I’ve been involved with do-it-yourself music in the Greater Philadelphia area for over a decade now. Throughout this time, I have occupied every potential role: showgoer, performer, promoter, you name it.
The groups I’ve ended up with typically share a similar genesis.
Here’s a picture: you’re sitting in a half-empty living room. Below you, a crowded basement pulses with tame tropes and half-hearted expressions. Some loudmouth nursing a 40oz foolishly exchanges charm for pretension and out from a groggy, smoke-induced stupor, an assertion springs: “Jawbreaker is the definitive Bay-Area rock band of the 90s. Miss me with that Green Day sh*t.”
Leaping (or staggering) to your feet, you fumble for rejoinders. It’s then that you find yourself thrust into a spirited dialogue with an equally impassioned stranger.
One thing leads to another. Chatting and chain-smoking, you trade visions, earnestly planning a potential project only to wake up the next morning without energy or interest in maintaining contact. After all, they smoked menthols— and your inner pre-teen still weeps to Green Day. You don’t need that kind of energy in your life.
The story repeats itself ad nauseam and there’s no light at either end of the tunnel.
Enter: Plaze. Philadelphia’s hottest DIY networking app. Aiming to revamp the way musicians discover one another, Plaze offers a digital alternative to the oft-excruciating process of starting a band.
What is Plaze?
Before I dig in, let me provide some background about Plaze. Like most innovations, Plaze was inspired by a problem. As stated in the first sentence of the Our Story portion on their website: “Plaze started with a problem.”
Call it journalistic intuition.
Co-founder Jamie Mallia, a drummer, recounts his story. It’s a common one, and we all have our own version. An exciting new musical partnership abruptly halted upon the realization that the person you have agreed to jam with is, shall we say, grossly incompetent.
Naturally, the unevenness of their skillset led to an awkward, short-lived alliance. That’s when the big idea hit: an app that facilitates discovery among creatives. One that promotes networking and collaboration while helping weed out the mismatches.
Plaze looks to one-up other avenues of creative networking like Facebook and Reddit. It does so by tailoring the experience to the expressed needs of its users. It is, however, currently a Philadelphia-centric app.
A New Way of Networking
For the sake of transparency, I must share my initial skepticism. And I’ll be the first to admit that this is likely the result of my reverence for the punk ethos. But honestly, that’s a stuffy holdover.
And punk, in its truest and most essential form, is about moving forward. Embracing change, even (and especially) when it threatens tradition. The fruits of punk that have prevailed throughout history have been those that, in threatening tradition, offers a constructive, democratic alternative. And so, with that renewed understanding in mind, I’m downloading Plaze.
Nowadays, there’s an app to help you with everything from grocery delivery services to keeping your mental health in check. So, really, why shouldn’t there be an app for meeting other local creatives?
Mind you, this article will encapsulate one person’s attempt at using the app.
My experience doesn’t speak for the whole of us. Everyone who uses this app, with their own style, expectations, intentions, and skill sets will undoubtedly yield a unique experience. With any hope, anyway.
In a sense, you can consider this less of a review and more of an account. The semantic difference is that, in this case, I won’t submit an official judgment.
How’s the User Interface?
Upon downloading Plaze, you’ll find that the interface is simple and intuitive. For those of us experienced with any of those countless dating apps, it’s downright familiar. This isn’t a dating app though, so there’s some hope for you yet. Just think of all the time you’ll save not having to worry about a punchy new pick-up line.
All of the features are offered in a palatable four-tab menu. The tabs are as follows:
You’re going to want to add a picture or two. Really flesh out your profile here. Honestly, this function alone is pretty dope. Consider it a central hub for all of your artist profile pages. Now you can have your Bandcamp, Spotify, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and personal website all in one place. Artists are not terribly well-known for being, well, unlazy— so this certainly helps the discovery process along!
The profile section is also where you’ll outline your skillset. Shameless promotion here, but I need to show photos to properly explain.
This also provides me the opportunity to show off this sleek, seamlessly navigable interface. Despite being a millennial, my handling of most new technology is more in line with that of a 100-year-old man. But believe you me, sonny: this app is absolutely easy to handle. Golly!
You can write up a quick blurb about yourself and add all of your skills. This includes both on-stage and off-stage skills; which means audio engineers, promoters, teachers, and photographers all have a place in Plaze.
Whatever your niche, Plaze has thought of ways to plug it into the scene. Speaking of the scene, let’s hop to the next tab.
This function puts you in the same room as what’s happening in your area. At all times. The page is split up into two subsections, both of which are very simply laid out: Show Posters and Community. These sections borrow a lot of the convenient aspects of Facebook or Reddit.
Show Posters, as its name suggests, is purely a feed for flyers. It’s like an infinite scroll of calendar events for upcoming shows. You can interact with these the same way you would Facebook events, including RSVPs, comments, and likes.
Community is a collection of threads, not unlike Reddit, where people can post about any number of things. Want to promote an upcoming album release? Need a new drummer? Maybe you’re a promoter in search of an opening act. Whatever your need, this section allows you the freedom to express it.
Anyone can make a show flyer or community post!
The map function essentially contextualizes people’s profiles in a geographic layout. This is a cool feature, but its benefits are limited to showing exactly where each individual profile is. It’s a helpful tool, nonetheless.
This page contains the meat and potatoes of the app. It provides full access to all other profiles on Plaze. A search bar at the top of the page offers a speedy look-up for specific people. Or you can scroll along casually, thumbing through profiles of Plaze users. (Plazers? Plazeers?)
To make it even more convenient, it splits up profiles into different categories based on each user’s expressed intent. Here are some of the subsections: Freelance Clients, Lookin’ For Bandmates, Jam For Fun, Find Local Shows, and Near You. It’s as simple as sending a message. From there, you’re free to discuss as you please! You can even curate your own feed, narrowing it down to your specific need.
Closing Thoughts: Is Plaze worth it?
Plaze offers an entirely free platform for exploring your scene. You stand to lose nothing, and the gains are immeasurable. it’s not limited to musicians, either. Plaze is perfect for artist-designers, audio engineers, promoters, podcasters, videographers, and journalists. Every creative personality is capable of offering (and monetizing) their skills with this app.
The most inspiring part of Plaze is the way it injects a burst of democracy into an experience historically fraught with crossed arms, naysayers, and gatekeepers. Gone are the days of not being able to find the right band members. And never again will you be burdened with the task of having to cold message a show promoter on Instagram, only to be left on read time and time again.
I can speak from experience regarding the difficulties of finding something as seemingly common as a good photographer. You end up just asking a friend with a camera and, oftentimes, you’re underwhelmed with the final product. With Plaze, freelancers are provided a large pool of potential clients and vice versa.
Just like every punk-rocker has a conversion story— a discovery of new, challenging, artistic integrity in the face of an otherwise bland, corporate landscape— so too may every DIY soul be converted into a Plaze-user (Plazite? Plazian? I hate this bit) and reimagine the possibilities of local art.
Even if they don’t f*ck with Green Day.
Bit.ai Review for Business 
When you’re collaborating on documents with other writers or co-workers, how do you keep everyone on the same page?
Truth be told, for most of you, the answer is probably Google Docs. It’s quick, efficient, and easy to share. But what if there was a better way?
Bit.ai professes to be “the world’s most powerful workplace and document collaboration platform.” In this Bit.ai review, we’ll put that claim to the test.
Bit.ai Review: What is Bit.ai?
Co-founded by Raj and Saje Sandhu, Bit.ai has been offering document collaboration to companies like Canon and Harvard University since 2007. The company employs a global team with headquarters in San Francisco.
What does Bit.ai offer?
Bit offers a lot of custom features depending on your business’ workflow. Some of their offerings include:
- Collaborative document editor
- Content library
- Cloud integration
- 100+ file types
- Automated formatting, themes, templates
- End-to-end document sharing
- Branded documents
- Customizable workspaces
We’ll explore some of the key features in the next section.
How much does Bit.ai cost?
Individual users and small teams can use Bit.ai for free. Here’s a breakdown of their three pricing plans:
- Free plan: $0/mo. Up to 5 members, 50 documents, 5MB file limit, 1GB storage.
- Pro plan: $12/mo or $96/yr. Unlimited members and documents, 200MB file limit, 500GB storage.
- Business plan: $20/mo or $180/yr. Unlimited storage, document tracking tools, dedicated support, free guest access.
They also offer bespoke plans for enterprise customers, as well as discounted pricing for education, startups, nonprofits, and businesses involved in the COVID-19 response.
Bit.ai Review: How to sign up
Getting started with Bit.ai is as simple as inputting your email and receiving a six-digit verification code.
After that, you’re asked to fill out information like your name, your job title, and your department at your company, as well as create a password. Right off the bat, Bit puts businesses first, setting itself apart from Google Docs before you even log in.
But it doesn’t stop there. When you sign up, you create a profile for your whole company, getting a custom subdomain for your team to access your library.
And there you have it! Once you’re logged in, you have the option to see a tutorial. If you want to upgrade to a paid plan, use the handy “Upgrade” button in the lower left corner of your dashboard.
Bit.ai Review: Features
The Bit.ai web app includes tabs for your dashboard, a list of all your workspaces, and a link tracking tab for Business and Enterprise users.
The Bit.ai dashboard
Your Bit.ai homepage allows you to view recent activity, featured templates, tutorials and updates, as well as see how close you are to your document limit if you’re a free user.
With this limit, Bit.ai offers almost all of their features to free users. I prefer this model for free versions rather than arbitrarily limiting features.
You can open documents directly from the dashboard, but only using a featured template or a recently-opened one. To create something from scratch, you’ll have to head over to Workspaces.
The Workspaces tab
First thing’s first: create a workspace. Workspaces are where your documents are created, saved, and shared. Once you’ve made one, you can create a new document, either by using a template, importing an existing document, or starting from scratch.
Creating a document with Bit.ai
When you create a new document in Bit.ai, you’re taken to a bare-bones writing editor similar to Notion. I always find it hard to start writing when you don’t have anything visual to guide you, but once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly intuitive.
I think the reason for this no-frills approach is to make it easier to take meeting notes and write down quick thoughts about a project. For more in-depth functions, however, you can highlight your text after you’ve written it to change the formatting. There’s also a + icon next to your cursor that lets you add links, embeds, files, code blocks, and more.
One neat feature of this text editor is the ability to link directly to other documents and content in your Bit.ai library. It makes it much easier to cross-reference documents than it is in Google Docs, Word, Notes, etc., another great benefit for businesses.
There’s no need to save your documents in Bit.ai—that happens automatically. When you’re done, however, you can share it with collaborators and others, lock it to prevent further edits, change its associated colors, view stats and version history. Note: exporting is only available for paid users.
Bit.ai writing templates
Bit offers a huge range of templates, with themes geared towards managers, marketers, designers, educators, and much more. Some of these are designed to function as static documents, such as thesis papers. Others can be hubs for entire business processes, like the video production template.
After trying out a few of these templates, they’re great at showing off all of Bit.ai’s functionality, but they’re useful even if you don’t use Bit for everything. They offer great templates for outlining your processes, making it easier to set a roadmap and including things you might not have thought of.
Importing documents into Bit.ai
While Bit.ai professes to support a massive range of file types, their import menu is a little peculiar. You can choose to import from “Word” (which just allows you to import .docx files from your computer), from a number of cloud-based sources, or Markdown, .txt, and .pdf files.
The strange thing is, you can’t click on “Word” and then upload a .txt file, nor can you click on “PDF” and upload a Word doc. I have no idea why it’s formatted like this, but it made my upload attempts very confusing.
Not to mention, formatting isn’t included when you upload, and the first two uncommon file types I tried (Pages and Final Draft) were both incompatible.
Bit.ai Review: Final thoughts
So, how does Bit.ai live up to its thesis statement? Is it really “the world’s most powerful document collaboration platform?”
Eh, I don’t know about powerful. It’s mighty useful, and certainly more business-oriented than any of its major competitors. But it’s actually a little lacking as a writing tool. You can’t choose a font, there’s no toolbar, and there’s limited formatting options.
There are some good resources here for content management. The templates are stellar, and it has some of the easiest tools for cross-referencing other documents that I’ve ever seen. However, I’ve definitely seen tools that make it easier to organize documents and upload from your device.
Final grade: 6/10 😐
Loom Review: The Future of Video Sharing?
Let’s say you’re working with a design service.
You’re working on a whole new vision for your company, and you need to articulate that vision to your designers. Sometimes, a simple text chat isn’t enough to convey what you have in mind. That’s where Loom comes in.
Loom allows users to quickly create videos with screen and face recordings. These make it easy to create tutorials, onboarding videos, and to share new information with your team.
How does this new spin on video sharing shape up? Here’s our Loom review.
What is Loom?
Founded in 2015, Loom has become a massive force in the business world for its convenient video tools. It now boasts over 14 million users, including high-profile companies like Netflix, Volvo, Apple, and Ticketmaster.
Some of the use cases for Loom include:
- Coordinating with teams
- Customer support
You can get started with Loom for free—which is probably a big part of the reason they can boast so many users. It’s one of the easiest ways to create quick videos with editing and transcribing tools included.
Loom offers three pricing plans:
- Starter – $0/mo. Up to 25 videos per person for up to 50 people. Videos can be up to 5 minutes long. Editing and transcribing tools included.
- Business – $150/yr or $15/mo. Unlimited creators, videos, and length. Includes custom branding, engagement insights, embedded links, password protection, video uploads
- Enterprise – Contact sales for pricing. Includes advanced security, admin controls, dedicated support, and Salesforce integration.
Teachers can also apply for Loom for Education. This free tool includes unlimited videos of up to 45 minutes, plus interactive elements, password protection, viewer insights, and more.
How to get started with Loom
You can sign up with Loom for free using Google, Slack, or Apple accounts. You can also simply sign up with an email and password, or use SSO (single sign-on) if your employer has an account.
Once you create your Loom account, you’ll get the chance to see the terms of service and privacy policies, which I always appreciate.
You’ll be guided through a few short screens when you sign up. First, you’re asked whether you’ll be using Loom for work, education, or personal projects. Next, you’ll get the opportunity to name your workspace and invite friends and colleagues to join it.
Loom review: features
To actually make something with Loom, you’ll have to install it on your computer, either as an app or a Chrome extension. This is an extra step, but for me, it was another indication of their commitment to privacy. I don’t know about you, but when a website wants to use my mic and camera, I instantly freak out.
The Loom app appears as a simple overlay on your screen, with a face cam in the lower left corner and a recording timer on the upper left. A small window allows you to change settings for your recording, including:
- Toggle screen recording and camera
- Full screen, window, or custom size
- Camera and microphone options
- Recording quality
This neat feature allows you to create and customize presentation slides for your video. It seems like a useful tool for tutorials and classroom presentations (although you might get more customization options from simply creating a PowerPoint).
This simple notepad sticks on your screen, helping you stay prepared for long-form and in-depth presentations. Conveniently, the notes won’t appear in your video, and you can move around or resize the window as you see fit.
It’s really convenient to have your notes on-screen without obstructing your video, but the feature isn’t quite perfect. You can make your text bold, italicized, underlined, or
struck through, but that’s about it.
The other issue is with the app itself. This might just be a me problem, but it seems to shut down unexpectedly when you perform certain actions like opening a menu or taking a screenshot. The notes, however, stay in their place, even when the app is closed.
Camera effects and drawing
Once you start recording, you can quickly add backgrounds and frames to your video window for a personalized experience.
There’s also a drawing tool you can use while you record to highlight information on your screen. I found this tool fun, but I wish you could toggle how long the drawings last on screen (as of now, it’s only about 5 seconds).
Recording and sharing with Loom
Naturally, the recording quality on Loom is only as good as your mic and camera setup. Still, I was quite impressed with the speed and quality of the recording. The instant I stopped my 2.5-minute recording, the video was up on Loom, with a URL ready to be shared and an automated transcript you can edit.
It’s really convenient to have the link ready to go right away. You can add tags, a thumbnail, and a call to action to your video, plus change settings and edit the transcript.
There’s also a surprisingly solid video editing tool, letting you cut out clips and splice in other Loom recordings.
You can share your video right away using the Loom link, or quickly download it as an mp4 and modify it however you like.
Loom review: Is it the best?
Loom isn’t the only option out there for sharing screen and camera recordings. For instance, if your team already uses Slack, you can create screen sharing video clips directly from there and not have to worry about another service.
Still, there’s a reason so many big names are using Loom. It offers videos that instantly upload with real-time transcription and easy sharing. It’s an absolute game changer for onboarding, education, and reducing the need for unnecessary meetings.
Which version of Loom should you use?
For most users, the free version of Loom should be plenty. The Business version is most useful for large-scale teams that want to incorporate Loom into their everyday workflow. For instance, a company may use Loom to have every manager present a monthly progress report.
Where can Loom improve?
My one major gripe with Loom is the desktop app. It’s got great UI and some cool features, but it seems glitchy, closes randomly, and can be hard to navigate. The Chrome extension is similarly annoying at times.
Final Loom review: 9/10 🥳
Hypage Review: Is It Better than Linktree?
“Link in bio.”
The phrase is so ubiquitous, it’s almost lost its meaning. If you have a public-facing social media presence, you’ve had to think about what link you’ll put in your bio.
Hypage offers a new solution. Like Linktree, it lets you put your socials, your work, and all your other important links in one place. But it also lets you sell merch, subscriptions, and other digital products.
Is this the next big thing for content creators and entrepreneurs? Here’s our Hypage review.
Hypage is a product by Hyax, a broader platform for selling digital products. Hyax itself is part of Rgrowth, a product incubator that also created the giveaway tool Vyper.
But chances are, you don’t care about all that. What can Hypage do for you?
First of all, chill. Second of all, Hypage claims it can cover your bases from all of the following services in one:
- Linktree—Compile all your links in one place
- Gumroad—Sell digital content to your fans
- Patreon—Create your own membership
- Ko-fi—Accept instant donations
- Substack—Curate an email list
On top of everything else, Hypage takes zero transaction fees. They’re a subscription-based service, so you pay a simple monthly fee and get to keep whatever you earn from your content.
Anyone can sign up for Hypage for free, but like I said, they make their money off of subscriptions. That means, as the old saying goes, you gotta spend money to make money.
Hypage offers three payment plans:
- Free – An unlimited free tier that lets you create a fully custom bio link with a hy.page URL.
- Pro – $19/mo. Allows you to sell products, accept donations, take fan requests, removes Hypage branding.
- Enterprise – $39/mo. Allows you to sell subscriptions and memberships.
How to sign up for Hypage
You can either sign up for Hypage with a free account, or try a free trial of a Pro plan. Either way, your first step is creating a username, email and password.
Once you sign up, you’ll be asked what industry you’re in. The options include ecommerce, SaaS, music, digital marketing, and a few others. For the purpose of this review, I chose blogging.
On the next screen, you’re asked to create a project; on the Pro plan, you can have up to three. Think of each project as a different brand, each with its own URL. Each project also has its own dashboard.
The Hypage dashboard
The homepage of your dashboard includes a summary of your page’s activity: new people, orders, and revenue. Beyond that, there are sections dedicated to Hypage’s main functions:
- Your link page
As well as sections to keep track of orders, users, and settings.
Setting up your link page
Before you get into page design, you’re invited to add as many links as you’d like. With custom icons and unique link settings, you can really add and customize any link you can imagine. You even have the option to embed code, including video.
Next, you’re taken to the design tab, where you can fully customize your text, colors, and backgrounds. The layout is stagnant, but in my opinion, it looks more stylish and functional than the default layout for Linktree.
Keep in mind, on a free plan, your page will include Hypage branding. Pro users can eliminate that branding, but you’ll still have to use either a hy.page or links.page URL.
Selling products and memberships
Hypage offers a great deal of free rein for selling products and services. It’s a bit of a cheat, but you could really use this as an ecommerce tool. At the very least, ecommerce companies can easily use this platform to showcase their latest and most popular products.
You can create a description, add images, set an inventory, add digital files and links for deliverables, and choose from a range of pricing options. They seem to emphasize Stripe integration, but you can also set up through PayPal.
Memberships are where the industry you picked when you signed up comes into play. Since I signed up as a blogger, it orients my membership page as a blog.
The customization options are similar to those of your link page. It’s not nearly as in-depth as a web design tool like WordPress, but it’s fairly in line with other subscription blogging platforms like Medium, Substack, and Patreon.
The layout is slightly different for users in other industries. Still, you basically create separate outlines for the homepage and for each individual post. You can also choose whether each post is paywalled or free.
Final Hypage review: Is it the future?
Let’s return to the question of Hypage vs. Linktree.
Linktree’s Pro plan costs $9/mo, less than half of Hypage’s. For that price, they offer extensive analytics, design options, martech, and yes, monetization tools. You can accept payments and sell ecommerce products directly through Linktree.
Still, Hypage certainly offers a few things that Linktree doesn’t. Most notably, it allows you to create a Patreon-style subscription page embedded in your bio link. The analytics aren’t all that impressive, but this feature certainly sets them apart.
You also have to consider the basic product. As a free, bare-bones bio link service, is Hypage better than Linktree? Honestly, yeah. It’s just well designed, with a great array of custom options.
No, Hypage is not the only place to create a bio link and sell digital products on one site. With its high prices, it’s not likely to shake the table, even though it lets you keep your revenue. Unless you have a huge audience, the cut you take from Substack or Patreon is probably a better deal.
For marketing, however, it’s always great to cut out excess and try to keep everything in one place. In that regard, and as a more stylish option for simple, free bio links, Hypage does have something to offer.