Michael L.

Level 5 Contributor
San Francisco, California

Contributor Level

Total Points

About Me

I am interested in the development of new technologies and how they can benefit society.


How I Can Help

I have a background in computer science, business, and internet technologies.


museums, music, movies (in no particular order)

73 Reviews by Michael


Google's latest attempt at creating a true social network to compete with Facebook, and also their best. The interface is very slick and cleaner than Facebook's. The standout features are: (1) ability to arrange all your friends into and share content with smaller groups or "Circles", (2) ability to do group video chat up to 10 people in "Hangouts", and (3) deep integration with Picasa for photo sharing with a very fast and intuitive interface. I'm still learning all the features and I'm sure they'll improve a lot over the next few weeks, but so far I've been very impressed!


Very simple and easy-to-use website for ordering contact lenses. And best of all, very cheap -- you typically get free shipping on orders over $99 and there are coupons for at least 15% off all over the internet. After your initial order, re-ordering just takes a few clicks. I've ordered from here a few times already and am a happy customer.


A website that discusses technology for baby boomers seems like a great idea, but ElderGadget falls well short of executing on that vision. I am assuming that this site is modeled after engadget, based on its name and layout, but after a few minutes browsing the site, I was very disappointed by the quality of the content and the depth of the reviews. Most of the product reviews simply list out specs and product features, with no commentary on how it might be particularly well suited for seniors. The site also offers brain games and cartoons for the elderly, but I find them a bit patronizing. Perhaps the most useful features are the how-to guides which explain things like getting on to the internet or changing your computer settings. All-in-all, a very poorly designed website which doesn't do a good job of truly catering to the audience for which it was made.


As companies like Groupon and LivingSocial continue to explode in popularity, I see many of my friends purchasing hundreds of unnecessary coupons that they never end up using. For those experiencing buyer's remorse from the latest local deals craze, CoupRecoup offers a very valuable service -- it provides a public marketplace for those groupons you can't or don't intend to use anymore. The site basically acts like a craigslist for online coupons, simply connecting buyers and sellers who are then responsible for completing the transaction off the site.

I find the service particularly useful when shopping or browsing for discounted discounts. CoupRecoup makes it very easy to see what the best deals are (after being marked down again in the secondary market), by providing basic sorting and filtering options. Just sort by discount percentage and you'll see things like a month of yoga classes for $10 or one-hour acupuncture sessions for $20. Still completely unnecessary? Yes, but at least I won't feel so bad when I find out I no longer have time to go indoor skydiving.


On a lark, I recently decided to take a speed reading class, where we were taught simple techniques such as sub-vocalization (supressing the voice inside your head as your read) and getting your eyes used to reading batches of words at a time. Both techniques run counter to a person's natural reading habits and we were given uncomfortable exercises to help unlearn our old ways of reading. Eventually, I was able to get my reading speeds up to 700 words per minute from 400 words per minute, so I'm convinced this stuff actually works.

At the end of the class, our instructor told us about Spreeder, a free online application which allows you to enter any text you want to read faster and then flashes the text back to you at a configurable rate. Not only is it a great way to quickly get through the latest article your boss told you to read, but it's also a great tool to hone your speed-reading skills from time to time. Definitely worth giving a try if you're looking to increase your daily productivity.


One of my go-to recipe sites -- whenever I need to know how to cook a particular dish or am looking for something interesting to try out, I come to this site. With its vast collection of well-documented recipes and high quality pictures, it's a great way to expand your repertoire as a cook.

Cooking for Engineers is the personal recipe collection of Michael Chu, an engineer who has invested a lot of time making his favorite dishes accessible to others online. Because of his background, the site is targeted toward a more analytical audience and features step-by-step photo-accompanied instructions, precise measurements, and cooking timelines. I've tried several of his recipes and have found them all very easy to follow. The recipes themselves are pretty good too, which is a credit to Michael's growing credibility as a talented chef.


Neat new site that allows users to search for videos of any television show on the internet and plays them back (but in no particular order). The interface is minimalist and mimics that of an old-school television set. This may be insufficient for those looking for a particular video or used to more controls during video playback. But if you don't mind not knowing what you're watching, how long the clip is, and what's coming next, you may find the simplicity refreshing.

The main problem is that the site runs really slow, presumably because it is pulling the videos from computers all over the world. Hopefully over time the search, loading, and playback will improve so the site can attract a more widespread following.


This is an interesting-ish site which aggregates trending sports topics and news into a single feed. I still enjoy going directly to espn.com to browse news articles, but Quickish is a great place to quickly get the most current sports headlines across the web.

I like the minimalist interface which makes it easy to browse, but still provides interesting contextual excerpts. But the most value comes from the fact that it aggregates content from many different sources and is partially curated by editors in (almost) real-time. Also, it's really neat to browse a particular topic of interest, since you get a good variety of headlines and differing viewpoints.

More customization would be a natural next step for a site like this, but for the general sports fan, this is a great resource. I'll be checking it frequently before the Madness begins and before my next draft.


I just went through the free trial of Carbonite to see if it was any good compared to my current online backup service, Mozy. Online storage and online backup solutions have come a long way over the past few years and there are a lot of new players in the field. So when Mozy decided to up their prices, I started looking for a new alternative.

The interface for the Carbonite product is pretty neat -- it's very simple and it puts a little icon on each folder or file to tell whether it is backed up, waiting to be backed up, or not set to be backed up. I also like their scheduling options, which lets you set as many scheduling rules as you want. Lastly, this is one of the few online backup services that still supports unlimited storage.

What I don't like about Carbonite is the fact that it will not back up certain types of files. Who are they to tell me which files can and can not be backed up? If I want to back up some random system file on my computer, why can't I? In my opinion, an online backup solution should as closely mimic using an external hard drive as possible, but just be more secure. Otherwise, what's the point and why should I spend so much more money? (You can get a terabyte of external storage for roughly the same price as one year of online storage.)

Another issue is that for the free trial, it does not automatically back up your music files. So I will have to repeat the same days-long tortuous process once I actually sign up for the service. Finally the deal breaker -- in order for Carbonite to back up video files, you have to manually select them one by one. Are you kidding me? I have a ton of tiny video files spread across a bunch of different folders, and that would take me hours. I guess I'll keep looking for another service...


This site shows on a map the latest locations where celebrities have been spotted. What a silly and useless idea! Not only is the information fairly out of date, but it also feeds our mindless culture of pop idol worship without providing any interesting information.


I never really jumped on the LinkedIn bandwagon, but have been using it recently to find "passive" job candidates. The service seemed to work pretty well, except you can't really contact anyone outside of your immediate network unless you pay for that privilege. That is one of the primary ways they get you to upgrade to a "premium" account.

Sadly, LinkedIn is like all the other consumer-unfriendly subscription-based services out there --- they try very hard to get you to subscribe, rely on the fact that you forget about your subscription, and make it *very* difficult to unsubscribe. Subscribing is as easy as clicking a nice, shiny button. But unsubscribing is nearly impossible. After 15 minutes of clicking around the site and researching the issue on the internet, it turns out you have to (1) go to a special page where you must (2) message a member of the customer support staff and (3) request and wait for your subscription to be canceled!

I was successful at getting a response within a few days. But my request for a refund for this month's unused subscription (I explained that I wasn't going to use the service this month and that I had simply forgotten about the subscription) was addressed with a simple copy-and-paste of the terms of service, which states the customer is charged unless he/she cancels ahead of time. Yes, I understand those are the official terms and they are legally protected, but why should a customer be charged for an unused service? LinkedIn really needs to learn a thing or two about customer service, instead of milking each customer for as much money as possible.


Very cool site for "moving" music across the web. Soundcloud lets you upload, send, share, and download music. Although geared towards aspiring artists hoping to share their music, the site makes it very easy for casual users to receive tunes from their friends, browse or play hosted files, and download the ones they want. The embedded player is simple, slick, and customizable. There is also no limit to the file size you want to upload to the cloud! Definitely worth checking out -- a much neater, music-focused alternative to rapidshare or dropbox.


Well written and trendy blog mostly about the dining scene in several major metropolitan cities: NY, SF, LA, Miami. Also discusses nightlife activities and bars, but what I like best about it is its broad coverage on local events and food-related news. The blog definitely targets the self-proclaimed "foodies", but is also careful to uncover new interesting places that might appeal to a more mainstream audience. Just one look at its list of top restaurants shows a refreshing balance between up-and-coming venues and the usual perennials of the culinary elite.


I've been using Mozy for several years and consider it one of the best online storage providers out there. There are many alternatives in the crowded online storage space, but Mozy is operated by EMC, a world-class leader in commercial storage and networking solutions, which automatically gives it a lot of reliability and credibility over smaller startups.

What I like most about Mozy is its easy-to-use client. You can use it to specify which files or directories on your computer to back up or restore, as well as when you want an automatic backup to occur. I have mine set at 2am every night, so when I wake up every morning I am welcomed by a reassuring message saying all my data has been backed up and is safe.

The only drawback (and I believe this to be true of all online storage solutions) is that the initial backup or restore takes a long time (several hours or days, depending on your connection). But once you cross that hurdle, all subsequent updates only take a few seconds, since it only updates new or changed files.

I used to use an external hard drive for all my storage, but even that crashed on me and I lost years and year of irreplaceable memories / photos. Now I don't trust any physical device and only rely on the cloud. Since I switched to Mozy, my computer has crashed and been wiped clean several times, and each time I have successfully used Mozy to restore all my files. It's been a lifesaver and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about truly safeguarding their data.


This is Dave Bruno's blog -- you may know him as the guy who created the 100 Thing Challenge, which basically challenges you to strip yourself of all but 100 of your personal possessions. In an attempt to curb our current obsession with material goods, he endorses living a simpler life in order to achieve lasting happiness. This blog is simple and straightforward -- not that insightful, but a good reminder not to get lost in a world of over-consumption. At the very least, it's a way to participate vicariously in the 100 Thing Challenge by reading about how Dave simplified his life and the resulting inventory of his remaining items.


If you have errands to run, but your time is valuable, try hiring a Runner to do it for you. On TaskRabbit you can name your price and the Runners will do anything from moving items, shopping for you, to taking your clothes to the cleaners. All the Runners are immediately reviewed after completing the task, so you can easily tell who is reliable and trustworthy.

On the flip side, signing up to be a Runner is a great way to generate some extra cash if you are unemployed, self-employed, or just happen to have a lot of free time. A lot of the Runners today happen to be stay-at-home parents looking for part-time work.

Currently the service is only available in Boston and San Francisco, but the site is relatively new and will add cities as it continues to grow.


Project Free TV is a site which links to user uploaded movies and television shows. The site does not actually host any content and acts more like a directory for user submitted online media. However, it does provide a player to stream the videos without having to leave the site. While the quality of the videos can be a bit unpredictable, it's hard to complain about a service which allows you to watch the latest shows and movies that all your friends are talking about.


Great site for those interested in the art of presenting visual data in a way that is interesting, memorable, and visually appealing. Maintained by David McCandless, an "information designer", this is a site dedicated to the latest and greatest ways to present data. And while it features a steady stream of masterful infographics from all around the internet, my favorite thing about the site is the fascinating bits of random knowledge you can learn from just a few seconds of browsing around.


Musicovery is a really fun and neat music discovery site which stands out because of its innovative interface. The site separates its music into "Mood" music and "Dance" music. To help figure out what type of music you want to hear, it presents a grid with two axes which represent two musical attributes. For "Dance" music, the axes are Dance and Tempo. For "Mood" music, the axes are (Dark -> Positive) and (Calm -> Energetic). You can click anywhere on the axes to get the perfect blend of both attributes. For a good time, try alternating between Dark and Calm to Positive and Energetic.

I really like the eclectic assortment of music this site plays for you. Most other music discovery sites seem to stick to a particular genre, but with Musicovery, you will get George Gershwin right before James Brown, simply because you wanted happy, energetic music. Brilliant! For the purists, there are also controls to filter the music by genre and decade.


Hilarious site featuring a guy who responds to ads on craigslist with no intention other than to infuriate the other party and later post the conversation for public entertainment. Some of his pranks are slightly offensive, but I personally find them ingenious and very creative. Definitely worth checking out whenever you want a quick laugh.

Michael Has Earned 469 Votes

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