Please keep checking in.
People often complain about social media. Facebook is time-consuming and pointless and self-aggrandizing and there’s no real connection — yes, all right. Twitter is a constant, exhausting, too-cool-for-school barrage. And both of them leave you feeling a little more distant from everyone, at the price of keeping a line open to everyone you’ve ever met.
But when awful news hits like the explosions at the Boston Marathon, suddenly all of this feels less like a nuisance and more like a social network. Everyone I know has gone dashing to Facebook. The newsfeed, for once, is full of the bits of news that matter. I’m okay. Are you okay?
– Read more in The explosions at the Boston Marathon and the Facebook huddle, the terrific latest piece from Alexandra Petri in her Washington Post blog
Email is the Rasputin of digital behaviors. 2011 saw a peak in the “email is dead” theme; people complain incessantly about email deluge and time spent in the dreaded inbox; and teens are resisting it (although they’re spending more time online via mobile). Good articles abound about how to fend off email and manage it. And yet, nothing has taken its place: services like Yammer don’t seem to have found the social substitute, and layoffs are beginning.
The lingering existence of email was summarized neatly yesterday in TNW — email just works, and has a low barrier to entry. People are still finding innovative ways to cut through the inbox clutter and deliver results. And Mailbox, which has taken about a million and a half reservations, is exploring new ways to advance mobile email into productivity (and was promptly snapped up by Dropbox).
In a fast moving digital environment, it’s frustrating to think that a highly imperfect and widely derided application around for nearly two decades is still where we should be sinking time and effort. But ignore email at your peril — it’s still bread-and-butter for most digital initiatives.
Turns out that people can remember social content better than a CNN headline, a sentence randomly selected from a book, or even than a human face. Psychology researchers published a fascinating paper back in January that showed through a series of experiments that Facebook posts — chosen with a range of emotions and writing styles — are extraordinarily memorable. But why?
A few reasons: the text is designed to be complete (unlike a sentence from a book); gossipy/entertainment content is inherently more memorable than straight news; and casually generated language, however “vacuous, narcissistic, or vapid” is apparently more memorable. This last reason is intriguing — the idea that copy created off the top of one’s head is somehow more “mind-ready” for the recipient to absorb and retain. No wonder no one can ever remember a corporate mission statement.
Back from a needed break in Seville — where the rains finally stopped to provide a hint of Spanish spring.
In an era when many women are striving to Lean In professionally, I’m surprised how many still express trepidation at the idea of traveling alone. There’s a lot of sensible online advice for logistics, like useful safety tips (and bad things can certainly happen), but far less about how to enjoy it. Here are a few ideas for making the most of solo travel, whether for business or pleasure:
- Find your favorite travel services/apps, and become a pro-user. Kayak for deals; TripIt for social itinerary management; OpenTable or Yelp or Foursquare tips for meals and entertainment; Waze for wayfinding; Kindle for reading. There’s no one right service: find one that meets your requirements and master the app so you know how access what you need on the road.
- Plan ahead, but if you’re busy, keep it simple. My protip (a precursor to subreddit Explain Like I’m Five) has been to take out kids’ travel books on the area before going. If I have time for Black Lamb and Grey Falcon before a trip to Serbia, fine, but most of the time a short and quick read of greatest hits will suffice.
- Use social media to meet up with friends or friends of friends — or just get up-to-the-minute advice. Depending upon the kindness of strangers is easier than ever in the digital age, and far more empowering now that you can offer tangible tips back through online services. Whether you’re looking for recommendations for local theater tickets or the absolute best cup of coffee, I’m pleasantly surprised how generous people are with their ideas and recommendations. Use them, and reciprocate.
- Choose accommodations wisely. I’ve stayed low-end for startups and nonprofits and on the higher end for long-awaited vacations, but a safe, walkable location close to a city center delivers more value than any other amenity. Figure out the features (a gym? wifi? non-creepy bar?) that are important to you, and focus more on those than the starred reviews.
- Look up and speak up. Many of us, myself first and foremost, suffer from dopamine-driven mobile device habits. When traveling, put yours down and look around. At a conference, make an effort to meet the people you tweet with, and don’t worry if there as many misses as hits. Crowdsourced recommendations are terrific, but sometimes you do as well asking the person next to you where the best ice cream is (in Seville, the pointer to Heladeria Alfalfa was a hit).
- Learn to eat alone comfortably. Talking through a meal on a mobile isn’t the same as a dinner companion for you (or for your fellow diners). Learn to read, write, or just relax over a meal. Avoid room service — there’s nothing more grim than eating dinner in a hotel room. Tip appropriately for the local norm and the service you receive.
- Make a personal connection, and ask for what you need. Making a personal connection as you check into a hotel (front desk clerks have astonishing discretion for upgrades) can yield terrific results. For ideas, try an online community like flyertalk that’s populated by road warriors who are the Olympic gold medallists of the upgrade. Whether you’re speaking with a concierge or maître d’ or gym attendant, learn how to politely but clearly ask for what you would like. It’s still common to be offered the room next to the ice machine or the table by the kitchen; it’s surprising how much of an improved result a polite request can deliver.
Traveling on your own can happens for a variety of reasons — a free day tacked on to a conference, or a planned trip to a destination of your dreams. Enjoy!
A lot has changed in how we access content on the internet over the past ten years. Rise of (widespread) blogging that popularized individual-as-publisher? Early 2000s. Switch to mobile interfaces? Arguably started with the 2007 launch of the first iPhone. Video? Now it’s mobile and everywhere, as YouTube has over a billion monthly viewers. And with Twitter’s seventh birthday just last week, we’re reminded of the meteoric rise in social behaviors over the last five years. (Fun stat: per Nielsen, U.S. adults spent 121 billion minutes in social in July 2012, compared with just 88 billion one year earlier.)
But as Jeff Atwood explains, forums today look pretty much like they did a decade ago. And that’s a problem, because there’s lots of good stuff stored there. Forums are an undersung hero of online content — not as sexy as Pinterest, not as real-time as Twitter, not as immersive as Facebook, but often areas for discussion of specialized topics that generate huge referrer traffic. The out-of-the-box software found today in B2B and B2C still has limited features and a poor interface, like the internet that Web 2.0 forgot.
So, what would an ideal forum experience look like in 2013? Atwood others are taking a stab with Discourse, an early-stage project with a long feature list (Conversations not pages! Notifications! Ability to paste images for those who converse in animated gifs!) that seems intuitive and useful, without being bloated.
Today many fanciful consumer-facing digital projects and apps get funded in crowded spaces, or are a solution in search of a still-unidentified problem. Forums are valuable content repositories that are both surprisingly ubiquitous and decidedly broken —so let’s take a stab at fixing them.
With college students, obviously, we assume that they are young adults–even there, we still need to do a lot more to educate them as they, too, struggle deal with the ramifications of privacy in a networked world where exposure can get out of control much quicker and in hard-to-anticipate manner.
— Your Children are not Your Children, a post by Zeynep Tufekci in response to recent exposure of children in the media by their parents and journalists. Tufekci objects to the widespread oversimplification of privacy that if there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just fine to make it public, and points to the risks of exposure for children far below the age of reasonable consent.
Many adults are now diligent documenters of their own milestones and minutia through images on social networks and newly-quantifiable data captured through apps and wristbands. Young hipsters transform seemingly overnight into dads who post everything from in utero shots to Vine video of their toddlers daily. Was the 2009 David After Dentist video intended to be exploitative, or a way to share an amusing parental anecdote in a contemporary way?
It’s a more complex world in which parents now navigate child consent. Parents receive pressure from schools to sign blanket image consent forms, which meant a lot less when the biggest risk was a flattering shot in a private school marketing brochure or a spelling bee win on the cover of the community weekly. There’s a structural lag for both individual parental and social/institutional approaches to privacy in the internet era, and most are making it up as they go along. And, as Tufekci points out above, college students are not magically immune, but face similar challenges figuring out privacy boundaries and the ramifications of broad exposure.
I have learned that when it comes to successful idea translation, whether in labs, ateliers, or startups, it is not only the breakthrough eureka ideas, but the chemistry of the team, that determines success or failure. Venture and academia are not polar opposites, as some might have you believe. After all, serial entrepreneurs and productive labs are known for their ability to rapidly re-assemble teams to exploit new opportunities. Pick your collaborators – your tribe – wisely.
— from Hugo Van Vuuren’s blog re the 2014 launch of the Lab Cambridge, but applicable to any project where people need to use ideas to build stuff.
Research by Bryden, Funk, and Jansen looks at word usage in Twitter, and finds that communities can be characterized by their word choice. Even better, the words used by an individual can accurately predict the community that user belongs to.
We all speak in our own workplace jargon and the acronym-laden tech community, myself included, is more guilty of this than most. This study reminds us that words are about more than information transfer—they also serve as tribal identification. The words we choose to use on a public social network are a way of signaling the community we belong to as much as the suit or T-shirt and jeans we choose to wear to work each day.
Anyone who’s spent time in a high school or college campus recently won’t be wholly surprised by Pew Internet’s recent study on U.S. teens and technology. 78% of teens have a mobile phone, and 47% have smartphones — meaning that a whopping 37% of all teenagers have a smartphone.
More surprising may be the number of mobile-mostly users, people who access the internet mostly through their mobile device. About 15% of adults mostly use the internet via mobile, but there’s a big leap to 25% of mobile-mostly teens — and a full 50% of teens with smartphones.
What does this mean as older teens entering college campuses and the workforce? The communications and ecommerce worlds have been living mobile-first for a while. Jonah Peretti reminded us at SXSW that mobile used to be where content stopped, but today mobile is instrumental in content spread. Black Friday 2012 was a wake-up call for any remaining retailers who didn’t see the opportunity for mobile transactions.
The seismic shift will occur for enterprise IT when these teen mobile-everything users expect to be able to perform tasks from registering for class to entering time in PeopleSoft to submitting expense receipts. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been an IT practice for a number of years, with non-trivial concerns about support and security. Make no mistake: this teen mobile usage data shows there’s a tsunami of application development work awaiting organizations for this rising generation of mobile internet users.