Tag Archives: apps

Four Most Useful Alexa Skills

I have an Amazon Echo in my bedroom and an Echo Show in my kitchen. I use both daily. They have more than paid for themselves in helping me get hands-free information or assistance quickly.

Echo is far from perfect but she beats Siri to a pulp and Echo will only get better with time. Also, yes – Amazon is spying on us. So are Facebook and Google. You can accept it and reap the benefits of the products while taking privacy precautions, or live in the woods (nothing wrong with the latter). But if you think not owning an Echo will make you safer from tech companies watching you, you’re kidding yourself. So, enjoy!

These are the four skills I use the most. If you’re on the fence about buying an Echo, these are the ones from which you could most easily and quickly benefit. (The Echo Dot is only $29.99 right now, so that’s just a no-brainer. It’s the cost of an alarm clock and does a lot more, while also saving your eyes and brain from that stressful visual of the time around 3:42AM.)
  1. Find your lost phone.

    There are a few skills for this but the cleanest, easiest to set up, and easiest trigger words to remember are from this IFTTT recipe. It’s ideal for when your phone is lost within hearing range (like in your couch).

    You say: “Alexa, trigger find my phone.”

    And your phone will ring. Bluetooth does not need to be on, as it does with the Trackr skill that Amazon advertises for finding your phone. The IFTTT recipe doesn’t require installing any additional apps. Plus, just for fun, you can have that 415 number leave any voice message you want. The default is a machine-read, “Hey, it’s your phone. You found me.”

    IFTTT Alexa trigger informationNote: Available in the U.S. only. I like the simplicity of this skill. However, if your phone is lost outside hearing range, the Trackr skill is more detailed and can tell you where it was last seen (address included). That’s nice for finding a truly lost phone.

  2. Find out what time it is.

    You say: “Alexa, time.”

    Use this anytime, especially while you’re in bed. It prevents you from having to move, which can awaken your body. Most importantly, it removes the need to open your eyes and look at your phone or a clock, which wakes up your brain due to the light. Studies have shown that seeing the time on alarm clock or phone can worsen insomnia and anxiety about getting adequate sleep.

    Your phone’s blue light actually makes your brain think it’s morning. Looking at your phone is awful for your circadian rhythm. This simple skill can help. I don’t recommend a jolting alarm wake-up either, which increases heart rate and stress, but instead use a gentle smart wake over thirty minutes with the Sleep Cycle app. I also keep my phone on Airplane mode all night to prevent EMFs from harming my brain and body during sleep.

  3. Get help falling asleep or relaxing.


    You say: “Alexa, help me fall asleep.”

    You’ll hear ambient nature sounds. It’s relaxing. Good to play when getting ready for bed. Further, if you have Spotify, I recommend this skill for yoga, meditation, stretching before bed, or general soothing sounds:

    You say: “Alexa, play meditation music from Spotify.”

    Echo Show on kitchen counter with tomatoes
    Because I can’t remember anything for myself and neither can you.
  4. Set reminders for anything.

    From leaving the house to calling someone back to packing a lunch to putting clothes in the dryer to soaking black beans – sky’s the limit.

    You say: “Alexa, remind me to ___________ at 2:15PM.”

    The reminder will be audible from your Echo and also can appear on your phone if you’ve turned on notifications. I like this feature in case I’m not home.

I’m a fan of Amazon’s voice assistant, obviously. If you’re going to buy an Echo, please click through one of my links in this post. It chips in a few dimes to pay for my web hosting and my valuable hours spent arguing with Bluehost. Thanks 🙂

Nextdoor – Monetizing at Users’ Expense

Nextdoor is a neighborhood social networking app used by more than 150,000 neighborhoods in the U.S,  It’s a great app in so many ways. The initial product was unique and filled a need that most people didn’t realize they had (like innovative, successful products do, #PC #ipod). Nextdoor offered utility and community that Facebook couldn’t. But Nextdoor is so focused on monetizing through local business promotion (sponsored content) that they seem to have forgotten the importance of user experience, namely in the P2P buying/selling area.
Nextdoor sponsored post
Austin: 30% lost dogs, 30% lost cats, 15% for sale or rent, 10% cacti, 10% sponsored content (ads), 5% misc.
 –

Until 2016, Nextdoor had been entirely funded by venture capital firms including Benchmark, Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Tiger Global Management and others.

Recently, we have begun testing sponsored content from a select group of businesses who we believe have valuable products and services to share with Nextdoor’s members. We are also testing allowing local real estate agents and brokerages to promote listings in their zip codes. –Nextdoor
Nextdoor logo
Great name.

Feature Fails

The biggest problem is the search functionality, which is abysmal. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to search results. They are infuriatingly unhelpful. It’s like the app wants to show you that once upon a time there was a perfectly relevant post but now you’re SOL. Recency is paramount for this type of app, focused on quick sales or neighborhood updates. The content is mostly fleeting and time-sensitive.
 –
For example, search “table” and you’ll see six-month old posts but nothing new, even if a table was posted to the classifieds section yesterday.
You can’t access your own activity easily. Also, I don’t know if it’s my issue but there is no way to get your iPhone to add a visual notification badge (red number) to the Nextdoor icon. So you have to check your email or keep opening the app, which you forget to do, and then miss PMs, and the agave plant you were eyeing gets sold to someone down the block.
Boston brownstones
I once worked for a home services review provider in the same space. I predicted Nextdoor would eat that company’s lunch. They are, as is Amazon Home Services (fantastic, smart model there – go Bezos GO.)

Why Nextdoor is Special

Here’s what I saw two years ago: Nextdoor offers a convenient, focused platform for a select group (a tribe, more importantly) based on location. It’s the closest thing to an inherently trustworthy digital community you can find and its geo restrictions keep it relevant. Neighbors on Nextdoor just trust each other more when transacting or discussing. There’s more respect. Because it’s literally your neighbors. That is unique online.

But Nextdoor is going to need to invest heavily in a better UX if they want to survive the war of Classifieds with Facebook Marketplace utterly dominating the P2P selling space.

Facebook: Talk about great UX. That GD app which is the entire internet for most people may well beat out Craigslist for (G-rated) selling because it offers social proof and greater trust among sellers and buyers, plus total convenience because its messages are right inside Facebook versus your throwaway email. Easy mobile photo upload and price adjustment notifications to users watching your listing make the experience better for all. It’s a better experience than listing on Nextdoor, and clearly Zuck has already figured out monetization. Nextdoor needs to clean up the selling/buying features or there won’t be many users left to see the ads.
By the way, here’s the funniest Craigslist moment I’ve had in years. I was shopping for a table, and used my Google Voice number as usual to maintain some privacy:
screenshot of rude Craigslist email
How did he even know it was G Voice? Who’s the creepy one now? Rude/ignorant. Keep your table, dude.

How I Get 20k Hits a Month – The Instagram FAQ Queen

I provided the original Instagram FAQ. There was no official FAQ and everyone had the same five questions about blocking, liking and unliking posts, and whether notifications were received. So I wrote two posts and answered hundreds of resulting questions about Instagram privacy in 2011 and 2012. Seven years later, these posts still rank in top ten search results. I was not paid for the dozens of hours I spent researching answers to IG questions: I did it for fun, and as an investment in my personal brand.

Watch my story:

A great way to build your personal brand is to identify a need in the marketplace and offer up a solution. As a bonus, this builds your resume (especially useful for high school and college students).

Six years and 700+ comments later, here’s what I’ve learned about human frailty, desire, shame, and searching.

woman looking at the water holding her phoneIn 2011, Instagram was growing in popularity but lacked a formal FAQ. Users desperately sought information about whether their accidental photo likes would be visible to their exes and frenemies.

Instagram FAQ comment
One of the top 3 Instagram questions I receive.
Instagram FAQ question
Will they know I liked the photo if I do everything possible to prevent it?

I’ve answered hundreds of questions in the comments and continue to receive more each week. After six years of fielding queries about Instagram profile privacy, blocking, hiding likes, push notifications, and whether video views are public, I have concluded that we waste far too much time worrying about the visibility of our activity. We feel unnecessary shame. We want to hide what we consider shameful: voyeurism, the masochism of cyber stalking an ex, or simply our fascination with others’ lives. These are timeless human behaviors that have adapted to the available means. Look at songs like Don’t Come Around Here No More and On Every Street. Everyone can relate to these lyrics. Songs like these play in my head as I read through the comments on my Instagram posts. We’re nostalgic, we’re sentimental, we seek information and updates on lost loves, lost friends, lost places.

It’s clear that we use social media for many reasons. One is to satisfy our hunger for connection and validation. We do this less and less in person and increasingly online. So much is lost in this digital version of interacting.

Instagram privacy question
How do I get my new ex to stop copying me online?

I’ve seen the fear of being found out for behaviors that are common and understandable. We have been given tools to passively, secretly watch the highlight reels of each others’ lives. So naturally we watch. And we slip and click and immediately feel ashamed and self-conscious, exposed for engaging in the very behaviors that the creators of these apps and our fellow users expect and encourage.

Chicago rowhouse neighborhood

Tom Petty asked his ex to “stop walking down my street”. She probably wouldn’t want to be seen but couldn’t help herself. Now she’d be embarrassed to be caught accidentally liking his two-year old photo. Mark Knopfler uses the metaphor of a detective looking for a missing person when writing about an ex he just can’t forget. Ani DiFranco captures the same sentiment in Gravel, still under her ex’s spell. We keep holding on to each other, to memories, to old flames, to friendships that dried up, and to places we’ve left behind. We seek connection and belonging, and we cling to the moments when we felt it. But we’re looking somewhere that can never meet our needs.

How a WTF Moment Became the New Normal – StandFor Interview

This Fourth of July, I had a memorable WTF moment with one of the rudest people I’ve ever met. What makes it noteworthy is that many consider his behavior normal. I tell the story in this interview with StandFor: Technology as an Escape Mechanism

Excerpt:

…To put it in context with technology: the Like button came out in 2009, then Facebook’s first mobile app was released in 2010, but it was pretty awful. Smartphones outsold PCs for the first time in the last quarter of 2011. Facebook improved its app, and with every iteration, it became smoother and more addictive, fueling phubbing.

In the U.S., having and responding to work email on your phone at all hours became expected as smartphone use increased, encouraging the unhealthy always-on worker mentality. The pendulum swung further when Instagram hit a penetrative point, having 150 million MAUs by late 2013, three years after launch.

I’d say 2012-2013 is when phubbing became really noticeable.

These social apps are engineered to be highly addictive. It’s a business that profits off usage. I noticed people checking their phones not just for text messages (actual communication) but being addicted to refreshing their social feeds like slot machines (passive, receptive entertainment) because the apps for Facebook and Instagram became so addictive. Facebook became the internet for many people. These apps are designed to encourage addictive checking just like cigarettes and McDonald’s fries cause cravings. Smartphones with apps, messaging, and email provide what became a socially acceptable escape mechanism for the boring or awkward moments of daily life

Read more at The Talk: Technology as an Escape Mechanism.

#talkyourwalk

Emily sitting near grass
Me at the StandFor photo shoot – wearing Quit Phubbing shoes

Photo credit: Heather Haberkern (Heather is a talented stylist, interior designer, and photographer who led the StandFor photo shoot)

BeanCast 452: More Sketchy Studies

I joined The Beancast again. This time the theme was how much bunk is out there in marketing study land.

What do YOU do on your phone during TV ads? We tackled Facebook’s assertion that TV viewers turn to Facebook during commercial breaks, the hurdles facing people-based marketing, overcoming voting blocs at Cannes, and the effectiveness of brand takeovers on Twitter (I say not effective at all). Also, why Canada at Cannes is like the 1988 Jamaican Olympic bobsled team in Cool Runnings, and Travis Kalanick is a narcissistic frat boy. (Not mentioned on the show but worth noting: Sarah Lacy at Pando has been calling out Uber‘s problematic culture with little notice since 2012).

Cool Runnings movie poster
Canadians at Cannes are like Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Winter Olympics

Listen to The BeanCast on Apple Podcasts

June 12, 2017

PANEL

Emily Binder, Principal Consultant, Beetle Moment Marketing

William Bock, Director of Strategic Consulting, Merkle

Saul Colt, Principal, The Idea Integration Co.

Craig Hodges, Principal, Randwick End Consulting

Bob Knorpp, Host, The BeanCast


TOPICS

Phones, Social, and TV Ads

The Hurdles for People-Based Marketing

Voting Blocs at Cannes

Brand Takeovers on Twitter


#ADFAIL5

Google pissing off brands and consumers with their planned ad blocking stance

One fifth of UK web users now have an ad blocker

Leaked Uber memo from 2013 adds to the bad PR

Bulleit Bourbon sues Redemption Bourbon for stealing their bottle design

Breitbart hasn’t lost all of their advertisers yet

Adapted from original post by Bob Knorpp on thebeancast.com