Category Archives: News

cubicle_farmWe’ve heard all about Millennials for years now, their lifestyles, tech friendliness, and radical collaboration methods. Many experts have been urging companies to start accommodating their lifestyle in the workplace to attract the best, young talent. The real driver behind the need to rethink the workplace, however, is not just generational — it’s really about the elephant in the “room” — mobility. We’re all on the move more than ever before, and we have escalated our use of not one, but several, connected mobile devices throughout our normal day. The idea of working 9-5 in a stuffy cubicle farm with a tethered computer on a desk is seeming more and more like an out-of-date relic.

To get past generational labels, and create another broader label (researchers love labels), there’s a new one out there now: #GenMobile: the people for whom mobile connected devices go beyond personal use — these folks shape their entire lives around mobility and the devices that support their mobility.

In November 2013, Shape the Future and Aruba Networks conducted research to find out how widespread the use of mobile devices have become. They found some interesting trends that back up the idea of rethinking the traditional workplace model:

– 70% of respondents prefer flexible working than working 9 to 5 with an early finish on Fridays.

– Over half of those surveyed said they’d prefer to work from home or remotely two to three days a week than receive a 10% higher salary.

– 37% expect an increase of remote working – just 4.5% foresee a decrease.

– 49% expect to increase the time they spend working remotely in 2014.

– Almost half (45%) bought tablets in the past 12 months.

– And 64% believe in BYOD, and believe their devices make them more productive at work.

– Many employees believe it’s the company’s responsibility to provide mobile devices along with Wi-Fi connections.

These stats may leave a lot of HR Directors shaking their heads, but instead, they should be seeing the opportunities, including:

– Rethink traditional work hours (consider the increased productivity of happier, “always-on” employees)

– Rethink traditional cubicle farm office environments (consider the cost savings inherent in fewer non-eco-friendly offices)

At 8 p.m. on December 31, 2013, 6 year old Sofia Liu was walking in a crosswalk at Polk and Civic Center in San Francisco with her mom and younger brother when she was struck and killed by an Uber driver. Uber is a ride-sharing company that provides “car service on demand” via a smartphone app. Wherever Uber provides service, simply launch an app and Uber will automatically locate you and connect you to the closest driver. Within minutes a driver will pick you up and get you to your destination. There are several ride-sharing companies providing car services on demand, including Lyft and Sidecar. Uber has been growing and innovating beyond typical taxi services by promising quick pick-up and drop-off, as well as delivering Christmas trees and even kittens.

When the driver struck little Sofia, Uber stated he was “not employed by Uber at the time of the accident because he did not have an Uber customer in the car with him”. Since he was “between fares”, Uber claims they are not responsible for the death. However, an attorney representing the family of Sofia is filing a wrongful-death lawsuit against both Uber and the driver alleging that the driver was an Uber contractor using Uber’s app at the time of the accident. Furthermore, the attorney claims that the driver was “texting while driving” using Uber’s app to prepare for his next fare, causing him to be distracted.

Uber is declining comment over the lawsuit, but it seems like the attorney’s strategy is to associate the driver with Uber simply by the fact that the driver was logged into Uber’s app. This will take the discussion about if and how to regulate start-up services like Uber to the next level. Are the Uber drivers too distracted by technology in the car making them unsafe to be on the road? That will be the key question for a judge or jury to answer. In the meantime, San Francisco has one of the highest rates of pedestrian-vehicle collisions in the nation, so watch out for yourself out there! At least one San Francisco Supervisor seems to be “on the case“.

By the way, according to Uber, the driver that struck little Sofia has been “deactivated” as a driver in their system.

fingerprintBy now, most of us realize that the US government is tracking our online activity (it’s just to what extent, we’re still a bit unsure), but it’s probably safe to say the bureaucrats know more about us than we’d like them to know. What’s more disturbing, however, is the extent that advertising and marketing companies go to determine who you are, what you do, what you buy, and who you buy from. And it’s no longer just your online activity: data mining allows companies to combine your offline activity with your online activity to create a more accurate profile of everything you do. This aggregation should cause more concern than anything the NSA is doing, and as of now, it’s completely unregulated.

Ever heard of Acxiom? Probably not. Well, Acxiom has heard of you. In fact, they probably know more about you than many of your own family members. Acxiom currently runs 23,000 servers that process more than 50 trillion data transactions per year. Acxiom has dropped over 1.1 billion cookies onto hundreds of millions of Americans’ computers, they have constructed over 200 million mobile profiles and average about 1,500 pieces of data per consumer. Scott Howe, the Acxiom CEO has stated, “Our digital reach will soon approach nearly every Internet user in the US.”

The recent hacking of Target’s commerce system has been widely reported, but what you may not know is what Target knows about you. Target assigns each customer a unique “Guest ID” which is linked to their credit card number, email address and/or name. Every purchase or interaction the customer has with Target is linked to their unique Guest ID. You tend to buy a lot of yogurt, live in San Francisco, and shop with your American Express? Target takes this data and links them to your profile, and then uses it to market more products to you. This seems harmless at first glance, and some would argue that targeted advertising is valuable, however, this data can be aggregated, diced and sliced to predict your future behavior. Target will know if you’re pregnant based on what you purchase. They’ll use that data to predict when you will be interested in buying diapers. Of course, they won’t stop there. They’ll know the gender of your baby when he/she is born, and be able to market to them as well. Lock them in at birth! This is valuable data for other companies too. PetCo will know if you’re buying dog food for your “older pet” and sell the data to insurance companies that will then encourage you to buy health insurance. Sound creepy? Creepier than the NSA logging your phone calls?

Sure, the NSA’s tracking activities should be a major concern, but you might also want to think about what advertising, marketing and data mining companies are doing “behind the scenes” with all those breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind.

This won’t be the typical “year in review” post highlighting the best books, the best films, or the best songs of the year. There’s plenty of places you can get that kind of info, including here, here, and here. Instead, I want to focus on some of the more meaningful occurrences, some that may have flown under the radar a bit, but that will more than likely have a lasting impact:

andre

We lost Andre Cassagnes. Who, you ask? Well, if you grew up in the last few decades, you’ve been touched by his main creation: the Etch-A-Sketch. At the age of 86, he passed in January. I remember spending untold hours with my Etch-A-Sketch, and how when I finally painted my masterpiece, I would beg my sister to not shake it away (which she always seemed to find a sneaky way to do behind my back). It’s my generation’s Snapchat, and it gave so much to that “alone time” throughout my youth. Although it’s practically impossible to draw a circle, the Etch-A-Sketch was a toy for the ages.

(Tribute sketch of André Cassagnes by Tom Shillue)

Dealey_Plaza_2003When it comes to the events of November 22, 1963: we evolved (a bit). Yeah, 2013 marked the 50th year since our 35th president was gunned down on the streets of Dallas. First, Dallas itself owned up to its own role in that fateful day. The city’s leaders decided to honor Kennedy by producing a respectful commemoration, and for the first time since ’63, apologized for being the “city of hate” that took our President from us. The past is never in the past, but we can learn, heal and move forward. Dallas decided to do that in 2013, and it deserves praise for honoring that horrible day with a recognition it never knew how to do before. Of course, the “independent” Texas spirit is still alive and well as shown by this guy who felt the need to strap on an AR-15 at Dealey Plaza…

12.09.11-Skeuo-4We officially re-entered an era of “design rationalism”. Not wanting to be left behind, Apple fired Scott Forstall, the lone holdout in charge of Apple software design that still held onto the Jobsian design ethos of using fake leather and brushed aluminum backgrounds in software user interfaces. Microsoft and Google had already moved on, ditching ornamentation, and re-birthing the design philosophy set forth in the 1920s by the Bauhaus movement. Now, for at least awhile, pixels are pixels and old leather desk calendars are no longer allowed in your Calendar app.

 

cancerAnd, finally, 14 year old Jake Andraka showed us what Steve Jobs really meant when he pleaded for us to “always think like a beginner.” After his family friend died of pancreatic cancer, Jack was frustrated that there wasn’t an easier, earlier detection method for this common, but deadly cancer. Although he was only in 9th grade, he took the initiative to investigate a low-cost test idea he had come up with. His test was finally accepted at Johns Hopkins after he had received hundreds of rejection letters from other research institutions. Now, his low-cost early detection test is helping to transform the survival rates for pancreatic cancer. Goes to show you: persistence is critical, next up: just think of a problem you want to solve!

Photo of Jake: TED2013. Long Beach, CA. February 25 – March 1, 2013. Photo: James Duncan Davidson

Fran+Lebowitz+Wolf+Wall+Street+Afterparty+dEGeOh, and there’s no way I can forget to add this honorable mention as the weirdest/funniest/most interesting cameo in a movie this year: Fran Leibowitz as a Judge in Wolves of Wall Street! Go, Fran, GO!

Photo of Fran: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images North America

 

Windows-8_1_3

Today sees the global release of Windows 8.1. It should start rolling out in the App Store for everyone. Although 8.1 is a minor upgrade, there are some big changes: mainly the re-positioning of SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud-based storage service. My relationship with SkyDrive has been like a celebrity marriage: lots of excitement at first, love and hugs, and then a quick unraveling as its little glitches become more apparent. It just never has stacked up well to Dropbox, or even Google Drive, for God’s sake. But, as Ballmer once told us, Microsoft is “all in” … so this update sees SkyDrive move to front and center. So front and so center that its sync engine is built-in to the core of the OS. Additionally, Microsoft has made one improvement that really excites me (the whole celebrity marriage thing reignites!) — instead of defaulting to syncing your entire SkyDrive folder to your PC, it first loads icons, and enough information required to identify the file. When you decide to open the file, it downloads it on the spot. I love that, since my SkyDrive space sometimes exceeds my SSD space! You can still set preferences to sync entire folders for offline work as well. The other magical result of SkyDrive being front and center is easy access to all your apps, files and settings across multiple Microsoft devices. Like a thin client, just login to any device and continue where you left off (kinda)!

With 8.1 also comes IE11… another version of the venerable web browser we all love to hate. I’m slowly becoming somewhat of an IE convert… it’s kinda become like the Republican Party — it has a loooong history of reckless behavior to overcome — but it’s actually quite a mature, responsive browser. I couldn’t ever see myself leaving Chrome, but IE11 is worth calling out in this upgrade mainly because of two seemingly little tweaks that will undoubtedly have a big impact: it now supports WebGL, so now you can play in-browser games with stunning speed and cool visuals, and IE now has a “Reading View” option, similar to the one in Safari that is the absolute #1 reason to use Safari if you’re on a Mac! Thanks for these, Microsoft. Now, if you would only grasp the idea of “extensions” like Chrome has, we would have a much more lively relationship.

Let’s not forget the App Store. Just last year, Microsoft’s App Store resembled a Soviet grocery store in the 1940s: cold and dusty with barren shelves full of nothing but moldy bread. With only 10,000 apps (and let’s be honest, some of what Microsoft counted as an “app” were thinly disguised versions of silly web pages), the App Store has now grown up a bit and boasts over 100,000 apps (but still no Instagram!). The one thing worth noting with this post, however, is the rejoicing we can all engage in because the Mail app has been redesigned. W00t! Thank God for small miracles. The Mail app has been one of the most consistent reminders of how bad an app can actually be. With this upgrade, Microsoft realized it needed to make some hefty changes. The Mail app has been completely redesigned, improved for both touch or keyboard and mouse use. You can drag and drop messages into folders, easily select multiple messages with checkboxes, and generally filter out and manage email a lot more easily. Performance has also greatly improved, with draft emails simply appearing on the right-hand side rather than taking up the full screen. Thank you, Redmond.

Even better news: this big, little upgrade is free for existing Windows 8 users. I’d say go get it now!

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