I recently acquired an iPhone 6, which is great. As an Apple guy, I’m predictably pleased with the things I expected to be pleased with: battery life is great, screen is great, iOS 8 has some nice upgrades, camera is great, TouchID is the coolest thing ever, etc. What I wasn’t expecting to be so valuable to me, however, are its fitness tracking capabilities. On its own, the iPhone 6 uses its M8 motion coprocessor to track the steps I take, distance I walk/run, and flights of stairs I climb each day. But its the complex integration of Apple HealthKit with 3rd party fitness apps and hardware (which have complex integrations amongst themselves) that has just blown me away. My iPhone essentially streamlines an extremely complex process of data collection from many different sources so that I can use it in place of a gym membership, personal trainer, and nutritionist. When you think about it, it’s actually really incredible.
This post is really long, but I think it’s interesting. Read more if you want to:
- See a summary of the stuff I use to track my fitness data
- Understand how and where my personal fitness data is collected day-to-day and how/why the information collected is shared across devices and apps
- Learn now I have set all this up
- Learn my personal takeaways on all of this. (Spoiler: I like it a lot despite an inherently complex setup, and in practice all of this is easy to use).
The dry cleaner I regularly go to has had an iPad loaded with the Belly application sitting by the register for over a year now. When I first saw it I was encouraged by the helpful animation on the application to download the app on my phone and sign up. If I did, all I had to do was sign into the app every time I went in the dry cleaners to gain points. The more times I signed in, the more points I’d receive that could go towards free cleanings and other discounts like that. The app would even pop up on my screen when I was near the dry cleaners, reminding me to check in. (Of course, it did this whenever I was remotely near that dry cleaners, thus triggering a lot of false alarms that caused me to quickly turn that feature off). But still - the app and the service is very slick - crazy user friendly in my opinion.
Belly is apparently great for the businesses that pay for it, too. It costs a small-ish fee every month to use the service which not only provides a customer loyalty program, but also a bunch of new ways to reach and understand customers. Basically, it promises to help store owners create more personal relationships with their customers by collecting useful behavioral analytics and providing email and social media marketing opportunities. Here’s a good article if you want to learn more.
But all of these great benefits are possible only if the person behind the register understands the importance of the iPad sitting beside them. If they do, they will take the not-insignificant time/thought required to:
- Tell customers why the iPad is sitting there
- Encourage customers to create a Belly profile
- Encourage customers to download the smartphone app/taking a physical loyalty card
- Remind customers to check in when they enter the store
- Make it super easy for customers to redeem the rewards collected
It’s those critical steps that I don’t see happening at my dry cleaners. The person behind the counter always seems completely unaware of the iPad’s existence and/or kind of disdainful of it. They never ask if I had checked into the app when I come in, and often the iPad is asleep when I get there, leading me to ask whoever is working to awkwardly get it up-and-running so I can check in. And redeeming my rewards is always super uncomfortable; the cashier usually seems caught off guard every time ask them to take one of the items off my bill and I sometimes actually need to explain to them how the app works when I’m ready to cash in my points.
This is a great example of the “you can lead a horse to water…” problem with even the simplest of IT solutions. It doesn’t matter how easy an app is to use - if the people who play a big role in making sure it is used correctly aren’t convinced of why the solution is good, it will just be a general annoyance to everyone and ultimately be deemed a failure.
I’m a very “post-paper” person. It’s always made more sense to me to store data in the computers I own as opposed to file cabinets. Information stored this way is easier to manage, you can access it basically anywhere, it’s keyword searchable…it’s just better in every way. I have the bare minimum of paper files in my house (currently one thin file), and I don’t think I even have a pen at my desk at work.*
I am always looking for new and better applications to help me store more digital information more efficiently. At first I assumed that someone would create one single app that could function to keep the vast majority of my digital data. (Evernote says its application does this, but while I have found that it can do many things, it only does some things really well). For me, different applications are better for handling different types of information. Below are my favorite applications that I currently use to store and generate information that I use in my personal and work life.
The applications below have the following things in common:
- They have multiple application versions that sync together via “the cloud.” Generally these are desktop, mobile, and/or web.
- All of these applications look incredibly nice.
- They have extremely good designs and user interfaces that make them great for the particular ways in which I use them.
I love TV and watch a good amount of it. I don’t, however, pay for cable television. I live in what’s increasingly referred to as a “Zero TV" household - all the TV content I watch comes from Internet pipes. And as long as I don’t want to watch live sports (deal-breaker for many people, I know) and can be content to sometimes wait until the next day after a show first airs to watch it, I’m pretty much able to watch whatever I want, whenever I want, mostly without commercials, in high definition (usually) and on my television using an Apple TV. And on my laptop. And on my mobile device(s).
From a few back of envelope calculations, it looks like I manage to save around $450 a year not paying for cable. This comes from the assumption that a cable television package that contains all the shows I regularly watch costs around $70 per month ($840 per year) after taxes and whatever other extra charges come attached to the base monthly service fee.
For around $350 - $450 each year, I get the following content:
- iTunes: Subscriptions to 9-12 seasons of TV shows (approx. $20 per season for $240 max)
- Netflix: All content on there for $8 per month ($96 per year)
- Hulu Plus: All content on there for $8 per month ($96 per year)
- Original Web-based content: Usually FREE!
This translates to me watching every episode of around 20 shows that I care about every year, mostly commercial-free and on demand, plus some amazing independently-created web content.
Of course, there are times when I can’t figure out how to purchase content that I’d really like to buy. To illustrate how I deal with this, refer to this The Oatmeal comic. Everyone should click on that link - it’s a fantastic comic. Ok - here’s another link. Go ahead - click!
It seems to me that future big media networks aren’t necessarily going to start as broadcast or cable channels. They are going to start from websites with strong user communities. Funnyordie.com produces tons of amazing original content like Zach Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns and Billy On The Street, the latter also being shown on the Fuse network. Reddit.com’s only got one original web series, but I have a feeling we’re going to see more of them. Explain Like I’m Five takes the concept of the subreddit of the same name and makes videos out of it. The gist is that adults explain complicated concepts (like Existentialism) to a classroom of 5-year-olds. It’s awesome and informative and cute. Just ask Gizmodo.
Other great producers of content include:
And then there are the more and more fantastic independent producers of video content coming out. Just to name a few of my favorites:
- Red Letter Media - Reviews of Star Wars Movies (trust me - they are really good)
- High Maintenance
- My Drunk Kitchen
- Wainy Days
I didn’t include YouTube on here as a producer of content because it’s (at the moment) mostly a conduit for independent producers of content to showcase their content. All of the above independent producers place their content on YouTube as well as the web sites I linked to above. (Except High Maintenance - it is exclusively on Vimeo for some reason).
This is the third part of a few posts I’m devoting to exploring how I use the various social networking services I regularly use. See the introduction post here.
Of all the social networking services I use I find Twitter to be the most interesting and versatile, but when I started using the service in 2005 I never thought I would feel this way. I, like most Twitter N00bs didn’t understand the seemingly arbitrary 140 character limit to posts. What if you want to say something that requires 145 characters? How dare Twitter stifle my creativity! Turns out Twitter appreciates the art of saying more with less and realized that people can say a heck of a lot in just 140 characters.
This post is for leaders within organizations who provide Yammer guidance & best practices. If you’re unfamiliar with the enterprise social network, read my post “5 ways to use Yammer” for a decent primer.
Groups are arguably the best way to get instant business value out of collaboration tools like Yammer. They reduce the “noise” people see in their main feed by focusing messages around specific, affinity-based topics. For example, you might see groups for people to collaborate on key projects or company initiatives. You might also see groups designed to share best practices in a specific industry vertical. At Softchoice, we have a number of private groups used by departments to reduce the amount of email amongst teammates, while improving the conversational tone of the exchange.
Since a Yammer network “belongs” to all employees, each person has the ability to create a group. But just because someone can, doesn’t mean they should. Before people create a group, ask them to answer 3 questions: