Ramming speed

We lean into inanition, surrounding ourselves with computers that accelerate information yet de-energize action in the physical world.

We expect everything to be deliverable with a click.

We consume more than we can handle. The next track, the next photo; we’re scrolling in a constant state of next and forget to appreciate the art.

We store our memories in the cloud and Google all the answers. We outsource our chance to think. What’s a brain for?

We can’t keep up with this dizzying pace. Hence the procrastination, lack of care, and certain shortcomings.

We seek out distraction to avoid facing the hard isses in our life.

We’d rather stare at a screen of perpetual pleasure than realize the moral decay around us.

Reality Augmented

Images by Wells Baum

A mirror shows us who we are. It doesn’t lie, reflecting blemishes and other imperfections. The phone’s screen is also a mirror, but one that’s used to project an edited version of ourselves.

Selfies are customizable. The phone allows people to pinpoint the side of the face and angle that makes them look best. People use blur tools and filters to further enhance their look. The aim is to publish the best version of themselves.

Seeing your face off a reflection though is more complicated. We can’t really control the way our face shines off a bus window or how it ripples in the water. But we accept this the lack of control because of the contextual effect. It makes us look interesting, narcissistic yet natural.

Put a mirror up and people will judge themselves. Give them a smartphone and they’ll preset their look, perfecting it afterward. But a reflection is distorted, creating an organic depth misperception that makes others curious.

Reflections are shadows of ourselves, an augmented reality we happily accept.

Keep Ya Head up

adam-birkett-182274.jpg

Humans are meant to look up and be vigilant of their surroundings.  It’s a survival mechanism.  Now we stare into our phones, neck hunched over.

Some people argue that this habit is no different than before.

But carrying around paper and a handheld computer is different. You don’t walk and read a newspaper simultaneously but you can walk and drive with your phone because of its size and because it acts like a compass. Accidents are inevitable.

If you’re going to google and social network, stop instead. Get out of the middle of the street. Dictate instead. Or use Beem.

Try to keep your head up and your phone in your pocket, or preferably your purse or backpack. Notice and observe your surroundings. Technology does more good than harm, but the latter is mostly preventable.

“Yeah, keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.” – The Doors, “Roadhouse Blues”

#Neverlookup

Through the Looking Glass

We’re restless doing nothing. The thought of boredom leaves us scrolling through email and refreshing Facebook to the same updates. We crave new information, even if it’s useless, even if makes our brain fat.

Technology hinders daydreams spontaneity. Instead of letting the mind wander in dull moments we fill it with screen time. Life, which was once the only screen our eyes could see has been replaced by the mobile device. Google’s Cardboard plans to relegate reality even further, allowing our eyes to venture into 3D experiences. Some people won’t want to come back.

Technology trivializes experience. We live through images. We dive into our screens. Nothing is new, nothing is visceral. Memory drains with a click of the button.

Good Tips

People pay for curation today, not the content. The content is cheap and mostly free.

Apple just have away a U2’s new album. You can already stream any track you want on Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud. Unless you’re reading the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal, there’s no paywall preventing you from getting free news. Meanwhile, Amazon is pushing for an all you can eat books model as part of their Prime service.

Free content means that what people are really paying for are the quality of recommendations thy get in return. Peer recommendations don’t suffice.. You only want to consume the good stuff that master curators spend the time to find.

What made Songza different than the rest of the music streaming networks was its handpicked, contextual playlists based on time of day. Echo Nest plans to turn Spotify into a recommendation engine. What makes Amazon so good at recommending books is its smart algorithm.

The wisdom of crowds theory that said that the best result is the summary of what everyone is looking for is dead. People don’t want to be manipulated by mainstream culture. The best services will find out what niche genres a person likes and make long-tail recommendations around those. Make the users feel like they found it first.

Content and curation are BFFs. The two go hand in hand. The act of curation gives content it’s true value. People just want to hear about the good stuff and ignore the rest.

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

— George Bernard Shaw predicted why you’ll never win an argument on social media because of the whip-speed of digital communication.

Sunday Social Roundup

  1.  Facebook plans to crack down on click bait, tweaking its algorithm to deemphasize crappy articles, most notably those from Buzzfeed.  This move is probably a reaction to the firestorm lit by Facebook itself earlier this year when its product director complained about the lack of quality content on Facebook.  Finally, Facebook is admitting fault.  

  2.  Instagram released a new app this week called Hyperlapse, which essentially speeds up your videos.  Here’s a quick example of one of mine in Grand Central.

    Instagram is trying to make it easier for its community to create videos. If so, it should consider building in cinematic cam too like the Steady App.

  3.  Twitter’s favorite button has multiple meanings.

    • To bookmark.
    • To end a conversation. 
    • To like something. 

    It can also be used strategically to grab someone’s attention, aka provoke.

    But now Twitter may be taking its favorite data to show you what other people are favoriting. Sounds similar to Facebook’s algorithm if you ask me.

  4. Here are the top 25 most popular apps in the US right now. It’s clearly the Facebook and Google show. Tumblr is not even on there. Good to see Gmail on there though. No wonder newsletters are back.

  5. Starbucks is rolling out trucks to college campuses to feed the thirst of coffee crazed students. I don’t see anything in here about offering Wifi though too. That should be a gimme if you’re within a certain radius.

The wisdom of Devin Wenig

Nobody has an electricity department in their company; nobody has an Internet department anymore—although they did a few years ago. I suspect that within 24 months, no one will have a mobile strategy. They’ll just have an omnichannel, connected-screens strategy.

What does “Omnichannel” mean anymore now that the analog and digital worlds have merged? Online/offline are the same thing bridged through screens.

Micro-Conversations

Talking to someone online in chat, instant message, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. is equivalent to talking to them on the phone. These micro-conversations are how people keep in touch with friends and others without actually feeling obligated to see each other.

I used to think it was the other way around. In high school, I got frustrated when my best friends would say they chatted with me without actually doing so on the phone or in person. I never thought digital communication counted as a real conversation, especially email, which I still don’t.

Email doesn’t count as a micro-conversation since it’s not live but merely a thread of archival conversation. This may change though if Twitter becomes the new email and creates more immediacy.

Micro-conversation is an easy way to replace a legitimate conversation and still stay top of mind. But it still feels like such a cheap workaround. FaceTime may be reconnecting faces again, but it too can feel impersonal.

Traditional conversation is changing. We communicate in bite sized pictures, emojis, and supplementary text. The wave of the future is talking through screens.

‘Shoots from the hip’

He/she wings it, is unafraid to get dirty, takes chances on the go and in the moment.

The beauty of shooting from the hip is its spontaneity. People that plan everything often end up with nothing.

Sometimes people appreciate the raw, unfiltered output. At the end of the day, it’s all about the story right now and less about manufacturing edits to be seen later.

Platforms of Choice

I always ask younger people their social network of choice just to make sure what the stats say match up with reality.

Mobile First

Almost 9/10 say Instagram is their primary network while Snapchat is used on occasion. Facebook goes unmentioned because it’s just part of everyday life, like reading the newspaper or checking email. Consumption is assumed.

Very few people I talk to say that Twitter is their first choice. However, those who do claim the network to be indispensable. Twitter is their tool for discovery, sharing, and online discourse. Not surprisingly, these people are mostly writers and heavy readers.

The Others

Tumblr and Pinterest are always mentioned as ancillary networks that are fun, useful, and niche but not to die for.

Flickr never gets mentioned. And neither does Path, Highlight, nor Secret. It’s not surprising that these are all apps more popular in Silicon Valley than amongst common users. Nerds rarely create waves of mass adoption.

Conclusion

Instagram is killing it. It’s the best way to tell edited and sometimes raw stories about your life. People communicate in pictures. Since Instagram grew up as a mobile app first, every UI and UX aspect of the app is optimized for mobile devices.

Facebook has done a good job in allowing Instagram to operate on its own terms and market itself outside the social networking Goliath. But in a few years Instagram will too be normalized and a new social-sharing phenomenon (probably a more private one) will be the talk of the town. Facebook, too, is covered there with WhatsApp.

FaceTime and the Perils of Public Discourse

The theme of mobile open dialogue and Internet browsing is trending. I partly blame FaceTime and mobile video conversation for this emergence.

As a daily train commuter, I see a lot of the ways people deal with technology. And by far the most invasive development of them all is FaceTime.

FaceTime allows iPhone users to chat face to face on their mobile devices. While this is fantastic for home and work conversations, bringing family and colleagues into your space, it’s typically a nuisance for everyone else if used in public.

FaceTime is training users that it’s ok to broadcast live video out loud, including YouTube. Yesterday, one man on my train was blasting a movie preview on YouTube. The guy behind him was talking to his wife on FaceTime about dinner plans. Thankfully someone had the courage tell them both to quiet down.

If you’re going to chat, watch online videos and movies or listen to music, the proper etiquette is to use headphones. We already overhear enough banter as it is; we certainly don’t need to know what you’re doing tonight or what movie you’ll illegally BitTorrent next.

Unfortunately, I think technology continues to evolve like a Google Hangout where everyone gets included on the conversation by default. Before, we were just spying on each other. Now we can’t figure out a away to get away from each other.