• tomstechyblog

    posted 13 June, 2014
    by tomstechyblog

Dry cleaners are like horses. Let me explain…

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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. 

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 23 November, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

  • 1 note for this post

This Single Card Wants To Replace All the Plastic in Your Wallet

So this is totally a thing I would be super into….but $100 is a pretty steep price for a relatively minor improvement in wallet efficiency. Make it $25, and I’ll take it.

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 14 November, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won
Charles Arthur, theguardian.com
ComScore research shows that while Apple suffered a PR disaster over maps, Google lost 23m iPhone users in the USApple’s maps have turned out to be a hit with iPhone and iPad users in the US - despite the roasting that they were given when they…

Very interesting article about the use of the Google Maps app vs the native Apple Maps app on iOS devices.  

The fact that it’s SLIGHTLY easier to access Apple Maps due to it being baked into the OS really makes a huge difference in terms of adoption.  Ease-of-access can’t be underestimated when you are trying to get people to use a certain application, process, etc.

Apple maps: how Google lost when everyone thought it had won
Charles Arthur, theguardian.com

ComScore research shows that while Apple suffered a PR disaster over maps, Google lost 23m iPhone users in the US

Apple’s maps have turned out to be a hit with iPhone and iPad users in the US - despite the roasting that they were given when they…

Very interesting article about the use of the Google Maps app vs the native Apple Maps app on iOS devices. The fact that it’s SLIGHTLY easier to access Apple Maps due to it being baked into the OS really makes a huge difference in terms of adoption. Ease-of-access can’t be underestimated when you are trying to get people to use a certain application, process, etc.

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 11 November, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

Why I (Still) Support Obamacare - NYTimes.com

Very interesting piece about how the changing nature of middle-class jobs in America is making it such that the old system for getting health insurance doesn’t work anymore. People no longer work for companies for 30+ years on well-grooved career tracks with great benefits the whole time. They increasingly work many different places doing different kinds of things…which is just not the kind of work that was around when the current health insurance system was set up.

What I love about this article is that it points out that this is not necessarily a bad thing - it is just different, and our healthcare system has to change to deal with that. My favorite part is at the end, mostly quoting James Manyika:


“As a result [of the the stuff summarized above], how we think about ‘employment’ to sustain a middle-class lifestyle may need to expand ‘to include a broader set of possibilities for generating income’ compared with the traditional job, with benefits and a well-grooved career path. To be in the middle class, you may need to consider not only high-skilled jobs, ‘but also more nontraditional forms of work,’ explained [James] Manyika. Work itself may have to be thought of as ‘a form of entrepreneurship’ where you draw on all kinds of assets and skills to generate income.

This could mean leveraging your skills through Task Rabbit, or your car through Uber, or your spare bedroom through AirBnB to add up to a middle-class income.

In the end, this transition we’re going through could prove more exciting than people think, but right now asking large numbers of people to go from being an ‘employee’ to a ‘work entrepreneur’ feels scary and uncertain. Having a national health care safety net under the vast majority of Americans — to ease and enable people to make this transition — is both morally right and in the interest of everyone who wants a stable society.”


I love when articles about change don’t just end with doom and gloom. Because of COURSE it’s going to be figured out somehow - and this is a really interesting theory about the future of work in developed countries.

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 10 November, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

And Then Steve Said, €˜Let There Be an iPhone

I’ve worked at a large company for years now, but one of the most surprising things that I discovered when I first started was just how important the PRESENTATION of an idea is to an audience of bosses.  It seems obvious now, but if you want to do anything big in a big company, you need to be prepared to correctly present the hell out of that idea to the right people.  

This look behind the scenes of the 2007 iPhone announcement shows that Mr. Jobs very much knew that.  He was a pain-in-the-ass to everyone on his team leading up to this event because he knew that he was presenting a device that was years ahead of its time, and so his presentation had to feel like it was coming from the future.  

Jobs knew that Apple had the keys to deliver a revolutionary product.  But just having these wasn’t enough; Jobs had to deliver the message about the existence of these keys in a way that made people want to follow Apple (and only Apple) into this revolution. This presentation was the gunpowder that Apple needed to really launch the iPhone and transform the mobile device market.  

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 05 October, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

Here Are the Applications That Know All My Secrets

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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.

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 29 September, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

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What the Surface 2 Teaches Us About Microsoft

Interesting article about what Microsoft’s release of the Surface 2 says about the current state of that company. (Click the title of this post to see the article).

From the article: “Microsoft is a bloated, somewhat-disorganized, always-dysfunctional, uncreative behemoth that does a few things well, a lot of things well enough, and too many things poorly.”

Unfortunately, my own (limited) interactions with the company can only confirm this opinion. However, I have high hopes that the next CEO will do something amazing with the small amount of creative momentum Ballmer started with the recent refreshes of products like Windows 8 and Office 365 at the end of his long, boring stint there.

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 25 September, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

Reddit's "Explain Like I'm Five" teaches us to imagine our audience as 5-year-olds

Reddit’s “Explain Link I’m Five” is a really good illustration of effective presenting.  You don’t always need fancy powerpoint slides or flashy speeches to get complex ideas across to your audience.  Sometimes taking it very slow and engaging your audience with questions and relatable examples is the best way to go.

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 18 April, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

I Want My Zero TV

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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:

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).

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 16 April, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

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Part Three: My Split Twitter Personality

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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. 

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 25 March, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

I finally fully transitioned over to CFLs...and now it's time to throw them out.

<nyt_text>

People sometimes have trouble making small sacrifices now that will reward them handsomely later. How often do we ignore the advice to make a few diet and exercise changes to live a longer, healthier life? Or to put some money aside to grow into a nest egg? Intellectually, we get it — but instant gratification is a powerful force.

Stuart Goldenberg

You don’t have to be one of those self-defeating rubes. Start buying LED light bulbs.

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 22 March, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

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Before Creating a Yammer Group, Answer These 3 Questions First.

thisisthesocialwhat:

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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:

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I'm LOVING Timehop

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me about Timehop and how cool it is.  Then he told me again a few weeks ago.  Then again last week.  So I finally downloaded it and now I’m writing a Tumblr post about it because it really is that cool.

The app is very simple - it just tells you what you tweeted and posted on popular social networking services on that exact day in the past.  My Timehops will show me information up to four years ago, which is about when I really started to use social media.  I’m not sure if the app would show me posts earlier than 4 years ago.

Three things I really like about this app:  (1) it’s designed extremely well - it’s fun to use.  (2) it is extremely simple.  You just open it, look at your old tweets, maybe share them again with friends, and that’s it until tomorrow.  (3) It is really fun to be reminded of what you were doing so long ago in the past.  For example, on my birthday a few days ago I looked at the app and it reminded of the three previous ways I had spent my birthday.  Fuzzy feelings to start the day!

Oh, and the dinosaur mascot is pretty darn cute, too.

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 04 March, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

Interesting discussion about Yahoo axing its work-from-home policy.  

Interesting discussion about Yahoo axing its work-from-home policy.  

  • tomstechyblog

    posted 04 March, 2013
    by tomstechyblog

  • Reblogged from wolffolinsblog
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