What’s a Fax?

old-fax-machine1One of those moments happened recently – when “new” technology of my younger years was met by one of my kids with a question.  The item was the fax machine – and the question, “What’s a fax?” 16.0 asked.

After thinking about it some, I realized she’s probably never seen one, and even if she did – she’d have no idea what it is.  So I explained, “It’s a machine that could call another machine and transmit pieces of paper.”  I’m not sure if she completely followed my explanation, but it worked.

The exchange made me think about a video I saw recently on my Facebook timeline about kids today trying to fire up an old school Atari.

The quick history here is 16.0 had her wisdom teeth (all four) taken out recently.  They were growing in sideways and just beginning to cause a problem – so rather than wait until the college years and deal with it in an emergent situation, we took care of it now.

The recovery was a little slow, and rolled into the Memorial Day weekend – which meant 16.0 would not be able to start her job at the water park, so on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend she called in and they told her she’d need a doctor’s note and gave her a fax number.  Getting the note was only half the problem – as there are not many fax machines around.

It did make me think about the early days of fax machines (and the early days of my career) at WRKL radio in Rockland County, NY.  Back then, the fax machine used a roll of paper – which apparently was pretty expensive.  The local police and district attorney would fax over press releases – and the general manager of the radio station would bring them to us in the newsroom and tell us how much each story cost the station in fax paper.

The last time I can recall using a fax machine was in the early 2000’s and at that point, the fax machine was only inbound – there was no way to send a fax from the device.

Technology itself changes so quickly – take something introduced to the market just 15 years ago, the iPod.  Look what happens when kids of the iPhone world try to use iPod generation 1:

“What’s a fax?” was today’s question.  I have to wonder what question my grandkids will ask…

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The Uber Parent

uberIf you work in, or have gone out in a city (or even some suburban areas) you probably know the concept of Uber – on demand rides.  The concept is pretty simple, you download an app, load in your credit card information – and when you need a ride you click a few buttons and your ride shows up ready to go.  We now live in the age of the Uber Parent though – and this could very well be my next app.

As an only parent, I don’t have a lock on this market certainly.  Any parent or set of parents with one or more teen-aged child who doesn’t drive knows the feeling.  Starting on Friday afternoon – there’s a text from a child and you’re in your car off to the races taking someone (or a small group) someplace.

The great thing about Uber is passengers get to rate the drivers and drivers get to rate the passengers – the higher your rating (both as a driver and passenger) the better the service.  This video featuring an old friend from my CBS News days will help explain how it works:

I do threaten to rate my kids to prioritize their rides, and I really wish now and then they could coordinate a bit so it’s not the sense of just driving in circles.  But in this über world of specified properties to extreme degrees – the Uber Parent app may soon be needed.

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Technology Run Amok

Technology Run AmokAs someone who tries to be on the forefront of the tech curve, I think it’s important to recognize when perhaps, just maybe technology has run amok.  In certain use-cases with certain technology I’d say we are there.

The use-case I have in mind today is what is now the prevalent use of phone-trees for incoming calls from customers.  You know these, you almost cringe when you hear the automated voice say, “Press 1 for English.”

For some context – I rarely initiate calls to any company.  Largely because I don’t want to get lost in the phone maze, and practically because more often than not I can get what I need accomplished done quicker via website, app or even Twitter.  So this week I had to call my cable company and the local Walgreen’s about a prescription.  What I got (aside from lost time) is a stark reminder of technology run amok.

First, Cablevision.  I understand why they have the phone tree to help direct customer calls to the right product team.  Like most modern MSO’s they have ISP, cable and phone services.  My issue though is I’ve been getting several emails a week for several weeks asking me to call for an account review.  It turns out after more than five minutes of pushing buttons, selecting options and eventually setting up a call back – all they wanted was an updated cell phone.  For real.

Then there is my neighborhood Walgreen’s.  Now this should be easy.  My questions are about something I bought in the store or the pharmacy counter.  That should be two, maybe three button pushes.  So yesterday morning while waiting for 14.0 I decided to call to check on a prescription’s status.  Eight button pushes in, I could not get to one of the two pharmacists on duty.  The Walgreen’s app doesn’t give status on a pending prescription, so I had to go walk into the store to find out there was a snag at the doctor’s office.

That is a lot of listening, deciding options and button pushing for very little reward.  That can’t be the model these companies are hoping to replicate in customer service.  I get it.  The phone trees should help steer the call so the right person gets the call and the right answer can be given.  That would be good customer service.

But this is a case where technology has run amok, and more options does not help get to a better result.

There are times thought when technology can be an asset.  During a recent cross-country flight on Virgin America – the outlet at my seat was not working. After my laptop died I pulled out my iPad and opened Twitter.  I sent out a tweet saying my GoGo inflight WiFi experience was great, but my seat outlet did not work on Virgin America.  From that tweet, before I landed Virgin America gave me a $50 credit on my next flight.  A company that can use technology to make sure the customer experience is optimized – it does work.

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It’s A Generation Thing

It's a Generation ThingAs quickly as it’s gone by, my girls have had cell phones for two years now, and by and large have lived up to their commitments in mobile responsibility.  So, with the start of the school year upon us, knowing Chanukah is coming early this year and acknowledging it was time for an upgrade, my girls go back to school with new iPhone 5’s.  It’s a generation thing, and I am mostly OK with it.

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Based on what I do for a living, it makes sense that my kids are over-connected.  In fact while away for a few days at the end of the summer, I met a nice grandfather trying to send a video to one of his grandchildren via his iPhone.  He did not realize how truly simple it is. My girls could have just as easily helped him out.

When you look at the generations, and I’ll go back to my mother (the girls’ grandmother), through me and to them the shifts are amazing.  From the emergence of TV in a radio world, to the downfall of print in a computer world to the rise of mobile in a connected world-from generation to generation the change is astonishing.

While getting my hair cut today I was chatting with the stylist, and we were talking about our kids (all have iPhone’s).  I commented my kids would not even know what to do if they had to make a call from a pay phone.  Her response was even more stark, “They would not even know the number,” she said.  And that is right.

It’s a generation thing.  I can remember memorizing phone numbers.  Mine, my friends, the places I worked and more.  Today, more likely than not I am not making a call.  If I do make a call, the number either needs to be in my phone or in a click to call on a website or in an app.

I don’t lament the changing times at all.  Print is going the same way as LP’s and CD’s-industries that just didn’t adapt to the change around them.  Generally, I don’t think I am that type, and I hope to instill that in my kids.

While I may a child of the digital revolution, I think for me and the girls it’s more about being part of the change and adopting generation.  It’s a generation thing for sure.

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Old School-For Now

Since the beginning of my cell phone time I’ve always carried two cell phones.  One personal and one for work.  Initially, having a cell phone was a big deal and since I got a great price through work, I figured why not.

Through the years, it’s been nice because as jobs change my phone number stays the same.

Another compelling reason to carry two phones is when you carry a phone for work-its theirs.  That means at any point in time, they can say I want it back.  Well, if you have another phone, which you use for personal matters, great.  Here you go.

I would say since somewhere in the late 80’s I’ve carried a phone that also had my work email on it.  In the early days it was a Blackberry-you remember the ones with the wheel on the side.

Last week, I became victim to one of the fastest growing crimes in New York City-theft of a cell phone.  My work cell phone (a HTC Incredible 3) was taken off a table where I was eating a salad.  Now I still have my personal phone, so not a huge issue.  I’ve moved a lot of my work stuff (temporarily) to my personal phone.

But what I can’t move is access to my work email.  There are lots of security rules when working for a big company, and it’s just not going to happen.  So now, I am kind of working “old school” where I have to log into my computer, do a VPN connection and check my email.

I can’t really remember the last time I walked into work and had no idea what was in my email box.  More than that, connected to email is calendar, where my day, the calls the meetings and places are all laid out.  I’ve forwarded those to my personal mobile, but still it’s not a great system.

But it’s also been pretty refreshing.  It’s a good reminder that not every email needs to be answered in real-time regardless of day and time, the world will go on.

I expect tonight my new phone will be waiting for me.  By sometime tomorrow I will have my email back up and running-and once again I will be über connected.  But for now, I’ll get back to you soon, promise.

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Season’s Change Along With Other Things

As the summer of 2012 came to an end last week and the Jewish year of 5772 ended as well I was struck at the rate at which things change around me-all at the same time.

Some of the change, like the season or year are inevitable.  Four times a year we pass a season, it’s on the calendar.  For Jews in America, twice a year there is a new year (Jewish and secular), for me in April I put another year on the tally.  But this season of change 9.5 turns 10 in less than two weeks and HCG has a birthday coming up as well.

There are things we do mark these milestones.  Temple and family for the Jewish holiday.  Family and friends for the birthday party etc.

For the girls, we are now a month (give or take) into the new school year.  There is a new routine that we layer into the house:  getting out in the morning; coming home; homework; Hebrew school; after school stuff and all the other pieces of being in fifth or seventh grade.  As that gets refined, I squeeze in work and my social life.

But there are also other changes which have coincidentally occurred this season which while not making things unsettled, don’t make them settled.  The other changes of and in themselves are not huge, but as I think through them, they are part of the ever-changing landscape of life.

After an argument about my working out a couple of weeks after my surgery at Planet Fitness, I joined a new gym.  I just did not feel like I was being treated well at Planet Fitness, and since there are alternatives for my 430AM gym time, why should I be where my business is not appreciated?  If you are a gym person,  you know that changing up is never easy.  There is a month or more of getting into a new routine, trying new (or different) equipment and just trying to get the whole routine down.

I’m also now the owner of an iPhone 5.  I was up for an upgrade on my old iPhone.  Even without getting a new number, getting a new phone configured (and I don’t me configured to the network) is a day to days long process.  There is a lot of personalization we do with our phones today that takes time to replicate to a new device.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is change is inevitable.  Some like the change of seasons and the coming of holidays is predictable.  Other changes happen along the way.  Taken together though, it’s all part of life, so we roll with it.

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Sick Call Redux

It happened again. Got out of the subway and there was the vibration of voicemail on my iPhone.  took a look at the missed calls-it was the school nurse.  And so another day went from normal to flipped on its head.

This time it was 11.5 with a stomach bug of some kind.  I tried to get hold of the sitter-but could not track her down, so it was jump a train and make the run or hope to hear back from the sitter…

Back down the subway steps and back to Penn Station I went.

Just once I wish that call would come before I got on the train, or maybe half way through my trip.  But it never does.

Upshot-11.5 is feeling better.  Looks like it’s school tomorrow for her and since my Thursday was such a mess, I’m back in the office on Friday-going to try it again.

That call is still the toughest element to handle as a single parent.  I’m pretty sure at this point I can plan for just about anything-but undoing the plans is often my undoing.  I’m not sure its supposed to get better or easier, thankfully it’s generally infrequent.

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Follow Me On the Yellow Brick (Road)

This is cross-posted from my Dad-O-Matic blog:

One of the interesting things about being a 40+ tech nerd is that I have what I think is a unique and different view of devices and apps than the usual 20-something.  So when I go to a Tweetup (a meeting of Twitter users), I am usually the oldest or among the oldest.  When I am part of a FourSquare swarm (20+ FourSquare check ins at a single location) again I am usually among the oldest there.  And frankly, I am pretty comfortable with it, I can hold my own.

Now, if you are reading this and do not know what FourSquare and Twitter are, it may be a little rough, but hang in and who knows maybe you can unleash your inner tech-nerd.

(If you are on Twitter and don’t yet, please do follow me @esd714)

For the last couple of weeks-at the urging of the CEO of a company called Yellow Brck I have been testing and using a location based social app geared to parent called Yellow Brick.  Its a free app for iOS (iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) available via iTunes.

Basically, the app allows you to mix location based checkins (FourSquare) with activity based checkins (Get Glue) and share them with your (limited right now) Facebook network.  When you dig a little deeper into the app, there are some good couponing features that are location based.

Right now, while the user base for the app is small, it seems most of the couponing is NYC based.  I would be interested in hearing from anyone not in the NYC area who tries this app if they have a different couponing experience.

To check in on the app, after opening it, select check in, and then drill down first through activities (and remember this is a parents and kids app).  The list includes movies, birthday parties, parks and nap time.  Once the activity is selected, you have the option of including a location.

Location services appear to be driven from the device’s LBS-so you have to agree to allow the app to know where you are and its a pretty extensive list.  One thing I would like to see going forward is a way to read review on locations-either via Yelp or home grown within the app.

Right now the app draws friends and shares information only with Facebook.  This is a calculated decision based on engagement on Facebook.  Twitter networks tend to be broader, but less engaged.  I would want to see this option (especially for friending) extended to Twitter.  In many cases I have friends who are mobile on Twitter but not on Facebook-but that may be a fringe use-case.

The other nice part about the network sharing, is the ability to not share location information with your network.  I have written about this extensively on my social media blog.  Its a best practice, and one that I practice dillegently to only share location information with people I actually know.

The flip-side is being able to connect with others (on FourSquare I have had many productive andinpromtu business meetings) based on check ins and knowing where key people in my network are.  The same with parenting (and Single Dadd’ing).  Its always great to hook up with friends and kids friends and a few fewer calls and texts to make it happen is not so bad.

For now, Yellow Brick is only available for iOS.  The CEO says an Android version is in the works.

Give it a shot, and friend me up.

 

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Identity as the Holy Grail

Despite my early tempestous relationship with Quora, I have found some great insights and moments to think and contribute.

One of them occurred last night as Quora’s designer posed an interesting thread (I am not sure it was in the form of a question but I supposed that’s OK for an insider) about identity-and specifically mobile identity.  You can read Rebekah’s thoughts here or follow her on Twitter here.

Rebekah poses that identity is more than just your email, or your pictures or your Twitter stream for that matter.  Your digital identity is how you manage access to your attention.  Will you read your Twitter or your Facebook wall?  Will you update your Tumblr or your blog?  How you manage external access to that attention is your identity.  The other pieces (email, SMS, Facebook etc) are all components.

Rebekah believes (and I largely concur) the battleground is your mobile device.  This is the access point to your attention, thus the access point to your identity.

Rebekah and I diverge on one point-which is neither huge or insignificant in that I include tablets as part of that access point.

When talking about the consumer experience in digital media and roadmapping over the next five years, the central figures are your cell phone (the assumption being the curve of feature phone to smart phone conversion holds) and I believe the tablet.  The two devices as Apple has shows work together in a lot of ways, and we’ll see that in 2011 from the likes of Samsung and others who merge the Android OS on phone and tablet.

The reality is, chances are if you read this blog you never leave your house without at least one cell phone (the assumption being that readers of this blog probably carry more than one) and more than 90% of the time the tablet it with you as well.  The laptop is easily forgettable, and the desktop is a distant memory.

When thinking about capturing and holding attention-designers need to think about utility and IA.  Content folks need to think about real estate and connection.

I am convinced the way I got my job at CBS Mobile more than 5 years ago was my understanding of the personal nature of the mobile experience–which means that as a product person I need to be able to clearly make the experience sustainable across devices and across OS experiences.

Understanding the way consumers take in data and control their data intake is at the heart of understanding identity.  In context, a news organization can have this generations equivalent of the Pentagon papers.  Unfortunately just having them is less than half the battle–presenting it to a highly connected audience that demands personalization is the key.

Watch as Faebook, Twitter and products that we don’t know yet introduce new ways to access information-that access point will become the key.  It’s a way to sync your self to your data and your phone (and tablet) are at the hub.

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EMail, Spam and What Me Worry?

Its been a while since I was able to update this blog–a time when real life gets in the way of theory is the best way to explain it I guess.

Anyway, today an interesting confluence of events happened which prompted this–I was reading with some interest the New York Times write through on the updated Facebook email.  As Quincy used to tell me regularly when we were at CBS, I should not get my tech news from the NY Times.  But in this case, because of the aforementioned real-life stuff, I am a little behind, so I read the times.

As this was going on, I got a daily email from a company called Gilt Groupe which I can thank my 10-year-old for signing me up.  And then the final piece to this puzzle–one of the LIRR warriors I follow on Twitter, @hfleming checked in via FourSquare to Gilt Groupe.

So, this was a reminder to me that I needed to find out more about Gilt Groupe–since I am getting their daily emails, and since I have at least exchanged Tweets with someone who I think works there, I figured why not go to a source, rather than surf around?

I sent @hfleming a tweet (she does not follow me) with my email address in it, and I instantly got back a spam tweet from @emailbot telling me I just potentially opened myself up to spam email.

So, first-spam in my Twitter stream is far more annoying that spam in my email in box, or more likely in my spam folder where I will NEVER look at it.

Beyond that, I would think anyone on Twitter has a “social media” email account–where they expect to get spam, am I wrong about this?  In my case I use my itsonlytv@gmail.com email address.  Now, I still get that email to my iPhone, iPad and BB–after all it also has some useful communication on it via my social networks.  But it also has pretty aggressive spam filtering in place.

So spam away to my email–but leave my Twitter alone.

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