A look at some new tools that help business owners in a variety of fields get thing done, be it public works projects, or figuring out which of your employees is a better worker.
Josh LowensohnFormer Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
SAN FRANCISCO--A handful of products at the TechCrunch50 conference are working on better ways to help people get business done. Many are new plays on old ideas, while a few offer a new approach for existing systems.
Clientshow is the latest collaborative tool pitched at creative professionals. Like ProofHQ and Conceptshare it's designed to let designers get together with clients and share works in progress, as well as get sign-offs on projects.
The service is split up into different modules. One lets you upload all your work, while the other lets users go through and leave notes on it, including comments and sign-offs. The third module is a presentation mode that lets you do a live demo of the files to clients.
Its big difference from some of the existing services is that it's an Adobe AIR application, and that it offers a ready-to-print version of a project's entire history so that attendees or project coordinators can print it out and get a quick heads up on what's changed.
Metricly is a free tool that lets users create their own analytics dashboard from a number of sources. It hooks into Google Analytics, QuickBooks, and Salesforce and can grab similar numbers from each and slap them onto one graph. It also plugs into Twitter and Facebook and can show you graphs of how many tweets or followers you've accumulated, as well as fans on Facebook. Services that aren't on its list of presets, but that have API keys, can be plugged in too.
Metricly got hounded on by the judges for not having enough depth to fulfill the needs of hardcore users as well as it not launching with a price tag. The initial offering is free of charge, but its creators are planning to launch a paid premium version that adds extra API connections and data tracking features that will run somewhere between $10 to $100 a month when it's launched.
Crowdflower is a new service from Dolores Labs that aims to make outsourced Web labor a more verified and manageable experience. It tracks how long a worker on something like Amazon's Mechanical Turk takes to do a particular job, as well as how well they did on it. That information is then stored on the service, giving the people hiring for the job a way to see how well that person should perform when doing it, as well as selecting higher-quality candidates to work on a particular task.
Affective Interfaces had one of the more interesting demos of the day--using facial expressions to track emotional reactions or moods. It records a user's face while they're watching something online, then matches up those reactions to what was happening on the screen. Its analysis engine can then make an educated guess at what kind of emotion it was, all of which are highlighted on the video's timeline.
The technology will initially be used for ad targeting and audience metrics, but is also being developed for use in automobiles as a way to alert drivers when the system believes they're becoming drowsy. Here's a demo of what it did on Digg founder Kevin Rose's face:
Trollim is a new site that aims to test and rank the skills of programmers. Pitched as a way to choose between two employees with similar skills, it has users solve code challenges. These are usually just code segments that have a quick and simple fix, letting Trollim's system figure whether they solved the problem correctly. Future versions will take real problematic code samples to be solved, that have been offered up by third parties.
This record of wins and losses are tracked in a social network that's similar to a game ranking site. Users can continue to attack more challenges to up their ranks, and fight their way into a pit of top users--something Trollim's creators plan to offer up to employers as a way to find good programmers.
Worth mentioning is an enterprise edition that's in the works that does away with the game aspect and can be used to simply test programmers, or to pit them against each other.
Citysourced is the latest tool to help people make note of problems with their city. Users take a photo of a problem, then upload it to Citysourced where it's stuck onto a map and a list of other problems. This list keeps track of whether the city is working on that problem.
The service is free to use and works in 1,900 cities, although the only mobile app for it yet is for the iPhone. For more on it, see our full story.
Correction, 2:15 p.m. PDT: This story initially misstated what type of phone the Citysourced mobile app runs on. It is the iPhone. Palm has made an investment in the company to build an app for the Pre.