The Social Robot http://thesocialrobot.com Tue, 31 May 2016 15:33:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 6 Ways to Prompt Your Writing http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/6-ways-to-prompt-your-writing/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/6-ways-to-prompt-your-writing/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 15:33:58 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5284 We’ve all heard of the term “writer’s block.” Even if you’ve never experienced it – as a writer or otherwise – you know exactly what it means. How someone gets caught up without the words to say, or without the ideas to create, and it leaves them frustrated and un-typing. Sometimes before they’ve already started […]

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typewriter meme keep calm and write somethingWe’ve all heard of the term “writer’s block.” Even if you’ve never experienced it – as a writer or otherwise – you know exactly what it means. How someone gets caught up without the words to say, or without the ideas to create, and it leaves them frustrated and un-typing. Sometimes before they’ve already started a piece of text, and other times, right in the middle of an incredible plot twist … only the person who invented it doesn’t know where to take it next.

As a writer, it’s a condition that’s about as terrible as it gets; it keeps you from continuing your craft. Sometimes altogether, while others, you are stuck with all of the “bad” ideas and none of the good ones. No matter what way writer’s block might be affecting you, take to this simple guide for ways to keep the ideas coming, even on the days where that feels impossible.

1. Get Rid of the Distractions

First things first, what’s around that’s keeping you distracted? Are there people? Snacks? TV droning on in the background? Try you best to create a quiet environment that can allow you to concentrate. (Or one that’s making only productive noises.) All to frequently, writers think their ideas are “blocked” when in reality, they’re just not able to think their own thoughts in peace. Find the quiet, and you’ll likely find the words. 

 

2. Search Creatively

If you know what you’re doing with Google, you can seriously step up your online searching game. You can have topic ideas sent directly to your inbox; you can spend less time finding better topics. Searching outside of the box, or with various topics, can drop new ideas into your head, and help you to think creatively. That’s a step that can keep the words flowing all on its own.

3. Learn to Think for Writing Prospects

The more you write, the more you get used to thinking toward idea-mindedness. That way, when having conversations with others, or when spacing and searching online randomly, you can make note of interesting topics. You’ll learn to backlog ideas to write about later on, which, in turn, will help combat your blockage each and every time it pops up.

 

4. Use a Prompt

Whether you search for ideas or keep an actual book of what to do when you can’t write, find a quirky idea to get the fingers flowing. Pull a word out of the dictionary and use it in a circus theme. Pick the last text you received and create a back-story from the 18th century. These exercises are quick, yet offer a much-needed change of pace that can help in other areas of writing, too.

5. Write About Something Else

Seriously. Warm up with a topic that’s not causing you stress, and see if you can accomplish something. It might not be great, but it’s a way to stretch your writing muscles and to ease yourself into the process of typing something out. Even if that’s just for the sake of typing.

6. Take a Break

Yes, really. Step away from the keyboard and find something else to do. Even for a short period of time, it can help to do something different … don’t even think about writing during this break. Allow yourself this much needed change of pace and you’re likely to see some incredible results from your efforts. Even if your writing needs frequent and regular stopping points, it becomes an easy way to beat the block.

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Do You Listen to Podcasts? http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/do-you-listen-to-podcasts/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/do-you-listen-to-podcasts/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 14:00:53 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5272 My college career included a fickle schedule. Each semester brought a different course lineup. Clubs, teaching, improv, friends, and bars kept me busy when I wasn’t in class. I was always busy, but I rarely had a routine. Since graduation, I have settled into a more consistent schedule. I don’t have to commute 45 minutes […]

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podcastsMy college career included a fickle schedule. Each semester brought a different course lineup. Clubs, teaching, improv, friends, and bars kept me busy when I wasn’t in class. I was always busy, but I rarely had a routine.

Since graduation, I have settled into a more consistent schedule. I don’t have to commute 45 minutes to work each day like my girlfriend, but I have dedicated blocks of free time. Since bars are expensive here and my friends have full-time jobs, I have replaced my college hobbies with podcasts. According to SmartAsset, that makes me a typical young, educated male.

Pre-university, I had known about podcasts as a concept. I kept MP4s of my radio shows from KSDB for theoretical future use. I listened to some one-off pod episodes on plane rides, but I hadn’t yet sworn an oath (via subscription) to any of my current favorites. Now I have a steady rotation of podcasts that I consume on a weekly basis.

Beyond my entry into “the real world,” my podcast diet has grown because podcasting itself has grown. The tremendous popularity of Serial helped inject this medium into the mainstream. Year-over-year percentages for the number of people who listen to a podcast each month have increased steadily since 2008 (up to 17% from 9% in that time). And where the listenership goes, the advertising money is sure to follow.

“You won’t get rich podcasting.” Okay, sure, people won’t get rich partaking in most of the things they enjoy — that’s a major conceit of ‘having fun’ — but can one make a living off of podcasting? Participating in the medium has a fairly low startup cost. Microphones, a computer, and hosting services are relatively weak entry barriers when compared to price of cameras, lenses, and lighting equipment.

Advertising money continues to enter the podcasting arena, and crowdfunding models (like those used by public radio) help supplement expenses. By building a base of subscribers, producers can sell the idea of listenership to advertisers more easily. The cost per thousand impressions (CPM) is much lower for podcasts than for that of traditional media, and these advertising slots already feature specific audiences. By having podcast hosts read the ad copy, companies get to incorporate their message into the rhythm of the show, rather than give the listener a reason to search for something else.

Podcasts flow through the same vein as Netflix and Uber: they have the on-demandiness that modern users crave. The fidelity is higher. The ads are limited. The content is more substantial. That last attribute is important for me.

I enjoy following sports, but television coverage outside of the actual games has become unwatchable. Every segment is a lowest-common-denominator, 2-minute shouting match. Wild speculation and asinine arguments suit the pace of 24-hour coverage.

Podcasts are French salons by contrast. Thoughtful analysis takes the place of on-air aneurysms. Everyone can take their time. I can to listen to people I respect talk in a longform setting. I get substance. They’re like a 2500-word piece for the ears.

I started listening to The BS Report when Bill Simmons, my favorite sports writer, worked at ESPN. Zach Lowe, who covers the NBA wonderfully, wrote for Simmons’ website, so I started listening to his podcast too. I picked up recommendations from those two podcasts for other podcasts. The same chain-lightning effect happened for me on the entertainment side of things with Dan Harmon’s Harmontown.

Spontaneanation-podcastJust like perusing Netflix’s “suggested for you” tab, listening to podcasts begets listening to more podcasts. I consume them during car rides, workouts, and afternoons off. As you track a show for several weeks in a row, listening begins to feel like hanging out with a group of friends. Everyone loves friends.

As the advantages for both the listener and the advertiser coalesce, podcast popularity will continue to grow.

– – –

If you’re looking to dive into the world of podcast listenership, or just need some new recommendations, I’ve listed some of my favorites to get you started. (Note: I have a limited scope at the moment that encompasses mostly sports and entertainment.)

Spontaneanation

A fun improv podcast that features an interview with a guest followed by a winding narrative. Paul F. Tompkins hosts, and his ad readers make commercial breaks more fun than they have any right to be.

Harmontown

Hosted by Dan Harmon, the show features guest appearances, freestyle rapping, stammering, and a genuine, endearing honesty. Plus they usually do some D&D-style role playing during the last fifteen minutes of the show.

The Lowe Post

If you enjoy professional basketball, Zach Lowe has some of the best analytical writing on the market. He’s not quite as clean on the pod, but he takes a thoughtful approach, and his guests usually give great insight regarding the inner-workings of the NBA.

The Bill Simmons Podcast

Since acrimoniously leaving ESPN a little over a year ago, Bill Simmons has started his own podcast network featuring a blend of sports and pop culture perspectives. Other BSPN favorites include The Watch (TV/Movies/Music) and Keeping it 1600 (a political podcast, which I never thought I would enjoy).

Script Notes

Two working screenwriters in Los Angeles talk about their craft and share details about the day-to-day activity of film industry professionals. It’s a fun peek behind the curtain if you’re interested in that area.

Men in Blazers

I started watching English football a couple years ago. I like playing the FIFA video games, and I can appreciate the athleticism and history, but I love the way English people talk about it. Commentators weave beautiful tapestries with their words when calling a match. This podcast features two sarcastic Brits (with a great report) recapping the weeks gone by in the English Premier League.

Black List Table Reads

The Black List started as a place for aspiring screenwriters to showcase their works that weren’t being produced. Around a year ago, this podcast started generating readings of these passed-over scripts featuring famousish actors. They’re a great way to kill a couple hours waiting for car repairs or a layover.

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Amazon Gets Into the Grocery Game With Its Own Products http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/amazon-gets-grocery-game-products/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/amazon-gets-grocery-game-products/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 16:43:48 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5267 In its latest bid to take over the (consumer) world, Amazon is slated to offer private label groceries. The retail monolith already sells home essentials like toilet paper, so adding food could be seen as the next step toward biological vertical integration. Selling in-house groceries might mean a tricky adjustment in product standards and shipping. […]

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Amazon-FreshIn its latest bid to take over the (consumer) world, Amazon is slated to offer private label groceries. The retail monolith already sells home essentials like toilet paper, so adding food could be seen as the next step toward biological vertical integration. Selling in-house groceries might mean a tricky adjustment in product standards and shipping. However, the value of the Amazon brand doesn’t come from the quality of its inventory, but the quality of the buying experience. Customer service is Amazon’s product, and it’s a good one.

Sure, #PrimeDay will always feature prominently in the Seattle retailer’s blooper reel, but the good experiences have far outperformed the bad for me personally. In fact, it’s not even close. The disparity looks like a Cavaliers-Raptors box score. I’ve had a package taken from outside my door, and in 7 minutes I had explained the problem and re-ordered the product at no additional cost to me. Free two-day shipping, video streaming, and rapid assistance are all part of a carefully-crafted customer service suite.

It’s no surprise then that Amazon has spent a few years developing its plan for releasing private label groceries. And it’s not hard to see the business taking off. House brand groceries are often cheaper than their name brand counterparts, and they typically offer more adventurous flavor combinations. Plus, Amazon can use the customer service brand loyalty it has built to attract new buyers, rather than having to bolster the value of its individual products.

But even if they had to do the latter, they’ve got some pretty cool names to work with. Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime, and Mama Bear are just a few of the labels TechCrunch listed in its rundown of Amazon’s new offerings. Wickedly Prime sounds like a righteous brah’s description of the surf conditions at South Beach. Perhaps in Amazon’s case it will be a fictional quality grade for steak. Happy Belly will almost surely be the name for the retailer’s baby food line, and the implication for anything called “Mama Bear” is that it fits just right.

Perishable foods aren’t all sunshine and rainbows though. Is it possible that Amazon is headed for some choppy waters? (Wickedly Prime!). Just ask Blue Bell — or any of the dozens of major industry players that have dealt with food safety incidents in the last year alone — how tubular issuing a recall is. Food borne illness happens, and outbreaks can be incredibly harmful to more than just the poor souls consuming Listeria monocytogenes. Having to recall product is super expensive, and the damage done to the company’s reputation can often be (business) life-threatening.

Amazon already had to handle a design flaw in their line of baby diapers in 2015. They did so based on customer feedback they had gotten about the product, and they offered a $25 credit to those who had purchased the diapers. And that’s the point: Amazon is well-equipped to handle customer service issues. They’re the company’s best-seller.

Food processors make and market food. A recall is a shock to the system that disrupts the entire business. Amazon was born asking you to rate your experience with the Shenzhen In-Drawer Bamboo Knife Block on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. If any business is ready to field the array of questions and complaints that come with perishable groceries, it’s Amazon.

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Taking Grammar Personally http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/taking-grammar-personally/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/taking-grammar-personally/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 18:05:57 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5263 When I was a copy editor in college, I learned a lot of lessons publically. My first day in the seat of head copy lady, the university president’s name was spelled three different ways. Three. It was my first experience running a team, and I assumed that writers, let alone copy editors, had done their […]

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grammar lessons cartoonWhen I was a copy editor in college, I learned a lot of lessons publically. My first day in the seat of head copy lady, the university president’s name was spelled three different ways. Three. It was my first experience running a team, and I assumed that writers, let alone copy editors, had done their jobs. By the end of my 2 am shift, I wasn’t checking much for spelling so much as I was writing headlines and making sure stories weren’t cut off mid-sentence. This ignorance on my part led to several emails, public jokes, and a level of embarrassment that, seven years later, I’m still not quite past. I should have known better.

That, of course, was the worst mistake, but there were plenty of others. Like the time we printed “remberance” in a headline. Or when I had a writer essentially copy and paste an ad as a unique story. When I learned to use hyphens are used for compound adjectives, and the time I misused “every day” when the pair should have been shoved together as “everyday.” Sure, that error isn’t very dramatic, but it’s one I still remember making.

With this job, mistakes, even the small ones, were pointed out by our faculty member and marked up in red pen for the entire staff to see. It was like a hot bout of staring eyes every single day. I dreaded it, yet thrived on the feedback; it’s how I learned so much so quickly.

It’s also why I take faux pas – or flat-out errors – so personally. I was outed, so why aren’t others’ errors, too? In fact, I still make errors, English is just that finicky. But when it’s something very basic, like capitalization or apostrophes, I’m appalled by what people think is correct, or that they didn’t take the time to ask for a second opinion. Sometimes these seemingly small mistakes lead to permanent and lasting consequences. It’s hard to wonder when the red pen is coming, and who else is looking at the markups.

A few months before I graduated, I was asked by a retired English teacher what my major was. She bowed her head and said, “It will ruin your whole life. Every time you see an error it will make you cringe.” And she is a little bit right – I wouldn’t say my life is “ruined” by bad grammar, but it does take a toll. Besides, the alternative of pointing out the error, which might make me feel better, turns you into a know-it-all-jerk.

At least when I had a professor doing the same it was a learning experience, and I didn’t feel bad about it; the same was being done to me.

Learning grammar is a tough gig, both in understanding, and identifying errors in everyday life (no I don’t mean every day). Proceed at your own risk and good luck out there.

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The Rise of User-Generated Content http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/rise-user-generated-content/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/rise-user-generated-content/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 14:00:51 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5258 I’ve been watching lots of Facebook live recordings lately. They’re completed videos from  previous live streams. Usually it’s a friend or group of friends just hanging out, responding to the comments of other friends. It sounds  ridiculous as I type it out, but so does all user-generated content (UGC) consumption. It’s just stuff we throw […]

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Millennials-Love-UGCI’ve been watching lots of Facebook live recordings lately. They’re completed videos from  previous live streams. Usually it’s a friend or group of friends just hanging out, responding to the comments of other friends. It sounds  ridiculous as I type it out, but so does all user-generated content (UGC) consumption. It’s just stuff we throw out there without the production value or calculation of a professional content producer. Yet we spend an ever-growing amount of time with this form of media via our social networks.

I work in a creative bubble. I spend all of my free time around writers, comics, and improvisors — people who want other people to pay attention to them. I realize that may create a bias in my social media experience, but a Crowdtap poll from 2014 suggests that millennials (I just threw up in my mouth a little) spend 5.4 hours per day consuming UGC.

People will always love movies with larger-than-life characters like those in the Marvel canon. And they will always appreciate television shows with the scale and finesse of Game of Thrones. We like quality content, but we also like localized content.

While the slots for Brooklyn Nine-Nine staff writers are limited, aspiring creators can at least produce and publish their own content within social networks. Those of us who pine for a large-scale platform don’t have to wait to share our ideas and products with our friends.

To summarize, we appreciate and trust content generated by our friends and acquaintances. Let’s combine that with another factor to explain why even in 2014, UGC consumption had almost overtaken that of traditional media (TV, print, radio).

Has the trustworthiness of professional media changed, or has the definition changed? With (seemingly) a million websites to visit for a variety of news, how do you choose which sites deserve your faith?

Of course bastions like The New York Times retain their credibility. However, practices like headline framing to generate clicks have degraded the once-pristine value of news sites in general. Beyond the “She _____. You Won’t Believe What Happens Next” format, news outlets have stripped headlines of context intentionally. I find that Facebook sidebar blurbs often boast scandalous teases that are debunked by 10 seconds of extra reading.

We are hyper-aware of advertising and the goals of advertisers. Millennials (*gag noise*) even trust the information we receive through UGC 50% more than information from other sources. I spot and bypass promoted tweets with ease — potentially ignoring something I might actually be interested in. If you’re selling it to me, I don’t care. Social media users are easy to access, but we’re tough to convince.

Wholesale media skepticism is leading advertisers down some interesting avenues. Of course there are the forms of native advertising that have been cropping up on all online platforms, but companies are actually using UGC to influence audiences. By encouraging consumers to post about them — rather than talking at the consumers — businesses can immerse themselves in the credibility associated with UGC. This creates two-way communication and a conversation that isn’t being driven by the brand, but rather influenced by it.

My tone toward advertising and the activities of large companies is generally pretty negative on this blog. To be clear, I don’t resent these institutions, I just like to call attention to them. That being said, advertising is like an organism: it constantly adapts and evolves to survive. As we consumers change our habits and attitudes, advertising will morph to keep up. It’s not sad nor sinister, it’s just science.

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New Technology Advertising on Old Media http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/new-technology-advertising-on-old-media/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/new-technology-advertising-on-old-media/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 14:00:26 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5255 During the drive home from Fort Worth Tuesday night, we came to a complete stop on I-30. Some police vehicles were blocking the road, which had already been trimmed to one lane for construction. As we sat for 10 minutes, I flipped through the radio presets in search of some entertainment. The most interesting thing […]

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Apps Advertising on RadioDuring the drive home from Fort Worth Tuesday night, we came to a complete stop on I-30. Some police vehicles were blocking the road, which had already been trimmed to one lane for construction. As we sat for 10 minutes, I flipped through the radio presets in search of some entertainment. The most interesting thing I heard was an advertisement.

I listen to the radio a lot now. My Pontiac Vibe doesn’t have a jack connection for my phone, so terrestrial broadcasts are my only option during trips around the city. I hear plenty of ridiculous ads and readers for local law firms and payday loan companies (imagine this but on the radio). The advertisement I heard on Tuesday didn’t stick out because of an over-the-top gimmick though.

It was an ad for Lyft, the ride-sharing service. Specifically, the copy highlighted all of the advantages that Lyft gave drivers contrasted with Uber’s platform. So this was a 4-year-old company that makes a smartphone application which allows users to call a civilian taxi, defending its merits against a competing app via the radio, a medium that has existed since the late 1800’s. I immediately imagined the reverse scenario in which AM stations were using promoted tweets and Facebook sidebar ads to bolster their listenership.

A passive diffusion is happening: older brands are advertising with new media, while tech companies enter the mainstream via traditional sources. Mobile games occupy the same television space as Budweiser and Ford, and the world’s biggest messaging apps are primed to monetize via marketing and customer service features.

Graphical representations like this one from Statista show the rapid growth in digital advertising spending. As more and more media consumption moves online, of course the advertising will follow. However, a Pew Research study from January of this year suggested that some consumers remain loyal to their particular medium. “Around half of newspaper readers only read in print,” reads one of the graphic headings. Those that only read the hard copy of the paper were also more likely to watch local TV news.

People have always appreciated localized content, and advertisers have always sought a direct channel to their targets. Thus, traditional media remain an important part of the advertising portfolio. Online media consumers are more likely to “graze” — declining loyalty to a specific news outlet.

In my experience, digital advertisements are more avant garde than traditional media spots. Specific campaigns appeal to specific audiences. On television, advertisements are typically formulated and well-produced. The radio is its own genre.

Radio spots are clunky and gimmick-heavy. Every Kansas City native knows Tom Shane, his voice, and his verbose descriptions of how his company ensures the quality of its jewelry. (“Only Shane Company jewelers deep sea dive off the coast of Shanghai to find precious Pacific SapphiresTM.”)

Being whacky helps you stand out. In fact, I’d like to see radio advertisements lean into this even more. It’s a weird landscape, let’s try some really weird stuff. How about a spot that sounds like someone has accidentally butt-dialed someone else? How about a serial radio ad that encourages people to listen to previous ads?

Radio is one of the oldest forms of mass media entertainment. It has survived television, the Internet, and streaming services. The pervasiveness of terrestrial broadcasts gives them an advantage in reach for local advertisers. That’s why dopey car salesman will always find a home on the airwaves.

I appreciate radio — ads and all. It helps pass the time during those inexplicable highway stops. I’m sure I’ll hear Uber’s rebuttal soon.

 

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Why Do We Randomly Capitalize Words? http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/why-do-we-randomly-capitalize-words/ http://thesocialrobot.com/2016/05/why-do-we-randomly-capitalize-words/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 15:08:56 +0000 http://thesocialrobot.com/?p=5249 As a proofreader, my number one change – by a long shot – is lower casing letters. It’s always been my biggest change. Random words that got the proper noun treatment without warrant, I return them back to their correct and lowercased status every time I switch on Track Changes. (Yes, that’s capitalized, as it’s […]

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Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 10.03.01 AMAs a proofreader, my number one change – by a long shot – is lower casing letters. It’s always been my biggest change. Random words that got the proper noun treatment without warrant, I return them back to their correct and lowercased status every time I switch on Track Changes. (Yes, that’s capitalized, as it’s a Word trademark.) Job titles, departments, and more are all shift+typed without reason, or rather, without clout. There is reason, after all, a majority of the population seems to think these words are actually capitalized. They believe they’re readily important, and I’m just the person demoting them with no cause.

But it’s not my rule, it’s English’s rule. We capitalize names, the first word in sentences, days of the week and months of the year, and anything else deemed “proper.” It’s also this last criteria that causes issues – in deciding what is actually proper that trips us up. But seeing as we’ve been English speakers since infanthood, you’d think we’d have much of it figured out by now, right? Yet there are so many exceptions. So many changes and inconsistencies within our language.

While, in German, every single noun is capitalized, here in English, we pick and choose. Therefore, we get confused. Folks don’t know, or don’t care, how these rules work and how they affect individual instances. Or, say you take the effort to look up a correct representation and risk offending someone who hasn’t done the same – because you lowercased what they thought deserved a capital, which scenario is better?

English certainly has its anomalies, when capitalizing, and in general. Understanding why these changes take place are one way to avoid mistakes … and to know why others make them too.

And if nothing else, it certainly helps to drown the nails out, every single time they scrape across that chalkboard.

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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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