Category Archives: Technology

Multitasking Rots Your Brains

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.)

Beautiful female robot with computer mouseThe 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). 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, a serve, a distracted miss. The physiological feedback we get from connecting through 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 Stuff

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.

business man and woman multitasking acrobaticsSure, 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. As Lester Burnham said, “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:

chess problem

Alain White, American Chess Bulletin, November-December 1941. Solution

Original chess move challenge posted 8/23/10, post updated 1/28/17

How To Turn On Google Chrome Voice Search

The problem: You are trying to enable Google Chrome Voice Search but you are not being prompted to grant Google permission to your microphone.

illustration retro woman speaking in speech bubble

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”

Google Chrome Voice Search searchbar microphone icon

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):

Google-Chrome-Content-settings-Media-camera-AdobeSelect “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.

Target Customer Service and Faxing Twitter: Illusion of Hard Copy as Fraud Prevention

Girls with old fax machineRecently, two ridiculous, antiquated requests have been made of me in order to verify my identity to two companies that I like: Twitter and Target. I somewhat understand the fax requirement for a Twitter impersonation report so I’ll focus on Target. (FYI I’m the real @emilybinder and @adoreajabakery and @thedigitaldive_. If any other handle claims to be me, it’s not me: I wouldn’t set up a handle that required a number on the end because my desired name was taken. I would find another handle. I don’t do numbers on the end.)

A couple weeks ago, I signed up for a Target RedCard in-store. I applaud Target on the convenient offering of quick sign-up with the cashier by providing a blank check and a driver’s license: no forms or visiting guest services.

Annoyance #1: Lack of Internal System Network Cohesion

The RedCard account must be set up with the address on the customer’s driver’s license. Mine happens to be my old address. The cashier couldn’t enter another address or update it after setup. She instructed me to call the RedCard 800 number immediately afterward and request an address change so that Target wouldn’t mail my new card to my old address. My blank check — tied to a bank account with what is necessarily a more reliable current address than the one on a driver’s license which doesn’t expire for years — should have sufficed for proof of address.

Annoyance #2: Human Error Followed by Outsourced Customer Service Giving Dangerous InstructionsTarget bullseye RedCard dog

I called the RedCard 800 number and asked to change my address. The lady in India asked for my driver’s license number, which I read aloud. It did not match my account: the cashier had mistyped my DL number. The lady said that since she could not verify that I was the account holder, she could not change my address. For that to happen, I would need to send a letter in the paper mail to Target headquarters including:

  • name
  • old address
  • current address
  • driver’s license number
  • social security number
  • last four digits of new Target RedCard

She did not instruct me to explain the situation – just to list these things.

A of all, that is a joke if you think I’m sending my social through the paper mail to your PO box.
B of all, I told her that, and she said, “Okay, you can exclude it.”

Identity Theft

IDENTITY THEFT written on shredded fax paperBut her protocol was to tell the customer to send the above and nothing else. That would be a great formula for
1) no action due to lack of context
2) identity theft with that piece of paper floating around Minneapolis
Some customers are ignorant though, and would have followed those instructions. NEVER GIVE YOUR FULL SOCIAL unless you truly need to and you’re dealing with a trusted government entity or a bank, for example. Every single time a company or office has requested my social, I’ve refused and they’ve said it wasn’t necessary after all. Comforting. Keep it secret keep it safe. -My high school

I couldn’t print that day. So I, Emily Binder, hand wrote the letter. To make a petulant point about how ludicrous this was. After filling two sides of a page (many details to cover by this point) I finished with, “Please call or email me to confirm your receipt and processing of my request.” (That never happened.)

The Outcome

Two weeks after sending the letter, no card. I called the main Target customer service number. The system required entry of the last four of my RedCard and social. The lady who answered sounded like she was in Minneapolis. Great, maybe she will actually be able to update her own company’s system that she is staring at right now. She said the account showed my current address and that my card was just mailed. So my handwritten letter worked, which blows my mind. (I hand wrote it because I expected my request to fall into the void and I planned to later complain that I was merely providing information in the 1800s format they requested.)

Why couldn’t the outsourced RedCard 800 number customer service rep use the same credentials to verify me and change my address on that first day?

My letter provided no new (or verified) information that I wasn’t telling her over the phone or that I couldn’t email. At least with an email, the sender’s identity is somewhat traceable. USPS does not require a return address. Anyone could have sent Target a letter from “Emily Binder” and given any address where my card would then be sent to a scam artist. Note: Target still sent a RedCard to my old address.

The Customer

Do not burden the customer. If an onerous hard copy type of action is needed, there better be a good reason why electronic submission would not suffice. It’s ludicrous for anyone to think that fraud is any less likely by requiring a customer to print and put a stamp on the same letter they would otherwise email. Even if it includes a scan of a photo ID. It’s a scan. This mailing a letter ballyhoo is simply a waste of paper, time, and resources and in fact creates a greater chance of identity theft because there is a paper trail. Or, for the unfortunate ignorant or trusting customers in my position, it creates paper floating around with the customer’s full social security number on it. This 5% off all purchases better be worth it.

Modern Music: The Money at the End of the Rainbow

“We should stop asking, ‘how do we make people pay for music?’ and start asking, ‘how do we let people pay for music?‘” -Amanda Palmer, TED Talk: The art of asking (February 2013). I don’t want to discuss Palmer’s controversial, record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, which asked for $100,000 and ended up generating $1.2M from 25,000 fans. What’s more interesting is the paradigm shift in the music industry that most markedly began with Radiohead’s 2007 free digital release of their newest album. Artists are asking and fans are giving. Sometimes.

Radiohead Thom Yorke cover of Rolling Stone issue 1045 February 2008

Palmer’s opposite of Metallica M.O. is more salient to the reality of music consumption today than the traditional pricing, touring, and record label model. In a vacuum of capitalism where the Internet didn’t allow such easy piracy, standard pricing and control over content would make sense like it used to. But we don’t have a vacuum, and smart artists adapt.

Radiohead Let Us Pay

Public Enemy (1999 – paid download), Smashing Pumpkins (2000 – free download), Radiohead (2007 – free download), Trent Reznor (2008), Amanda Palmer and others have released their music first online with varying price structures before iTunes Store opened on April 28, 2003. But in 2007, iTunes had just become the third largest music retailer in the U.S. and online music was exploding. Radiohead blazed the trail on October 10, 2007 in the first major album release in which consumers could name their own price. Radiohead’s contract with their label EMI ended after 2003’s Hail to the Thief. After four years of turning down offers from other labels, in October 2007 Radiohead took a bold step in releasing their next album independently and digitally with a pay-what-you-want model.

Thom Yorke told Time,

“I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘F*** you’ to this decaying business model.”

Radiohead beat the album leakers to the punch by basically leaking their own album. Fans went to the band’s website inrainbows.com to download the 15-song MP3s. Big Radiohead fans, my college roommate and I were blown away and totally impressed when we clicked the download button and saw the prompt “It’s Up To You.” Click again and it refreshed with, “It’s Really Up To You.”

Including $0 payments, the average fan paid $2.26 per download, meaning Radiohead came out ahead compared with the ~15% they’d receive via the standard record company release model.

“People made their choice to actually pay money,” [Radiohead manager Chris] Hufford said. “It’s people saying, ‘We want to be part of this thing.’ If it’s good enough, people will put a penny in the pot.”

The CD release followed at the end of 2007. A year later, In Rainbows had sold more than 300 million copies worldwide in digital and physical formats.

Creative musicians will continue to find ways to circumvent the technology that has made it irresistably easy to pirate their music. But Amanda Palmer’s asking/giving/taking and Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want models aren’t new; they are a return to the organic way street musicians and entertainers exchanged their art with others, as Palmer points out in her TED Talk.

Now We Expect Free Music

Trent Reznor Nine Inch Nails on stage singing 2009Following In Rainbows, in November 2008 Trent Reznor took a shot at a different online release model when he co-wrote and produced Saul Williams’s album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust. Fans could download it for free or pay $5 for a higher quality version. The results were disappointing. As of January 2, 2008, 154,449 people had downloaded NiggyTardust and 28,322 of them paid the $5.

… the way things are, I think music should be looked at as free. It basically is. The toothpaste is out of the tube and a whole generation of people is accustomed to music being that way. There’s a perception that you don’t pay for music when you hear it on the radio or MySpace. -Trent Reznor, cnet.com

Radiohead’s free offering compelled us to pay a $2.26 average, but Reznor’s tiered free/premium model had less lucrative results at first.

For artists to follow Radiohead’s model en masse with success, our entire culture of music consumption would need to resemble the one Amanda Palmer champions. Unlikely for now, and unfathomable for less famous bands without dedicated followings and years of successful marketing and albums behind them.

I haven’t bought a hard copy album in years. The last I can remember was Tool’s 10,000 Days in 2007. The unique hardcover album case with stereoscopic glasses and Alex Grey’s art was simply incredible (and it won the Grammy Award for Best Recording Package). I have dabbled in iTunes and Amazon MP3 purchases but the closed environment and lack of ownership always bothered me. You’re leasing, not buying. I have no need to illegally download music now. Spotify is revolutionary. And mind-bogglingly cheap for the universal multi-device access you get to nearly all recorded music. Spotify hardly pays the artists, but overall it’s a more reasonable solution to the problem at hand than expecting consumers who won’t pony up $5 for an album to keep paying 99 cents a song. Maybe the Spotify model will make fans more willing to pay in other ways. It’s certainly the most convenient and instant access I’ve ever had to music, especially brand new music. Plus, with the Copyright Alert System, who wants to risk illegal downloads anyway? Instead, I’ll attend concerts and — after our Digital Dive Podcast interview with Zoroaster’s Dan Scanlan — I’ll buy plenty of merch.

 

Sources

Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want. Time, 10/1/2007

Public Enemy Makes Friends Online. EW, 5/14/1999

Pay What You Want for this Article. NY Times, 12/9/2007

Can Twitter Gauge Happiness?

Obviously social media opens new doors for marketers, but it also provides us with new sociological survey data. Only the subjects aren’t aware they’re being studied. It’s like that valid research method, natural observation. If inherently subjective ethnographies based on very small sample sizes are valid in anthropology and I am a technological anthropologist (Angela Natividad’s wonderful term) then surely I can liken all U.S. or global Twitter users to a tribe. I can measure their operationally defined behaviors in their natural habitat, the Twitterverse. This is the new anthro.human-emotions-collage

This stems from reading a recent study by the Vermont Complex Systems Center, who created a “hedonometer” for 10 million geotagged tweets:
The Geography of Happiness According to 10 Million Tweets – TheAtlantic.com, 2/19/13

(First I must note the correlation between religiosity in the Bible Belt and lack of happiness.)

Second, this is not the first study to link Twitter sentiment to mood:

Traders seem convinced that social chatter from a specific group or about a specific event (like a new Apple product or changing Netflix service) can be a predictor of where stocks are headed. Yet it was more than a year ago when Indiana University’s Johan Bollen found that his team’s Twitter sentiment analysis predicts changes in the market with 87.6 percent accuracy…. his work suggests that collective social mood leads the DJIA closing values by a few days’ time.
-Jill Noble, Dr. Johan Bollen on Twitter, Mood and Socionomics, Elliott Wave International 2/16/12

Bollen’s findings suggest that mass Twitter sentiment can predict the economy. There is validity to such studies despite the inherent sample bias.

What should be explored is that with Twitter, we can endeavor to gauge sentiment for groups on such a larger scale than is possible with typical surveys and limited sample size. This is what Bollen is doing with computational social sciences – and this is so important for marketers. Think neuromarketing. Granted, you’re only getting subjects who use Twitter – huge caveat. In certain states, depending on culture, it’s possible that Twitter tends to be used by people who are happier, sadder, or who tweet certain trigger words more often.

Mississippi is one of if not the nation’s poorest state. That must contribute to it being the #2 saddest. But the economically depressed state of my alma mater, Michigan, may be even sadder and they don’t have Southern cooking to eat their feelings. You are what you eat…

If I were a food marketer, I would go to town over this kind of data. Market your product as a solution to three struggling economic problems to start:
1. Lack of happy sentiment in the aggregate
2. Loss of community pride
3. Need for grocery value in communities with high unemployment rates

And as one might predict,

…happiness data correlates with income and the prevalence of obesity in an area.

Not hard to figure out those relationships: less education –> lower income and less knowledge and culturally sanctioned attention paid to nutrition
Lower income –> likely to only afford less nutritious food
Eat too much unhealthy food –> gain weight, have more (expensive) health problems, feel depressed emotionally, physically, and economically.
All –> tweet sadder.

On with the social-as-qualified-sociology:

  • Financial difficulties do not preclude Twitter use as many might guess – look at the rise of mobile-only households in lower income brackets. It’s also possible that even if mostly middle to upper class residents use Twitter, the general morale of an economically depressed state would make even those who are financially stable tweet more sadly.
  • Also, marketers who target angry and/or crass customers (with something like anger-management products): play up the offensive in your ad copy, you’ll be speaking your customers’ language and mirroring is effective:

For individual cities, the Vermont researchers note, the amount of swearing contributed substantially to their final scores. They think it’s worth investigating this phenomenon, which they call “geoprofanity.”

In Jill Noble’s 2011 interview with Johan Bollen, he explains the unique opportunity that Twitter offers as a glimpse into immediate, focused, raw emotional output. With limited characters and the immediacy of tweeting (especially on mobile) it offers a more targeted and insightful view into millions of everyday moods as they change around the globe.