Interruption Machines

While watching a group of young parents at dinner the other night, I was amazed at how often they jumped out of conversations with their friends and children because their phone dinged or buzzed. It was very clear that no matter what was happening, their phone was first in line for attention.

Before you think that I was watching them with a holier-than-thou attitude, I can assure you that I was not. In fact, it made me wonder about my own mobile phone use.  Let’s call it what it really is: addiction. I have a problem with it, and I’m guessing you do too. There is a good chance you are reading this on your phone right now.

Mobile phones, in and of themselves, are not bad.  They revolutionized communication in many ways, and I think that generally speaking, many parts of our lives are better for them.  However, there is a part of our lives that has also become exponentially worse, and I think it will continue to decay until we start talking about it, naming it, admitting it.

When did it become okay for kids to go to their brother’s or sister’s soccer game, but instead of watching the match or playing with friends, to play Bejeweled or Angry Birds in solitude? Why is it commonplace to walk into a restaurant and see couples looking at their phones (for quite a while) instead of talking with each other? Who else is bothered by their own behavior when they realize instead of taking in a beautiful view after a hike or bike ride, they instinctively reach for their phone so they can share the experience with Instagram or SnapChat friends (most of whom probably don’t want to see yet another picture of a landscape)?

Recently, my wife sent me an article that talks about the most common regrets at the end of life, according to a nurse who is with many when they die. It’s a good article (you can read it here), and I have read stories like this before.  This caused me to think about my own behavior, and my generation’s behavior when it comes to mobile phones.  We really are the first to raise children who will never know a world without smart phones.  I looked down the road, and came up with this prediction:

It’s a sad thought. In my final moments, will I be playing a more technological version of “Cat’s In The Cradle” in my head? I can bet Vegas odds that too many in my generation will.

Much of our behavior is shaped by perception and subtle nuance. Packaging matters, as does messaging (take the word of an ad man). It’s no wonder that we flock so quickly to something called a “smart phone”.  The genesis of this name comes from the ability of the phone itself, in comparison to the passive or “dumb” behavior of mobile phones before it.  With practically limitless entertainment and information at our fingertips, what more could we want? Given that nuance can and does change our behavior, I’m trying something new. Instead of referring to my phone as “my mobile” or even “my phone”, I am calling it “The Interruption Machine”.

Do you see that subtle difference? Instead of viewing my phone as something that connects me to experience, I see it for what it has become…something that interrupts actual experiences.  What is more important, posting a picture of my son riding his bike with me, or being completely present for my son while we ride bikes together? I know how he would answer that question.

This isn’t about the psychology of compulsively checking our social networks (that is a subject that many people who study it far more than I do have written many, many articles about already); it’s more cut and dried.  Sometimes people talk about the need to check their phones because of FOMO (fear of missing out), when the sad irony is that by checking their phones they are missing out on the reality of what is happening around them and to them at that moment.

I hope to avoid a future where “spent too much time on my phone” is a deathbed regret of an entire generation, but given the strength of our attraction to these devices (wearables, anyone?) I believe it’s somewhat inevitable. The best thing I can do is acknowledge this and try to change my own behavior. I don’t want to miss moments with my children, my wife or my friends. That’s why I’m considering getting a good old fashioned flip phone…but that is another post for another day.


My New Role In Social Media Marketing and Strategy

logo-v1Those of you that have been following my adventures for a while know that I put my heart, soul and mind into social media.  Since writing my own blogging platform a decade ago (the billion dollar idea that I never capitalized on…) to my almost-obsessive fascination with brand interaction on channels like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, I am constantly observing and strategizing ways to make the interaction and engagement between companies and customers better through social media. I have spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of years consulting businesses of all types and sizes regarding their engagement (or lack thereof) within these online communities.  From Fortune 100 companies that distribute hardware all around the world to non-profit agencies that are doing their best to make a difference in the world, I have worked with groups to lend insight, support, ideas and action to social media programs. Given all of that, I’m quite pleased to announce that I have taken a new role within the industry.

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Geodelic: The Future is Location Based Services

geodelicRemember the movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise?  There were some creepy, big brother themes throughout, but there were also some very cool things like billboards that interacted with the characters. “John Anderton, you could use a Guinness right now”, chimed the advertisement at Cruise’s character as he went by.  I actually remember my thought upon seeing that part, “wow, that is the future, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to think it will be soon…and I’m excited for it!”  Just a few years later I’m seeing technology created that is wonderful and amazing; that good kind of interaction is coming!

Geodelic is a company that I became aware of earlier this year, and as I tracked whatever information I could find about them I was amazed at what they were doing: creating mobile applications that interact with users in a very non-traditional and non-intrusive way! The idea seems simple enough, but the execution is extraordinary…help users find things they need that are nearby.

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Mobile Geeks of Los Angeles

mgolaIf you are in Southern California Thursday, May 7th and you like tech stuff (particularly mobile) then join us at the Cat & Fiddle for the Mobile Geeks of Los Angeles (MGoLA)!  We’ll be gathering for an informal evening of mobile story swapping, gadget playing and maybe a drinks.  This is a no-host event, but is brought to you by James Whatley of SpinVox fame, Jeb Brilliant, mobile consultant,  and your’s truly.

I think this is going to be a blast!  This is a pretty central location for Los Angeles, and I know that there are many of you that I’ve wanted to meet in real life as we’ve come to know each other online.  Please come by and say hello, even if it’s just for a quick drink…I would love to put a face with the name, more than a 24×24 avatar. ;)

BTW, this is a very casual event, so come as you are!  Personally, I’ll be in flip flops. 

Go check out the official Facebook page and RSVP, and feel free to drop me a tweet if you have any questions or comments.  Check out the short video below from James (you may also know him as Whatleydude), showing the sick amount of hardware that he’s bringing over from London for this meetup.  I hope to see you there!

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Zune Phone Rumors [Pics]

The New Zune Phone?
The New Zune Phone?

Wired is reporting that a Zune phone might be in the works, and that possibly it will be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 7, 2009.

Yes, I am one of the few Zune owners in the world, and I absolutely love it.  A while back I wrote a post about the math behind owning a Zune, asking the question to iPod owners: are you stubborn or just bad at math? So yes, I love my Zune and I love the Marketplace that is the focus of my passion.  If a Zune phone does truly come out, I will get it.  It’s just that simple.  Right now I still carry two electronic devices, my iPhone and my Zune 80 and I would love to combine the two into one, but so far each offers me something the other cannot.  

My biggest wish in this story is that Microsoft would work a little harder on the Zune brand before launching a second product.  Honestly, the biggest thing I hear from iPod users after we discuss the ins an outs of Zune ownership is, “I would switch, but I have too much invested in my music.  If only there was an easy way to convert my library”.  Of course there are several ways to convert files, but here is some free advice for Zune: you have a really, really good thing with your music subscription service, so you need to find a way to let people try it without them feeling like they lose.  Build a branded AAC to WMA file converter, offer it for free, and advertise the hell out of it.  I think that would help a lot.

Ischus on Zune

Ischus on Zune

If you are one of the handful of Zune owners around the world, add me as a friend, my tag is “Ischus”.  I would love to share music with you, and of course we can compare notes on the Zune phone if/when it is released.

Mobilize Your Blog Content With Mippin

Mobile Blog Viewing With Mippin

Mobile Blog Viewing With Mippin

The ability for all of my readers to see my posts in the method of their choosing is very important to me.  Although the majority of my traffic comes from desktop and laptop computers, I’m starting to see an increase in visits from mobile browsers.  I’ve tried different plug-ins from time to time that are supposed to redirect to a mobile friendly page, but for the most part they have been too watered down.  With 3G and other high speed networks, I’m not sure that text-only is the way to go. I think I’ve found a service that finally balances mobile speed with aesthetics.  Enter Mippin.

Based in The UK, Mippin does an amazing job of transforming my site from bells and whistles to mobile friendly.  From my POV, the ease with which this is done makes it a bit of a no-brainer.  They will grab my feed and transform it for free into a fully functional web site that is mobile browser friendly.  If you want to see what this site looks like, browse on your mobile phone or look at this page in your browser.

If you run your site on WordPress, they have sweetened the deal even further.  They have created a WordPress Plugin that you upload to your wp-content/plugins folder, activate and that’s it.  I have tested this on a few different phones and it redirects without problems.  Of course the question that you have to ask yourself is, do you want to redirect?  The plugin actually steers your audience to the Mippin site, away from yours.  Personally I’m okay with this, but I know some people that are not.  It’s a personal choice.

If you run a blog, you need to try this out, it’s fabulous.  For more info check out their blog, or follow them on Twitter.


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A Quick Fix For Speaker Buzz Caused By Your Mobile Phone

Yesterday I was working on an RFP, trying to focus on what I was doing, typing away and listening to some pretty relaxed music. Something was seriously distracting me, it was the horrid sound of interference coming through my computer speakers about once a minute thanks to the close proximity of my iPhone. I’ve been putting up with this problem for a long time, but I never checked into it. I finally tweeted my frustration, and my problem was solved right away. The solution was much easier than I anticipated.

Tin foil. UPDATE:  I am constantly being corrected…apparently it isn’t made of tin anymore, rather aluminum.  You get the idea though, go get some Reynold’s Wrap. 

It seems the GSM phones (AT&T, my carrier, uses GSM) work on a frequency that interferes with many electronic products, and you hear this interference most often in speakers (near your TV, on your computer or in your car). Both fxmixer and jmccartie suggested I use tinfoil to fix the problem, and fxmixer even linked me to this article over on Bravo! I cut out a medium sized piece of tinfoil, folded it a couple of times and put it on my desk near my speakers. I then place my iPhone on it and…instant success! This actually works, resting my iPhone on a square of tinfoil cuts out all interference!

So there you are, friends. If you are going crazy with speaker interference like I was, your solution is just a square of tinfoil away.