can tell you how much things cost before you buy them. No-one knows who sets the prices, even though they’re the highest in the world. Everyone’s terrified of getting sued for making a mistake but no-one really needs that many tests or that many drugs. No-one knows what an HSA or a PPO plan is but everyone makes the decision about which to be on. No-one knows what in-network or out-of-network is or who goes in those categories but price will mutiplied by a factor of 10 if you get that decision wrong. No-one knows what those numbers and letters on their invoice stamped ‘Due Immediately’ mean. No-one knows what an exchange is or how it works. There aren’t even enough doctors for all the sick people and if you’re a registered doctor from Australia, ready and willing to work, it’ll take you a year, $10,000+ and the hardest exams of your life to even be able to apply for jobs (let alone get one). There might not be a bigger threat to America’s greatest-nation-in-the-world status.
- iTunes — The thousand hours I’m now in Spotify, used to be spent in iTunes and then some. I loved that product. The sequence of events that led to iTunes becoming as bad as it is today would be a PhD-worthy study in organisational breakdown.
Bonus: Product I Won’t Be Able To Live Without Soon
I finally tried Oculus this year and ohmigod people are not exaggerating about this technology. I tested out riding a bike and almost fell off trying to avoid smashing into a rock. My body was pedalling a stationary bike and my brain was telling me to jump off it! You can see the clouds above you and behind you. Leaves flutter in the trees. There’s a whole new world coming.