April 8, 2013

Girl Gets Geeky: @LittleRockSW = Life-Changing Experience

Filed under: Girl Gets Geeky,Personal,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 10:22 pm

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Last weekend, I participated in the first Startup Weekend Little Rock, and my first Startup Weekend ever. I joined this event with some trepidation: I am a bit of an introvert and I knew this was going to be a weekend that would require me to meet new people and form instant rapport to be able to work together for 54 hours. I also worried I wouldn’t have much to contribute to a group since I am not a designer or a developer. However, I am intensely curious and am passionate about technology, innovation and learning from people smarter than me. And I do know marketing and communications, can create order from chaos and problem-solve pretty efficiently. So I entered the event on Friday night, still not sure how or if I would participate for the rest of the weekend. I ended up staying all weekend, working on a fantastic project, making new friends, learning a ton and claiming second place with my team for the project we built.

Startup Weekend Little Rock was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I might even go so far as to say it was life-changing. Let me tell you why.

I learned to think differently. So often, we get into our comfort zones and routines. We work with the same people every day. And I work with a lot of talented people every single day and we produce amazingly creative communications for our clients. But because we have our routines and know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, we tend to not push each other as far as we could, or learn new things as often as we could. It happens to the best of us. An event like Startup Weekend removes all of that knowledge and forces its participants to fill gaps by learning on the spot and get even more creative because resources are scarce and time is scarcer. The outcome is not a perfectly polished product or idea. The outcome is a better version of yourself.

I made new friends. Had I not been brave enough to enter the room and participate in this event, I likely would have never crossed paths with 75-percent of the people that were in attendance. And everyone I met this weekend has added value to my life in some way. By learning their personal stories, learning about their skills, learning from their knowledge, being inspired by their passion: everyone had something to contribute and we bonded over the experience. I know for sure that I will stay connected to my new friends.

I stumbled into a really great business idea. And if that business idea becomes a real product, one day I’ll be able to say, “I was there and I got to help!” Our team leader had a great idea. I loved his idea. But he had no team. For a while on Friday night, the team was just the two of us. And we both shrugged and said, “let’s try to do this.” By Saturday afternoon, our team was seven people because the idea really was a great one. It just took longer for others to realize it. I am super proud that Jody had a great idea and we were able to help him take it to the next level. I believe he has the passion and the energy to take it and make it. His energy inspired me and if he needs my help, he has a friend in me that he can call any time. And I’ll be able to say “that’s my friend and I got to help!”

Yes, it is a bold statement, but Startup Weekend LIttle Rock changed my life in a great way.

March 13, 2013

Girl Gets Geeky: Wearable Technology is Cool, but Not Stylish Enough

Filed under: Girl Gets Geeky,Style,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 6:08 pm

The idea of tracking how much I move and sleep, keeping up with my heart rate and blood pressure, and being able to share that info if I choose, is appealing to my inner geek.  Though I don’t know what I will do with the data, I like collecting it, reviewing it and comparing it day-over-day.

Last year at SXSW, I purchased my first Nike FuelBand. I was excited about this technology because I was already a Nike+ user, so I would be building on that account and activity. Then, several weeks ago I was reading about the Jawbone UP and liked what it had to offer for tracking sleep patterns, too. So I bought one of those to try out.  And then, an iPhone app called Moves started getting some attention for tracking your steps while running in the background of your phone. So I turned that on, too. This means that I have had three devices tracking my movements for the last several weeks. I wondered how they would compare to each other.

Both the wristband products are rubber. The Nike FuelBand comes in three colors (Black, White Ice and Black Ice) and the Jawbone UP comes in eight colors (Onyx, Mint Green, Light Grey, Blue, Navy Blue, Red, Orange, and Hunter Green). Both of the bands that I purchased are black.

My technology laden wrists.

My technology laden wrists.

The Nike FuelBand works “through a sports-tested accelerometer” to track daily activity including running, walking, basketball, dancing and dozens of everyday activities. It tracks each step taken and calorie burned.

The Jawbone UP “uses a precision motion sensor and powerful algorithms to passively track and quantify your steps, distance, calories, active time, and idle time. It calculates calories burned based on your age, gender, height and weight, along with activity intensity and duration. UP uses Actigraphy to track your sleep, monitoring your micro movements to determine whether you are awake, in light sleep, or in deep sleep. [The] band uses cutting-edge MotionX technology to track activity, giving it superior accuracy.”

Moves uses the iPhone’s built in sensor and location information to recognize activities, routes and places. The data is uploaded to their servers, which do most of the complex processing to produce daily stats and storyline. The app is always on, running in the background.

All the devices/apps have different features and sharing abilities. I am not doing a full review of all the functionalities here.

The perfect time to compare the three was during my days at SXSW over the last week: I was walking around a lot and always had my phone with me. Because the common denominator across all three technologies is number of steps, that is the number that I tracked for comparison. Here are the results:

Friday

  • Jawbone UP: 7,969 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 6,376 steps
  • Moves: 5,974 steps

 Saturday

  • Jawbone UP: 5,658 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 4,416 steps
  • Moves: 3,986 steps

Sunday

  • Jawbone UP: 3,813 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 3,409 steps
  • Moves: 3,203 steps

Monday

  • Jawbone UP: 5,915 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 4,837 steps
  • Moves: 4,705 steps

Tuesday

  • Jawbone UP: 4,833 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 4,011 steps
  • Moves: 4,086 steps

Other than the fact that I am not moving the recommended 10,000 steps per day, or even close to that, it is interesting that there is a pretty significant difference between the step counts  of each device. I wanted to like Moves best because it is on my phone and doesn’t hinder my style. But in reality, I don’t have my phone in my pocket every minute of the day and that likely explains it being on the low end of the step numbers each day.  As for the difference between the Jawbone UP and the Nike FuelBand, I take the FuelBand off each night to sleep and I keep the UP on since it tracks sleep. This could explain some of the difference in the numbers.

Behind Moves, I wanted to like the FuelBand best because it completes/complements my existing Nike+ profile. But in the end, I like the UP the best because it is (1) a little less obvious than the FuelBand on my wrist and (2) I think the sleep data is the most fascinating.

Regardless of performance, I hate wearing both devices. I much prefer to have more fashionable items around my wrists:

How I prefer my wrists be dressed.

How I prefer my wrists be dressed.

And these rubber bands just aren’t pretty enough for the girl in me. I want someone to design a band that can blend in as part of my jewelry or be wrapped with a customizable cuff or is thinner in some way. Until then, my wearing of the bands might be hit or miss going forward.

February 16, 2013

Girl Gets Geeky: My New Pebble Watch

Filed under: Girl Gets Geeky,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 6:11 pm

The idea of the Pebble watch was launched on Kickstarter in April 2012 with a goal to reach funding of $100,000. Thirty days later, they had raised over $10 million dollars given by almost 70,000 people. I was one of those people. And my reward for backing the Pebble watch almost a year ago arrived in my mail last Saturday: my very own Pebble watch. It had been so long since I thought about this watch, I’ll admit I was a bit ambivalent about its arrival. But I opened the box and saw how easy it was to set up, so I took five minutes, set it up and almost immediately fell in love with my new watch.

The Pebble is lightweight and comfortable on my small wrist. I am the girl that feels naked without a watch and constantly looks at my wrist for the time, even when I have just noted the time on my phone. I have a classic Timex that I love dearly, but this Pebble feels at home on my wrist. It even told me so:

Beyond being a timepiece, out of the box the Pebble syncs with my iPhone through a Bluetooth connection. This connections delivers a vibration to wrist and sends text messages and phone calls to the watch screen. This let’s me know if it is vital for me to pick up my phone, or if it is a communication that can be delayed until I am off the road, out of meeting or done with a particular task. It actually allows for additional focus rather than acting as an added distraction. Additionally, I can control music on my iPhone from the watch, which has been pretty fun to demo to everyone who has asked about the watch over the last week.

Which brings me to its appearance: I thought the watch was subtle and unnoticeable, given its lightweight and comfort on my wrist. But it looks cool and everyone I’ve encountered over the last week has noticed it and asked it about. So be prepared to show it off if you decide to buy one.

The company is working on apps that will work with the watch to increase its features and functionalities. I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I am a geeky girl who loves her gadgets.

August 10, 2012

Video: Talking Starbucks & Square

Filed under: Culture,Current Events,That's Just Cool,Video — Emily Reeves @ 10:57 am

I visited with KATV this morning about the new Starbucks/Square mobile payments partnership. You can check out the interview here:

KATV – Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

A Giant Leap Towards a Cashless Society

Filed under: Culture,Current Events,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 6:35 am

Earlier this week, Starbucks and Square announced a partnership. This was big news for the future of mobile payments. While Square has been around for about two years now, it is mostly used by small independent business owners. Partnering with Starbucks means that the Square mobile payment technology will now be exposed to more people and larger retailers may start using Square based on the learnings from Starbucks. And Starbucks has had mobile payments for a while, but it is linked to a Starbucks account that you have to reload with money to spend, making it a bit limited (though super easy and fun to use; I love it). The partnership signifies a big move towards major businesses adopting mobile payments:

“Though smartphone payments have a long way to go before they replace wallets altogether, Starbucks’s adoption of Square will catapult the start-up’s technology onto street corners nationwide, and is the clearest sign yet that mobile payments could become mainstream.” – New York Times

What is Square and how does it work?

Square is a mobile payment technology with two branches: one for business owners and one for consumers. The business owner can download the Square software to their iPhone or iPad, request a Square device from Square to plug into the top of their iPhone or iPad, then accept payments by swiping cards through the device.  Or, if a customer is also using Square for payments, the business owner can see the customer through the Square software and allow the customer to pay just by saying their name.  For the consumer, it is just a matter of downloading the Square app and linking a bank account or credit card to the app. It is much like PayPal, except mobile.

Why is a cashless society a big deal?

According to The Atlantic:

“(1) Innovations that save time, even just a little bit of time, are real innovations, because in any advanced economy time and attention are currency and creating more of them can make us all richer; (2) What’s important about Square isn’t just the transactions it makes more efficient but also the cashless world it pulls closer to the present. As Slate investigated in a fabulous series, a cashless society can make us richer, healthier (dollar bills are dirty!), and smarter.”

I am looking forward to more efficiency in payments and not having to carry around anything but my phone.

I did an interview with KATV this morning talking about the Square and Starbucks partnership. I’ll post the video as soon as it becomes available.

August 7, 2012

Best Invention Ever: AquaNotes

Filed under: That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 7:52 am

I am at that point in my life where I have enough going on (and of course, I am getting a little older), that my memory doesn’t work like it used to. I have to write things down almost as soon as I think of them. I usually do this on my iPhone using one of my favorite apps, Evernote, or in my Reminders app. But I always have a pen and paper nearby, too for those times that my phone is dying (it happens too often), I am on a flight during take-off or landing (great ideas happen then!), or when paper is just quicker because it is already in front of me.

But none of these things work in the shower. Enter AquaNotes, the waterproof paper pad and pencil with suction cups to hang on your shower wall. This is brilliant and it works really, really well. I have a tendency to think about my upcoming day, the things I need to accomplish, the things I want to accomplish and ways to accomplish all of that in one day. Inevitably, I have things I want to remember, but by the time I get out of the shower and to my phone or paper, I have forgotten. This is why AquaNotes is so great: you can jot those ideas and thoughts down right away before you forget. I love them. Best invention ever.

August 6, 2012

I Love GroupMe

Filed under: Research,Social Media,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 7:25 pm

GroupMe is a text messaging app that allows you to create groups of people in your contacts and create ongoing conversations via text with the people in those groups. And I love it. It has cut down on the continuous string of emails I get when my friends and I are planning events, nights out, trips or just generally sharing our lives. It has almost become a mini-Facebook where we post pictures, share where we are, “heart” each others’ posts and ask for advice. The messages come through like texts, but are compiled in the app, so if you are out of commission for a few hours, you can easily catch up on the conversation documented in chronological order with an avatar representing each person next to their response. It is a beautiful tool. You can create as many groups as you would like–a project team, a department, family, different groups of friends, a travel group, etc. and keep all the conversations organized, accessible and immediate.

And GroupMe keeps getting better. I’ve noticed that I can integrate GroupMe into Foursquare so when I check in on Foursquare, I can now automatically share my location with a GroupMe group.  Then there is an “Discover” feature where the app recommends group types and features brand-sponsored group opportunities. For example, featured groups include: Olympics, The Sea Wheeze (a Lululemon sponsored race, and one of my absolute favorite brands!), Oprah Book Club and Vans Warped Tour, among others. And now, they are introducing “Experiences,” a feature that makes it simple to organize and pay for the experience, alleviating the usual hassles that individuals might encounter when trying to organize a group outing.

“Experiences” isn’t available in all markets yet, but promises to hold even more opportunities for brands. Ideas so far have included:

  • Branded VIP “experiences.” For example, this could be a brand-sponsored trip in which cyclists get to ride with a celebrity.
  • Brand-underwritten “experiences.” Here the brand would foot the costs, and in return gain access to the participants for opinions and other research. The company’s goal would be to unearth consumer insights from highly targeted social groups.

As a research junkie, I am loving the second idea as a new approach for gaining qualitative insights as opposed to traditional focus group research.

July 11, 2012

Shazam Basically Like an Audio QR Code Scanner?

Filed under: Digital Strategy,Social Media,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 9:58 am

Shazam is so much more than I originally thought that it was, and I like its potential.

I’ve seen the Shazam logo popping up on commercials and television shows the last several month and just couldn’t understand why I would Shazam these things. In commercials, I can never get my phone out and Shazam open quickly enough to capture the sound. In television shows, I just didn’t get it. My use of Shazam has always been for identifying a music selection that I liked and wanted to note and/or buy.  This seemed good enough to me and I liked it for just that purpose.

But then I saw this article about Shazam partnering with the Olympics and I got curious. Though they don’t describe it this way in the article, it seems that Shazam can be used for “scanning” to get more information about what you are hearing, like scanning a QR code gives you more information about what you are seeing. This is actually pretty cool:

“Viewers who tag the broadcast from their Shazam app will be able to see additional information on the athletes, engage in polls, view the competition schedule, check the latest results, keep tabs on the medal count and share on social media.”

The tricky part of this for brands and advertisers is going to be consumer education. If consumers are familiar with Shazam at all, they are going to know it only as a music identification app, like I did. But, like any other new tool and technology, once people figure it out and start using it, it has huge potential for communicated extra and bonus information to its users. I like that.

March 20, 2012

Beautifully Designed Data Encourages Connectivity

Filed under: Culture,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 7:27 pm

You’ve heard of Nicolas Felton by now: the designer who got curious about various data points of his life over the course of a year, compiled them and designed them into infographics for an annual report of his life. The New York Times wrote about him. Facebook hired him to design the new Timeline profile pages. And as a result, he has been sitting 15 feet away from Mark Zuckerberg for the last year working to improve interactions on Facebook:

“The biggest thing that’s different is that Facebook is not about human-computer interaction,” says Cox. Most designers in the computer industry have focused on helping humans interact with machines. But Facebook is about human-to-human interaction. “We don’t want people to remember their interactions with Facebook,” says director of design Kate Aronowitz. “We want them to remember their interactions with their friends and family.” Cox calls this “social design.” “It’s more like designing a plaza or a restaurant,” he explains. “The best building is one where the people inside get it and work together and are connected. That connectivity is created by how everything is arranged.” ~ Fast Company

Data in social design. Brilliant and beautiful.

Paper Notes/Digital Notes

Filed under: Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 4:56 pm

Every once in a while I come across a product that I love so much I have to share it. Today, I want to tell you about my Livescribe pen and notepads. Or, as I like to call it, my magic pen. Nothing starts a conversation in a meeting like my magic pen. I get asked about it in almost all meetings with new people, and with good reason: it is really cool.

Livescribe is a smart pen that records your handwritten notes (when used with their special notepads) and then syncs these notes to a desktop app on your computer. When you want to have an audio recording of a meeting, the pen can also do that – you simply point to the command on the special notepad and it starts recording. The really cool thing about this is that it syncs the audio with the handwritten notes so when you are reviewing the playback you can actually see what was written at the same time as hearing what was said. Or you can just tap a specific word in your notepad and the audio starts playing what was being said right when that word was being written.

The desktop app is smart too: I can search for words in my notes and the app mostly recognizes my handwriting and pulls all the pages with that word or words highlighted in the search results. This is tremendously handy.

And it seems like Livescribe is constantly adding to its capabilities. Through the desktop app or through the pen itself, you can send selected pages to Evernote, save as a PDF on your computer, or send to your mobile device to be accessed via its app, Pencast Player (available in Apple’s App Store). All of these are helpful for sharing your notes with the audio embedded.

There are also apps you buy to add on to your Livescribe pen and desktop app, things like handwriting to text conversion tools, games, and education. I haven’t had the need to try these things out, but if you find one that you love, please let me know.

March 10, 2012

Why Use Google+? #SXSWi

Filed under: Social Media,SXSW,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 11:18 pm

I signed up for the Google+ as soon as I received one of those coveted invitations. But, once I got there, I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. A lot of people I knew were signing up, too. But no one was posting or sharing, we were all just kind of, well, there just to be there. So my profile has been sitting there, sadly unused since last summer when I registered it. Until yesterday.

Yesterday, at SXSW, I listened to Guy Kawaski grill Vic Gundotra about Google+. And during this grilling, Kawaski revealed his passion for all that Google+ offers as a tool for sharing. In fact, at the close of the session he announced his new book, “What the Plus?” The book is an e-book, available for immediate download and I decided to read it. It is a quick read and when I was done, I decided to give Google+ a second chance.

Google+ is this interesting mix of Facebook and Twitter, with a layer on additional features on top. It is not exactly intuitive, but once you understand the differences compared to the other social networks and practice with it a bit, it is fun to use. (Though a social network that needs an instruction book doesn’t feel very social.) Really, Google+ works a lot more like Twitter in terms of how people follow you and the more public nature of it compared to Facebook. The benefit of Google+ over Twitter is the long form posts with embedded links, images and videos right in the stream and aggregated comments, which are Facebook-like functions. For me, Google+ is going to be a place to share interesting finds that aren’t necessarily blog-worthy, but need more commentary than allowed on Twitter. The circles are greatly valuable for segmenting the messages you want to share and really giving you a way to use one social network for all your different audiences. Google+ has the potential to be a regular source of news and information for me as I find more people to add to my circles and I love that my using it can make my overall Google experience a better one eventually.

Check out the video from SXSW of Kawaski interviewing Gundotra about Google+:

Remixing and Stealing #SXSWi

Filed under: SXSW,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 9:52 pm

“Everything has been said before but no one was listening the first time”

A couple of weeks ago, I posted here about the book “Steal Like An Artist.” It is a book I thoroughly enjoyed and I’ve referred to several times since to inspire creativity in my own thinking. At SXSW today, I had the pleasure of listening the author banter with the Everything is a Remix creator in a session about demystifying creativity.

The two men talked about the fact that there are no more original ideas, we are all doing one of the following when in our creative processes:

  • Copying
  • Transforming
  • Combining

Their discussions covered rip-offs versus remixes, filering and curating versus creating, and wanting to be unique while also wanting to be a part of something. But the best demonstration of principle was when they played a segment from one of the Everything is a Remix web videos. I’ve embedded a full video here and it is worth watching, especially if you are a movie buff.

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

February 28, 2012

How To Make A Viral Video

Filed under: Culture,Social Media,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 8:01 am

I’ve been sucked into TED Talks this morning and couldn’t resist sharing this Talk about what makes videos viral. The bottom line: a “tastemaker” shares it. Still an enjoyable video to make you laugh this Tuesday morning.

July 31, 2011

Book Review: “The Accidental Creative” is My New Life Guide. Seriously.

Filed under: Account Management Training,Book Review,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 1:12 pm

I recently completed the book “The Accidental Creative” by Todd Henry. It is not a self-help book; at least, that is what I am telling myself to feel better about loving it so much. But it kind of is a self-help book for those with creative pursuits, specifically in the advertising business. The author has a background in agency business and it felt like he was talking directly to me and only me, the experiences and stories were so dead on.  And, I am a not a “creative;” I work in account management.

As the readers here know, based on an epiphany and an encounter I had in April, I have taken on a mission to recreate the account management department at our agency to act, and be perceived by their peers, as more than notetakers and communications conduits between clients and creative teams. There are a lot of aspects to this shift, but one major piece is that the account managers have to think of themselves as creative and thereby contributors to that creative process and output. To quote the book:

“While a designer will solve a problem visually, a manager may solve it by developing a new process. But they’re both using the same creative tools and wrestling with many of the same obstacles.”

I have been doing a lot of work against this effort, mostly in the form of research and notes, without much implementation yet. I believe this  book can explain to my team how important their creativity is, that they are all creative, and they just need the right attitude, approach and plan to be creative in their contributions to the agency, their teams and their lives. To that end, I am going to ask everyone on my team to read this book. (Don’t worry, I’ve learned none of them read this blog, so I am not spoiling any surprise for them by posting it here. Although, if my boss wrote a blog about our business, I would definitely be reading it regularly. Perhaps that is a post and vent for another day.)

The book starts by walking through the hinderances to creativity, especially those in an ad agency. Then, it takes the reader through recommendations for overcoming those obstacles. I am not going to outline them for you here, you have to read the book. Some of the recommendations seems so obvious, but none of us our doing them, making the time to even attempt to do them or thinking twice about skipping over the obvious steps to creativity just to check something else off our to-do list. Other recommendations are easy to accomplish, it is just a matter of setting out to do them and getting them on the calendar.

So, why is this book my new “life guide”? “The Accidental Creative” it also about leadership, team work, time management and life happiness. To quote the book again:

“It is more and more difficult in today’s world to segment your life into buckets like ‘work,’ ‘home,’ ‘relationships,’ hobbies,’ and so on. Every area of your life affects every other, and a lack of engagement in one area will quickly infect the rest. As you implement these practices, you will find that your newfound creative energy will infiltrate not just your work life, but other areas of your life as well. A rising tide raises all boats.”

This book is a definite recommend.

July 14, 2011

Loving Turntable

Filed under: Culture,Technology,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 5:16 pm

Have you checked out turntable.fm yet? While music is in my life everyday, I am not very knowledgeable about or good at finding the stuff I like. Let’s just say I don’t have an exceptionally discerning ear, but I know what I like when I hear it. And I like being around people who know more about than me and are willing to teach me.

Turntable is that online version of being around people who know more and are teaching me when an in-person lesson is not an option. The reason that I am talking about here is the social and gaming aspects of site participation are interesting:

  • Anyone can set up a room and DJ to a theme of their choice. Up to five people can DJ in a room and the control rotates between them.
  • Anyone can join the room and “vote” on the song playing as “lame” or “awesome.” When you vote “awesome,” your avatar’s head starts bobbing to the music. You can see how the song is fairing on the lame/awesome meter while it plays.
  • The more people that favor your song, the more points you build as a DJ. With more points, you can change your avatar (choices open up at different point levels). Every visitor can see your score.
  • There is a chat column in each “room” and visitors talk about the music.
  • The name/title of the song shows and there are built in features for sharing the song to your social networks and saving the song to your music player of choice.

CNN recently called it the “cool kids’ Pandora” and offered some spinning tips for the new visitors.

I am loving it right now. Check it out.