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    Online observations of public relations, marketing, advertising and social media; the occasional frivolity; and The Rundown show notes. Jump in, the water's fine.

    Please Note: Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its constituents.

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Lose the Phone; Get Creative

Students looking into phones and tablet pc at school - Shutterstock

Students looking into phones and tablet pc at school – Shutterstock

Listening to Science Friday last week, I was intrigued by a segment about how our ubiquitous use of smart phones is actually decreasing our creativity.

The basic premise here is that every second that we’re not engaged at work or doing chores or other responsible things, we’re using our phones to play games or network or watch videos.

Consider this WNYC article referenced during the show, which says:

Fifty-eight percent of American adults have a smartphone today. The average mobile consumer checks their device 150 times a day, and 67 percent of the time, that’s not because it rang or vibrated. Forty-four percent of Americans have slept with their phone next to their beds.

So what’s the big deal? Well, we’re filling our brains up with nearly passive, slack-jawed “entertainment,” and we’re losing our ability to let our minds wander. The continuation of the premise is that this is affecting our ability to think deeper – or in some cases at all. Their argument is that in order to get creative, often we have to get bored first. We have to have nothing else to do and THEN we turn our brains on. It works for some, a study from last year showed that “Most men would rather shock themselves than be alone with their thoughts.

But kids do get bored. I did it, my kids do it, and I’m sure you did it. But remember that at some point you hit a rock bottom on boredom, which launched into some creative game, process or endeavor. I’m going to assume here that you don’t permit your small children to play on devices ANY time they want. But, are we missing out on all that as teens and adults?

I used to tell my nephew all the time that I never got bored, that I always found something to do. That was at the time of my life when I was playing and writing A LOT of music. Before that I had been doing a lot of theater. Before that it was writing or role playing games or LEGO. It was something.

That was before I had all these responsibilities where my free time was just long enough to annoy me, but not long enough to get involved in anything. I’m thinking of that space between getting home from work and getting dinner ready. That few minutes between cleaning up the dinner dishes and getting the kids ready for bed. Those minutes between getting the kids in the bath and then having to get them out again.

Or I’m stuck in the car on my long commute. Boring, maybe, but not the best time to learn to play the violin, for instance. So, that’s my problem. Even my time in the car is often spent listening to NPR or podcasts. I never just drive silently and think – again, it’s partial thinking. I still have to drive (yawn).

New Tech City has paired with the phone app Moment to help people rethink your relationship with your tech and is developing a Bored and Brilliant project to “help you detach from your phone and spend more time thinking creatively.”

Moment helps you track the time on your phone and lets you set timers to better manage your time. Want it to ding you after 10 minutes on Facebook? Goes quicker than you thought, I bet. It’s interesting and I’m going to try it out. Had a family feature too…Hmmm.

Of course, critics of the radio piece and project have focused intently on the word “boredom,” which they feel isn’t accurate for what we’re talking about. Boredom is more, they say, than just not having anything to do. But I think they’re arguing semantics. Anecdotally it makes very clear sense to me, and I applaud the effort.

Challenges kick off Feb 2 – are you in?

Important Facebook Changes And Why You Should Care

In an effort to become the center of the social hub and violate your privacy (which, incidentally, Facebook doesn’t believe in anyway), Facebook made some interesting changes recently to…well, nearly everything. As a marketer and, more importantly, your friend, I just want to point a few things out that may be of interest to you.

Privacy
Facebook changed its privacy policy AGAIN. You may want to check to see how much of your information is shared on Facebook to people who aren’t your friends. And I mean friends in the Facebookian sense, not, you know, real friends. Visit your profile while you are NOT logged in and see how much of your information you can see. My guess is, you’ll see a whole lot more than you thought. You can change this in the privacy settings. You should all do this. Facebook makes it a point not to widely announce these changes to the average user, so people who want to protect their info should regularly check to see what the privacy settings are. When the Internet nerd herd raises alarm bells about this, I’ll try to keep you in the loop.

Continue reading

Friday Frivolity – Google Roommate

With all of the exciting things being released from Google recently, including the convoluted, yet promising Google Wave, the experimental organized search-relevancy tool that is Google Squared, and the promise of Chrome on Mac and Linux, Google is certainly making strides to bury the release of Microsoft’s search engine Bing continue to be the a powerhouse in search and Internet-based collaboration.

So, what else will Google continue to provide to us – and at what cost? Check out ROOMMATES – Episode 1 from the boys at The Big Honkin, a hilarious adventure when Google becomes their roommate.

I’m looking forward to more, because as Google continues to roll out new services, Google Roommate may not be far behind. Hat tip agian to my colleauge and Internet bloodhound (in the nicest way) JayVee for pointing this out to me.

Friday Frivolity – Twitter Frenzy

I tweet. You tweet. Who doesn’t tweet?

Well, a lot of people, that’s who. While cool tools like Twitter are great instruments (hat tip, Shannon Paul) with a lot of fantastic uses, it’s good to remember that, despite the fact that your Tweetdeck is giving you a constant window into the Twitterverse – and all your friends are on it – and you can’t imagine knowing anyone worth knowing is not on Twitter – because Dave Matthews is on it and Starbucks is and Riann Wilson and The New York Times and The Home Depot and, well, guess what?

Still not everyone is using it. Case in point: One of the baddest, smartest comic news guys around, Jon Stewart, says: “I have no idea how it works or what it is.” Watch on. [feed readers click through]

more about “The Daily Show – Twitter Frenzy “, posted with vodpod

Communicators need to know the latest flashy widgets as well as the old standbyes. Both are in constant change. So know your audience, know your channels of communicating and know your message. Sounds like old, familiar advice.

Update: I forgot to include this hilarious and thought-provoking post by fellow Ohioan Kevin Dugan related to this topic. From One Thing Syndrome to Everything Syndrome, he’s got your two syndromes covered. Check it out.

Hat tip to BL Ochman for reminding me what a great sharable video this is. Also, you should follow me on Twitter.

Blog Scrapers Imagine a Magical Concern

RSS Scraping

Original Photo by Bret Arnett

Since there have been blogs, there have been people who steal your content. I’m not taking about borrowing your thoughts or words under a Creative Commons license, I’m talking about directly stealing your content to house on blogs loaded with Google Adwords or other advertising. Actually, for some of these blogs I’m not even sure what the point is. I’m not sure I understand a lot of the scraping and comment spam I’ve seen. If anyone has a good post on it, let me know in the comments.

Shel Holtz briefly introduced CopyGator during episode #416 of The Hobson and Holtz Report last week. CopyGator is:

…a free service designed to monitor your RSS feed and find where your content has been republished in the blogosphere. We automatically notify you when a new post of yours is copied to another feed, we also build an overview page you can view to see how/when/where your content is being duplicated, quoted or plagiarized.

It’s a great idea, but one I haven’t been able to test it out yet.  I’m looking forward to it, as in the past I’ve found a surprising amount of my content posted to other sites, which, while flattering, is annoying.

So while monitoring the blogosphere for some client mentions today, imagine my surprise when I found this bizarre review of a product with the strangest non-native-English-speaking tone to it, i.e.

  • “Imagine a magical concern where you read text scribbled by a kinsfolk member in their poorest cowardly scratch” or
  • “Make trusty to yield a interpret here to intend this terminal entry.”

And while absolutely hysterical to read in the Engrish Funny kind of way, it just shows that for every tool created hackers, scrapers and spammers will figure out a way around it.

Upon further review, I did discover the original blog post written about my client’s product. So apparently scrapers are now taking your content and running it through some sort of thesaurus program or other word-altering script so you can’t easily locate them, except that the product name was still in there along with the images. Not cool. CopyGator appears to work on the feed, not the content, so I look forward to delving further into that and seeing how it works.

So if you find your content being scraped you might want to look into CopyGator. Has anyone tried it? Thoughts? Comments?

For kicks, I just wish I had whatever program they were running this content through. It would be fun to push some classic poems or literature through it, i.e.

  • “To have being or to not exist, that is the interrogatory statement”
  • “Times being the most plentiful, also worst of all were the times.”
  • “More than one pathway did fork in timberland, and myself taken to me the unihabited choice, and that has made all the expression of the form f(x + h) − f(x).”

The Blessing and Curse of RSS

New PictureI’ve been a huge fan of RSS for many, many years. I love it. I think the technology behind it has done more to revolutionize the web than most applications or file formats. For communicator, it has done wonders to allow us to monitor conversations. For people who know how to use it, it has brought the web directly to them – on their terms and at their pace. It’s given rise to podcasts, for one.

But, like many, I think I may have overdone it. I currently subscribe to 225 feeds, many of which update several times a day. Maybe that’s not a lot for you, but with my current work/life/commute balance, it’s a strain on my resources.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I just zeroed out my RSS reader. I always feel terrible about doing that so I rarely do it. Consequently, I typically have thousands of unread messages lurking in there, eying me up, guilt ridding me. And I hate that.

MarkAllAsRead And I’m not alone:

Response

But I found that when I went in there at lunch today to read my feeds, I found it a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Sort of how I used to feel about it, when there were only a handful of bloggers worth following and the top most news sites worth keeping track of.

But before long my reader will probably say All Items (1000+) again and I’ll feel bad about myself again.

So what can one do about it?

No, that’s not rhetorical. Have you recently zeroed out your RSS reader? What have you done to get over the guilt?

How do you manage your feeds? How do you maintain a limit that doesn’t overwhelm you. Years later I’m still struggling with keeping track of everything I’ve collected. Is it time to get out the RSS scissors or do I just have to learn how to read faster and more often?

Thoughts?

Missing McDonald’s Mobile Mars Michigan Motorway

I recently took a vacation in western Michigan in what should have been a seven-hour drive away from my house. I made this trip with my family, which included a then 15-month old, so the trip seemed more like a 12-month trek across the arctic.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Photo by Thomas Hawk

Since my colleague (and boss), Techno//Marketer Matt Dickman, recently posted his thoughts on the single most important element of the new 3G iPhone, I’ve been kicking mobile around in my head alot.

I only recently got into the mobile game. I don’t have an iPhone, but I did get a Blackberry several months ago and I love it. It comes in handy even though I live in an area where, when I click on “My Location,” it gives me a rough estimate of my location within 1700 meters. Handy.

But that’s not my central point. My point is that I, during my arduous drive back to NE Ohio,  was shocked to find that McDonald’s doesn’t have a mobile site. Sure, fine, that’s okay, all I was looking for was a list of McDonalds where I could find a Playplace so my daughter could run around. But – even with the incredibly mobile-unfriendly site – I thought for certain I could bash my way through the navigation to find what I was looking for. No dice.

Maybe it was me. Maybe it’s my phone. Maybe it was the frustrated toddler emphatically pulling on her carseat straps saying, “out. out. out. OUT. OUT. OUT. OUT.” But I couldn’t find any way of a) locating a store nearby or b) finding a list of restaurants with Playplaces.

On the real web, the MickeyD’s site does have a restaurant locator and – gasp – even a handy McDonald’s Trip Planner to help you plan your trip. Only I, like most parents, hadn’t thought of that while I was packing the car to go home – nor did I have a computer handy. Maybe McDonald’s will assume with the roughly 31,377 company-owned and franchised restaurants handy, I could have found one on my own. Which I did. A Wendy’s.

So even though people are reportedly still waiting for iPhones, remember there are a lot of phones out there that use a mobile web – and a lot of your target market out there who might need to get more from your online offering while they are out. out. OUT. OUT. OUT. and about.

Anyone have any similar experiences or more enlightment on the subject?

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