mStoner’s Sixth Annual Top Picks


mStoner’s Sixth Annual Top Picks

Dec 23, 2016By Mallory Willsea

mStoner’s Sixth Annual Top Picks is a crowd-sourced collection of resources, sites, tools, books, and designs that my colleagues and I discovered in 2016. I hope you’ll find something new to intrigue or inspire you.

Not familiar with the series? Check out posts from 2011201220132014, and 2015.

Do you have a “top pick” from 2016 to share? Add it in the comments section below or tweet them to us at @mStonerInc. We’ll add our favorite submissions to this post as they come in.

Higher Ed Awesomesauce


The new website for Saint Louis University tells the story of what it means to choose a Jesuit education. Building on a new logo and visual identity, the design of this award-winning site is clean, high-impact, filled with institutional pride, and stunning on mobile. Placing Majors & Programs front and center, the new gets right to the heart of the matter — exploring academic options. In a recent blog post, I thank the SLU Marcom team; we had a blast and they taught me a lot.
— Susan T. Evans, vice president of client solutions

I am really proud of the work we did with Saint Louis University this year. Overall, the site has a clean and modern feel while honoring the rich history of the university. One of my favorite little touches on the site are the line animations (for example, the Lipic Clock Tower Plaza) we created for a variety of buildings on campus. Our design and tech teams worked together on the animations. The use of motion captures the visitor’s attention, which can increase their engagement and length of page visit. We designed eight animations in total and the SLU team has the flexibility to use them in a number of ways across their site.
— Michael Bolton, technical project manager.


I recently discovered the University of Southern California’s writing resource site for their institution’s communicators during a content and storytelling project with the Suzanne Dvorak-Peck School of Social Work. Their central communications team keeps this site up-to-date with content and taxonomy guidelines, best practices for multimedia, the university’s official style guide, and more. For a large and decentralized institution, this is a terrific resource to support writers and communicators across the university.
— Mallory Wood, director of marketing


Elevate app

Elevate is a brain training app that refines your math skills, focus, listening abilities, vocabulary, and more. Named the 2014 app of the year by Apple (I guess I’m a little behind!), Elevate features three daily games for training. Since I’ve started using the app, I’ve noticed that I’m sharper and more focused at work. It’s a great way to start the day!
— Ashley Byrd, creative project manager

After a big move last year, I found the Decluttr app extremely helpful in minimizing my family’s junk accumulation. By scanning the bar codes on unwanted books, CDs, DVDs, games and even a few old phones, I was able to see what my items were worth and ship them off for a quick payout. Perfect for us non-hoarders!
— Lauren Anderson, office administrator

One of my favorite apps for the iPhone is Multi Measures 2, the “most handy measuring tool kit in the world.” Even the free version gives you everything from a surface level and a metronome to a decibel meter and barometer.
— Greg Zguta, technical lead


I downloaded the Roadtrippers app while trying to spice things up on a recent 18 hour drive. Simply input your destination to see all the hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered on your route! Whether you’re trying to find the best local cafe or the World’s Largest Pitchfork, this app makes any road trip more enjoyable.
— Lauren Anderson, office administrator

Books, Blogs, and Podcasts


I discovered the Cultivated Management blog this year. I enjoy the relatively short, but highly insightful posts. I’ve found myself consistently challenged by what I read and have enjoyed trying to put what I learn into practice.
— Michael Bolton, technical project manager.

the attention merchants

Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants” is a fascinating look back on how we’ve allowed our most precious commodity — our attention — to be bought and sold by an array of schemes developed by smart and ruthless businesspeople, from newspaper publishers in the 19th century to Mark Zuckerberg and others today.
— Michael Stoner, president and co-founder


Peter Hayes’ new book “Why: Explaining the Holocaust” approaches the complex and difficult topic of the Holocaust by dedicating a chapter to each of the biggest questions that people ask about the topic: why the Jews, why the Germans, etc. Everyone that I’ve shared the book with has told me that it has deepened their understanding or changed their views in substantive ways. The topic has particular resonance in today’s political climate.
— Voltaire Santos Miran, co-founder and managing director


This year I developed the biggest podcast crush on Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen, hosts of WBEZ’s Nerdette podcast. In each episode, these two wonderful ladies interview inspiring people about whatever they are “nerding out” about – usually their current passion project. Guests range from famous authors, to actors, to politicians, and beyond. My favorite part of each episode is the “homework” that Tricia and Greta ask each guest to assign to listeners at the end of the interview. It is always a unique extension of the episode’s conversation and is a fascinating addition to one’s life.
— Mike Schulz, user experience designer

users journey book

Classic storytelling techniques and modern user journey mapping come together in “The User’s Journey: Storymapping Products that People Love”.
— Fran Zablocki, strategist

How I Built This Logo

In Conan O’Brien’s monologue at the 2013 White House Correspondents dinner, he said that if the press were sorted into tables in a high school cafeteria, then “NPR is the table for kids with peanut allergies.” Despite NPR’s nerd status, I can’t get enough. I love their new podcast “How I Built This,” which covers innovators and entrepreneurs and the stories behind their companies/creations.
— Cassi Greenlee, sales manager


I like mysteries that are deeply grounded in another culture, enabling me to learn something about a new culture while the mystery is being solved. So that’s one reason I like John Burdett’s novels about a half-Thai, half-American detective in “Bangkok 8” and “Bangkok Tattoo”. Another reason to read these novels, though, is that officer Sonchai Jitpleecheep is a devout Buddhist and offers some surprising deep insights in Buddhist thinking and practice.
— Michael Stoner, president and co-founder


Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley provides great advice and a framework for planning that makes creating content much more strategic and, frankly, easier.
— Voltaire Santos Miran, co-founder and managing director

People to Follow

I discovered travel writer Bill Bryson in 2016. I started with his book, A Walk in the Woods. Living near the Appalachian Trail, I was intrigued by the topic and not disappointed. This is one of those laugh-out-loud kind of books — Bryson makes a spontaneous decision to hike the AT and his words let you walk along. Don’t miss the chapter about bears.
— Susan T. Evans, vice president of client solutions


I recommend following Fred Pestello, president at Saint Louis University, on Twitter. I’m a SLU alum, so I might be biased, but he’s on my higher-ed-presidents-to-watch list. Dr. Pestello became SLU’s first non-Jesuit president in 2014 and has already achieved some impressive accomplishments for the University including: partnering with SSM Health on development of a new hospital and medical center and investing $115M in new student housing. But beyond that, he’s just fun to watch and does a great job communicating with the campus community. The most impressive moment for me was his response to outcry from the community when SLU released the new look of the Billiken (our mascot).
— Kate Smith, senior director of finance & administration

You won’t be sorry if you follow Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter. He drops science and fact bombs into the void of internet nonsense daily.
— Fran Zablocki, strategist

adam castro
If you work in enrollment or admissions, you need to follow Adam Castro, vice president for enrollment management at Bloomfield College. The newest co-host of Admissions Live, Adam brings years of experience to the table as he discusses recruitment trends, yield strategies, and hot topics for college admission professionals.
— Mallory Wood, director of marketing

Rachel Nabors is a smart and funny animation developer/instructor, conference presenter, and works on the Microsoft Edge Team.
— Kim Ward, front-end developer

Grab Bag


I am officially obsessed with This Is Us — there’s really nothing else like it on television right now. The storytelling is magnificent, the twists are shocking, and the emotions are real and relatable. I’ve certainly shed more than a couple tears!
— Lizzy Cyliax, project coordinator


My highlight of 2016 was taking my dad to our first ever World Series game at Wrigley Field and experiencing the Chicago Cubs championship season. I’m a third generation Cubs fan and can remember sitting in the last row of the upper deck with my grandmother in the early 80’s. I attended hundreds of games with my dad and brothers growing up and I’ve had season tickets since 1999, even keeping them when we moved to St. Louis in 2006. I follow the team very closely on a daily basis — it’s part of the rhythm of my life — and Wrigley Field feels like home. Being a Cub fan is basically part of who I am and I’ve lived my whole life thinking of this magical, hazy, dreamy, far-off place in the future where the Cubs would win the World Series. And this year, it finally happened.
— Bill McLaughlin, director of account services and website development


Use Chrome? Check out this cool extension, RenameTab, that does exactly what the name implies.
— Kim Ward, front-end developer


Released in early 2016, the French film Marguerite was far and away my favorite movie of the year. In my opinion, there is no way the copy-cat film “Florence Foster Jenkins” starring Meryl Streep can hold a candle to Marguerite. The main character, played by the talented Catherine Frot, is a woman passionately devoted to the arts, particularly opera. The catch is, she is a terrible, terrible singer. Everyone knows it, except for her, and yet … no one will her tell her. At the start of the film, you find Marguerite laughable. By the end, you have heart-wrenching empathy for this desperately delusional character. It’s on Netflix, so start streaming.
— Cassi Greenlee, sales manager


Traveling to Orlando? I’m officially obsessed with Highball and Harvest, the restaurant and bar at the Ritz Carlton. (Our team ate here three times during a recent conference. It’s seriously that good.) Cocktails are unique, food is farm-to-table, and the deviled eggs are a must.
— Mallory Wood, director of marketing

food 52 logo

I’ve followed Food52 — a food, cooking, and lifestyle site — for years. In 2016, I found myself cooking from the tasty, inspiring, and often-simple recipes the editors and community share.
— Michael Stoner, president and co-founder

We can’t wait to hear your top picks for 2016. Leave a comment or tweet them to @mStonerInc.

  • Mallory Willsea

    Mallory Willsea Director of Marketing and Sales I ride the line between ESTJ and ISTJ. What does that mean for mStoner, besides entertaining colleagues with my wit and charm? I'm a problem-solver and enjoy working through our potential client's challenges to identify solutions and how a partnership with mStoner will bring value.