Updating Again Soon

I realized it’s been two years since I updated this blog, but with the recent events regarding data, privacy, and social media, I feel it’s important to dust this place off and start writing again. Stickied to the top of Robots Nobots is a post I wrote four years ago about the dangers of Social Logins and how your information, along with all your friends, is being bought and sold simply by clicking a small, convenient button. Seems it’s gotten worse since then with the explosion of Apps asking for “permissions” before you get to use them.

These topics are relevant. They will always be relevant. To anyone who happens upon this blog, I hope you enjoy my content.

Apple Watch: Yea or Nay?

Apple WatchOkay, this post is going to deviate a little from my usual fare of social media, privacy, and marketing entries, but I feel it must be said. I’ve worked in the watch industry for over five years, so when I heard that Apple’s got a new watch product, it really piqued my interest. What fun gadgetry can we expect from the computer giant? How will they innovate on an age-old accessory that has claimed a sizable piece of real estate in the “Men’s Fashion and Prestige” department? Then I saw the announcement videos, the renderings, and the previews and was immediately underwhelmed.

Will the Apple Watch be successful on the market? Yes, initially. People love brand new devices, and that’s doubly true for Apple products. In fact, I predict that people will be forming lines days before release to get their hands on one. Then will come the inevitable storm of unboxing videos, demonstrations, people excited for their snazzy new timepiece; the buzz will be spectacular. But what about the long run? What about long term success for the Apple Watch? That’s where I think the product will fail. Well, maybe not fail, but run its popularity course and disappear into, dare I say it, the sands of time. Why? Let’s explore a few reasons right off the top of my head.

Apple Watch Icons
Organization. Look, you’ve decided to go with a rectangular case, but your app icons are round. Not only that, they’re clustered closely together in different sizes and colors; it’s simply not easy to organize them or find what you want when you’re on the go. And if you’re going to be putting something on people’s wrists, you can be that they’ll be using it while walking. If we do that with phones, we’ll do that will watches, too, and with every gait and stride, we’ll frustrate ourselves as we tap the wrong icon for the bajillionth time thanks to the tiny screen. Will it actually be easier than I’m describing? I don’t know, but I intend to find out when I get to play with one at the Apple Store…and I’ll post an update when the time comes!

Power. Wait, you’re telling me you have to charge the Apple Watch every night? Or at least you recommend it or risk having your nifty high tech watch turn off when the power gets too low? People with mechanical watches have trouble keeping their timepieces wound and running. In fact, there are devices called winders that are specifically designed to keep automatic watches powered by rotating them and activating the rotor at fixed intervals. Furthermore, automatic watches need to be wound every 2-3 days if you wear them every day. You’re telling me that in this day and age, with this kind of technology, we have to maintain its run time more often than centuries old technology that doesn’t even use batteries? Come on, Apple! You can do better than that!

Apple Watch Use
Now let’s talk about the convenience factor. Does the Apple Watch offer any functions that your current smartphone cannot perform? If not, can the extra functions be performed by a cheaper alternative? From what we’ve seen so far from commercials and promos, the Apple Watch will let you open your hotel door or unlock your car doors (if you have that function on your vehicle), monitor your heart rate, and allow you to send doodles using its touch screen. Smartphones can already be used as hotel door keys, unlock car doors (again, if your vehicle has that function), and you can send doodles using its touch screen, all with the help of a few handy apps. As for your heart rate, a very nice heart rate monitor that also functions as a watch will cost you less than an Apple Watch, and they have vastly superior battery life.

The takeaway from all this: the Apple Watch can perform many of the same functions as your smartphone, plus a few features here and there. Those extra features, however, can be done by other, less expensive alternatives. And if you’re a potential buyer, chances are you already have a smartphone, which renders most of the what the Apple Watch offers redundant. What what about fashion? Surely it will be cool and trendy to wear such a prestigious piece of technology on your wrist, right? Of course, but if I know watch lovers (and I really do), they don’t wear their nicest timepiece every day. They’re for special occasions, and while not in use, they’re stowed away in glass or wooden cases, waiting for the next big event to be shown off in all its glory. Watches get banged up if you wear them every day, and every watch lover will have one that they won’t worry too much about if they get scratched up, cracked, or dropped. They’re called “beater watches”. The Apple Watch is a nice timepiece. Great price, too, but you can be sure people will feel just a little pissed off when they realized their snazzy smartwatch starts to get more than a few scratches on the case and glass. Look at how we treat our smartphones nowadays: protective covers, screen protectors, everything we can do to keep them protected and looking pristine. This will be a piece of wearable technology that buyers will be hesitant to wear every day. At the end of the day, people who purchase one will look back after a few months and wonder: “Why the hell did I buy this?”

A Gentle Touch for Customer Feedback

Of course you want to know what you customers think of you! As a business, the number one priority is to give the customer what they want, and no one can give you that information except your customers. It’s not enough to simply study your audience’s behavior to decide your next marketing venture; sometimes the best way forward is to stick with the age-old method of asking directly. Just keep in mind that this invaluable data can only be collected with a gentle touch, so it’s important to ask and not demand. And that means letting the customer send their feedback without trying to nudge them toward the positive. It’s not as subtle as you think, and it comes across as extremely dishonest or even thuggish.

Ultimately any email you send to your customers regarding feedback comes down to this: you’re asking them to perform an action, and it’s important that they understand that it’s their choice. Once your initial transaction is completed, a customer owes nothing to the business with whom they dealt. While this next example from the New York Democratic Committee isn’t a business per se, the letter they sent recently urging members of the Democratic Party to vote was written in the worst possible way: “Who you vote for is your secret. But whether or not you vote is public record,” which was later followed by “We will be reviewing voting records . . . to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014.” This is most definitely not the way to convince any form of action, especially an action that is completely voluntary. Even worse, the letter ends with this gem: “If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not.”

So what can businesses learn from this? First and foremost, your customers cannot be bullied into liking your company, and likewise they cannot be bullied into writing stellar reviews. If you want wonderful reviews, then you have to be a wonderful company that inspires its customers to speak up on your behalf. Tell them that their feedback and reviews will be greatly appreciated, but don’t attach a prize or incentive for them to do so. Any such action will come across as a bribe, which makes any positive review or comment they make look like a bribe…and you can be sure someone will mention your incentive in a public space. If customer reviews and comments cannot be trusted, then the company cannot be trusted. At this point you might be tempted to have comments regarding these incentives deleted, and that’s never where you want to end up.

A lesson to take home: Your actions and reputation as a company is at the mercy of your customers, especially in the online sphere. Do not attempt to manipulate your image by manipulating customer feedback. Honesty from them means honesty from you.

Good Old Reliable Hashtags: #ThrowbackThursday

Hashtag popularity comes and goes, but there are a few that are consistently good because they’ve been accepted by the social media community as a “thing”. One of the most popular hashtags is #ThrowbackThursday, which occurs every Thursday. The rules are simple: post something retro or old that we don’t see much of anymore, if at all, an comment on how it’s relevant to your personal life. Sincere this blog is mainly about Internet activities, have a listen at the sound I used to hear as a young lad when connecting to the Internet:

Many of the younger netizens might be asking “What do you mean ‘connect to the Internet?'” Nowadays, nearly every household in America has a constant connection to the web, either by way of WiFi or through their cellphone service. Back during the dial-up days, you had to connect to the Internet every time you wanted to use it. And as an added bonus of inconvenience, it took up a phone line to do it, which means if you’re connected to the Internet, anyone trying to call your home phone will get a busy signal. Many of the younger netizens might wonder: “What the heck is a phone line?”. Short answer: our phones were connected to the wall by wire like your modem.

So what makes a hashtag like #ThrowbackThursday so popular? It’s one that everyone old enough to say “back in my day” can use and understand. Technologies, culture, and trends change so rapidly nowadays, but we all have memories that stand out from the rest, especially during our teenage years. For people my age: mid 20’s to late 30’s, a single line from a song is enough to bring back a flood of memories, and since it was so pervasive back then, it’s easy for an entire generation of millions to connect on common ground.

See what I mean?

TED Talk Ft. Keren Elazari on the Necessity of Hackers

I found this talk particularly interesting, because I talk a lot about Internet safety, securing your data, and protecting yourself from scams. While I don’t support the malicious actions of hackers, they also shouldn’t be viewed as nebulous boogiemen out to destroy your life, or at the very least, make it very inconvenient for you. For a system like the Internet to work, it must also be broken over and over again. The Net is very much like a living organism, and without people to exploit the weaknesses, it can never become stronger. What do you think?