The Social Robot http://thesocialrobot.com Fri, 22 Apr 2016 14:00:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bandwidth is the Modern Currency http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/04/bandwidth-modern-currency/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/04/bandwidth-modern-currency/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 14:00:24 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5243 When I was 9 my family took a vacation to Colorado. I fell on Pike’s Peak and scraped my knee. After a few days in Vail, we spent the end of our trip exploring the state’s capital city. The Denver Mint ranked chiefly on our list of sights to see. I spent a good chunk […]

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Facebook Messenger Group ChatWhen I was 9 my family took a vacation to Colorado. I fell on Pike’s Peak and scraped my knee. After a few days in Vail, we spent the end of our trip exploring the state’s capital city. The Denver Mint ranked chiefly on our list of sights to see. I spent a good chunk of the visit in the bathroom dealing with stomach issues, but I remember my fascination with the idea of making money from scratch. Perhaps they had some to spare — after all, $5 was like $50 to a 3rd grader.

In the years since, I’ve learned about economics and inflation, I’ve held nearly a dozen jobs, and I understand the value of limited resources. Yes, in the dystopian post-apocalypse we’ll surely fight wars over clean water. But for now, in the civilized world, bandwidth reigns as the modern currency.

Facebook Messenger is launching a group calling feature you can use from your phone. This is just the latest (but perhaps most pervasive, given the user base) platform that offers an alternative to traditional phone calls. Between Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, and FB Messenger, who needs “minutes?” If you have wifi, service becomes superfluous. I remember using a pre-paid phone card to call my parents from Florida when I was 11. Now, the idea that you would have to pay to use the phone or ration your monthly allotment of talking time seems silly.

If you read news about technology companies, you’ll see the word “disrupt” all over the place: “Uber is disrupting the taxi industry.” Interestingly enough, the Internet itself is the great disruptor of all industries — television, phones, (the highly lucrative field of) libraries, and even cars. Longstanding business powers have been forced to adjust to massive changes in technology and capability.

As a consumer, this is pretty cool. Now we have $20 television service and $35,000 electric cars. I can host a live group video chat with my high school friends who are scattered across the country. It’s all thanks to an Internet connection, but do we need to be worried about an increased reliance on wifi?

If you search “bandwidth shortage” in Google, the first page of results features articles from every year dating back to 2008 about a potential squeeze on our data usage. The consensus seems to be that improvements in technology and the way we use it can continue to provide capacity. In my personal experience, I’ve noticed a steady improvement in the strength and availability of Internet connections across the board. However, in reading those articles, there’s also a sense that no one is really sure where our networks’ limits lie.

The government can print more money to inflate the currency. Money has no intrinsic value. Conversely, bandwidth is a resource. The quality and quantity of online video is increasing. More people are connecting to the Internet each day. We will continue to need more bandwidth in the future. Here’s hoping our $5 feels like 50.

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Side Effects of Wearable Technology http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/04/side-effects-of-wearable-technology/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/04/side-effects-of-wearable-technology/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 13:05:26 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5240 The rage of wearable tech has made a serious go at becoming one of the most-used forms of tech. These watches, pedometers, and more tell us how much activity we’ve had throughout the day, notify us of calls, texts, emails, etc. They let us check the weather without even having to reach into our pockets […]

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The rage of wearable tech has made a serious go at becoming one of the most-used forms of tech. These watches, pedometers, and more tell us how much activity we’ve had throughout the day, notify us of calls, texts, emails, etc. They let us check the weather without even having to reach into our pockets … really, they’ve made a life of notifications about as easy as it can get.

But what about the downsides? Even the best things in life come with some type of consequence, and wearable tech is no different. Aside from all the great things associated with daily tracking and notifications, what are some of the downsides?

First of all, they provide constant communication. You’re never not plugged in. When folks can get ahold of you through a device that’s attached directly to your body, you’re pretty much done making excuses for missed calls. You can’t get away from the outside world, even if you want to. While that’s readily convenient if and when you want it, it also means there’s no downtime … unless you make a conscious effort to disconnect and take a break from answering to everyone else.

Next, there’s the sheer amount of notifications. Your phone is already buzzing and beeping its tones of “you’ve got a message,” and some folks take the notion even further. For instance, I have iMessage connected to my computer; every time my phone gets an Apple text or FaceTime call, it pops up on my big screen as well as my little one. Add in my Fitbit (which buzzes with calls and messages) and some days I feel like I’m a user for WUPHF. (You know, the invention of Ryan, intern from the TV show, The Office, where people got text, voicemail, fax, Twitter, home phone, and computer notifications all at once? No, still don’t remember? Check out this clip: )

There are also specific device errors that might take place on an individual basis. My Mother-in-law’s armband stopped charging and she was sent a replacement. A girl I network with was burned by her Fitbit (ouch!), and the brand replaced the device. My brother’s Apple watch is perfect, in his opinion, but the net is filled with stories of its quirks, which also have been addressed by the brand. However, as these happen with all tech, there’s no need to blame them directly with those we wear.

Finally, it’s time to look at withdrawal. Your device has to charge up at some point, and most versions aren’t waterproof, meaning they have to be removed for showers and swimming (and intense sessions of dishes). After being so plugged in for so long, it’s hard to imagine what life might be like without one’s arm tech. Easing in might seem harmless, but once you remove said tech, you realize there’s a certain level of dependence.

While wearable tech is a great way to go, be sure you’re smart about how easily you can be reached. And looking out for how dependent you’ve become on staying plugged in. These devices are a great way to stay healthy and in touch with – well, everything – so long as we don’t get bogged down with electronics along the way.

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Inertia and Apathy in Your Technological Life http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/04/inertia-and-apathy-in-your-technological-life/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/04/inertia-and-apathy-in-your-technological-life/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:30:55 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5236 Watching a movie ranked as one of grade school’s great pleasures. On special occasions the teacher would pop in a VHS, turn off the lights, and allow you to just chill out for 30 minutes. For my generation, no video title stoked a more immediate reaction than Bill Nye the Science Guy. The television personality […]

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Phone ApathyWatching a movie ranked as one of grade school’s great pleasures. On special occasions the teacher would pop in a VHS, turn off the lights, and allow you to just chill out for 30 minutes. For my generation, no video title stoked a more immediate reaction than Bill Nye the Science Guy. The television personality was Beyoncé in terms of universal likability. His explorations of matter, electricity, and digestion were flavorful delicacies during the malaise of a watered-down school day.

More so than any single concept from Bill’s informative episodes, the theme song sticks with those who watched the show. During the 30-second warm up, and amidst the sick electric guitar riffs, there is moment where an almost-robotic woman’s voice says the phrase “inertia is a property of matter.” I guarantee anyone who remembers Bill Nye the Science Guy remembers the theme song, and anyone who remembers the theme song remembers this snippet. It wasn’t until middle school science class however, that I actually understood the concept of inertia.

Used to explain work, friction, and energy, inertia is the resistance of an object to a change in its state of motion. This isn’t about to become a physics lesson. Rather, for all the noble applications of this scientific vocabulary word, I most often see it at work in the technology world. I’m referring specifically to phone apathy.

This is not an actual term from the Journal of Mental Health, just something I’ve noticed about myself. In a way, your phone is like your pet: you have to feed it (charge it), take it to the vet (run updates), and keep it from running away/into traffic (dropping it in a pool). In return you get to look at Facebook and play Candy Crush from any bathroom in the country.

However, sometimes something weird happens. Recently, my phone disconnected from the app store and my password to log back in wasn’t working. Instead of panicking or looking into the problem, I did nothing. The pending updates began to mount. Ultimately though, I could still use my phone, so the problem didn’t require immediate attention.

It’s ironic that inertia could be such a strong force when it comes to using technology, given that innovations, updates, and progress are central to developing the stuff. It wasn’t until my apps started crashing that I finally figured out how to reset my password. This anecdote runs parallel to dozens of others: adding a secondary email to your Google account, installing new software, running a backup.

For me, this problem extends beyond the realm of phones and computers too. It was a ¼-inch nail in my front, passenger-side tire that spurred me to get a long-overdue oil change on Wednesday. I still don’t have a Texas driver’s license, and all of my tax information gets sent to my parents.

With shortening attention spans, it’s difficult to generate true immediacy. You need the threat of death, financial ruin, or social ostracization to get through to people. If you can’t make updating a mailing address extraordinarily easy for the user, it probably won’t get done. This is why the DMV and post office stand as modern-day fortresses, with kettles of liquid-hot bureaucracy ready to pour on the heads of those who dare lay siege.

Is my mentality a personal flaw, a product of my environment, or a totally natural response to the non-renewable resource that is my time? Quite possibly a combination of all three.

In any case, it has made marketing, branding, and engagement all the more challenging for businesses. In order to get to your wallet, they have to fight through thick layers of but-I-could-just-watch-TV-instead and outscream the voices of their counterparts. Does that make the space more competitive, or just more noisy?

We’re becoming increasingly difficult to reach, which means companies must become increasingly savvy. Native advertising already feels like it’s hijacking my social networks. But if that’s what it takes to get my attention, I guess I can’t blame them.

Inertia is a property of matter. Apathy is a property of humans.

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Apple Is Making a Television Show http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/apple-is-making-tv/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/apple-is-making-tv/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2016 14:38:09 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5228 Apple is making a foray into the television programming business (as are all companies even remotely adjacent to media). Apple tends to put everything in a sleek, stylish package so hearing this news got me excited. Then I read that the show’s concept is an unscripted series about apps and app developers. I get that […]

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Apple Television ShowApple is making a foray into the television programming business (as are all companies even remotely adjacent to media). Apple tends to put everything in a sleek, stylish package so hearing this news got me excited. Then I read that the show’s concept is an unscripted series about apps and app developers. I get that not everything can be Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, but watching app developers geek out over something they made (that Apple benefits from you downloading) isn’t exactly my idea of scintillating television. You can read more about the fledgling television project here. I don’t mean to be too hard on the maker of my computer, phone, and streaming device, but here are five app-related show ideas I’d rather see Apple invest in.

American Gladiators ft. App Developers

Instead of having Silicon Valley’s brightest minds pontificate from the comfort of an ergonomically-designed chair, let’s take those very same app developers and put them through a gauntlet of physical challenges! You’ve already got the talent lined up for this show, which means minimal tweaks from a production standpoint. Plus, seeing a bespectacled MIT graduate flying through the air in a game of Rocket Ball? Who’s not watching?

Redondo Beach

I can’t think of anything less scripted and more compelling than MTV’s Laguna Beach (See also The Hills). If Apple is looking for an addictive, free-form show about app developers, it has its gold standard. Tech insiders talking about synergy and original monthly users sounds boring. Inject a dose of high drama about Melvyn’s lunch date or Udi’s upcoming formal, and you’ve got yourself some juice.

Taken 4: Kidn-app-ers

This would probably take the form of a limited series. Liam Neeson (or Palo Alto equivalent) reprises his role as the talented, vengeful singularity — cutting through a vast opposition with his special set of skills. Only this time, the bad guys have stolen something much more valuable than a daughter or a wife; they’ve taken his intellectual property! Now he must recover a flash drive before the first round of Series B funding is complete, or risk being beaten to the marketplace by an inferior product!

I’m a Mac, and I’m Struggling with My Identity

The “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” commercials featuring Justin Long and John Hodgman are the best media commodities Apple has ever produced. They’ve already got a great dynamic loaded with chemistry (in 2006), so why not stretch those 30-second hits into 30-minute episodes? It’s the same concept behind stretching an SNL sketch into a movie (which always works). The pilot can feature a zany series of events that leads to the two individuals becoming roommates. And there can be serious episodes where the guys deal with the fact that they are both human people and vehicles for the brand promotion of giant corporations. Edgy.

Silicon Valley

This is my favorite comedy currently on the air and it happens to center around app developers. If Apple could find a way to purchase/steal this property it would probably be the easiest path to a hit show.

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Awesome Content Idea: The Report-a-Typo Tab http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/awesome-content-idea-the-report-a-typo-tab/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/awesome-content-idea-the-report-a-typo-tab/#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2016 14:05:47 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5223 Typos happen. Sometimes they’re dumb, a miss-stroke of the finger, and sometimes they’re downright blatant. You wonder how anyone could have made such a glaring error. I make them too. Sure they’re mindless and embarrassing, us writers are supposed to have our crap together, after all. That’s what we get paid to do. But the […]

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Typos happen. Sometimes they’re dumb, a miss-stroke of the finger, and sometimes they’re downright blatant. You wonder how anyone could have made such a glaring error. I make them too. Sure they’re mindless and embarrassing, us writers are supposed to have our crap together, after all. That’s what we get paid to do. But the thing about editing your own work is that your brain eliminates typos. You know what you meant so you skim over what’s missing or what’s wrong without even realizing everything is not as it should be. It’s also how I talk.

Then, once these typos are posted, emails start pouring in (or texts or comments or phone calls), letting you know what error was made. Depending on how big your readership and how many errors you introduce on any given day, a varied number of people are going to let you know about it.

But there’s an alternative to this method. One that’s more efficient and also more appropriate: the report-a-typo tab. A specific link and form that allows readers to point out what they see, and to submit in a medium that was meant just for them. It also compiles this information and sends it directly to the writer/blog manager in a single format. Genius, right?

Should You “Need” This Tab?

No one wants to have typos; they’re accidents and ideally, take place as infrequently as possible. But they still happen, there’s no way to completely avoid them, minimize, yes, but eliminating is wishful thinking. The tab is embracing the inevitable and finding a better way to channel what you can’t control.

It’s also a way of acknowledging that yes, mistakes are a reality. And showing you’re willing to do something about them. It’s a move that’s idea for those with large readerships and who post multiple articles per day. (With that size of volume output and urgency with which everything is posted these days, it’s hard to keep up with copy editing.)

Why the Readers Love It

As well as the typo typee, I’ve also been the typo readee. I’ve noticed something that wasn’t as it should be, and wasn’t sure what to do about it. Maybe the writer had already received notice. Did they have hundreds of better things to do than read my email? Leaving a comment seems too pretentious (even if you’re right it comes off as passive aggressive.) Sending social media notice is even worse, and a phone call is just too over the top. It’s not exactly an emergency, after all. But with a tab that’s specifically designed to do what you need – to notify someone about a mistake – the stress is immediately eliminated. (What else are we supposed to do? Ignore it? Chheah right.)

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What’s With the Insulting Opt-Out Messages? http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/whats-with-the-insulting-opt-out-messages/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/whats-with-the-insulting-opt-out-messages/#comments Mon, 14 Mar 2016 15:38:50 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5219 These days, it seems like every website has some type of email alert, and they want you to sign up – for something or other – as soon as you visit their site. So much so, that they bombard you with a pop-up, then insult you if you don’t agree to their interruption. A lose-lose […]

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Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 10.48.14 AMThese days, it seems like every website has some type of email alert, and they want you to sign up – for something or other – as soon as you visit their site. So much so, that they bombard you with a pop-up, then insult you if you don’t agree to their interruption. A lose-lose when visiting any forceful website.

In general, I’m anti-pop up, an unpopular vote in the marketing world. I don’t see pop-ups as a way to gain followers; I see it as a way to irk potential ones. How many times have you been on a website, had no idea how to find their newsletter signup, and said, “Thank goodness for this pop up widget!” As if, without it, you wouldn’t have known where to go – that has probably never happened. Maybe you did sign up from the reminder; we’re not saying pop-ups never work. But in general, it’s a source of annoyance. They slow our computers’ load times, and they’re flat-out pushy. They make me want to not subscribe just because of the interruption.

The pop-up is the equivalent of getting interrupted mid-sentence HEY CHECK THIS OUT then trying to go back to your original conversation: it never quite works.

But now that’s not the only rude thing happening when you head online. Now, when you click “no,” that you don’t want to subscribe, many sites slap you with an insult. There’s no X to close the ad, and there’s not a “no thank you” tab, it’s something more incriminating. Like being forced to click, “No, I hate all forms of exercise” to opt out of an email. Others like, “I dislike positive thoughts,” or “I prefer to pay full price” are also offenders. With tens of other variations that are all, well, bitchy.

You can’t just politely decline these days; the website wants you to know you’re making a terrible mistake, and they’re going to have the last word. Even when you unsubscribe, they follow up with a message letting you know you unsubscribed. Just in case it was a mistake, apparently. These little digs, the follow-up and are-you-sures are like a needy S/O who just won’t let go. “Well if you want to spend your time with them, go ahead. I’ll be fine. It’s ok, really,” is what they’re telling us. “But in case you change your mind now or in five years, I’m still here.”

To-date, either insulting pop-up are working, or there isn’t enough info proving it’s not. The majority of the population isn’t dedicating blogs to how much they hate such tactics. (Though this guy agrees.)

Maybe if we band together, it’s a practice that will stop. Or, at the very least, will allow blockers to update their defense levels, leaving us both pop-up and insult-free.

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The Biggest Mistake You Can Make in Online Marketing http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/the-biggest-mistake-you-can-make-in-online-marketing/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/the-biggest-mistake-you-can-make-in-online-marketing/#comments Mon, 07 Mar 2016 15:57:17 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5207 In terms of necessity, marketing often put on the back burner. It’s something you haven’t been doing, or haven’t been doing differently. And so far, so good – at least that’s the immediate take. And we get it, change is hard. Effort is hard. As comedian John Mulaney said, it’s 100% easier to not do […]

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stop sign yellow cartoon faceIn terms of necessity, marketing often put on the back burner. It’s something you haven’t been doing, or haven’t been doing differently. And so far, so good – at least that’s the immediate take. And we get it, change is hard. Effort is hard.

As comedian John Mulaney said, it’s 100% easier to not do something than it is to do it. He adds that because of that effort, it’s amazing anyone does anything. And he’s not wrong.

Whether you’re a business owner or a manager (or the newest hire), work can be overwhelming. You have a lot on your plate as-is, let alone starting an entirely new project. It’s easier to put things off, or avoid them altogether, than to put in the necessary time to do it right. And really, no one is arguing with that logic. However, it’s also that tactic that can hurt you in the long run. In fact, it already is. Every day you’re not marketing, every second you’re not looking to improve your business with bigger and better efforts, is a day that customers don’t know you exist. It’s a time, where, months later they need your services and don’t understand what you offer, and it’s a tomorrow that your brand isn’t recognized.

Putting off marketing today will hurt you tomorrow. Just like putting off your marketing months earlier is hurting you now.

Marketing is Long-Term, Not Immediate

It’s true that some marketing efforts are in-the-now. Ads are seen, links are clicked, and both methods can add some real-time exposure. But marketing also works behind the scenes – this is actually where it does its heaving lifting. Blog posts from months ago still pop up in web searches. Facebook likes lead to more Facebook likes and Twitter follows, and more and more. Which eventually lead to word-of-mouth advertising, and that one guy who saw your stuff online and remembered you when his landlord needed X services.

Online marketing is a tactic that grows for you 24/7, while you’re busy promoting the next new post. (Which will also continue to work for you, even years later.)

But if you never get started at all, or assume you’ll have time “sometime soon,” it can’t work for you at all. Because chances are, you won’t have time to start. Or you will, but you’ll dedicate that time to something else instead. If you never take the initiative to start your marketing efforts, you’ll never be able to benefit them, either. Knowing the benefits doesn’t do you any good, nor does having a great idea – it’s actually moving forward with your plan that sets it into motion.

Besides, considering the immense benefits and minimal risk, there’s really no excuse for avoiding your online marketing efforts. The longer you wait, the further back in the race you’ll become.

The choice is up to you, but when you’re ready, we – or whatever marketing pro you choose – will be here, waiting to hit the ground running.

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The Benefits of Working from Home as a Freelance Writer http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/the-benefits-of-working-from-home-as-a-freelance-writer/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/03/the-benefits-of-working-from-home-as-a-freelance-writer/#comments Fri, 04 Mar 2016 15:00:22 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5212 While I’m not a full-time freelance writer, I do get to spend a day or two per week scrawling blog posts for hire. I work from home, and that means I’m operating out of a studio apartment. It’s cozy, sure, but the perks are amazing. If you’re considering dropping your stuffy day job, I’ve got just […]

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TSR 03-04-16While I’m not a full-time freelance writer, I do get to spend a day or two per week scrawling blog posts for hire. I work from home, and that means I’m operating out of a studio apartment. It’s cozy, sure, but the perks are amazing. If you’re considering dropping your stuffy day job, I’ve got just the motivation you need. Here are some of the incredible benefits of working from home in a 545-square-foot apartment.

All you can drink

A famous economist once said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Well, that’s not necessarily true. My apartment complex has a coffee machine in it that I don’t have to pay to use. I realize that the device is built into the cost of this complex — that’s where economic analysis comes in. I try to drink more than a month’s rent of equity in coffee to offset the price of living in Dallas. If you assume a retail value of approximately $2 per cup (it’s Starbucks brand), then I have to drink around 280 cups of coffee per month to clear rent. That’s less than 10 cups per day from the machine! The only drawback here is that the office doesn’t open until 9, so I usually have to accept the sunk cost of that first cup or two. *This math brought to you by coffee.*

Easy commute

Bed is so nearby. I don’t have a tape measure, but I’m approximately 5’11” and my bed is about two-and-a-half me’s away from my desk. That’s great access for naps or full-on sleep. Whenever I need a change of venue and the couch (one me away) is getting stale, I can make for the bed to clear my mind. Plus it cuts down on the commute to work. That leaves more “me time” in the morning, so that I can come into the office with a focused energy. The major negative here is that it’s incredibly easy to give up on the day (and life in general), pack it in, and hit the sack at any given moment.

Laid back environment

Every day is Casual Friday Used T-shirt and Same Shorts Day. No one razzes you about personal hygiene when you work from home. It’s a laid back atmosphere at the office. Show up in whatever you wore to sleep the night before, take as many bathroom breaks as you want, and go to lunch whenever you feel like it. Actually, take two lunches if you want. Plus, no one’s hovering over your shoulder or watching your Internet activity from the IT department to make sure you’re not wasting company time. The downside? No one’s hovering over your shoulder or watching your Internet activity from the IT department to make sure you’re not wasting company time. We often have discipline problems at work.

Excellent work conditions

Every room (the only room) is the break room. While there’s no manager sitting over my shoulder as I type, there is a television equipped with a Nintendo-64. Netflix, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime are all waiting for the moment my attention wanes. Plus, my office has a full kitchen for midday snacks. I’m not beholden to the powers of the microwave. I can make scrambled eggs from scratch (that’s about the extent of what I’m willing to cook while at work). Plus, there’s no chance a coworker takes my lunch from the refrigerator.

Strong company culture

The wifi is great here. If I want to get away from my desk I can work from my phone (as I sit on the couch). I don’t ever have to compete to get a strong network connection. And that brings up a bigger point. I don’t have to worry about anything my fellow employees are doing, because there are none. No tedious interactions with management. No agonizing conversations about weekend plans or kids. In fact, no conversations at all. I don’t interact with anyone until my girlfriend gets home from her boring full-time job. I don’t even have/get to go outside.

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Life Writing Skills School Should Have Taught Us http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/02/life-writing-skills-school-should-have-taught-us/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/02/life-writing-skills-school-should-have-taught-us/#comments Mon, 29 Feb 2016 15:37:34 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5204 This weekend I helped a friend write her father’s obituary. He had been sick for some time and his death wasn’t so much of a surprise as it was a hardened reality. But that never makes the loss of a loved one any easier. It doesn’t make him less missed. Nor did it make writing […]

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Dynamic Content-Writing an ObituaryThis weekend I helped a friend write her father’s obituary. He had been sick for some time and his death wasn’t so much of a surprise as it was a hardened reality. But that never makes the loss of a loved one any easier. It doesn’t make him less missed. Nor did it make writing about him in a few short paragraphs any easier for the family. So she called me and I listened to them talk – their stories, their intent, their wishes for the overall finished product. It wasn’t that I was more qualified or more experienced; it was my first obituary. It was that I was more removed from the situation. I was able to channel their grief in a way that they couldn’t immediately communicate.

There were still so many questions, though. How to properly format, how to include those who had already passed and those who were still alive. To my knowledge, Word doesn’t host an obituary template. Google provided some help, but with many altered versions, still causing us to cut and paste what looked or felt best. It was something that, despite 18ish years of writing in school, I’d never been taught. Would it be awkward to write an obituary out of the blue? And be graded on it? Probably. But less awkward than having to learn the hard way.

It also got me thinking about other things we’re never taught to write, like real estate listings, personal biographies, business plans, and especially emails. Unless you took specific courses (for instance, as a business major), chances are these weren’t learned in school. And it’s getting worse. This same friend as above had to teach her college interns how to address letters. At 18+ years old, they listed the town in front of the actual address, and had no idea what to do with the zip code. This is a skill I remember practicing over and over in elementary classes, by writing to Santa, class pen pals, grandparents, or whoever else we thought was deserving of a letter. It’s a skill that might be less common in today’s time, but still has a social need. How else are you going to invite folks to your wedding? Or birthday party? No, E-vites aren’t always the alternative.

The same goes of listing your house for sale, creating a succinct list of life accomplishments, or in everyday communication. Were these skills that were taught at one time, then eliminated to make way for something more current? And if so, what are the replacements? Because it certainly wasn’t how to correctly punctuate a Facebook message.

We might not all aspire to be professional writers, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a need for proper know-how, and some gentle experience along the way. That way when life throws us a need to write, we can respond with a well-researched piece. And the confidence to go with it.

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Facebook Adds “Reactions” to Compliment the “Like” http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/02/5195/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/02/5195/#comments Fri, 26 Feb 2016 15:00:58 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5195 When someone shares difficult news with you, your empathetic, human reaction is usually to express concern and caring. Hearing about a sick family member doesn’t typically prompt an awkward silence followed by a reticent thumbs up. If you use Facebook (Despite your inability to see the links I share to these posts, I do use […]

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Facebook-Like-Button-ClickWhen someone shares difficult news with you, your empathetic, human reaction is usually to express concern and caring. Hearing about a sick family member doesn’t typically prompt an awkward silence followed by a reticent thumbs up.

If you use Facebook (Despite your inability to see the links I share to these posts, I do use Facebook), you will no doubt have noticed a recent change to the platform. After years of the singularity known as the “like button,” you now have an array of options from which to choose when responding to a post. Like, love, haha, wow, sad, and angry lend versatility to what has always been an emotionally diverse experience.

The evolution is a natural one. Facebook functions like a diary for many people — a catalogue of (sometimes important) life events. Hearing different news causes us to respond differently, so why should our reaction options be binary?

The social media company did a solid job boiling down the selection of icons. These six emotions offer range and specificity. Not to mention, they come with built-in explanatory labels, unlike a certain ephemeral picture messaging app.

Plus, the functionality is great. On the desktop browser, you can hover over the “like” to expand your options. On the mobile platform an extended tap reveals your choices. Previous adjustments to the newsfeed have caused users to gripe simply because everything looked so different. By keeping the “like” icon prominent on each post, Facebook offers a familiar roadmap during this time of change.

All We Wanted Was DislikeOf course there are those who criticize anything Facebook does. Dissenters lamented the lack of a “dislike” option. But, a system that uses only “like” and “dislike” buttons hardly differs from the previous system. A “dislike” button would give users an option beyond just ignoring a disagreeable post. However, I would argue that if you are genuinely put out by someone else’s content, you should block it from your feed or message the person directly. “Disliking” something wouldn’t be any less passive aggressive than ignoring it altogether.

Others are understandably worried about the new reaction options “juking the stats.” Many of us treat “likes” as a currency that allows us to judge our self-worth (I’m not saying it’s healthy). While notifications now distinguish between reactions, by visiting the actual post you can see the total number of responses you’ve received across the board. This makes checking in on your current posts more narcissistic, but it doesn’t distort the all-important stats.

The real implication here is that Facebook now has another tool with which it can adjust its algorithm. Emotional responses combined with the type of posts you click on or look at are sure to refine News Feed content. Reactions will be given extra significance, meaning if you go through the trouble of selecting an emotional response, Facebook will likely show you more posts in that vein.

The new buttons are a win for both users and the company. We finally have an appropriate way to respond to the passing of a friend’s childhood dog, and Facebook has a way to collect more data without asking us to sign something.

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