Back to School – the digital version. Another top five list.

back-to-school-digital

Back to school can be a daunting time for busy parents trying to eke out those last days of summer.

What can be especially trying is the planning and shopping for back to school items.

What to get, where to get them, and at what price are issues that cause many a sleepless night.

It’s no wonder that retailers start advertising early in an effort to drive traffic towards their physical and digital stores.

But as shoppers become more discerning about products and price conscious, retailer have to do more to appeal to shoppers.

So here are my top five tips for winning over your online shopper.

1. Make it mobile. I say this so much, I sound like a broken record – or Max Headroom. But I’ll say it again. Make it mobile. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to navigate a full desktop site from a mobile device. Sure, I can pinch and squeeze, but why do I have to? There are plenty of other sites out there that are catering to the mobile shopper. And if you’re trying to win dollars from other retailers, do yourself a favor and make your user’s shopping experience as simple as possible. And it starts with making your site mobile.

2. Offer mobile only promotions. Everybody likes a bargain. More importantly, folks, especially moms, don’t want to feel like they’ve missed an opportunity. When you have a mobile only promotion. That is either offered only if a user sees it when they’re browsing your site from their mobile device, or which can only be redeemed while shopping on your mobile site, you’re giving shoppers a reason to take advantage of that offer – because they don’t want to miss it. Mobile only promotions is a great way to drive traffic to your mobile site and increase mobile conversions.

3. Apps. Apps. Apps. Dialing up a mobile app on your device is far easier than trying to access a mobile site from your browser. And although it may not seem like much, for a busy back-to-school shopper, time is often of the essence. Making sure that you’ve got a mobile app that shoppers can easily access from their mobile phones or tablets, means that they don’t have to worry about accessing the internet or being on a strong wifi signal to browse and shop. The mobile app is also great for sending push notifications alerting your users about new offers and promotions.

4. Wish lists are a must. As kids get older, shopping with parents just isn’t…how do I say this delicately…cool. After a certain age, your kids would much rather hang out in the mall with their friends, then be seen in public with you. Life’s cruel like that. They don’t want you picking things out for them (your tastes as so blase). And they certainly don’t want to try things on with you lurking outside of the dressing room like Quasimodo. But when it comes to back to school shopping, that can be a good thing. Especially if the stores you patronize offer wish lists. With a wish list, your petulant teen (or pre-teen) can go online, find the things that they like, and shoot you a link to that wish list for you to purchase from the convenience of your computer or mobile device. No muss. No fuss.

5. Shop with your phone. If you just enjoy the act of shopping and would much rather see, feel and touch items before you buy them, then shopping with your mobile device as your companion. Retailers have come to expect that shopper will be comparison shopping, looking up product details and reviews, taking pictures and generally vetting them with mobile phones on the ready. In fact, many retailers are using beacons to identify which shoppers are really paying attention to their phones and using this as an opportunity to communicate special offers, savings or promotions while the shopper is on or near the store. So make sure that you’ve got a full charge before you head out, you could be in for extra savings.

6. Coupons! I know I said this was a “Top 5 List” but I realized that there was one more tip for busy shoppers. There is a whole industry around helping shoppers ‘clip’ digital coupons that can be used either online or at checkout in-store. RetailMeNot, for example allows you to search for a retailer and offers up a results page replete with coupons that could potentially save you dough when you’re shopping. So if you follow Tip No. 5 and have your phone on you when you shop (at home or in store), mobile (and online) coupons could really impact your bottom line.

Take that competition!

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The utility company of the future is mobile – today.

electric meter

Virtually everyone in the world is mobile.

That’s a fact.

We spend more time with our mobile devices, than we do our spouses and children.

Sad, but true.

But since we are inextricably tied to these devices, and use them obsessively, it only makes sense that brands should cater to this behavior.

I’m not saying that brands should make us more drone-like, such that we never put our devices down.

What I am saying is that since we seem to draw greater and greater utility from them, brands that understand user behavior, can benefit themselves significantly by paying attention to this trend.

Think about it.

Before you used to have to go to the bank to make a deposit.

And you could only do it during banking hours.

Then came ATMs and you could deposit funds even when the bank was closed.

Today, you don’t even have to leave your house to make a deposit.

You can simply snap a photo of your check with the banking app on your mobile phone and you’re done.

The banking industry paid attention to it’s users and came up with solutions that met them and technology where they were.

A similar opportunity exists for utility companies.

Back in the day, if you had a problem with your service, you’d have to go down to the utility company, take a number, and wait in line to actually speak to someone.

Because lord knows that calling them was a massive waste of time.

A year ago, the best you could do was log into your utility company’s website from your desktop computer to check your bill, input a meter reading or schedule an appointment.

But today, you can pay your bill, connect or disconnect service and input a meter reading all from your mobile phone.

No longer are you tethered to a computer to accomplish basic (and sometimes fairly sophisticated) tasks, you can perform these things on the go.

You’re probably wondering, “why is this fool blathering on about the utility company?

I’ll tell you why.

I just paid my PSE&G bill, sitting in my boxers on my phone.

No. I was not sitting on my phone.

I was on my phone, while I was sitting in my boxers.

Whatever.

My point is that we’re seeing a wave where more and more businesses, especially businesses which offer utilitarian value (banking, utilities, cable) streamlining their offerings for mobile.

And consumers are becoming increasingly discerning about who they patronize, and making these decisions based on how well they meet their mobile needs.

I can tell you that I’m automatically turned off by any brand that doesn’t have a mobile website.

And I don’t just mean doesn’t have a mobile website, but one that auto-detects that I’m using a mobile device and renders the appropriate screen.

So you can imagine my glee in discovering the PSE&G had made the leap to mobile.

I wonder how many more utility companies are following suit.

If your’s isn’t – shame on them.

But I’d imagine that it isn’t far off.

 

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Don’t be a dummy! The value of QA

qa

Do you remember those Hanes commercials, where the underwear was inspected by inspector 12?

The point of those commercials was that before those underwear protected your man package, someone decided that they met some established standard of quality to bear the Hanes seal.

If a thread were out of place, if the sticking was off, if the color was wrong, that pair would have been rejected.

Hanes was giving its customers a glimpse into the world of quality control.

The world has changed a lot since then, but the concept of quality control has not.

It has actually made the leap from physical good to digital ones.

If you’ve every built a website, mobile site, mobile application, micro site or kiosk, then invariably part of the process involved subjecting the product being developed to some form of testing.

In the digital space, we refer to this testing as quality assurance testing or QA.

QA is a way of preventing mistakes or defects in manufactured products and avoiding problems when delivering solutions or services to customers.

During QA, the developers ensure that the product that they’ve developed meets all the criteria established at he beginning of the development cycle.

Essentially, you’re running your website, mobile site, app, kiosk – your product, through it’s paces, confirming that it performs correctly, logging defects and passing those defects to the development team for remediation.

Typically QA testing involves making sure that at a threshold level, all the component parts are there: home page, navigation buttons, header, footer, menu, shopping cart, etc. and then making sure everything works the way it’s supposed to.

So during QA, testers run through test cases or test scripts to make sure your product behaves properly following the “happy path” as well as when users do something completely unintended.

If they encounter something anomalous, they test again, to see if they can replicate the error they’ve just observed – and if the can, they log the defect by providing the exact steps to reproduce the error, so that the developers know what to look for.

Logging a defect involves detailing the starting point, the exact steps the tester followed to trigger the error, the expected and actual results.

Often that defect log will include a snapshot (or snapshots) of the actual observed error.

Once the developers review the defect, confirm that the issue is not just a one-off caused by a poor network connection, tester error, a source issue (for example a mobile site generating the same issue as the full site) or something wholly unrelated to the product being tested, they get to work on resolving the defect.

When the problem has been solved, they’ll pass it back to the QA team for validation of the fix. If everything checks out – the fix passes. If not, they’ll send it back to the developer with additional notes about what they’ve observed.

This process continues until the issue is resolved (or until the developers determine what blockers must be removed in order for the issue to be resolved – because sometimes the issue may lie elsewhere).

If there’s a ‘green light’ the fix (or fixes) is/are passed from the development environment (QA) to the client (for user acceptance testing) or live (depending on the severity of the defect in question and internal protocols for resolving live defects).

No one cares if your website or app looks great if it crashes.

In fact, there’s a whole world of QA testing which is devoted to trying to break your website or app.

Because people aren’t always as smart as we give them credit for being.

And websites or apps don’t always perform the way they’re supposed to.

So QA ensures that you don’t put out anything that you would want to put your seal of approval on.

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Holiday shopping tips for the digitally challenged.

2015-black-friday-cyber-monday-sale-657x420

I know it’s mad early to be talking about holiday shopping, but luck favors the prepared.

Nearly everyone is familiar with Black Friday.

It’s the biggest shopping day of the year, where retailers slash their prices and shoppers act as if the world is coming to an end.

There have been countless stories of people being trampled – trampled when store doors open as people literally rush to savings.

I’m not a Black Friday kind of dude.

If I’m going to go shopping and try to save money at the same time, I’m going to do it intelligently.

And I’m going to do it online.

While Black Friday is a boon for brick and mortar establishments, it’s also a win for online retailers who offer similar savings for folks not inclined to deal with holiday shopping crowds, but are still looking for bargains.

Online shopping on Black Friday has become so popular that it spawned a completely different shopping day, devoted entirely to the online shopper: Cyber Monday.

Cyber Monday, for the uninitiated, is like Black Friday, except its wholly online.

Instead of rushing to your local Target to stand online in the hopes of snagging that 42″ flatscreen LG, simply flip open your laptop, type in the URL and viola! it’s in your cart.

No muss no fuss.

If you’re a truly savvy digital shopper, you know that Cyber Monday type deals are available all year round.

But it’s only during the holidays that online retailers really promote these savings.

So this year, as you make your list and check it twice, make sure you’re bookmarking your favorite sites, because the savings you’re looking for are only a click away!

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Go back to school already! A top five list

back-to-school-heroNow that summer is in full swing, weekends are invariably full of the obligatory beach trips, pool days, and the incessant banter of children seeking to be entertained.

For all the sleep away camps, trips to see the grandparents and efforts to get rid of distract our kids, they always seem to be underfoot.

As parents, suffering the assault of that which we have borne, our thoughts inevitably turn to the one thing that brings us all solace: back to school.

For all our suffering, we know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

One day, in the very near future, these miniature clones will be cast from our homes, refrigerators and wallets, tucked safely behind the walls at institutes of higher learning.

And as the day of our liberation approaches, we shouldn’t bask in the glow of that warm thought too much.

There’s work to do so that our hellions are prepared for that momentus day.

So here are the top five things you’ll need to prepare your kids for back-to-school.

1. Backpacks – I don’t know about your kids, but by the end of each school year, my kids’ backpacks look like they’ve been on the losing end of a catfight. They’re usually dirty, with holes, broken zippers and often, petrified food. Getting new backpacks is a priority, especially if you want your future meal tickets to look the part of eager schoolchildren and not homeless hobos.

2. Laptop computer – my teenage daughter has been on a campaign to get a laptop computer for the past two years. As she enters the eighth grade, she may finally get her wish. Laptop computers are a must for teens seeking a bit more independence than the community family computer affords. And it removes any excuse they may have for not doing their homework. Just make sure you’ve got good spyware installed.

3. Cellphone – when each of my kids turned ten, they got a cell phone. It was a simple Metro PCS LG nonsense, but it was their entre into the world of digital connectivity. Now having a cell phone is more than just a means of communication with one’s parentals, it’s a social norm. And we can’t have our children ostracized because their the only ones without one!

4. Lunchbox – or should I say food transportation unit. My older kids are loathe to actually carry anything that actually resembles a lunchbox. For them, gone are the days of the square tin with a handle. Replaced by Goodbins, and various other ergonomic, compartmentalized food receptacles. While the older kids opt for the good old brown paper bag, the younger two are still happy to tote an old fashion lunchbox.

5. Hugs – what start to the school year would be complete without your obligatory hugs? One day they’re going to go off and not come back. So hug ’em while you got ’em! The summer’s no over yet!

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Filed under Parenting, Uncategorized

What’s a CD? Top 10 signs you’re dealing with a digital native.

digital native jokes

I recently took a train ride with David Polinchock (@polinchock), a technologist I had met over decade ago through James Andrews (@keyinfluencer) when I was still in private practice.

David was part of the Entertainment Technology Center, a division of Carnegie Mellon’s research arm that sought to leverage academic brain power with business.

Back then, we launched a sponsored research project to develop the DigiBoxx, a self-serve kiosk for music, where you could refill your iPod or MP3 device with music on the go.

This was 2003 (or ’04) long before the arrival of multi-gig devices capable of storing buttloads of music.

And while we didn’t have license the first to address all those pesky copyright issues, we did develop a working POC and that was a start.

Fast forward to 2015, and David and I are still pushing the envelope.

No longer the bright-eyed optimists, we chatted nonetheless about how far technology had come and what we saw on the horizon.

When the conversation turned to our kids, he talked about his daughter’s Digital Natives presentation at SXSW.

Come again? Say what?

Apparently, he had pitched SXSW to stop talking to old fogie stogies like us about technology and have actual digital natives – who only know the world of gadgets  speak from their unique perspective.

I was simultaneously offended, envious, and intrigued.

Who the fuck are you calling old?

I love SXSW. Why can’t I go?

Why aren’t my kids presenting at SXSW?

When I finally worked through my mixed emotions, I tuned back in to hear him describe a world view he gained listening to his daughter and her co-presenter.

Oh right…..some 12 or 13 year old child prodigy who builds his own computers co-presenter.

This is the era of Digital Natives.

Talking to David made me think about how technologically different the world is for today’s youth than it was for any other generation.

We’re not so far removed from floppy discs, but kids today only know USBs.

Their Boost mobile starter phones have more computing power today than desktop computers in most financial institutions a decade ago.

But rather than drone on endlessly about what digital natives are and are not, I figured I’d grace you with one of my top ten lists.

Here are the top ten signs that you’re dealing with a digital native.

1. They’ve never bought a CD. It’s not that they’ve never purchased music. They just don’t need all the bells and whistles of album jackets, jewel cases and shrink wrap. Long gone are the days where you rushed to the store to cop an vinyl album. Then went 8 tracks. Then cassettes. CDs are media evolution’s latest victim. Digital natives get their media the minute it comes out – online. And if they do buy it, it’ll be on iTunes.

2. Netflix is their Blockbuster. Remember rushing to Blockbuster to rent the latest hit movies on DVD? Digital natives don’t. In fact, they probably don’t even know what a Blockbuster is. Digital natives dial up their movies on Netflix or Hulu or HBO Go. Maybe they hit a Redbox (to give their parents that nostalgic home movie watching experience). But watching movies at home (or on the go) is a digital streaming experience.

blockbuster-closing-041210-webjpg-7775ba2fdd8fda15

Good riddance to you sir!

3. Screens are keyboards. Digital natives know only the world of touchscreen inputs devices. They tap not type. They text 50 wpm using just their thumbs. When I was in high school, I took a typing/word processing class. The target was 50 words per minute, and you were considered expert if you typed above that. Today, the screen on a mobile device is the equivalent of a keyboard and digital natives feel right at home typing – I mean tapping – away on their screens.

4. They’re OS agnostic. Digital natives are equally versed in iOS and Android. Unlike the old guard, they take no sides and have allegiance to the device that meets their needs in the moment. Today it’s more about utility than brand. If it works right, they’ll buy it. Brand be damned! Hence competition between device makers remains fierce.

5. Google is a dictionary. Digital natives Google everything. When I was a kid a dictionary and the encyclopedia were how I figured things out. Didn’t know how to spell a word or it’s definition? I looked it up. Want to know the capital of Kazakhstan? I looked it up – it’s Astana – BTW. Digital natives simply Google it. Can’t spell? No worries, Google will offer you the correctly spelled word as an option.

6. Apple radio station. ITunes is dead. Today, your iPhone has Music. No more iTunes. Digital natives live in a Beats Music+Apple world – which you get free for 30 days BTW. Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, MixCloud, and countless digital radio stations have made it such that terrestrial radio stations hold low sway over digital natives, who configure and share their own playlists and find artists through underground videos on the interwebs.

apple-music

7. Emoji is a language. When my kids got their mobile phones, virtually every text message included emojis. Not just one mind you, but streams of smiley faces, tear streaked to connote laughter, thumbs down to express disagreement – you get the picture. Emojis are in such high demand with digital natives that whole marketplaces developed for Facebook and Apple who both saw fit to add a bunch more to their keyboards.

emojis

8. Everything swipes. Tinder, Fruit Ninja, Zillow, everyone uses swipe navigation to streamline the digital natives’ user experience. Swipe navigation makes using mobile devices seamless allowing them to engage content in increasingly sophisticated ways. And as 3D technology and AR move content off screens into 4D space, digital natives are primed to creatively leverage these applications.

9. Gaming as a social activity. If you’re a parent, you want your kids outside getting exercise, socializing and interacting with other kids. For digital natives, gaming is social. Most gaming systems (and virtually all computer games) let you play against other gamers virtually. And with immersive VR worlds and Google Cardboard, you can still be outside inside.

10. Multi-taking is the norm. Digital natives are comfortable using multiple screens simultaneously. Measuring how many screens a viewer uses while watching a program is a thing marketers track and want to know because digital natives rock multiple devices as matter of course. This always on always accessible characteristic defines digital natives.

digital multi-tasking

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Filed under digital advocacy, technology

Resistance is futile. Confessions of an Apple Watch owner.

Stephen's Apple Watch

A few days ago, I got the email I’d been waiting for months to receive.

It said, “your apple watch has arrived.”

I was in Bermuda at the time, installing a music library in Marcus Samuelsson’s eponymous restaurant, Marcus‘ at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, so my glee was tempered by distance.

But over the next few days, I fantasized non-stop about how amazing my life was about to become.

My watch and I were about to become the best of friends.

I knew, I just knew, that my Apple Watch was a game changer and my life was going to be infinitely richer as a result.

But as I headed into Manhattan on a dreary Monday morning, I started to have misgivings.

Would I become one of those people constantly checking their wrist, desperate to see the source of the latest ping or buzz?

Was I trading up to yet another useless gadget full of sound and fury, yet signifying nothing?

My Shakespeare folks will appreciate that.

I digress.

We’re already a tethered society.

We can’t seem to put our phones down.

Every ten seconds we’re reading our emails, responding to texts, checking Facebook or engaged in some other inane activity involving a mobile device.

And that’s with a device we can put down.

What happens with that device is inextricably tied to our person?

What then?

I can’t help but think of the Borg.

The cybernetic beings from the Delta Quadrant that assimilated their victims, making them part of a collective or hive mind.

You know, the big cube thing from Star Trek, The Next Generation.

the-borg

Each cyborg (hence “Borg”) was a undifferentiated part of the whole, sharing their thoughts and sensory input with them.

When you were captured by the Borg, they didn’t kill you.

Mechanical components were added to your anatomy, stripping you of your humanity and making you a part of the collective.

Hence “assimilated.”

I know I’m probably being dramatic, but this thought keeps popping into my head: “Resistance is futile.You will be assimilated.”

I mean, sure, the Apple Watch can collect data on its wearer.

And it can share that data with Apple or the app developer, which then knows information about the wearer, but that’s not so bad. Is it?

Wait a minute…

Am I being assimilated?

Is resistance futile?

Once I put on the watch, is there no turning back?

Only time will tell.

Four days in, and I’m fighting the good fight.

I do not automatically look at my wrist whenever a haptic alert beckons.

I shall not fall prey to your Siren song Apple Watch! Damn you to hell!

But resist as I may, I can already feel the endorphin rush whenever my wrist buzzes.

Each vibration draws me further down the rabbit hole.

And once I glance at her, even for a moment, I’m infatuated.

“Her?” It’s a fucking watch! WTF is the matter with me?!!

I mean really. I’ve only really checked out a few functions.

Like the activity monitor, which I clowned, is actually quite useful.

activity monitor

After plugging in your gender, age, height and weight, you can set daily fitness goals, and the watch will prompt you to stand, or exercise in order to keep you on track.

Yesterday, I hit my fitness goal of burning 720 calories. I actually burned 932 by walking 7.5 miles, exercising for 75 minutes and standing for sixty seconds once every hour for twelve hours.

I’m pretty awesome, says my watch.

Or the Remote app, which lets you control your other iOS devices when you’re on the same wi-fi network.

Last night, I got in four episodes of Game of Thrones on HBO Go on Apple TV, all controlled through my handy dandy Apple Watch.

game-of-thrones-hbo-go

Or Chat, which lets you read and respond to text messages right from your wrist.

I’ve had numerous chat conversations without typing a single character.

I just speak into my watch, Dick Tracy style, and my words magically appear on the screen.

And I can choose to send my voice memo or the text equivalent.

dick-tracy

I can even send emojis to spice things up a bit.

Wait…have I already been assimilated?

Nah!

Just taking it for a test drive so that I can tell all of you.

Yeah. That’s the ticket!

Anywho, I have not (yet) been assimilated, although I suspect it’s not far off….

Damn Apple!

Haven’t had enough of my ramblings? Check out my video review of the Apple Watch below!

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Filed under Apple Watch, iPhone

Book Book is for the birds. Unless you want a cracked iPhone screen.

iPhone 6 Plus + Book Book = Cracked iPhone 6 Plus

I was soooo happy when my Book Book iPhone 6 Plus case first arrived.

You know, the phone case that looks like an old book from Twelve South.

I made several videos illustrating my unbridled glee before settling on this.

I had slits for my credit cards, a clear panel for my license and could hold a couple of dollars nicely.

There was no way to keep it closed, but laying on a surface, the cover stayed firmly on the screen.

After all kinds of iPhone cases – Otterboxes, bootleg LV wallet, Targus, this one, that one – I felt that I had arrived.

With the Book Book, I had stepped up my phone case game.

I’d matured.

My iPhone was nestled snugly in a case that protected it from the elements and looked stylish to boot.

Oh! The compliments I received!

Each new outing brought hordes of admirers, cooing at my case, remarking on the weathered look of my Book Book comme iPhone case.

My glee was short lived however, the first time the phone dropped.

My pride turned quickly to horror as my phone slid off my lap and (in slow motion) opened up like a small black bat taking flight.

But instead of darting off herky jerky, it made a beeline to the hard unforgiving ground, landing with a resounding slap.

Nauseous I reached down, confident I would see the telltale sign of iPhone owner neglect – the spiderweb crack.

Luckily, I dodged the bullet and my screen was intact.

I thanked the iPhone gods (Steve Jobs and Jony Ives) and swore I would never treat my iPhone so shabbily in the future.

But that exact same scenario has occurred no less than five more times since then.

Sometimes landing on a rug, or a shoe or car mat.

Each time face down, but intact.

Until today.

You see, today, it slipped out of my hands, as I was trying to navigate a subway turnstile.

I keep my Metrocard in one of those handy slits on the inside cover, and as I went to move through the turnstile, my forward momentum came to an abrupt halt.

Apparently, my Metrocard had not been read.

And as a result, my Book Book went flying, opened face down, and SLAP!

Everything went black.

I knew, I just knew that this was the end.

I had mocked the iPhone gods with my empty promises, and it was my day of retribution.

You’ve been in the NYC subway system.

There’s nothing soft about it.

I prepared for my accounting as I swiped my Metrocard (correctly this time) and stooped to retrieve my baby from the cold concrete.

Amazingly, no spiderweb.

Praise Jobs!

Wait…what’s this?

There.

On the lower left edge.

A crack.

Slight.

Like a hair caught in two places along the edge, forming an elongated reverse capital “C.”

Barely perceptible, but there nonetheless.

I cursed the culprit for my suffering under my breath.

Fucking Book Book!

At this moment, I realized what an absolute liability the Book Book iPhone 6 Plus case was.

Despite the mounds of empirical data I had to the contrary, I operated under the delusion that my phone was safe in the case.

Aliya King's Nightmare on Instagram

Aliya King’s Nightmare on Instagram

Not less than a week ago, I had told my girl Aliya King, that I felt her pain when she posted a selfie with her spiderweb sporting iPhone 6 Plus in what?

A Book Book.

What else?

I had even replied that I was going to swap my Book Book for an Otterbox or LifeProof for the very same reason.

Did I?

No.

Do I regret it?

Yes.

But more than regret, I’m angry.

Book Book, you need to either (a) increase the depth of the iPhone holder or (b) figure out a way to keep the case from flying open face down when dropped.

But either way you owe me a new iPhone.

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Filed under advocacy, iPhone

From Vimeo to Periscope. Do we really need another video app?

The War for Eyeballs

First, there was Vimeo, the first video sharing website.

Vimeo allowed users to upload, share and search for videos online, and life was good.

Then there was YouTube.

YouTube gave us our fill of all the videos we could no longer see on cable or broadcast TV, all with a quick search.

Vevo popped up after that.

Vevo was a great alternative to YouTube because it had higher quality videos, without all the associated riffraff of user generated content.

Suddenly UStream appeared, and not only could you watch video replays, but you could tap into live video streams.

Couldn’t be there, but want to experience it live?

UStream let you do just that.

We had achieved video Nirvana.

Not to be left out of the fray, Facebook offered its own native video player, giving its millions of users an easy way to upload and share videos on its platform.

All of your low res, hi def, canned or live streaming video options were covered.

Right?

Apparently not.

Because then came SnapChat with it’s expiring videos.

Wait, that’s a thing?

And then Meerkat, the app that lets you broadcast yourself doing whatever to whoever wants to tune in.

And finally (and I say “finally” loosely) Periscope, which let you do the same thing.

So, what’s with all the video apps and services?

Well, video is a big thing.

No, I’m not talking about the bandwidth it requires.

I’m talking about the appetite folks have for it.

And they money that can be made.

Think about it.

Instagram has added video, so that its not just still photos anymore.

YouTube now offers “premium” channels.

Content companies, like HBO, are cutting ties with Cable companies and offering their content directly to consumers through apps and consoles.

Netflix and Hulu let you watch television and movies on the go.

Virtually everywhere you look – elevators, cabs, subways, planes, trains – video is offered.

And regular people are getting in on the action.

“YouTubers” is a thing.

Shooting a video of a melee and yelling “WorldStar!” is a thing.

People try to make “viral” videos as a way of getting their 15 minutes.

Folks earn bookoo bucks as YouTube broadcasters, creating often funny, niche content, attracting tens of thousands of viewers, and earning income as well.

Buzzfeed, FunnyOrDie, College Humor and many others’ business models are built exclusively off producing and marketing video content.

So while I think the current ‘fight’ between the creators of apps like Periscope and Meerkat is stupid, because…well just because, there is clearly an insatiable appetite for virtually any kind of video.

Have you ever watched a sensory video – the kind that’s supposed to give you tingles just by watching?

I digress.

To answer the question posed in the title of this post, “do we really need another video app?”

No. We don’t.

Are Meerkat or Periscope the last of the video apps we’ve seen?

No. Not by a long shot.

There’s a war for eyeballs currently being waged.

With billions of dollars to be made.

And folks out here seeking fame by turning their cameras on and streaming themselves doing whatever.

And with all of our shiny, powerful, always-on mobile devices clutched in our collective sweaty palms, we’re all in the crosshairs.

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It’s all about connections. And 5 Other Things You Need to Know about the Internet of Things

IoT Demystified, artwork courtesy of Dawn Riziti

I recently asked a professional colleague of mine if they knew what the Internet of Things was.

After a brief paused, they half-said, half-asked, “a marketplace of things you can get on the internet?”

Uh – no. Not even close.

Mind you, since I work in technology, I was more than a bit taken aback.

How are we, in the mobile/tech industry, not up on a rather widely used term of art – at least within the industry?

But then it dawned on me, the Internet of Things (or “IoT” as we say type in the industry) may not be as widely known as I thought.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never even heard of the “Internet of Things.”

Or, if you’ve heard the expression, you probably nodded along knowingly, without the faintest idea of what it meant.

Apple Watch. Internet of Things.

Nest thermostat. Internet of Things.

Onstar. Internet of Things.

Nowadays, virtually everything can be part of this amorphous Internet of Things, thing.

But that’s not quite explanation enough to help you know what the Internet of Things, actually is.

So here’s a little primer for ya.

According to Wikipedia,

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing infrastructure.

Come again, say what?

The Cloud Computing glossary defines the Internet of Things like so:

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a scenario in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. IoT has evolved from the convergence of technologies, micro-electromechanical systems and the Internet.

Yeah, that was a whole lot of gobletygook.

But if the concept still escapes you, here are five other things, about the Internet of Things, that may help you to wrap your head around it.

1. IoT promises connections to everything. The new rule for the future is going to be, “anything that can be connected, will be connected.” As a result, that very “connection” is going to allow you to “life hack” like you’ve never before. You’re already able to track your REM sleep patterns, your calories in-and-out, your mood and focus throughout the day. “Know thyself” will be the new thing as we become data crunching champions. No more ‘one-size-fits-all’ consumption because, at our fingertips, will be a ‘personality mosaic’ that informs all of our behaviors and consumption.  

2. IoT will impact consumptive behavior. As the leading brand in the space, Apple will continue to lead the pack with IoT. They’ve already made the biggest impacts in “at will” consumption. Their IoT will invariably provide us all with completely “tailored” lives. The Apple Watch gives developers the ability to create apps, which will enable the reading and tracking of our consumptive habits and offer more and more suggestions tailored to our interests and lifestyles. 

The possibilities for the IoT increase as the cost of technology decreases. A few years ago, you could only get feature rich smart phones with a two year contract from a major carrier. Today, you can cop an iPhone from T-Mobile or a Samsung from Metro PCS without a contact. Companies will pay you to leave your carrier. And that’s because they know that the smart phone users’ consumptive behavior is on fleek.

3. IoT promises increased efficiency and reduced waste. The IoT will to make us all more efficient, by collecting data about our habits and behaviors, and helping us to live more productive lives. Machines that order refills when supplies are low. Alarms that record how often you hit snooze and wake you up at the optimal time so you don’t have to. Cars that calculate travel time and proactively re-route you when they detect increased traffic ahead. Lights that automatically brighten and dim, based on the activity in the room. All of these advances are the Internet of Things, saving money, time, gas, and energy.

4. IoT will change healthcare as we know it. Folks are obsessed with the possibilities that Android Watch and the Google Genomic project will have on healthcare. Think about it. Through the IoT, our genomes, our diseases and our state of health can be all matched up with environmental and behavioral data fed by wearable tech. We’ll actually be able to know more about disease and what triggers certain gene expression, possibly leading to cures and disease prevention by reconciling all of this disparate data.

Lab testing on animals has proven to be highly ineffective and outdated in mimicking/predicting how humans will respond to medications and other environmental influences. But IoT provides the first truly humane opportunity EVER to virtually “test” on humans, by giving medical professionals a unique and benignly intrusive view into the relevant metadata that factors into our general health.

5. IoT has major privacy and security implications. If you follow the news, you may have heard about the hullabaloo over the new Samsung Smart TVs which ‘listen’ to you. It’s really just another form of voice-commanded technology, not unlike Siri, Cortana or Google’s voice assistant, which act on vocal prompts. So while we’re already using this type of technology, the IoT opens up the possibility that virtually every device you interact with will be ‘listening’ to you, actively and passively, monitoring and recording your every action.

The purpose of this listening, tracking and recording is to enable you to live a simpler life, but the implications include the fact that third parties will be able to access ever more granular bits of data about you, your family, your habits, comings and goings. With ‘listening’ televisions and devices everywhere, the IoT brings the very real likelihood that we are going to be sacrificing privacy, as we know it, for convenience.

But it’s not all bad.

Put simply, the internet of this is all about connections.

So let’s review, shall we?

The Internet of Things is connected devices, wired homes, smart buildings, and constant data capture.

It’s smart grids, IPv6, machine-to-machine, intelligent communication.

It’s sensors, RFID, wireless technologies, beacons.

It’s everything. Everywhere. All the time.

Welcome to the Internet of Things.

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