The new Connected Society

I just attended Dreamforce, the annual conference for Salesforce, where the topic was all about “cloud, cloud, cloud.”  The whole conference was exhilarating and motivating which got me thinking about the future in a virtual sense.

Marc Benioff’s keynote was a continuous thread of customer success stories featuring Salesforce software through the cloud.  Coca Cola presented a video of the futuristic way of ordering a Coke (walking up to machine and scanning your phone).  Toyota showcased how a car will soon be like a “friend” who drives for you.

Coca Cola’s presentation: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsBeKQ7h9R0>

Alex Williams of TechCrunch reported on the conference“Here’s the switch we are seeing. We are starting to see how society will some day interact more with software than people. Everything will be a node. That future is emerging now as we see how the cloud is used to direct machines. Like the self-driving car Benioff featured in his keynote this morning.”

While everything about cloud communication is exciting and thrilling, it concerns me we may become a society that is too connected to our devices.  The internet, social media and our mobile devices should enable our connection to others at all times.  We plug into our devices everyday so when do we really log off? We are constantly connecting to people online but are we really closer to people now?

The answer is that we are constantly in communication whether it be through nonverbal language , written language or speaking.  Communicating with someone involves some type of common understanding of the issue or topic at hand.  When you are behind a computer screen or on the telephone, so much is lost in that message. Feelings of a topic are lost when all you have to do is answer questions on a computer screen.  As the receiver of information, we do not get to see how that person felt about a certain issue.

This is why communication through email, text or social media is so easy for everyone but does it really mean we are more connected now than ever?

I would have to disagree and say we are un-connected more than ever.  Everything we say is changed, cleaned-up or sugar-coded through an email, text message or facebook post.  It is so easy to portray yourself as anything you’d like behind a screen but getting in front of someone is a whole nother’ ball game.

I don’t think a “car-friend” can offer much to me when I have a bad day.

IO (Information Overload) Stressing you out?

After reading the PR Daily article titled “This is your brain on Social Media” and seeing the too familiar graphic below, I was having a hard time admitting this is my day-to-day life! PR professionals dealing with IO (information overload), take note.

 

The article continues to explain how we are becoming dumber, less satisfied and unable to handle stress due to our amount of consuming information.

Another article written by Tony Dokoupil of The Daily Beast suggests the web is driving us mad, literally. Tony says, “The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.”

The article continues to point out that more than a third of mobile users get online before getting out of bed (I’m guilty). The average teen processes an astounding 3,700 texts a month, double the 2007 figure, and more than two-thirds of these people report feeling their phone vibrate when in fact nothing is happening (guilty again!). Researchers call it “phantom-vibration syndrome.”

So, what is the cure to this problem? Unfortunately, I do not have that answer but some apps are trying to help us with our IO problem. Instead of juggling 10 apps for our multi information gathering efforts, developers are creating one app to serve as our one-stop hub for all outlets. Barrett Sheridan of Businessweek recently wrote an article about the new app called Cue, formerly called Greplin, which aims to be the first thing you check in the morning and return to throughout your day.

Say for instance you’re meeting with a new client, Cue will try to find the contact’s latest tweets and Facebook updates. The idea is that if you’re running behind schedule, you can pull up Cue to instantly see where you need to be next, who to call to let them know you’ll be late, and catch up on the other person’s latest Facebook photos, so you can have something intelligent to talk about once you get there.

The app eventually wants to answer the question for us, “Give me the guy I met last week with long hair.” Now, doesn’t that sound nice for us PR multi-tasking pros, slowly making us dumber!

How many times have your checked your phone, email and twitter since reading the beginning of this article? And no lying!

Technology is Fashionable, Really!

Technology devices are becoming fashionable and the future wallet for us as consumers will become just that – a fashionable tech accessory.

Just last week, I went to Nordstrom to buy a quick item at the cosmetics counter. To my surprise, when I was ready to check-out, the sales associate took my payment with an iPhone. She simply swiped my card with a detachable device and emailed me the receipt. My inquisitive look persuaded her to inform me that each sales associate was given an iPhone to check-out customers, look up product information and track inventory.

In a recent article on the subject, Julie Campbell of Mobile Commerce Press, summarizes Nordstrom’s cutting-edge social media strategies and highlights how the use of technology is broadening the options that are available to its customers.

So what does this mean for consumers? The way companies are doing business and connecting with customers is all happening on our mobile devices. Whether we want to buy an item online or in the store, we will be able to do so through our devices.

Sarah Perez at TechCrunch recently wrote an article summing up the digital wallet battle between Visa and Mastercard. Sarah says, “Visa plans to introduce a mobile payments element to the service by leveraging NFC, QR codes and other technology, which would allow you to tap your phone to a secure reader at the point-of-sale in order to pay for your purchase, scan a QR code or perform some other type of interaction.” Visa’s new V.me simply allows consumers to pay for purchases on multiple channels. Check out the video below to see V.me in action!

To Pin or not to Pin

A Social media debate by myself and my co-worker, Kristina.

Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site with 11.7 million monthly U.S. visitors and 10 million new members in the quickest amount of time.  In February, Pinterest accumulated more traffic to websites than Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined, according to CNNMoney.

For those of you that don’t know, Pinterest is the social site that enables users to post images from the web to their personal “pinboards.” Users can categorize their “pinboards” according to personal tastes; for example, favorite foods, adorable pets, wedding plans or future purchases. According to a recent article by TechCrunch, the average Pinterest user spends 98 minutes per month on the site and it ranks among the top 30 U.S. sites by total page views.

What do Emily & Kristina think of Pinterest?

Emily: I think Pinterest users have real potential to gain numerous benefits from the site.  The potential was especially clear when the magazine, Real Simple, recently said Pinterest had sent more traffic than Facebook to its site. Real Simple, which has about 206,000 likes on Facebook, already has almost 60,000 followers on Pinterest.  Real Simple’s pinboards consist of images relating to recipes, fashion and do-it-yourself home and work related projects.

Kristina: I’d like to preface my responses with the fact that I do, in fact, have a Pinterest and enjoy browsing the site about 2-3 times per month. However, I’m still not sold on all the benefits. The personal benefits to Pinterest are undeniable. In one location, I am able to house my shopping impulses, obsessions and, my personal favorite, ‘For the Home’ board. Although I partake in this community, I’m struggling to find its novelty and usefulness beyond collecting images.

My first qualm with Pinterest is that some businesses treat it as a means to increase SEO. Businesses and companies need to remember that Pinterest is a community, not a tool.  As outlined in an article from Search Engine Land, the reason businesses are failing with using Pinterest is because they are forgetting the golden rule of social media: “in order to succeed on a social network, you’ve got to give as much as you try to take.”

What about its value?

Emily: I find Pinterest most valuable when searching for specific images relating to fashion, food and interior decorating.  Pinterest can spark creativity and inspiration while writing, brainstorming, decorating or organizing.  TIME magazine has also developed many “pinboards” which archives past editorial covers.

For instance, if you were to research past publications from TIME, you could come across a cover of Grace Kelly, which could lead to wedding dress ideas, guiding you to an online store that sells the particular wedding dress to fit your preference. Pinners utilize the site in order to find something unique and memorable which is important to businesses able to sell a particular item or idea.

Kristina: Ok, TIME magazine’s Vintage TIME Covers pinboad is cool, but what value does this provide to the magazine? It’s basically just an online archive of old images that users can re-pin to their own boards. If it linked back to TIME’s archives and users were able to view and/or purchase the old issue that would really provide value to its Pinterest page.

Who benefits from Pinterest?

 Kristina: I actually believe that Pinterest is beneficial for the visual community including professionals like photographers, interior designers or architects.  The visual element caters to their industry, but again, it is only really creating an online archive and yet another social media outlet they will have to manage. And these take time. It also begs to question personal property issues. Now, these professional artist’s works are re-pinned and easily downloaded without their knowledge and used by others.

Emily: The site is most beneficial to visual leaners and idea seekers.  Investors and businesses are still figuring out how the site will essentially benefit their company in the long-run, but in the mean time I find the site enjoyable and time well spent. Or as Reese Witherspoon expressed to Conan O’Brien, “a collection of the most amazing, wonderful craftiness on the earth!”

San Francisco Highlights

After my first visit to San Francisco, I described Reasons to Heart San Francisco.  Well, now that I live here, my highlights so far, include:

Public Transit

You can get just about anywhere by foot, bike, bus or subway.  Not only does this make it easier to get around, you become more active by walking to most places.  If you go out for a few drinks, you do not have to worry about who will be driving home.

Parks

There are parks everywhere! Although it is a small city, you can easily access a park every few blocks.  The parks are extremely dog friendly and you can take your dog off the leash at most parks.

Fort Funston National Park

Food

San Francisco is the food meca capital (maybe after NYC).  The block I live on alone has Mexican, Salvadoran, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Southern home cooking restaurant choices.  The food possibilities are endless when deciding where to eat out.  And if you want to eat in, you can go to a produce market and cook a meal for relatively cheap.

Mexican food from MIJITA in the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market

Weather

Not too cold and not too hot is how I would describe the San Francisco weather.  It becomes extremely windy and cold at night and you always need to carry a jacket.  Once the sun comes out though, the temperature increases a good 10-20 degrees. Perfect sweatshirt weather but nice enough to lay out in the sun.

Festivals

There are countless festivals going on in the city and it seems every weekend there is something free to attend.  Food, music, art and drink festivals are the norm and who would get sick of those?

100th Annual Bay to Breakers race in the Golden Gate Park

It Chooses You, book review

I recently finished reading Miranda July’s book, It Chooses You, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The author has hit a writing roadblock while struggling to finish her well overdue movie script.  Lying around her suburban area home in sunny LA she starts reading the PennySaver ads.  For writing inspiration, she gets the bright idea to call the individuals advertising in the wanted ads.  She asks them if she can interview them about their lives.  Many people hang-up the phone on her but she comes across a few people who are not only willing but happily invite her to their home.  She gets a glimpse inside these people’s lives and discovers one common trait among them all- none of them own or even know how to use a computer.   The year is 2009.

She discovers how easily people are happy with very little material items in their lives.  She begins to realize everybody has a s story worth telling that is interesting, no matter how small or how little they have.  She finishes her script and even incorporates one of her interviewees into her movie.  Creating characters was not hard once she realized we are all characters making our own fictional stories on a daily basis.  You do not have to look very far for inspiration; you just need to get creative.

I would give it 4/5 stars.

In the Blink of an Eye, Book Review

After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s novel, Blink, I have realized that I, like most people, make most decisions unconsciously. It is a proven fact that most decisions we make are unconscious so my advice would be to “chill out.” Since most decisions in your life an uncontrolled, whether you think they are or not, just be happy you are able to make your own decisions. If you do not live in the moment, how would you ever notice things in the “blink of an eye”?

Our inability to describe how we behave in any given moment happens in numerous examples including how tennis players or any athletes are unable to explain every movement they make. Asking a tennis player how he/she serves is not easily answered because it becomes an unconscious movement to the player. They know they have tossed the ball in the air and hit it over the net but all the variables in between get lost in the “blink of eye”; the milliseconds it takes for the player to make contact with the ball. Improv is a perfect example of thinking associated with Blink. Actors are to react quickly without knowing how the other character will respond. Advertising is directly related to the Blink thinking. We associate taste, smell, touch and color to how attractive or interested in a particular product we are. We would not want to purchase a square container of ice cream because we associate ice cream with the smoother, softer object of a circle. Therefore, ice cream containers are round depicting the flavor of ice cream on the front of the carton with enticing figures of mouth-watering flavors.

Also, our inability to understand our own minds makes us vulnerable in most day-to-day activities. We rationalize a plausible-sounding reason of why we like or dislike something and then we adjust our true preference so it is in line with that plausible-sounding reason. Every waking minute we are around or with people we are making and forming judgments and assumptions of others. We do this based on their looks, clothing, color of skin and other characteristics. The Symphony orchestra changed their auditioning process to take place without seeing the individual play the instrument. What resulted was more female musicians becoming hired as well as more foreign members of the orchestra.

I would recommend this book to anyone who finds psychology and philosophy interesting. Cannot wait to check out his other books.