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Technology

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Hacking “Do Not Disturb” To Improve Lives

By Tommy Sobel

Today’s technology is incredible. Considering everything we can do from our phones, let’s admit it, we’re basically gods. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Americans spend upwards of 10 hours a day on our devices. New research shows that the more time we spend on our phones and social media, the more unhealthy we become. Anxiety, loneliness, burnout, and general life dissatisfaction are more prevalent today than ever before. How is this possible when technology does so much for us?

OUR “ALWAYS ON” LIFESTYLE IS RUINING EVERYTHING

Around 80% of my texts back to people start with, “Hey sorry, missed this,” or “Sorry, just seeing this now.” It’s sad to think of the number of times I’ve distracted myself from friends to tend to an inane but seemingly time-sensitive task because of a notification on my phone. Worse yet, I often feel guilty about not being even more available to everyone all the time.

We do this because we feel an obligation to respond immediately when someone messages us. When we get a text, we get this feeling, this itch, that we only have a certain amount of time to respond before we feel guilty about the “delay.” Conversely, when we reach out to others, we expect them to do the same. This is the slippery slope we’ve fallen into as we’ve created the “always on” society.

This lifestyle is not serving me and it’s not serving you. I don’t want to be a slave to my phone or our society to be either because we’re headed towards a very dark reality.

As a self-diagnosed ex-phone addict, I don’t have all the answers, but I do have an iPhone lifehack that has significantly improved my life. If you do this too, together we might start to mend our “generational addiction” for the survival of meaningful relationships, before it’s too late.

 

HOW I TURNED APPLE’S “DO NOT DISTURB WHILE DRIVING” INTO AN iMESSAGE AUTO-REPLY.

A year ago I created a rule for myself that became a daily routine. For at least an hour every day, I disconnect from my phone by turning it into a Brick™, and do something engaging in the real world. It’s worked so well that I left my job to start a community that makes it fun and easy for others to join me and get off the grid a little bit every day (join at www.gobricknow.com).

When my phone is in Brick Mode™ and I’m completely disconnected from the internet (at dinner with a friend, on a hike, or reading a book) anyone who texts me will get an automatic reply saying that I’m off my phone and I’ll get back to them when I’ve reconnected. This simple auto-reply relieves my “always on” pressure because I know that anyone who texts knows I haven’t seen the message yet. So the “always on” clock hasn’t started in my absence. When I come back to my phone and I get my “notification flood,” I’m not triggered with the pang of anxiety that I’m already behind on a ton of things. This also relieves the pressure from anyone who texts me because they know I haven’t seen it yet and won’t be getting back to them immediately. This is much more pleasant than wondering if they’re being ignored.

My life has really opened up. I’ve been more engaged with my friends and family, I read 28 books last year and I started my own company. Brick Mode has made all the difference.

 

HOW TO SET UP iMESSAGE AUTO-REPLY (BRICK MODE):

Open the Settings app:

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Tap “Do Not Disturb”:

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Tap Activate > Manually:

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Go back and tap All Contacts:

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Go back and tap Auto-Reply. Then replace with whatever you want the auto-reply to say. Feel free to copy and paste what I use below:

“My phone is in Brick Mode and I’m off the grid enjoying life. I’ll get this message when I’ve reconnected. Join the movement here: www.gobricknow.com

Copy and paste response:

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Return to Control Center:

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Tap Customize Controls:

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Tap the green plus sign:

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Close Settings. Now when you swipe to view the Control Panel, you’ll see a car emoji. When you want to lock up your phone and activate auto-reply (we call it Brick Mode).

Tap the car and you’re done:

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Brick Mode in action:

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If we can all agree to do this, we can begin to shift our culture away from “always on” expectations and burnout to “sometimes off” bliss. Our phones were meant to serve us, not for us to serve them.

Tommy Sobel

CEO & Founder of Brick

www.gobricknow.com

Did this help you? Let me know in the comments!

The Effects Of Technology On Children

Technology is in the hands of more kids today than ever before. It is undoubtedly a powerful educational tool, but it can also be used as a weapon, especially against children. Exposure to graphic or mature images and information can forever impact a young mind. We still have yet to understand how mobile devices impact kids, not to mention AR/VR. Our children are now in uncharted territory, and regardless of your views on technology for kids, they will find it and be exposed to it. Teachers and adults now have an obligation and responsibility to kids that is more important than ever before: contextualization.

Children benefit from the educational aspects of technology. There are obvious advantages like access to information. As recently as the 1990s, resources like dictionaries and encyclopedias were cost prohibitive for lower income families. Now, with the ubiquity of internet access and mobile devices, kids from all walks of life have an unprecedented access to information. This open access brings new challenges with it. How do we keep kids from seeing age inappropriate content on already popular sites like Youtube?  

There are also counterintuitive advantages to some aspects of technology. Studies have shown that some video games have actually helped kids develop real life skills. Yet, those same games have also been shown to reduce the amount of exercise kids get and can worsen their eating habits. In some cases, video games have been linked to violence and mental issues. Probably the biggest factor is how we look at parenting. If parents are actively involved in monitoring what their kids are consuming and how it affects them, the outcomes are usually favorable. Certain technology for kids actively involves parents and there are brands like 1st Media that create content specifically for millenial parents as the market grows. Buzzfeed and NBCUniversal are handling the challenge by creating a new platform called Playful that starts with educating parents with content like “Little tricks to teach your kids the basics,” “9 kid-friendly science experiments” and “How I make mom friends.”

Many detractors of technology for children argue that technology is making children less socially adept, but many apps like Kid Pass help parents and their kids source new and fun activities. However, like all things this is subject to the context of the technology and how kids are interacting with it. One definite negative trend is the proliferation of anonymous communication apps. It takes no courage or social skills to tear down your peers with no accountability or fear of consequence and the effects can be disastrous. But again, context is key because anonymity can also make it easier to report bullying.

The bottom line is that technology is helping and hurting. That being said, the next Elon Musk or Nikola Tesla is out there right now with an insatiable curiosity. Thanks to widespread internet connectivity and access to information, that child, whomever he or she may be, has the tools available to change the world. The same way that modern medicine has advanced to save more lives, our grasp on technology will only improve with time. We can’t map uncharted waters without first sailing through them. While parents need to closely monitor how technology affects their kids, the situation presents a set of opportunities that no other generation has had access to. It’s our responsibility as adults, creators, influencers, and people who work in technology to be conscious of the fact that kids will consume what we create. We can only try our best to maintain ethics while navigating the ins and outs of new technology. Its implications impact the future of humanity. No big deal.

The Future Of TV

Digital media is evolving so constantly it’s hard to keep up. Just recently Hollywood dodged a writer’s strike giving way to more support for the hardworking writers who create compelling stories for the TV & Film industry. It’s a big win for creativity, and while one might think that the future of TV is bright, it is one that will be crowded, netting out some big winners and even bigger losers.

This week, traditional broadcasters like Fox, CBS & ABC take to the annual New York Upfronts where they will pitch advertisers on why they should be awarded billions of their advertising dollars. The problem, cord-cutting is accelerating as broadcast viewing has been down year over year and is rifled with troubled media stocks. Cable providers are bemoaning the cooling ad-market and are overall suffering from a decline in Pay TV subscribers (1.4M in subscribers last year combined), while digital advertising has already surpassed television advertising in the United States.

Fewer people are watching “Live TV”, and it’s affecting everything, even sports, which was once thought of as untouchable. Now, staples like ESPN are issuing layoffs amidst declining viewership and competitive new platforms challenging the traditional model.

While the old guard is marred with issues as they adapt to the new landscape, the internet is disrupting how we view content on every other screen. This shift and opportunity is giving way to major tech companies with large amounts of distribution, like Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, Snapchat, Youtube, Apple and Spotify. All these companies are creating original content with large amounts of money to spend, huge celebrity castings, challenging new ad & subscription models and massive user bases.

Meanwhile, shops like Hulu, AT&T, Dish & Sony are convinced they can lure people back to live TV packages by offering a slimmer selection of channels at lower cost to your traditional cable package termed as “skinny bundles”. We’re also seeing a lot of investments, acquisitions, mergers, & integrations as the incumbents strive to stay alive.

None of this should be surprising though, what’s truer than ever is that there will always be content, viewers will always watch, and businesses will forever try to figure out a way to capitalize on that. Companies who can grab user attention and adapt to technological shifts are poised to make money. In the future of TV, businesses who can adapt to all the platforms are the victors, but consumers carry all the leverage and are the ultimate winners. They are unbundling and watching various amounts of content wherever they want on whatever platform they choose.

Being the winners you are, we’re curious to know your current favorite TV shows. It could be Master of None, Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale,whatever. Let us know and we’ll include the top ones in our newsletter next week.

Subscription Economy

Oh boy, are things about to change. As the world becomes more automated and technologies and services mature into “on demand”, the way we pay for things will transform. These days, you can subscribe to everything from movies (Netflix) to various products (Amazon), food (Blue Apron) and even underwear (MeUndies). All are part of a massively growing “Subscription Economy”. In this burgeoning market, customers will eventually subscribe to anything and everything…and we think that’s a good thing.

Subscriptions are no foreign concept to the western world. Anyone with a cell phone plan or pay-TV service is a “subscriber,” but the concept is permeating through other industries as well. Music was one of the first to be disrupted by subscriptions (Spotify, Apple Music), we see it in the cloud service industry (AWS), and recently rideshare via services like Uber. Subscription box serviceshave been growing like crazy and even established companies like Apple have a subscription plan.

Just last week, Live Nation created the “Festival Passport” that allows avid fest-goers access to up to 90 festivals for $799 annually. They did the math and figured giving people a wide array of choices would overall be better for their bottom line. A win for the experience generation.

Other companies are tapping the market as well. Zuora for example, created a subscription management platform for businesses. They process about $35 billion dollars worth of transactions for more than 800 customers around the world, including Ford, Dell, DocuSign and The Wall Street Journal. They are huge proponents of the subscription economy and through their leadership, they’ve found that subscription businesses are growing at nine times the rate of the S&P 500. Also, according to the Economist, “80% of companies are seeing a change in how their customers want to access and pay for goods and services and 50% of these same companies are changing their pricing models as a result.”

The subscription economy is driven by the customers themselves. Subscriptions are about relationships, and relationships propel businesses. In fact we’ve graduated from a product centric economy to a relationship one where customers want more than just great products. Customers prefer access, over owning things. Subscription economy companies live and die by their ability to focus on the customer. There’s a whole “experience” behind a subscription, and like Tien Tzuo, Zuora CEO mentions, “People just want an outcome. People want a service. People want to know the vendor, the brand, the person on the other end that’s providing that service in a trusted relationship.”

Like anything, the subscription economy will be met with some challenges, but it provides flexibility, scalability, lower upfront costs, predictable budgeting, the ability to launch new features & bundles, and ultimately a more valuable experience for the customer. Done right, people won’t need to worry about owning anything in the future and they get the freedom to try, by, upgrade, downgrade, pause or do whatever they need to be satisfied.

Long Live Pepsi

Last week Pepsi entered the limelight for the first time in 10 years because of the biggest mistake they’ve ever made. They released a video commercial starring Kendall Jenner, wanting to support global peace, and even though there was a lot of backlash and clamor over being “tone deaf”, what’s interesting, is that their goal to unite the world and create positive brand affinity may have actually worked.

A report from Brand Watch shows there was an overall 20,000%+ increase in mentions last week for Pepsi, granted much sentiment was negative, overall the resulting conversation is a HUGE positive. April 4th saw more than 427,000 mentions of Pepsi on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with April 5th accumulating another 1.25 million mentions. Their stock even surged for a moment, until they took down the ad and issued an apology.

What Pepsi traded in was negative sentiment for more conversation. When you look at the content being made on the internet, everyone is talking about Pepsi, and it’s become so far the joke of the year, but an endearing one. The greatest memes depict Pepsi being used and represented in tense situations, as the savior to their problems and while super comical, no one’s doing that for Coke are they? And speaking of, sure, many people may be drinking Coke the rest of the lives now in actual protest, but on the flipside more people are likely to grab a Pepsi to be funny, and because of what it jokingly symbolizes.

Throughout the week most major publications and late night hosts from Stephen Colbert to SNL took to joking about the commercial. Also, this week, people were actually using Pepsi in real life protest. Supposedly Pepsi has garnered $300 million and $400 million in free media coverage out of the controversy.

These days, brands have to do something to get people’s attention. As long as you’re making someone feel an emotion, even if its frustration you’re doing something to get that attention, and we are an attention based economy. This stunt almost feels something out of the playbook of best selling author Ryan Holiday, who could only dream of creating something like this for a major brand. Ryan is known for his book “Trust me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” where he outlines how he intentionally uses negative campaigns and subversive press to bad mouth a product he’s representing in order for people to start talking about it and ultimately engage with it.

This short of shock value marketing is used today by even our president.

Now, in no way are we saying that the video content was “good” but what we are saying is that Pepsi should own the bad and not run away from it. This conversation is good for their business. Imagine if Pepsi & Kendall instead of saying sorry, just owned it. It would have likely amplified the conversation even more. This is all something to consider for your own brand when wondering how to market your products if “nothing seems to work”. Stay woke and do something that makes people feel something.

The Truth Will Set You Free

Everyone searches for the truth. The idea of truth and honesty can oftentimes be sabotaged in business and entertainment, yet truth is something a brand, business, and artist should always care about within their organization or craft. If customers don’t feel like they’ve gotten the truth, their reviews can tank businesses both big and small.

Last week, Silicon Valley startup Juicero made headlines after offering all their customers who bought their more than expensive $400 wi-fi juicer a refund. The reason? You don’t actually need the juicer to squeeze the pre-made bags they come in. Customers realized they could juice their drinks just by squeezing the pack by hand, making the actual juicer completely unnecessary. Juicero raised $120 million dollars for this endeavor and now, no one is happy.

The lack of honesty and full disclosure of business has plagued and even destroyed companies like Theranos, Zenefits, Lilly, Magic Leap and Clinkle. Some of these companies secured multi-millions of dollars with little more than a product video, and while some have created actual prototypes, these technologies feel so infant and so far from the intended final product we might ask if these founders may have been lying to themselves.

We’re in an environment where investment in startups are a lot more harderthan they used to be and there are so many variables that could equal a successful company. One thing for sure, is that customers have all the power, especially with today’s internet landscape. The idea of “fake it, till you make it” ends with your customers who really expose the truth. Juicero biffed, but the real learning should be reflective of everyone else’s projects and endeavors. You have to be honest with your customers and the things you’re creating. No one said it was easy, but just ask yourself at every path you take, if you’re being honest.

Voice Is The Next Operating System

Human communication has evolved over time through different technologies, forms and mediums. Using your voice and simply speaking to someone is a foundation of that interaction. History shows us when leveraging computers for more productivity, voice took the back seat, and text became the conduit for which we could communicate with computers.

Movies like Star Trek, the movie Her and TV shows like The Jetsons all seemed like science fiction at the time, but those seemingly prophetic pieces of entertainment predicted we would command computers using our voices. Now, 2017 is the year where it’s in full effect and we can speak to devices, commanding them to make our lives 10x easier, ushering in the next computing revolution.

It’s no secret, billions of dollars have been poured into artificial intelligence (AI). Computers having their own brains will be the onus of some of the next big technologies like autonomous driving cars and robotics, but AI’s driving growth has been voice and natural language processing in which every major player is involved from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg creating Jarvis himself, to Google Now. Apple’s Siri was arguably the first to get into this game several years ago, but no other company has been paving the way for voice more than Amazon.

Amazon smart speaker the “Echo” has been around since 2014, but its popularity was only made known last year with over 6 million units sold. The Echo didn’t set any expectations and has blown everyone away. The product brings Amazon’s “Alexa” which is their AI voice processing platform directly to your home where you can interact with it. Developers can even create an infinite amount of “Skills”, which are the equivalent of apps and right now there are more than 5,000 of them in the “Skills store.” You can do anything from have Alexa sing you happy birthday and play Simon Says to paying bills, checking your schedule and ordering products off of you guested it, Amazon. You can also incorporate Alexa into any device, no typing or text necessary.

Many are already familiar with voice as a new medium, but using speakers was a genius move making the internet of things one step closer to reality. By 2018, 30% of our interactions with technology will be through “conversations” with smart machines.

Complex science & conjecture aside, voice humanizes technologies. We’re moving towards humanized behavior for computers. It’s a behavior that is extremely addictive, the presentation and purpose simple, yet the opportunities diverse.

There’s still some kinks to work out, but as an individual in the entertainment, art and business workforces, learn now what the implications of voice as an operating system will have on your craft moving forward so that you can be ahead of the curve. There are uses everywhere for everyone and every type of economy. Mastering it will keep you on top of the game.

Facebook AGAIN!

There’s a strong reason for Facebook to get into the audio game. They’re one of the biggest entities in the world, music is something we all love, and other forms of audio content are on the rise. It’s a logical thing. As audio quickly becomes the next operating system, Facebook has the potential to free our eyeballs, add a new revenue channel, and become the market leader in digital audio content.

We get it Facebook, you want our attention and you want it all the time, but you’re losing people’s attention on mobile by only focusing on video.

The biggest problem is almost comical, individuals are still unable to seamlessly transition from watching video content to listening to video content on mobile. Ever get supremely annoyed when your phone goes into screen saving mode and the audio from the video you were playing stops working?! This problem occurs not only with Facebook video, but also on YouTube (at least for YouTube there’s a workaround). According to Apple customer support, this is an issue with “the apps themselves”, not the iOS platform.

Mobile video should be as seamless as TV where you can do anything productive in your home hands free while “watching TV”. Really you’re just listening, and that’s the beauty of TV. Some videos online were not built for watching, but instead simply for listening. How many times have you started watching a video only to realize you’re more concerned with what’s being said rather than what’s on the screen? If you close the app to continue listening, the video should play on. This way, you can free up your hands and eyes for other activities (even if humans aren’t the best at multi-tasking, we still love doing it!

In December 2016 Facebook Launched a beta version of Facebook Live Audio.

The program was launched with a select group of publishers and authors (including BBC, Harper Collins, and Adam Grant) who intend to create audio content specifically for this platform. This is a step in the right direction. Audio content and with it audio-based advertising has experienced double digit growth over the last five years. According to a recent report by Bridge Ratings, ad spend for the 330,000 podcasts in the iTunes directory is expected to increase 27% in 2017 and an additional 30% in 2018 to $250 million. Some rumor Mark Zuckerg’s AI assistant Jarvis as a major audio play as well.

It makes perfect sense for Facebook to try to capture a larger piece of the pie. In addition, Facebook’s entry into the audio market will no doubt accelerate this growth by solving one of the major challenges facing the podcast industry: the difficulty most users face in discovering relevant new podcasts. Another plus, Facebook can get in the game before Snapchat does.

In spite of its recent announcement to enter the digital audio market, Facebook continues to focus most of its attention on video. The company is rumored to be soliciting producers to create original content for the platform in order to compete with Verizon’s Go90 and YouTube Red.

As such, if Facebook really wants to connect the world, make it a better place and make more money in the process, it would be wise of Facebook to allow users to seamlessly transition from watching video to listening to audio in order to keep us engaged on its platform.

Facebook Is A Media Company

You’d think, as the world’s largest distraction device, Facebook would’ve made an original content play ages ago. But no. Somehow they let the world’s largest hardware store beat them to the punch.

For awhile, Zuckerberg remained firm in his conviction that Facebook was not going to be a media company. That is, until he didn’t. Soon you might be binging shows and streaming music on Facebook, right next to your hundred-comment argument with Aunt Charlene.

On the hardware end, Facebook has developed free casting apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Samsung to match its already-existing Chromecast functionality. At first, the cast-able stuff will be limited to personal videos saved on your profile and those of your friends. This makes total sense: why not make it easier to display content outside the smartphone screen?

But then, in December, the announcement came. Facebook would become what Zuckerberg always said it wasn’t, funding “some seed video content, including original and licensed scripted, unscripted and sports content,” according to recent hire and CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen. Then just last week, Facebook also brought on former MTV EVP Mina Lefevre as head of development.

Why Facebook suddenly wants OC is both obvious and mysterious. On the one hand, it’s a way to cut in on brands’ advertising budgets currently set aside for YouTube, a battle which may be heating up as YouTube just announced that they’re discontinuing their annoying 30 second pre-rolls. It’s also a way to beat Snapchat to the punch before Sir Spiegel has billions of IPO dollars to screw around with, some of which will almost certainly go to OC. However, at the same time, Facebook is coming off its best quarter ever (in revenue, profit, and profit margin). It looks like they’ve finally figured out, once and for all, how to stay profitable. Is now really the time to start taking risks on making art?

It doesn’t stop at TV either. Facebook is making similar moves in the music space—it brought in YouTube’s Tamara Hvirnak to lead global music strategy just last month. This move has been reported as another attempt to grab ad budgets currently going to YouTube. Meaning Facebook probably won’t develop an Apple Music-style paid music service, but a free one, a potentiality which already has copyright lawyers shivering in their boots.

It’s an interesting time for OC. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft all began as products, but have metastasized into ecosystems. Each ecosystem wants us to spend more of our attention (and thus time and money) in its closed little world. Facebook, without the more practical underpinnings of a hardware product, operating system, or search engine, is often considered the weakest ecosystem of the bunch, the most likely to fail, which may explain their prior reluctance to take risks on OC.

However, Facebook dominates our consciousnesses more than any other ecosystem by far. It’s less of a tool than the others, more of a gaming system. A digital world which we plug into at will (and sometimes not so at will). Adding original content to its hypnotic repertoire thus makes even more sense for Facebook than it does for Amazon or Apple.

However, if he wants us to binge content right next to our newsfeeds, Zuckerberg could force us to answer an annoying question we’ve avoided for half a decade: How much Facebook is too much?

Snapchat Wars

A little over 3 years ago, Snapchat CEO, Evan Spiegel turned down a $3 billion dollar acquisition offer from Facebook in a move that made the world go W, T, F. The audacity, the ego, the stupidity, the balls. Evan’s decision after he met with Zuck, was nothing sort of focused and calculated and was seen as both bold and foolish. Whatever it was, he was prepared, going as far as to buy his whole team The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, imploring its tactics, paired with an addictive product to drive his team into battle.

Fast forward to 2017 and the yellow ghost is at its prime. Now rebranded as parent company Snap Inc, where Snapchat will be one of many products focused on the camera, Snapchat is about to IPO on the NYSE for a projected 8X the amount it turned down just years ago. Last week was riddled with news of the public filing and the company once completely shrouded in secrecy gave us the most intel we’ve ever seen.

There’s a lot of speculation on whether you should buy or not and what all the data means for the company and its investors. The gist is essentially that Snapchat has strong engagement, slowing traction (due to Facebook, Instagram, and international apps like Snow straight up copying its features), but a solid plan for monetization and a stern promise of innovation. With 158 million insanely engaged daily active users, no shareholder control, halting growth but a strong team, the future of Snapchat is pretty uncertain and may be just as ephemeral as a disappearing snap, or a serious contender in the future of communication and visual storytelling.

Whether you like him or not, Spiegal is a visionary, he controls the Snapchat product, and the success of Snapchat comes down to Evan Spiegel and the company’s ability to innovate. So far he’s hit consistently. Disappearing messages were original to Snapchat, no one could have ever predicted Stories, and that too was original to Snapchat. Lenses that fit on your face and interact with daily life, are original to Snapchat. Spectacles…Snap Inc for the win. Everyone else has been the copycat and Snapchat the originator, leading many including Google chairman Eric Schmidt to call its supreme leader the next Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

In the filing Snap says “The best way to compete is to make great products that people will want to use.” Sounds like they get it. The quick move to IPO suggests they need this money to innovate, but we need more than just TV on Snapchat. We need the next Snapchat. If Snapchat can continue to see future they’ll have an edge, but it’s important for Snapchat to create things that are a little more defensible, so other companies can’t quickly copy.

Snap Inc is a camera company, they are right to focus on this. Will Snapchat be successful? We’ll see. We’ve often heard that Evan doesn’t make product decisions based on data, but on his gut, and so ultimately, that’s our advice to you, go with your gut. Until next time…

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