The Social Robot http://thesocialrobot.com Fri, 12 Aug 2016 14:00:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Television Shows Are As Good As Old Friends http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/08/oldfriends/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/08/oldfriends/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 14:00:57 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5345 Throughout my life I’ve found it easy to make friends. (This boast is part of a larger illustration, I promise.) I mean that everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve always had a volume of friends. (Trust me.) Some people just have one or two buddies with whom they are truly intimate. I don’t think it’s possible to […]

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golden-age-of-televisionThroughout my life I’ve found it easy to make friends. (This boast is part of a larger illustration, I promise.) I mean that everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve always had a volume of friends. (Trust me.)

Some people just have one or two buddies with whom they are truly intimate. I don’t think it’s possible to really be close to 40 or 50 people, but I have a long list of guests I’d let crash on my couch for a couple days.

I’ve retained a core group of friends from elementary and high school with whom I will probably always share a bond, but I don’t get to see any of them on a daily basis.

When I moved to college I made new friends living in the dorms, at improv practice, and at other universities (where we would sometimes do improv).

I moved to Dallas a little over a year ago. Again, through the improv theater mostly, I’ve made a group of friends with whom I enjoy spending time. Now that we’ve all moved around, these pockets of friends exist throughout the country — Kansas City, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey.

When I’m home in Kansas I enjoy spending even a couple hours catching up with people I once saw on a daily basis. Sitting down for dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in six months, the familiarity sinks in quickly. It feels like I just talked to this person yesterday.

TV shows offer comfort in small doses

Seasons of prestige dramas on HBO, for example, usually run about 10 hours total. You spend only small chunks of time with these groups of characters, but you remember them. You care about them. A new season finally comes out and you get to catch up with one another.

Reuniting feels good, and it’s painful when you eventually have to say goodbye again. The characters and settings are like that friend you haven’t seen in six months — (usually thanks to a little narrative structure) you sit down with them and everything comes rushing back. Barring a cancellation, you know you’ll get to watch more House of Cards in less than a year, but when that world is fresh in your mind, it can feel like an eternity.

Media are imaginary friends for adults

TV shows and podcasts offer us intimate experiences that we can substitute for human interactions. That almost sounds like a dark joke, but when you live in a city where you have to drive 30 minutes each way to get to your friend’s house, sometimes it’s easier to just watch an episode of Mr. Robot.

In college, I could walk 15 minutes and spend $5 to get drunk with my friends at a stripmall of bars. I spend that on parking now.

Weeknight forays simply don’t make economic sense anymore. That conclusion bummed me out initially, but I’ve come around. I don’t consider it healthy to replace all human friendships with Netflix shows, but I also don’t think anyone should be ashamed about the comfort they experience while watching Stranger Things or listening to This American Life.

My favorite podcast is Harmontown. When I listen to an episode, it’s like I’m hanging out with a familiar group of friends. I’ve consumed hundreds of hours of this show. I know the cast and their temperaments. I laugh because someone refers to an incident from twenty episodes ago — twenty weeks ago.

We have a history with the media we consume. I’ve known Tyrion Lannister way longer than any of these people in Dallas. I don’t confide in fictional characters, and I value the friendships I have with fellow improvisors here. But as with my friends from elementary school, the length of a relationship matters.

I mean to humanize media, not dehumanize humans. People and TV shows come in and out of your life. It’s okay that they mean something. Enjoy each one while you have it.

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Pokemon Go Explodes Into Existence http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/pokemon/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/pokemon/#respond Thu, 28 Jul 2016 14:30:14 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5340 I played Pokemon religiously growing up. I got a Gameboy Pocket for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old. I drained countless pairs of double A’s on Red Version. I watched the Pokemon cartoon in the afternoons when I got home from school. As I grew up, so did Pokemon — releasing more […]

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PokemonI played Pokemon religiously growing up. I got a Gameboy Pocket for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old. I drained countless pairs of double A’s on Red Version. I watched the Pokemon cartoon in the afternoons when I got home from school. As I grew up, so did Pokemon — releasing more and more editions of the game. I’d add to my collection all summer. When my parents told me to go outside, I’d take my Gameboy with me and play there. I had books that included maps of the various regions — Johto, Kanto — and complete lists of the Pokemon and all of their abilities. I bought the last Pokemon game I have purchased my freshman year of college, more than ten years after my first game. I still play through them once in awhile.

I don’t play Pokemon Go.

Niantic Labs released the augmented reality game on July 6th. The rest has been a blur.

To outsiders, the game presents annoyances: herds of people darting back and forth through public spaces, heads buried in their phones; whole tables of people staring down at their screens during lunchtime conversations. Stories have surfaced of kids asking strangers for access to their backyards in the name of conquest. And, of course, there’s this.

To insiders however, the app offers a video game come to life. It taps into the nostalgia of a rabid fan base, making concrete (to some degree) what had previously been a childhood fantasy. Everyone who ever played the Pokemon games growing up most assuredly dreamt of a reality in which they actually possessed and raised a pocket monster of their own.

Regardless of your player status, Pokemon Go has been an ubiquitous force for the last three weeks. During a recent trip home my mom asked me if I had the game so she could play it. That never happened growing up. The sheer volume of people playing Pokemon Go has created huge implications for the tech world, and the world at large.

Pokemon Go as a digital marketing tool

How often does a brand new customer base of 21 million people appear over night? That’s the number of daily users for Pokemon Go, and the game hasn’t even finished its rollout. Businesses started to capitalize immediately.

Restaurants and coffee shops started advertising free wifi and check discounts for players that wanted to stop in. Since the game is location-based, those in the hunt for a Pikachu have to physically go to specific locations to claim their prize. Businesses that cater to players can catch the eye of potential customers that may not have known the business existed.

PokemonPlus, there are in-game methods of attracting players. Businesses can purchase “lures” to drop at specified Pokestops. If a business is near a Pokestop (generated by the game’s developers), for roughly $1 that business can drop a lure to cause Pokemon to appear in 30-minute intervals. This essentially sends out a beacon to players in the area drawing them to the business. It’s hard to find a better ROI per advertising dollar at the moment.

Pokemon Go as a security risk

While the game is a huge opportunity for commerce, it also presents its own set of risks. Millions and millions of people are downloading this game every day — some of them from third-party sites, which can be harbingers for malware.

Some raised concern over the permissions the app requested upon download. The developers have since said that they did not intend to require access to users’ Gmail and Google Docs, but it’s discomforting to consider the powerful combination of access and malware on your phone.

Then, of course, there’s the physical security threat. Police reports have been filed suggesting that criminals have lured Pokemon Go players to a particular place in order to rob them. And as far as the users themselves, with such a dedicated collection of players, it’s not hard to imagine some trespassing in order to secure a rare monster.

No matter your opinions or involvement with the game, you must acknowledge that Pokemon Go is a phenomenon. It’s hard to say if the game is here to stay just yet. The daily user numbers have already waned slightly, but in this moment, Pokemon Go certainly presents an opportunity.

My decision not to play Pokemon Go isn’t a principled one. (For the sake of my livelihood as a tech-centric guy who writes for a digital marketing firm I probably should play the game.) My current workload puts enough of a strain on my phone battery. As a freelancer, I don’t really need another distraction available to me 24/7. I like playing through the platform games for a week or so once every year or two. It’s a memory to which I have direct access.

I’m interested to see what Pokemon Go will become. I’m content to watch it from the outside.

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How Often do you Unplug? http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/how-often-do-you-unplug/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/how-often-do-you-unplug/#respond Mon, 25 Jul 2016 12:37:10 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5336 We are a generation of now. Of being entertained at all times, and of having immediate access to any number of programs, games, and of course, communication. We can reach out to others in multiple mediums at any given time. In fact, it’s expected. With computers and mobile phones essentially acting as pocket computers, this […]

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Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 7.35.38 AMWe are a generation of now. Of being entertained at all times, and of having immediate access to any number of programs, games, and of course, communication. We can reach out to others in multiple mediums at any given time. In fact, it’s expected. With computers and mobile phones essentially acting as pocket computers, this has become part of the status quo. If someone isn’t responding to you, it’s almost deliberate; that’s how easy it is to get ahold of people in the year 2016.

But what about those times you just need to unplug? Or even to focus on one form of communication at a time? If you’re anything like this blogger, you can get overwhelmed by the constant amount of notifications. There are texts, IMs, emails, and for some reason, calls. (Seriously, email me or I will forget to call you back and/or never listen to your voicemail. It’s nothing personal; calls interrupt your entire chain of thought.)

Anyway, there’s a whole mess of talking – in some form or another – all going on at once. Sometimes we just need a break. It might be a short one, but it can do the brain some serious good. Look, some way smart people even did their homework to prove that that’s true.

So … Do you unplug? Or are you constantly tuned in, afraid you’ll miss out on something great? (Or something mediocre?) We want to know. What are the social norms, and how many of us are sticking to them – that is, on your own time, after you’d had a solid electronics break.

We’ll get back to you on our own time, too.

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Crisis and Social Media: The New Normal http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/crisis-social-media-new-normal/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/07/crisis-social-media-new-normal/#respond Fri, 08 Jul 2016 14:31:22 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5324 Last night my girlfriend and I sat on the couch watching Mr. Robot. I thought I heard a faint popping noise that I assumed came from Independence Day holdovers. We live three miles from downtown Dallas. About ten minutes later, I checked the group message I share with high school friends. One of them had […]

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Downtown-Dallas-Crisis2Last night my girlfriend and I sat on the couch watching Mr. Robot. I thought I heard a faint popping noise that I assumed came from Independence Day holdovers. We live three miles from downtown Dallas. About ten minutes later, I checked the group message I share with high school friends. One of them had said “I wouldn’t go outside if I were you, Neely.” I didn’t understand what that meant. I checked Twitter and the rest of my night got sucked into a wormhole.

It’s unmistakable, the feeling of watching a crisis unfold online. It starts with a kernel. You begin connecting dots and speculating in your head while you pan for more information. Even with a lightning-fast news source like Twitter, it takes time to figure out what’s happening. A clearer picture starts to cut through the chaos. Then that picture homogenizes. The videos and personal accounts are sieved until a few pieces of information remain. They’re then rapidly circulated by the cruise ships full of people that begin to arrive online. Eventually, a trend search becomes useless because everyone is recycling the same information again and again.

There had been a protest downtown. Someone(s) shot police officers. That was all we knew right away.

After 25 minutes on Twitter and Reddit, we turned on our cable box — which I had cancelled, effective today — to watch the local news. Multiple reporters had stationed themselves on the fringe of the fray downtown. Observations and eyewitnesses added some context, but chaos was the prevailing character.

I talked with my parents, and my girlfriend talked with hers. My mom hadn’t seen any news that night because she had been at a meeting.

On Facebook, I watched people begin to mark themselves as “safe” during “Violent Crime in Downtown Dallas.” I thought that title seemed strange at the time. It’s actually good reporting. We feel compelled to label every crisis as it happens. We have to know the motivations behind horrific actions in order to rationalize them. “Person X believes Y, so — as disgusting as Z is — it makes sense that they would do Z.”

Rationalizing terrorism normalizes terrorism. Labels politicize these atrocities, but I’m not making a political statement. Do you feel disoriented, afraid, angry, and/or sad in the wake of last night’s events? Then it was terrorism.

In a way, those first twenty minutes of a Twitter trend are a cleaner form of reporting than we often get from professional news sources. It’s just data pouring in from an almost-random sample of people. It hasn’t yet been hewn into statistics to serve a cause. It’s also a faster form of news. It has become the way you download in a time of crisis.

Five years ago, if something happened, I turned on CNN. Now I use a microblog and local news coverage. I went to the Atlanta-based news giant’s website this morning. I saw the headline regarding a body count from last night. Five officers dead. There was also a red, clickable box next to it that said “WATCH CNN.”

The last year has felt more crisis-laden than any year before in my life. Social media are where you learn about a crisis, and where you’ll see it chopped and sold for parts.

It doesn’t feel bad. It feels normal. And that feels bad.

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Trend manipulation and #HeterosexualPrideDay http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/trend-manipulation/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/trend-manipulation/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:30:56 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5320 Is the Internet trolling itself with this trend? Social media are home to acidic opinions, ready to melt the world around them. But what happened Wednesday morning felt like a nudge from an invisible hand. The question is worth asking. The hashtag #heterosexualprideday appeared in 114K tweets by 7:15 AM, central time. Heterosexual pride was […]

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trend-heterosexual-prideIs the Internet trolling itself with this trend?

Social media are home to acidic opinions, ready to melt the world around them. But what happened Wednesday morning felt like a nudge from an invisible hand. The question is worth asking.

The hashtag #heterosexualprideday appeared in 114K tweets by 7:15 AM, central time.

Heterosexual pride was a movement that largely took hold in the nineties as a counter to gay pride (see also: #AllLivesMatter).

I won’t take time to explain why this angers people. Just check Twitter, it’s pretty thorough.

A quick trend search for the topic reveals an avalanche of sarcastic quips. Memes, .gifs, and subreddit links all chip in to help the Twittersphere dismantle the farcical hashtag.

Trend perpetuation has happened before

During my research, the proponents of #heterosexualprideday were so few-and-far-between, that even the supporters seemed disingenuous. It reminded me of last year’s “Boycott Star Wars” campaign that had almost no legitimate backing. The trend survived on the outrage of those who were justifiably disgusted.

When there’s no one on the other side of an argument, yelling doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything.

By commenting on the movement using the movement’s hashtag, you spin the movement forward. Maybe your goal is to ridicule the trend for being tone-deaf, and you need the hashtag as evidence in your argument. Even so, that chess move will always be undercut by the inevitable slew of self-fulfilling tweets reading, “How is #heterosexualprideday a thing?”

In this case, I’m watching the trend develop live. I have a few good guesses as to where this thing originated, but unlike with the Star Wars incident, I don’t know. Which is why I have to ask, “Is the Internet trolling itself?”

Twitter has become one of the most widely consumed news sources in the world. It’s actively wrestling the mantle away from cable, so it seems only natural that it would eventually pull a cable news move. Using a straw man argument to fuel a 24-hour news cycle, that’s textbook. It’s also the reason I don’t watch CNN.

Heterosexual Pride Day is basically a “you up?” text from Twitter

Twitter users are always up.

Social mediaphiles have the ingenuity of a Japanese elementary school gym class. They’re always active. A halfway-serious proposal is all they need to invite themselves over for a three day stay.

Could Twitter be making things up to stir the pot? Is the type of rhetoric I just used part of the problem?

More likely, #heterosexualprideday is a prompt from a conservative group. But maybe a struggling biology student just got confused. Regardless of intent, the manipulation worked. The seed has taken hold. The trend towers over runners-up like #ThingsIWillAlwaysBe.

The resounding disapproval of Heterosexual Pride Day looks like a win for progress, but what’s the end goal? What’s the best-case scenario? After being thoroughly routed, all supporters of this polarizing stance have to change their banners to House Social Equality and swear fealty to Ru Paul?

The social media battlefield is not where opinions are altered.

Personally, I enjoy seeing ignorance struck down. The overwhelming “no” from Twitter users is encouraging given the typically toxic environment. But remember, a one-sided argument is ultimately just a person shouting at the air in front of them.

This has been a time trial, not a race.

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Make the Bold Choice When Writing http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/make-the-bold-choice-when-writing/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/make-the-bold-choice-when-writing/#respond Wed, 22 Jun 2016 14:00:12 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5312 Acting is all about making a choice. You’ll hear directors and critics refer to a performer’s “choice” as being bold, or weak, or confusing. The words are on the page for the actor. It’s the way he or she chooses to interpret those words that dictates the performance. The relationship between writer and actor or […]

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bold-choice-signActing is all about making a choice. You’ll hear directors and critics refer to a performer’s “choice” as being bold, or weak, or confusing. The words are on the page for the actor. It’s the way he or she chooses to interpret those words that dictates the performance. The relationship between writer and actor or director can sometimes become strained because the writer pens his or her words exactly as they should be delivered. Depending on the egos of the individuals involved, any deviation from the master plan can be interpreted as a criticism.

However, ultimately, writers have the same decisions facing them as performers. As a writer, you still get to make choices. Choosing to move boldly or in an unexpected way can totally change an audience’s perception of your story.

Our culture loves twists, craves them even. We anticipate them happening for the length of entire seasons, novels, and films. You can get lost in a portal while wading through Internet theories about prestige dramas like Game of Thrones. Who’s gonna die? Who’s who’s parent? We devour it. Audiences want to be surprised.

Not every surprise is about shock value. A changeup can be just as lethal as a curveball. Amidst a tension-filled science fiction thriller, the film Ex Machina finds time for a bizarre dance sequence (spoilerish) that injects humor and humanizes the borderline-unfamiliar situation. Ultimately it adds more weight to the film’s haunting conclusion.

When you make the atypical choice as a writer, it snaps the audience to attention. However, when it comes to writing, saying is always orders-of-magnitude-easier than doing.

When writing something for yourself, no matter how many words you key, you’ve always got a theoretical abyss before you. That’s a lot of blank space. I’ve mentioned writer’s block before, but I’m not referring to an absence of motivation now. Even when you’re in-rhythm, making pronounced choices isn’t a given.

A gear shift still needs to feel earned. You want your story or piece to satisfy the audience’s appetite for story, not necessarily its expectations. Emotional honesty for characters and the author is key. Honesty validates the unexpected choice. I learned that from improv.

Improvisation is all made up, just like writing. When improvising though, you cannot revise. That means you have to be clear and bold with your first draft. The audience will shriek with delight when it sees an interesting or unexpected choice. However, the moment you sell out your own character or the scene you’re in for a joke, the audience loses something. You can actually feel the souls withering in the theater.

I don’t suggest that writers should halt their own process to brainstorm ideas for wacky twists. You have to be true to your own style. However, if you have an impulse, follow it and commit to it. That’s a core tenant of improv, and an easy way to empower yourself as a writer. Don’t be afraid of the bold choice. The audience wants you to make it.

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Give Out Your Best Ideas … On a Blog http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/give-out-your-best-ideas-on-a-blog/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/give-out-your-best-ideas-on-a-blog/#respond Mon, 20 Jun 2016 16:28:58 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5304 Everyone is an expert in their own field. They’re immersed in a topic, learning everything there is to know about it … for roughly eight hours a day. Sometimes those topics even run into your personal time or after hours. The point is, however, that you know a whole lot. People come to you with […]

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Everyone is an expert in their own field. They’re immersed in a topic, learning everything there is to know about it … for roughly eight hours a day. Sometimes those topics even run into your personal time or after hours. The point is, however, that you know a whole lot. People come to you with questions, and if you don’t know the answer offhand, chances are you can get it very quickly.

During all of that brainstorming, you’re likely to come up with some new ideas.

So why not share them? No, not in the way that everyone can steal what you thought up, but in the way where you can get others talking and show your expertise.

And you can do so on your blog.

trust fall activity with men in suitsThe days of marketing for marketing’s sake are over. Customers are looking for value in your content. They want to know you’re the real deal, not someone trying to pull the wool over their eyes. And what better way to offer something unique – and extremely valuable – than your best ideas? This can be anything from tips, to potential services or products of the future, to how customers can get better value, and even how they can do things themselves.

There are those who’ve avoided this step. They don’t want to “lose business” or “teach customers how to put them out of a job” by providing too much information. However, that’s no longer a valid business fear. Technology is growing so quickly that consumers can’t keep up with everything needed for a specific field. Besides, businesses are experts in their own categories, meaning anyone who wants something done right will still look toward their help. Meanwhile, there will always still be DIYers, always – whether you put out information or not. Rather than acting off of that fear, it’s better to build trust with those who are current customers, or who could be in the future.

So really, what do you have to lose? Adding to your blog means there are more words for search engines to crawl. It can raise your page ranking, the number of clicks you get, and therefore, the more traffic that comes to your website. And it gains you some serious clout with readers, leading to ongoing and future business.

Consider sharing your industry knowledge for an easy way to win over customers, and gain a bigger online following.

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Self-Driving Cars Offer a Fantastic Future http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/self-driving-cars/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/self-driving-cars/#respond Fri, 10 Jun 2016 14:30:05 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5297 Our most captivating childhood renderings of the future always involved technology: self-driving cars, robot chefs, and space travel. As we get older, maybe we imagine prospective social progress or economic motility, but shiny chrome and talking computers will always hold a special place in our imaginations. Personally, my favorite piece of future tech was the jetpack/hovercraft. How […]

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self-driving-jetpackOur most captivating childhood renderings of the future always involved technology: self-driving cars, robot chefs, and space travel. As we get older, maybe we imagine prospective social progress or economic motility, but shiny chrome and talking computers will always hold a special place in our imaginations.

Personally, my favorite piece of future tech was the jetpack/hovercraft. How can you top a personal flying device? All the best characters — heroes and villains alike (IMAGINE SHOOTING A ROCKET LAUNCHER WHILE FLYING)— could soar through the air at will. I fantasized about wielding such a technology.

Eventually, I saw the world created by 60s cartoons as unrealistic. While The Jetsons may have actually used some plausible technology, they lived in the sky. Siri was on the horizon, but the lack of verisimilitude suspended my suspension of disbelief.

The thing is, we’re here. The equipment and laboratories used in Space 1999 were probably actually dated by the time we got to that year — albeit in a terrestrial setting. Technology has exploded, and some of the James-Bond-pipe-dream stuff that looked like a campy romp is becoming a reality.

Self-driving cars haven’t entered the mainstream, but think about how close we are. Most new luxury cars have brake assistance, steering assistance, and the ability to keep you in your lane. They’re also outfitted with cameras. The Society of Automotive Engineers indicates that according to its scale, most new vehicles are at a 2, or “partial automation.”

Think about the state of our cell phones a decade ago when this was considered cutting edge, and the ability to play music was as rare and elevated as a 1600s Englishman’s ability to read. We can’t be more than ten years from a mainstream tech boom in the auto industry, we’re actually already living it.

Companies like Google are pushing things along by developing a fully-automated model. Its design doesn’t even include a steering wheel or driver pedals. Kinda scary. That’s how we get somewhere, though. While traditional automakers slowly incorporate new technology into existing technology, players without an existing model can operate on the forefront.

The implications for self-driving vehicles are tremendous. Imagine riding the subway without being sandwiched between strangers. All transit time could become productive time. I could be writing this post on the way to a meeting (like I go to meetings). Partial automation is intended to reduce accidents and increase safety. With the millions of test miles being logged by self-driving cars, reliable technology is clearly important to the manufacturer. But there will be collisions, and that brings up another interesting implication: who’s at fault?

Do you blame the manufacturer of the car? The company who designed the software? The driver? The municipality? The Insurance Information Institute isn’t sure yet. According to the institute, most crashes are caused by human error, so theoretically incidents should go down as automation increases. However, the organization acknowledges that liability laws may change in the future to accommodate these cars. We don’t want to scare manufacturers out of progress, but someone will have to pay for the likely-increased cost of repairs, given the more sophisticated parts being incorporated.

Insurance ramifications were never the most exciting part of Jonny Quest episodes. (In fact, they were totally ignored.) The gadgets were. All complications aside, it’s cool that we’re even close to having self-driving cars. That idealistic view of the future doesn’t seem so farfetched. I may never get my jetpack, but who needs to fly when you’ve got an invisible chauffeur?

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Relentless Pinging: Notifications are Losing Their Umph http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/relentless-pinging-notifications-are-losing-their-umph/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/relentless-pinging-notifications-are-losing-their-umph/#respond Mon, 06 Jun 2016 14:50:08 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5293 Last week I logged into Netflix and saw a pile of notifications. A growing number of little red flags, letting me know about new shows that were being released – shows that I had never even seen or heard of. That’s what Netflix thought was worth sharing with me personally. Other sites are no better. […]

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facebook notificationsLast week I logged into Netflix and saw a pile of notifications. A growing number of little red flags, letting me know about new shows that were being released – shows that I had never even seen or heard of. That’s what Netflix thought was worth sharing with me personally.

Other sites are no better. This weekend I didn’t check Facebook for hours and tallied up 15 notifications, a number that doesn’t seem too crazy anymore, considering all they ping about. Except not one of them had anything to do with me. It was all mutual pages that had been posted on and random views … nothing that needed immediate attention. Yet I scrolled through each and every one of them. Twitter and Instagram are better and only notify when something actually pertains – but they also do so via site, push messages, and email. Then there’s Snapchat (even if someone accidently types at you), LinkedIn, texts, emails, Facebook messages, and whatever other type of social apps you belong to – it gets overwhelming.

The Idea of Notifications

In theory, these don’t sound so outrageous. We need to know when something is going on, right? But when something tiny is happening every second of the day, we no longer feel that same, “Yeah, keep me in the loop” attitude. Instead, it feels like a kindergartener constantly tapping on our shoulder. “But teacher, Facebook did this to me,” and “Heeeey, Snapchat is touching me!” And just like any teacher would, we block out the noise. Instead, we adjust our settings and play loud music.

These tattles of seemingly nothingness causes us to become numb to the entire process. It makes us lose track of what we should actually be notified about.

Oh, and can we talk about how you don’t get notifications through Facebook if you’re tagged (even by a friend) on a page you don’t belong to? With all the other crap you tell us about, you can’t tell us when someone we know is directly conversing? Psshhh

This slanted hierarchy system, and the sheer volume of pings are all taking us to a world where dings are almost meaningless. New notification? Who cares. Phone blowing up? Ehh it’s probably nothing. That’s where we’ve landed.

When the alternative is scrolling through text, most of which is unrelated, it’s easy to get bogged down and numb to the entire process.

What’s Next?

Thankfully, settings can be personalized in order to cut out the notifications we don’t want to receive … for the most part. Eventually though, we assume sites will work around this – they’ll find a way to notify us, even when we don’t want to be told. Notifications get people using their programs. They need us to be constantly plugged in, and finding a new way to reach customers can make that happen. That is, until we become numb to that round, too. Leaving us with a circle of being chased and finding new places to hide – and we’ve got to admit, social media, it doesn’t sound that fun. Not even a little bit.

The post Relentless Pinging: Notifications are Losing Their Umph by Bethaney Wallace appeared first on The Social Robot.

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Small Changes Help Escape Writer’s Block http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/small-changes-help-escape-writers-block/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/06/small-changes-help-escape-writers-block/#respond Thu, 02 Jun 2016 13:40:57 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5289 I’m on a beach, yo! Okay, so I’m not actually writing this post from the beach — I can’t risk breaking my computer — but for the last week or so, I’ve been at a beach, both literally and figuratively. This blog finds you midway through my annual family vacation to Cocoa Beach, Florida. I’m […]

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Beach TSRI’m on a beach, yo!

Okay, so I’m not actually writing this post from the beach — I can’t risk breaking my computer — but for the last week or so, I’ve been at a beach, both literally and figuratively. This blog finds you midway through my annual family vacation to Cocoa Beach, Florida.

I’m only 10% bringing this up to brag. Of course I’m enjoying some sun and some adult drinks, but in the last five years, this trip to the South has been more than just a buzzed family gathering; it’s been a writing retreat.

Writers will do anything to escape the maddening effects of writer’s block. You compile ideas throughout your day or week or life, and when you finally have time to write, that’s when the machine grinds to a halt. The switch flips so quickly. The first 200 words of this post fell out seemingly in a single breath. I stepped away for an hour, and it already feels difficult to complete. Anything you can do to vault the mental impasse created by writer’s block helps you retain your sanity.

I write for part of a living now. I have deadlines on a weekly basis to which I must adhere. I’m grateful for this situation. How cool is it to say you’re kind-of a writer? But constantly writing to satisfy the requirements of others can get tiring. In preparation for this Florida trip I got ahead of future deadlines and brought good’ol’pen’n’paper to do my vacation writing. When I hide my phone, writing with a notebook can actually help me focus. I can jot notes and quickly switch between ideas. The analog option is much slower than using a laptop, but the advantages offer an important alternative at the very least. It’s little change ups that help to shift your mindset.


I’ve written before about the merits of working from home. I love my apartment, and I’ll take working on the freelance schedule over spending any amount of time stalling to satisfy a clock (excuse the pretense). But sometimes you just gotta get out. Changing venues helps to clear your head and give you a fresh perspective. That sounds pretty hokey, but I’ll stand behind it. When I’m around my family at a beach I think differently than I do when I’m alone in my studio in Dallas. Thus, I write differently.

It’s not just the aesthetic environment that spurs stagnation. Familiar surroundings come with familiar distractions. Our phones are boobey traps, bent on eliminating all productivity, but leaving the TV, and the dishes, and the place you sit every time you zone out helps you turn the dial in your brain to a different setting.

Vacation provides a chance to relax and have fun. For me at this point, having a clear mind with which it write is about as fun as it gets. Staying at a timeshare on the Atlantic Ocean every time I get writer’s block isn’t a feasible option, so I look forward to this time every year. In fact, I have placed so much importance in this block of time that it’s become difficult to write while I’m here this year.

Writing is a paradox. If vacation is no longer an optimal writing opportunity, I’ll have to find a new changeup. Maybe instead of enjoying a breezy escape, I should lock myself in a windowless room and drink nothing but mineral water. Maybe the only way to begin writing, is to give up on it forever.

There are no absolute answers. The writing process will always be a shifting labyrinth. At least I got this thing done.

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