Playing online chess is like trying to get Wii Tennis to suffice for real tennis. You simply can’t digitally recreate the palpable exchange of energy with a live opponent in chess or tennis, as much as a shared physical space only seems a requisite for the sport and not the Eternal Game. (Give it time though… complete virtual reality sports with remote opponents will be quotidian soon enough.)
The wide simulacra of social interactions that we enjoy online are stunting real relational and conversational skills.
I touched on this in Episode 25 of The Digital Dive Podcast (see 12-minute mark). If you don’t sigh with satisfied exhaustion at the end of a match — athletic or mental — your soul dies a little bit with each passionless ending. We thrive off social interaction. Each transaction — from exchanging a greeting in an elevator to chatting at a coffee shop to flipping the bird in a fit of road rage — is a little rally, an easy serve, a distracted miss, a pawn en passant, a blunder, a check. The physiological feedback we get from technology (social media in particular) creates an addictive dopamine reward system in the brain. We are bathing in these transactions, but they’re not happening in proximity to our bodies. So exactly what true energy are we processing? Tech addiction (i.e., checking habits) can cause a host of problems, including a loss of normal socialization skills. Something is lost when relational transactions occur primarily digitally. We’re breathing ether. I’ve tried to tweet a smell, it’s getting so bad.
Multitasking Is Just a Couch
We should not assume that the quantity of available matches, so to speak, makes up for lost quality. You can’t multitask while playing chess or tennis. Finishing a live game satisfies a deep need for connection, competition, and stimulation. In play, we’re exchanging raw energy, we’re focused and mindful. You cannot be in positive psychology’s beloved zone (feeling flow) while watching TV, eating, texting, and Candy Crushing.
Sure, you can multitask continually throughout the day and imagine you are adequately returning simultaneous serves, nailing forehands, and setting up tidy gambits with your network, coworkers, clients, family, and friends as you tap and click, fire off emails, Facebook updates, texts, reblogs and Likes. But it’s fragmented. You aren’t focused. This isn’t life, it’s just stuff! (- American Beauty)
Since I doubt many of us are willing to give up our technology, whenever possible, let’s return to the simple purity of focusing on just one task at a time. Read more books and fewer articles. The end game will be a disappointment otherwise.
Chess quiz - White to move and mate in 2 moves:
Alain White, American Chess Bulletin, November-December 1941. Solution
Original chess move challenge posted 8/23/10, post updated 5/8/14
The problem: You are trying to enable Google Chrome Voice Search but you are not being prompted to grant Google permission to your microphone.
The solution: You need to adjust your Chrome settings and/or Adobe Flash Global Privacy Settings. At one point you may have denied Google access to the mic and the settings saved, never to ask again. When you click the microphone icon on the Google Chrome search bar at google.com, you see a link to Learn More, instead of being prompted to Allow or Deny permission (because you already denied it). On Chrome for Mac you’ll see “Voice search has been turned off. Details”
Clicking on “Details” on Mac or “Learn More” on Windows 7 takes you to a page entitled “Voice search and voice actions on Chrome” where you can read about how great Voice Search is and how to enable Ok Google but there is no information about turning the mic on/allowing permission. How do you adjust your permission settings for the microphone in Google Chrome?
Enter chrome://settings/ in your omnibox. Click Advanced Settings. Under Privacy, click Content Settings.
You’ll see these options on Windows (similar on Mac):
Select “Ask me when a site requires access to my camera and microphone (recommended).” Click on Manage Exceptions. You may see some entries for Hostname pattern and Behavior. If you see the Hostname https://www.google.com:443 you will want the Audio to be set to “Allow.” If it says block, simply highlight this row and click the X to delete it. Then Google will ask for permission to access the mic when you return to google.com and click the microphone icon to use Voice Search. The problem should be solved now.
However, if it says “Allow” here and you are still having issues, just click on the URL to highlight it, then click the X to delete it. We’ll try and reset the process. If you see no entries for Hostnames here and are unable to type any in manually, that is also okay. Let’s make sure you don’t have any settings in Adobe that are at play:
After you’ve clicked Manage Exceptions, at the bottom, click the “Change” link in: “Adobe Flash Player camera and microphone exceptions are different. Change“ and you will end up at Adobe Flash Player Global Privacy Settings: http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager02.html. (Note: it does not matter if you’re logged into Adobe.)
Look for Google in the list of website settings. Delete it. Now you should have no settings regarding Google Chrome in your Chrome Settings or Adobe Flash Player: try to click the mic at google.com again. You should see Allow or Deny pop up.
You’ll find the basic instructions about setup and voice search examples on the Chrome voice search information page (but this page does not allow you to adjust the permission settings and the troubleshooting section doesn’t touch on Adobe). If you have problems after managing the Adobe settings though, the troubleshooting tips there could help.
I’m a fan of any technology that helps us get away from typing.
Why you should get a standing desk (Part 1).
Standing Desk Product Recommendations:
1) Desk: I have the adjustable height Dual Kangaroo from Ergo Desktop ($599) – made in USA. There are dozens of brands and types of desks out there. When narrowing down my choices in February 2013, I considered the Ergotron Workfit which is a mount, but in the end I chose the more portable Kangaroo, which sits on top of my regular desk. It required less hardware and work/drilling holes in the wall.
The Dual Kangaroo is great for a laptop and monitor setup or for two monitors. Be sure to use the included stability leg to reduce wobbling. (The attentive ErgoDesktop customer care team actually tweeted me this tip after noticing this picture I posted of the desk sans leg.) The obvious benefit of an adjustable height desk is that it allows for postural changes throughout the day. There are times you’ll want to sit – that’s okay. I rarely lower my desk but it’s nice to have the option.
Kangaroo and similar brands like VARIDESK, UpLift and Ergo Depot have models for different laptop/computer combinations. thehumansolution.com has a good selection of well-priced desks and free shipping over $85. (The Human Solution also accepts BitCoin because they are awesome.) A coworker recently ordered the Kangaroo Pro (mount style) for a single monitor (the Pro Junior is good for smaller monitors) – well done, RD! Some Kangaroo desks use VESA mounts for your monitor while others use shelves (what I have and prefer for its flexibility).
- Explanation of the differences
- Tool to assist with measurements for your standing desk
- Tammy Coron at creativebloq has more tips about measuring and posture
A few more standing desk recommendations if the Kangaroo line is not for you:
a. Electric adjustable desk: The UpLift 900 ($769) has received excellent reviews (LA Times). Lifehacker named it the #1 standing desk (check out Lifehacker’s February 2014 top five standing desks – if you order one off this list, you’ll be set). “If you want a standard size desk with brilliant height adjustability, the UpLift 900 is perfect for you.” The motor allows easy switching between sitting and standing. See video reviews of the UpLift 900.
b. Walking desk/treadmill desk: Check out the TrekDesk ($479). Note: I have read that your WPM decreases as walking speed increases, and Business Insider‘s Alyson Shontell reports that her treadmill desk experiment decreased productivity due to dividing attention across work and physical movement (but she ultimately had fairly positive takeaways). If you are a klutz and multitasker, walking while working could be problematic. I like the idea of it overall though. Read Danny Sullivan’s treadmill desk review. Sullivan uses the LifeSpan desk, specifically the TR1200-DT7.
c. Light duty electric desk: If you work from a laptop and only need the standing desk for a few hours a day: Ergo Depot AD17 Adjustable Height Desk (normally $749, on sale for $549 at time of this posting)
d. DIY: The famous $22 Ikea standing desk: The Standesk 2200.
Also check out Anjelika Temple’s creative suggestions on Brit + Co: ten DIY standing desk ideas. This includes a nicer but still affordable Ikea solution: The Floating Corner Desk (from $178).
e. (Pretty) affordable height adjustable monitor stand and keyboard tray: VARIDESK Pro ($300)
Try it first! Note: Please experiment with a DIY standing desk for at least two months before purchasing furniture. Try using cardboard boxes and old yellow page phone books or paper reams to prop up your monitor, keyboard and mouse at proper ergonomic height on top of your existing desk. It will be ugly but it’s for testing. Make sure you can commit to this lifestyle.
2) Anti-Fatigue Floor Mat for standing desk: A good, thick, high-quality shock-absorbent floor mat is crucial. You spend most of your life at work (and soon, on your feet). Invest in your health and comfort. I have been quite pleased with the $75 Rhino Mat Pyra-Mat Anti Fatigue Mat from ergodepot.com (free shipping). Don’t skimp on the floor mat, and don’t venture into standing without one. Read the fine print: you should have a sponge thickness at least 3/4-7/8″ thick (1/2 inch won’t cut it). The mat I have comes with optional custom logos. If you’re a manager and have employees who stand all day (e.g., at a service desk or counter) surprise them with these mats and you will be amazed at their gratitude and improved morale.... read more Post a comment (0)
The average American adult sits 15.5 hours per day.1 I’ve had a standing desk for almost a year and half and I plan to keep it that way. Many people don’t realize that it’s not just how much physical activity you get, but also how much time you spend sitting that can affect your risk of premature death.
A 2010 study by the American Cancer Society found that women who sat more than six hours a day were 37% more likely to die prematurely than women who sat for less than three hours, while the early-death rate for men was 18% higher. 3
I could write pages about the frightening negative health outcomes associated with sedentary lifestyles. Just check out Lifehacker’s “How Sitting Is Killing You” Infographic. If Americans would cut their sitting time in half, their life expectancy would increase by roughly:
- 2 years (by reducing sitting to less than 3 hours a day)
- 1.4 years (by reducing TV time to less than 2 hours a day) 4
Many great thinkers throughout history stood at their desks, including Leonardo Da Vinci, Virginia Woolfe, and Ernest Hemingway.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably already aware of the myriad reasons why you should do everything in your power to get a stand-up desk, but maybe you haven’t taken the leap yet. I’ll make it simple and give you the top three reasons. In Part 2 I provide desk reviews and product recs. If sedentary office workers would stand up for a mere few hours more per day, I’d bet the farm that over several years, our entire country would be healthier and we would save billions on healthcare costs.
You may work at a progressive office where standing desks are an option (like Google, Facebook, AOL, many startups, etc.). Maybe you see coworkers standing all day and marvel at them, wondering why anyone would torture themselves with unnecessary physical exertion and not take the easy route of sitting on a plush Herman Miller (or a cheap Staples chair wreaking havoc on your spine) for 8+ hours in a row. Well, either you’ve never tried standing, or you’re lazy. It’s okay – most people in the modern world are pretty lazy.
Let Michael Caine playing Robert Spritzel in The Weather Man ask you something: “Do you know that the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing? Nothing that has meaning is easy. ‘Easy’ doesn’t enter into grown-up life.” Also, newsflash if you think working out undoes the damage:
Researchers say time spent sitting was independently associated with total mortality, regardless of physical activity level… -The American Cancer Society 2
Three reasons a standing desk will save your life and make you more productive:
1. PREVENT CANCER: Prolonged sitting increases the risk for cancer. Exercise does not undo the deleterious physical effects of a sedentary lifestyle: working out does not erase the compounding of growing fat cells in your rear, the slowing of your metabolism, or the diabetic state that your blood glucose quickly transitions into when the body has been sitting for hours. “Researchers say that physical activity, even something as simple as standing up for a few minutes, releases an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which reduces the body’s levels of triglycerides and LDL (or bad) cholesterol. High triglyceride levels are linked to cancer, and LDL cholesterol is associated with vascular disease. Prolonged sitting precludes the flow of the enzyme.”2
Wait, let’s reiterate this part: “Pressure placed in the buttocks and hips from sitting down for too long can generate up to 50 percent more fat in those areas.” 5
2. PREVENT WEIGHT GAIN, KEEP METABOLISM UP: “Right after you sit down, the electrical activity in your muscles slows down and your calorie-burning rate drops to one calorie per minute.” You will burn an additional average 50 calories per hour simply by standing instead of sitting. If you stand for just half the day, that’s 200 free calories burned. Our processed, preservative-laden diets have strayed far off the path nature intended. We can at least mollify the fact that many of us eat unnaturally and too many calories by keeping more muscles in the body engaged for more hours of the day. Sitting is a Big Mac and fries while standing is a quinoa salad with grilled salmon.
3. PHYSIOLOGY and PSYCHOLOGY – FEELING AND INTERACTING LIKE A BETTER HUMAN: You’ve read about the benefits of walking meetings (Steve Jobs was famous for them). Movement is good for the body and soul. A mere 20-minute walk in the middle of the workday has a remarkable positive impact on brain function. Standing is a lot closer to walking than sitting is, plus you’ll be more likely to move around. Coworkers who are standing are perceived as more open and approachable, with a tendency to more actively share ideas. This is anecdotal, but I feel more awake, more productive, and more energized throughout the day, which many others standers report, too. Sitting allowed me to marinate in workday lethargy, but standing wakes me up. Sitting encourages poor posture. Our bodies were not made to sit.
Think about all the crutches we use to wake ourselves up or to focus: coffee, a cigarette break, a jaunt of web surfing or online shopping, constant phone checking habits… Stand up and wake up. Increased bloodflow throughout the body will make you more positive, productive, and focused.
Office Reality and Your DIY Trial Period:
Unfortunately, many offices haven’t made ergonomics a priority yet. If you want to try standing, do a trial period with a free/inexpensive DIY setup – stack some yellow page phone books, paper reams, and/or cardboard boxes, then put your keyboard (elbows bent at 90 degrees) and monitor (eye level, no neck craning up or down) on top. Listen to The Digital Dive Podcast episode on the DIY standing desk when Melanie first planted the seed in my head. Get used to standing by starting out with a couple hours per day and adding 30-minute increments each day. If you like it and you make it two months, then invest in some furniture. I was pretty psyched when I rewarded myself with the real thing.
I am lucky to work in an environment where I have an office with a door, mitigating the self-consciousness or unwanted attention that some people may fear in a cubicle setting. Seeing you standing will make some people uncomfortable, nervous, or defensive because of what it implies about sitting. Just smile and link them to any article cited in this post. In Part 2, I share my top three ergonomic desk product recommendations, including my own Kangaroo standing desk, my anti-fatigue floor mat, and two types of compression socks to help prevent varicose veins (which can happen from standing OR sitting too long over time).
Cheers to your health and productivity.
- American Institute For Cancer Research - Cancer Experts Link Almost 100,000 U.S. Cancer Cases to Inactivity and Prolonged Sitting, 10/31/11
- American Cancer Society Press Releases - Study Links More Time Spent Sitting to Higher Risk of Death
- Are you sitting down? Cancer fears may alter the sedentary job. 3/8/12
- Mayo Clinic: Nutrition-wise blog: Do you have ‘sitting disease’? 7/25/12
- Guess What? Sitting Does Make You Fat. ABC News. 12/5/11
DISCLAIMER: I am not a trained healthcare professional. The information provided here is meant to educate and inform but is not official medical advice. Consult your physician before making any major lifestyle changes. The views and opinions shared here are mine and not those of my employer.
I interviewed Dr. Carrie Madej, Medical Director of the Phoenix Medical Group of Georgia, about the health risks associated with cell phones. The Digital Dive Podcast first explored Smartphone Addiction in Ep. 28 (we discussed social etiquette for smartphones, widespread impact of mobile technology on society, and some health concerns).
I invited Dr. Madej on the podcast to get her expert opinion on cell phone safety research, manufacturer and FCC testing, and learn what the medical community thinks about whether cell phones cause cancer (the jury is out). Hear what you can do to limit the potentially negative physical impacts of the wireless devices and gadgets that we love. (Because I am not planning on giving up my phone anytime soon.)
08:55 – The two most toxic (or EMF emitting) objects we use on a daily basis: microwave ovens and heating blankets / heating pads.Carrie Madej, D.O. is an internal medicine physician who operates a private practice treating patients for a variety of medical issues.
09:50 – Studies on qualitative quality of life measures, infertility, depression, etc. Lack of data without longer term study lengths.
11:15 – IARC Interphone study from 1999-2004. 13 countries, 14,000 subjects. Omitted data: subjects with brain tumors, subjects who died, those who were too sick to be interviewed, children and young adults, and users of feature phones. A correlation between cell phone use and brain tumors was found nonetheless.
13:00 – Health effects of smartphones and wi-fi devices on children: developing brain tissue is more susceptible and sensitive to the impact of EMFs.
14:00 – European vs. US research on cell phone radiation.
15:10 – What to do to decrease effects of the EMFs of iPhone: keep it farther away from the body, do not use wi-fi and Bluetooth at the same time when not necessary (decrease potentiation signals next to other devices). Data is inconclusive about the true safety of our phones.
16:35 – A fertility study showed evidence that after 15 minutes of having a laptop on a male’s lap, the sperm count dropped 15%.*
19:00 – A few tips for decreasing the SAR of your phone: turn off when not in use; turn off when signal is weak (searching for signal increases EMFs).
19:30 – Emily: The Digital Dive typically focuses on technology’s impact on society, marketing, and innovation, and we thank Dr. Madej for offering her medical insight in this interview.
Tips on Tap
1. Triggertrap – “Creative ways of triggering your camera.” Photographer Kevin Griggs of Capitol Photography shares the robust, free Triggertrap mobile app. It enables photographers to trigger their phone’s camera or an external camera by various actions such as a sound (like snapping your fingers or a bang), a timer, GPS, vibration, face recognition, and more.
In Wi-Fi Slave Mode, you use another Triggertrap mobile device as a trigger, connect to the master device and wait for the other device to trigger this camera. You can purchase an optional dongle (a wire to connect the phone to the auxiliary camera) for $30 which allows you to use the app to fire a DSLR from a mobile device. Free app available for iPhone and Android. You can do a 5-10 minute exposure by setting it to manual. The app lets you get away with much more than a traditional cable release at the fraction of the cost.
2. NegativeMe app – (currently) free for iPhone and iPad. Kevin shares this gem of an app that allows you to take a photo of a hard copy negative and the app turns it into a positive. Easy, fast conversion of negative images into positives.
3. iPhone Safari tip: How to use the “Find on page” feature in Safari for iPhone. It’s basically CTRL F for mobile. And it’s incredibly simple but not terribly obvious. Just type the phrase or word you want to see highlighted on the page into the search bar. Scroll down to the bottom of the results and then tap the phrase.
Lastly, please excuse any audio quality issues with this episode. Our expert editor Melanie Touchstone was out of town this week, but she will return for Episode 31!
1. Use of laptop computers connected to internet through Wi-Fi decreases human sperm motility and increases sperm DNA fragmentation. Fertility and Sterility. January 2012. 2.
2. BREAKING: Cell Phones Could Hurt Your Sperm. Men’s Health. August 2011.
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The Digital Dive PodcastTM: Get the most out of technology… without ever fully giving in
Do you think Skyler White is a total buzzkill on Breaking Bad? Do you full out hate Skyler? ”…Male characters don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.” In an 8/23/13 op-ed for the New York Times, Anna Gunn, who portrays Walter White’s wife, discussed what’s behind the vocal public contempt for Skyler, which has blurred into “loathing” and even death threats against the actress. Skyler White - I Have a Character Issue – NYT
Anna Gunn’s op-ed explores why viewers are so quick to hate TV wives like Skyler, Carmela Soprano, and Betty Draper while their husbands, the protagonists, commit crimes against humanity, cheat, lie, manipulate, and endanger their families, but rarely inspire such “homicidal rage” toward the Don Draper/Walter White types or the actors who play them. Anna Gunn’s article made me rethink why I used to see her character as a killjoy, annoying, or a nag as she’s been pegged.
Gunn makes an excellent point by complimenting Vince Gilligan and the Breaking Bad writers for painting an ever-evolving Walter White as complex and likable “despite his moral failings.” And yes, there is “a natural tendency to empathize with and root for [a show's protagonist].” Still, the fact that everyone so loves the ”deeply flawed yet charismatic genius” that is Walter speaks to the highly skilled storytelling that has earned Breaking Bad titles like “best show ever.” Maybe the writers of these top dramas aren’t making the wives likable enough. Maybe it’s a learned, default cultural interpretation of wives as automatically antagonistic to our beloved, flawed male protagonists. Regardless, this is an important conversation because our society is consumed with and influenced by media now more than ever:
- “American teenagers spend 31 hours a week watching TV, 17 hours a week listening to music, 3 hours a week watching movies, 4 hours a week reading magazines, 10 hours a week online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day.
- Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media (telecommunications, entertainment, publishing and advertising).
- 53% of 13 year old girls are unhappy with their bodies. That number increases to 78% by age 17.”
In the documentary Miss Representation (click to watch), filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom exposes disturbing realities about how women are portrayed by the media and “under-represented in positions of power and influence.” Newsom demonstrates the relationship between the lack of powerful women (characters or real ones) depicted by the media and entertainment industry and the lack of female leaders in politics, business, etc. In summary: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” -Marian Wright Edelman
There are TV shows with strong, likable female leads, but nowhere near as many as those with male leads whose adoration by viewers exemplifies an obvious double standard given the wider range of character traits, flaws, age, and physical appearance in male leads. This is one reason I love shows like Lena Dunham’s Girls on HBO and Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black on Netflix.
One aspect of Miss Representation that relates to television and marketing is the business of commercials. Essentially, brands want to advertise on content that mirrors their messaging. Marketing is about making consumers uncomfortable: if you instill in a consumer a sense of urgency that they need a product to make themselves better, happier, sexier, smarter, younger, prettier, richer, etc. then you’ve caught their attention. In general, TV shows are written to reflect their advertisers’ brand values and messaging so that they will keep advertising to an insecure consumer. Characters and storylines often perpetuate the beliefs that make viewers insecure, i.e., better consumers.
Media companies, networks, advertising conglomerates, and ad agencies are male-dominated financially, philosophically, and visually – pure numbers. While the Skyler White conversation has many variables, it’s important to keep the undeniable reality of our gendered media in mind when deciding whether you think Skyler hatred is a symptom of a larger cultural problem or is simply the result of storytelling in the modern age, where character-bashing is more public online.
Good follow-up reads:
- Laura Hudson’s Wired article posted after the 8/25/13 episode, Confessions: Breaking Bad Recap: Walter White Is An Abuser – Wired.com 8/26/13
- Hey, Anna Gunn: Not Everyone Hates Skyler White by Willa Paskin, 8/26/13
1. Instagram Ads: Native Advertising
What will it take for a successful native ad to work on Instagram? Which brands are killing it now and why (Timberland, Redbull, Marc Jacobs)? The Instagram community is sensitive and accustomed to an intimate app experience – new ad execution is crucial. Our advice: Don’t be irrelevant and don’t be creepy.
2. Wearables and Google Brain
Wearable technology: it’s the future.
I am particularly ready to be done interacting with my devices on hard surfaces in the physical world. How will the rules of social etiquette adjust for a bunch of oncoming Glassholes? Our smartphone addiction is like cigarette addiction: both compel the addict to remove themselves from the moment. Google Glass can take away the physical barrier – maybe it will bring us back to being present.
Fashion meets technology: On July 2, 2013 Apple recruited Yves Saint-Laurent CEO Paul Denève to work on a “special project,” (presumably the iWatch), reporting to CEO Tim Cook.
Denève’s career is known for fashion, but this will actually be his second lap with Apple; he was a European marketing and sales manager in the 90s.
Modern memory: The phenomenon known as Google Brain isn’t as bad as it sounds – we hope. Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow et al published key findings in Science (August 2011): Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips: ”…when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it.” Maybe that isn’t so bad: if the world has made information more readily available, why shouldn’t our brains adapt to locate it faster instead of working on remembering it? It’s all about efficiency, as my co-host will tell you.
3. Alone Together
Millennials and digital natives are losing the art of conversation. There is a lot wrong with the common sentiment, “I’d rather text than talk.” I recap psychologist and sociologist Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk and book Alone Together. Turkle asks: what are we losing by using technology to communicate when we want, how we want, and in an abbreviated and controlled manner? “As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other?”
14:00 – Melanie reminds us that as humans, we have historically had trouble accepting changes in society, in language, and in our bodies. Here’s our Death of the English Language episode (read: Emily’s head in Downton Abbey): U-Turn Into a Tech-Speak Future – Episode 5
Two great Sherry Turkle quotes:
The feeling that ‘no one is listening to me’ make us want to spend time with machines that seem to care about us.
We’re lonely, but we’re afraid of intimacy. And so from social networks to sociable robots, we’re designing technologies that will give us the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.
Tips on Tap
1. Tile App - Tile, the world’s largest lost and found. The Tile App on your phone makes it easy to find anything you have placed a small plastic Tile on. Keep track of your stuff. Preorder now for $18.95. “Works with iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad Mini, iPad 3rd and 4th gen, and iPod Touch 5th gen. New iOS devices will be supported as they become available, as long as they have Bluetooth 4.0 support.”
2. Drinkify.org - Drink recommendations based on the music you’re listening to. I test out Elvis, Tool, Bach, and Nirvana.
3. The Intimacy 2.0 Dress: A sexy high-tech wearable: clothing that responds to your heartbeat. “The ‘Intimacy 2.0′ dress, designed by Daan Roosegaarde, is getting a rise out of the fashion world because its opaque fabric becomes transparent when you get aroused.”
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The Digital Dive PodcastTM: Get the most out of technology… without ever fully giving in
LA Fitness realizes that its customer service is so mediocre that an easier retention model is actually to make the cancellation process stupidly inconvenient.
How lazy. How uninspiring. We’re obese: we need our gyms to inspire us! In the same vein as my post about Target burdening customers with unnecessary requirements, to cancel your LA Fitness membership, you need to log in to LAFitness.com then print and mail or bring in a cancellation form M-F, 9AM-5PM. Here’s Step 1 after clicking on the form. The form contains nothing more than your name and ID. You don’t even sign it. I enjoyed the irony of the third “choice”: LA Fitness requires you to mail a hard copy but cannot confirm receipt of said form unless you have an email address. The idiocy of that alone would compel me to cancel if I didn’t already have a plethora of reasons.
After reading Steve Curtin’s customer service manifesto, Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary, I’ve become keenly aware of the difference between job essence and job function. Service employee basics, according to Steve Curtin, The Customer Enthusiast - (summarized or directly quoted):
Job functions: “The duties or tasks associated with a job role.”
“…job function is necessary—even critical (i.e., the shopping carts must be retrieved from the parking lot…)—but it does not represent the totality of an employee’s job role!… The other half…often neglected, is job essence. His highest priority at work is to create promoters.”
- Job knowledge and skills
- Typical customer service: “routine, expected, and ordinary”
- Results-oriented: policies, procedures, checklists
“Job essence: An employee’s highest priority at work (i.e., to create delighted customers!)”
- Motivation (understanding why one performs job functions)
- Reflected in employees’ personality, creativity, unique flair
- Lasting positive impressions on customers
Bon Qui Qui is funny because it’s true.
Usually, when you check in at LA Fitness, the desk person senses your presence without looking up, holds out her hand, takes your card, swipes it, and hands it back. It’s the case at most Kroger stores, too. Over time, the effect of being shuffled along through impersonal assembly line transactions has a negative impact on our attitudes, society, and the economy. The difference made by a friendly Publix cashier who offers eye contact, a greeting, and thanks me first is such a stark contrast to quotidian transactions that we’ve come to expect the exchange of money for goods as a robotic, thankless necessity.
“Thank You” (for taking my money)
One of Curtin’s most poignant observations was about the order in which thanks are given at cash registers. Do you find yourself thanking the cashier for taking your money before he has thanked you? Does he ever actually say “thank you”? In our modern effort to be polite and self-effacing to workers in what we perceive as less pleasant, low-paying jobs, we have established a pattern of not expecting to be thanked first for our business. Granted, plenty of customers are rude. But you’re not.
For all the articles and books lamenting the loss of human interaction due to technology, I urge marketers and consumers to reflect on the low-hanging opportunities for positive brand impressions absent from our culture of mechanized transactions in too many brick and mortar stores.
When’s the last time you received excellent customer service?