Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Web Secret #325: Bespoke

I am going to share something very personal with you.

I have big hands. I wear size 9 gloves.

Since women's gloves are only available in, (at most,) a size 8 and a half, for years I was relegated to buying men's gloves. Men's gloves are clunky, boring and only come in black, brown and tan. I was unhappy.

Sometimes I forget that the Internet exists. And then I remember, "Wait a minute, I can do a search to find a company that makes bespoke leather gloves for women."

Hello signature leather!

They make custom gloves in my size, in any color combination I can dream up. Winter gloves, driving gloves, walking-the-dog gloves. For under $200. And if I am not delighted with the fit or the color - I just send them back - until they get it right. The customer service is top-notch.

Made to measure gloves! I feel like Queen Victoria. (Somewhat appropriate since the company is British.)

The Internet is an empire of bespoke opportunities at every price point, and in every retail category.

Case in point: I am a huge pen nerd - I went to a French Lycée where I learned how to write with a fountain pen on Séyès ruled notebooks.



I couldn't find them in the U.S., so that was that. Decades went by. Until a few months ago when I entered "seyes ruled notebook" in a Google search window and BAM! up came the Goulet Pen Company, a Mom and Pop online shop headquartered in a small town in Virginia.

They pretty much sell only three things: notebooks, fountain pens, and inks. And the Clairefontaine Séyès notebooks of my childhood!

In addition, for years, I had been looking for that elusive animal, an inexpensive pen that writes like a $300 Pelikan with a 14k gold nib. The Goulet folks sell the Jinhao x750, a Chinese fountain pen that has the heft of a serious writing instrument and costs under $10! They make their own steel nibs in a variety of types and sizes for $15 each. At my request, they installed one of their custom nibs on a Jinhao body and voila! my dream pen - it writes smooth as silk.

This little company pays supreme attention to detail. Even an $8.00 notebook is carefully wrapped so that it arrives in pristine condition. Every package includes a note, a book mark and a Tootsie Pop Miniature. Everytime they send me something, it's Christmas in July!

Bespoke.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Web Secret #324: Better Technology = Better Communication?

My 20 year old daughter spent two months in France this summer. She left armed with an iPhone, a laptop and an app that would allow us to text and send voice mail and videos for free. "This is going to be fantastic," I thought.

I thought wrong. Communication occurred only, when out of desperation, we used our land line to call her at 1am her time - when we were guaranteed she would be home.

Geoffrey Tumlin, the author of the July 2014 Employee Assistance Report (EAR) article "Does better Technology = Better Communication?", would not be surprised. He argues that we have five unrealistic expectations for how our digital devices boost communication.

Here is my abridged version of what he wrote:

We are feeling unsatisfied and largely unfulfilled by our interactions — despite having the most powerful connection and transmission devices in human history in the palms of our hands.

Unrealistic expectation #1: Our new devices have made communication easier. Communication is fundamentally imperfect, and no matter how fancy our devices may become, they’ll never be able to eliminate the misunderstandings, the confusion, and the errors that occur when people talk.

Unrealistic expectation #2: We successfully communicate each time we hit the “Send” button. Our devices have greatly simplified the sending and receiving of messages, but there’s more to communication than that.

Unrealistic expectation #3: Better communication technologies mean better communication. Better communication technology doesn’t lead to better communication, especially when the new tools encourage speed and convenience over thoughtfulness and deliberation, and when they fragment our communication, scatter our attention, and constantly distract us from the issues at hand.

Unrealistic expectation #4: What I want to say is the most important part of communication. Meaningful and effective communication is possible only when we consistently place our conversational goals ahead of our conversational impulses.

Unrealistic expectation #5: Communicating to an audience doesn’t require any special consideration. One of the greatest deceptions of the digital age is that sending a message to dozens of people is just as easy as sending a message to one person. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Geoffrey Tumlin is the author of "Stop Talking, Start Communicating: Counterintuitive Secrets to Success in Business and in Life." He is the founder and CEO of Mouthpeace Consulting LLC, a communication consulting company; president of On-Demand Leadership, a leadership development company; and founder and board chair of Critical Skills Nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to providing communication and leadership skills training to chronically underserved populations. You can learn more about Geoffrey Tumlin at www.tumlin.com, or reach him by email at geoff@tumlin.com.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Web Secret#323: Keeping Your Marbles in the Game

I recently came across a fresh and fantastic article about the impact of tech on counseling, and I got permission to share.

So here is my abridged version of "Keeping Your Marbles in the Game," by Michelle Stone. (I encourage everyone to read the entire article.) It was originally published in Counseling Today before it was reprinted in the Employee Assistance Report. This is the third reprint, a sign that attention must be paid:

Michelle writes: "Recently, I was part of a lively discussion regarding the use of technology in the field of counseling...I was saddened to hear the closing statement of one practicing counselor. Walking away from the discussion and shaking her head, she stated that if the field was moving toward the use of technology in the counseling relationship through means such as email, video and virtual worlds, then she would leave the profession and move on to find another career.

...I thought it tragic that a ...counselor ... would possibly remove herself from the field and effectively silence her voice in the technology debate...We need everyone to be informed and stay in the game...

Technology will not go away...We must strive to become digital explorers, willing to set out in new territory, while equipping ourselves with sound information along the way. We must share insight with each other and be willing to retrace our steps and move along a different path when professional discernment tells us it is prudent to do so. We must be willing to step into the weeds of the faintly trodden road to cultivate and nurture the possibilities of technology that appropriately fit the profession, its responsibilities and its clients...

The legal and ethical issues facing counselors integrating new methods of digital communications and therapies into their practice are vast, and they must be addressed. To effectively do so requires a tapestry of opinions and perspectives. Technology is not an all-or-nothing proposition. We must strike a balance in terms of what is appropriate, empirically proven to be beneficial and ethically sound...

Walking away from the table because we don’t agree with what we sense to be the trend only negates our ability to influence the future path of our field. Our profession needs the voice of each and every one of us. Don’t be the kid who picks up his marbles and races home because he doesn’t like where the game is going...

There is a chair at the table for everyone. Allow me to be the first to offer one to you."

Well thought out, well written, well done.

With over 15 years of experience in the helping professions, Michelle Stone has worked with a variety of populations and organizations, providing both direct services as well as consultation. She holds a degree in psychology and intends to research computer-mediated human interaction while pursuing a graduate degree. She may be reached at michelle.d.stone@gmail.com. Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on CT Online, the website of “Counseling Today,” which is published by the American Counseling Association (www.counseling.org) and is reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Web Secret #322: GotFreeFax.com

Faxing.

I used to have a dedicated fax machine. Then I moved to an all-in-one phtocopier/faxer/scanner/printer.

But I don't have a fax account anymore.

That being said, just a few times a year, someone asks me to fax them something.

I find this insanely annoying.

Thank God for GotFreeFax.com.

If you only need to send a max of 2 faxes per day, (maximum 3 pages per fax,) this is the website for you. Enter your sender and receiver info, upload your document (or enter it in RTF,) and BAM! you have sent a fax.

If you need to send longer or more frequent faxes, they have an inexpensive plan for that too.

I love it when a company says what it does and does what it says.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Web Secret #321: Upgrade or Die

I spend many hours every week keeping up with the latest technology hardware, software and social media as it impacts mental health and the employee assistance fields - my chosen areas of expertise.

It's a bit like jumping on to a moving treadmill that is keeping pace with a 4 minute mile, while you only have the capacity to run a 10 minute mile.

I have a lot of help - my Millenial children. And my nieces and nephews who range in age from 20 to 30.

This morning, my son told me about the Human Connectome project. A few months ago, I learned from my 20 year old daughter that one of the hottest game apps on college campuses is "2048". (Warning: download this app and be prepared to experience the gaming equivalent of crack cocaine.)

It does not surprise me that in 2012, Cathryn Sloane wrote a very controversial blog post "Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25," provoking outrage in a vast number of GenXers and Baby Boomers and a good number of scathing rebuttals.

So does everyone have to "Upgrade or Die?," as a 2013 blog post suggested? The author of that article makes an excellent point: "...[there is a] stereotype that older people can’t or won’t learn new technology, and that younger people are inherently better at new technology."

The truth is that there will always be people who live off the grid and embrace an "old fashioned" way of doing things. And depending on your job description, it may simply be unnecessary to have the latest gadget or use the latest operating system.

Putting that aside, there is extensive research showing that the most effective work groups are heterogeneous. That speaks to the importance of including representatives from different generations in many different settings. My relationship with technology spans from the IBM punch card to the iPhone 6. I have a lot of perspective and I understand the context of many technological advances.

My younger children grew up with social media and cell phones. They have neither perspective nor much context but they easily adopt new technology. They have nothing to unlearn.

Now here's the thing. Go into any restaurant around 6pm. You will see young couples with toddlers. The toddlers are very well behaved because they are each holding an iPad, playing with the game apps that have been created for their generation. In 20 years, when my children are middle aged, they will be working with those those now young adult toddlers. They belong to an as yet unnamed generation.

What will that look like?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Web Secret #320: Is it live or is it Memorex?

Established in 1961, Memorex entered the consumer media business in 1971, first with its "shattering glass" advertisements and then with a series of famous television commercials featuring Ella Fitzgerald.

In the commercials, she would sing a note that shattered a glass while her performance was recorded on a Memorex audio cassette.

The tape was played back and the recording also broke the glass, the narrator asking "Is it live, or is it Memorex?"

Here is a commercial from the early 1980s so you can get a feel for their famous ads:


Thirty years later, the distinction between live performance and a performance that is recorded on some digital medium is fading very, very fast.

I recently purchased a set of Bose headphones to replace my Apple Earbuds. I was able to test them at the Bose store on my personal iPhone. I listened for approximately 30 seconds and started laughing. They were simply so superior to my Earbuds that it wasn't even close.

These headphones consist of a thin plastic wire, connected to some small plastic "buds" that I place in my ear. You would never imagine that something that looks so insubstantial can deliver so substantial a sound.

Now when I listen to music during my workouts, it all sounds so much better. In fact, the sound is so good that it's scary.

You see, my father was an opera singer. Now, when I listen to his recordings using my new headphones, and I close my eyes, I feel like he is in the room with me. The sound is multi-dimensional and I am enveloped by his voice. It thrills me to hear is voice. He is so present. It also magnifies my sorrow, as I am reminded of my loss.

I truly believe that the 3D virtual reality concert experience is around the corner. In the very near future, you will enter a pod and you will be surrounded by a virtual audience, watching a virtual recreation of that performance.

My father will be there.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Web Secret #319: The Internet of Things

Pay attention class.

There is an important concept that will impact all of us, (if it hasn't already,) than in the very near future. (Unless you are living off the grid and under a rock.)

It is called "The Internet of Things," abbreviated as IoT.

A British technology pioneer, Kevin Ashton, coined the term in 1999. As he explained:
"Today computers—and, therefore, the Internet—are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the ... data available on the Internet [was] first captured and created by human beings—by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture, or scanning a bar code. ... The problem is, people ... are not very good at capturing data about things ... If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or recalling, and whether they were fresh or past their best. The Internet of Things has the potential to change the world, just as the Internet did. Maybe even more so."
Still not sure what the IoT really means? A thing can be:
  • a diabetic with a chip implanted in his body that sends an alarm when his blood sugar is low
  • a refrigerator that tells you when you are out of milk and sends a message to your smartphone reminding you to buy milk.
  • an automobile that has built-in sensors to alert the driver when tire pressure is low
  • any other natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network.
While the IoT is currently in its infancy, it is estimated that there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020.

Infancy to adulthood in 6 years.

Are you ready?