Unlocking Reality: Find Out What’s Trending in Productivity, Social, AI, and Content Creation – and what to expect in 2023

The Fresh van Root newsletter features 4-5 apps/tools/services twice a month, from content creation, marketing, productivity, web creation, and more.

In 2022, I tested and reviewed about 120 apps/tools, and along the way, I made some observations which I will share in this blog post.

I focus on the following areas in this post:

  • Productivity apps/tools
  • AI-powered writing apps in content creation
  • WordPress and Content Management Systems
  • B2B Content Creators
  • Social Media

Productivity

The number of productivity startups/products discovered across calendaring, online events/meetings, note-taking, and project/task management is enormous.

In general, lots of these companies attack parts of the stack of big tech companies (Microsoft Office, Google GSuite, Slack, Atlassian, and others)

Some examples across different categories:

Blending Between Notes, Scheduling, To-Dos

I noticed several startups that work on products that combine/blend between note-taking/managing to-dos and scheduling/managing your calendar.

While I understand the reason for that (reduce app switching, block time for to-dos, and more), they need lots of time invested from users to make them work. These tools do not want to replace one tool in your stack but 2 or 3 at once. What most of them have in common is that they integrate with many of the tools you already use.

Routine, for example, is a to-do, note, and calendaring app, … organizing your work life in one app.

Other apps are doing something similar.

These apps are examples of what’s happening in the work productivity space. They have some feature overlap and different user types in mind, but what’s similar between them is the idea of combining several use cases that are often solved in single-purpose apps.

Changing how slide decks are built

I discovered several new takes on how we build slide decks. And yes, we need those new tools. Many new content formats evolved over the last decade, but how we build slide decks largely stayed the same.

Some startups create products that want to change how we create slide decks.
Attributes: Interactive, collaborative, supporting all kinds of embeds, and built-in video recording,.. are just a few of the features these new kinds of slide creation apps have.

I have used Gamma to build presentations this year. What I like about it is that you can start typing away the content of your presentation and then cut it into slides. Slides do not have a definite size (featured in #78). It speeds up the process and combines a process that usually involves two tools for me.

Other tools in that area:

Command Palette in apps

Most tools mentioned above have a “command palette feature”. This feature allows you to access all (or most) features of an app via a keyboard shortcut.

I do not know which apps were pioneering that (maybe Superhuman?), but I see it now across most new apps in the productivity space.

What makes a command palette?
“A command palette has quite a few parts,” said Vohra:
“A single shortcut to invoke the palette
A fuzzy matcher to find commands
A way to see the direct shortcuts for next time”

via capiche.com “The History of Command Palettes”

Many of the tools I use daily have a command palette feature implemented.
For example, Height, Cron, and Arc Browser.

Here is an example of a command palette in action in Height.

Online Meetings & Remote Work

These new products rethink how we meet and work online. Think about it this way: Zoom/Teams/Google Meet virtually represent a classic meeting room setting by default. New contenders are rethinking how we meet online from the ground up.

Playing a game, adding background music to your meeting, having your custom avatar, drawing together, and taking notes collaboratively, are some of the elements you see in these apps.

Tandem Chat is the product we use daily for standups and co-working meetings. It’s a great tool for teams that collaborate a lot. You can create rooms, and people can join with one click.

Another product in that space is Around.

Social media management tool company Swat.io uses Around day-to-day and is very happy with it.

We switched all our internal meetings from Zoom/Google Meet to Around. I spend most of my day in Around, and it feels natural & easy to communicate with my peers while getting things done together. The integrated notes help me stay focused while there’s always room for fun elements like music effects or confetti.

– Johannes Nagl, CEO Swat.io

Another product sub-category in this space is apps that allow you to walk around on a 2D office map, interact with co-workers, and start online meetings.

I like the gamification aspect of these tools, but I still haven’t worked with a company that uses this with their whole team daily. One example of this product is Gather.

Online Events / Live Webinars

Airmeet is getting used often in my network to host online events. For example, Superpath (content marketer community) uses it for its online webinars.

  • Just launched: Sessions is a new product in that space.
  • Crowdcast got rebuilt from the ground up. Looking forward to testing it out in 2023

A comment on Notion

I observed that Notion grew into the primary tool used at some companies for everything from creating documents, wikis, Kanban boards, and much more. It became the work OS tool that replaced many tools at once.

Over on Twitter, I also saw many people launching digital products based on Notion. For example, website builders (Example: Super.co)

And Notion is also buying other startups: Cron calendar is the calendar app of my choice; it was bought from Notion in June.

Note-taking: Obsidian

I noticed that Obsidian is growing a lot. It has a very active community, and many developers write custom plugins that extend its use cases beyond just taking notes in markdown.

For example, I wrote this blog post in Obsidian and published it to WordPress via an Obsidian plugin.

Here’s what I wrote about it on Mastodon.

Taking screenshots …

While this has been solved a million times, new tools keep popping up left and write that offer a fresh take on taking and editing screenshots.

There is this joke that every software developer needs to develop a to-do app at least once in life. That changed, and it’s a screenshot app now.

AI-powered tools

I just searched in the newsletter archive, and the phrase “AI-powered” was mentioned 13 times.

Every month I discovered new AI-powered writing tools. Many of these tools have a significant feature overlap. They can help you beat writer’s block by generating ideas, completing sentences, and drafting social media posts.

I expect a consolidation happening in this market and more tools focusing on a specific need and language.

One tool that stood out of all the tools I took for a quick test was Lex (featured in #81) – it positions itself as a document writing tool with an AI assistant built-in. Think of it as a new Google Docs app powered with AI. By adding three plus signs at the end of a sentence or paragraph, Lex tries to continue writing it for you.

Here is an example:

Another exciting solution I tested was ParagraphAI (mentioned in #77). It integrates via browser extension in your workflow, and you can write prompts without browsing to another site.

In general, the capabilities of AI-powered writing tools get integrated into the tools you already use.

Examples:

  • Your email marketing software might soon get a “rewrite this subject line” feature.
  • Your photo editing app will get a feature to create a picture from a prompt from scratch instead of pulling the photo from a stock photo site.
  • Your social media tool offers to rewrite your draft posting.
  • Writing apps like Grammarly will get more superpowers, suggesting corrections and extending your text.

Twitter app Typefully already implemented this – you can ask AI to rewrite your tweet.

More proof of this trend: Notion is adding AI features to its product.

The startup & tool AI landscape is rapidly changing/evolving. AI-powered text-to-image tools like Dall-E2 and Midjourney got so popular that even my 70yr old aunt told me about them. With the release of ChatGPT, it got completely crazy. There is so much noise now that it will take some time to see its impact.

Whatever type of social media feed, newsletter, or podcast you consume, ChatGPT or some other AI tool gets mentioned.

What I am sure about it is that AI will change completely how creators will do their job.

I reached out to Thomas Peham, VP Marketing at Storyblok, and asked him how he thinks this will change the marketers’ job in the future:

These tools are able to improve written content quickly, which will save time and allow marketing professionals to focus on other aspects of their work. They may also be able to provide valuable insights and suggestions that can help improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. However, it’s important to note that these tools will not replace the need for human creativity and insight in marketing, and that they will simply be used as a supplement to the skills and knowledge of marketing professionals.

Thomas Peham, VP Marketing Storyblok

WordPress and the CMS space

You might think the content management system space is not a booming segment. Wrong.

I discovered a massive market dynamic, lots of new players, startups, and open-source projects. In short: The CMS industry is changing.

Headless CMSs are booming, and WordPress (still dominating) is slowly losing market share. There has yet to be a definitive successor to WordPress. Still, if you have never checked out any new tools to build websites, personal or company websites in recent years, I recommend looking at the Jamstack 2022 report (featured in #81). The site also lists static website builders and headless CMSs, giving you a feeling of what’s going on in the CMS space.

B2B Content Creators

Several companies shifted budgets from “classic” performance marketing (Google Ads, FB/IG ads etc.) to creator-driven channels. I am talking about B2B niche marketing channels, not lifestyle influencers on IG.

Marketplaces like Swapstack (featured in #75), which connect brands with newsletter writers more easily, grew in 2022. Using such platforms, you can run creator-driven campaigns at scale.

I ran a campaign via Swapstack and can see the benefits of using such a site.

Ahrefs is one company that went in on sponsoring creators at scale. As I wrote on Twitter:

Social Media

The Twitter drama
The back and forth of Musk buying Twitter or not buying it dominated the news a lot. Now he is in charge and driving it into the ground. Twitter will keep existing, but in the long term, most users will not like to be part of a social network driven by a maniac and right-wingers.

Twitter was everything to me. From making friends and professional networking to discussing current events and promoting my business. I built services and products on top of it and spent thousands of dollars on their API. But the behavior of Elon Musk is abusive and irrational. I am leaving the platform.

– Luca Hammer, Data Scientist, University of Siegen

Facebook Metaverse VR fail.
Lots of laughter has been made about the Metaverse effort. I still have to meet someone who tells me something positive about it. I expect it not to take off in 2023. Apple is rumored to launch its VR product next year; let’s see if that happens and if Apple can figure out a way to amaze the masses with VR. This could be like the iPhone 1.0 launch: We thought we already had great phones, but Apple proved we were all wrong. Maybe they are capable of pulling that in VR too.

Mastodon

I opened an account in 2019, but my initial finding was that many people in my network cross-posted stuff from their Twitter accounts. That changed now. I also started posting there more often; I like it. This will be my main social playground for 2023. (more to read on Mastodon in #80)

  • Luca developed a tool that makes migrating from Twitter to Mastodon easier; it’s called Fedifinder.

Polywork

Another Twitter alternative is Polywork. The team released a browser extension that makes finding people to collaborate with on Twitter easier.

Conclusion and Outlook

All AI-powered apps/tools/startups will continue trending next year. We will improve at seeing these new superpowers’ implications in the coming months. And we are just starting – so do not expect things in that area to slow down.

I expect Google to release something big in AI next year. With the buzz that ChatGPT currently gets, the obvious question is how it could hurt Google’s core business in the future.

For productivity tools/apps, I expect that good products/startups will vanish or have a hard time growing. That’s because of the current economic situation, which will make it harder to raise money. Established big tech/productivity companies will try to add trending features to their apps (For example, Microsoft announced some Notion-like product this year).

In social media, apart from many startups that will try to capitalize on the downfall of Twitter, I also expect big existing platforms like LinkedIn and Reddit to grow a lot. Twitter alternatives are popping up everywhere. But just copying Twitter does not work. What comes closest to it is Mastodon, which has been here for years and is in the best position to further benefit from the situation at Twitter.

The B2B content creator space will thrive. Brands will get more experienced in working with independent creators, and more creators will try to monetize their built communities.

This is only a fraction of what I learned and shared this year in my newsletter.

If you want to join me on my learning journey to explore these trends further in 2023, subscribe to my newsletter. You will be the smartest person in the room. Sign Up.

The best content, tips, and tools for curious creators. Twice a month.