The Social Robot http://thesocialrobot.com Wed, 29 Jun 2016 14:30:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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.

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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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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/#respond 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/#respond 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/#respond 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/#respond 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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