Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Web Secret #338: The opposite of loneliness

Do you know the story of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial? It is a solemn, beautiful work of architecture, that aims to honor the service of the soldiers who served, while refraining from glorifying war or taking a political stand.

A few months ago, I learned that it is also the vision of a single man.

Jan Scruggs was a teenager when he served in Vietnam. A number of years after he came home, he and his wife went to the movies to see "The Deer Hunter," the celebrated 1978 film about a trio of steelworkers and their service in the War.

When Jan came out of the theater, he told his wife that he was going to memorialize his fallen comrades by building a monument in their honor in Washington DC.

He had no money, no political or fund raising knowledge or connections. He started with only $2,800 of his own money. He personally went door to door until he convinced a handful of senators to support his cause. He eventually raised over $8 million for the project, mostly from private donations.

In 1981, at the age of 21, Maya Lin, a Chinese-American Yale senior, won the public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We think of it as perfect and inevitable, but at the time, there was outrage and opposition, because the award went to: a woman, a college student, an Asian-American, and because the design did not match what most people thought a war memorial should look like.

The monument consists of a low, black cut-stone masonry wall, with the names of 57,661 fallen soldiers carved into its face, listed chronologically, by the date they died.

And I thought about the power of a single person to make a profound difference when I came across the work of another Yale student, a masterful essay titled "The Opposite of Loneliness."

Marina Keegan wrote this piece for a a special edition of the Yale Daily News at the 2012 Commencement exercises. Five days after she graduated, she died in a car accident. The essay went viral, receiving 1.4 million hits in 98 countries and transforming her into an icon for her generation.

I was privileged to read it, two years after it was written.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

I am grateful for people like Jan Scruggs.

I am grateful for the Internet which gave me the gift of Marina's words.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Web Secret #337: Things I don't do anymore

A few months ago, I read an article written by a man who bragged about the fact that, thanks to smart phones, tablets, and other similar innovations, he no longer used pens - for anything. I believe he even said his home was "pen free."

I got irrationally upset. The mere idea that pens could disappear from the face of the Earth was distressing. Fortunately, I remembered a post I had written in 2011, which cited: "there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."

You see, I am a walking contradiction. I love technology, but I am obsessed with pens, and mechanical watches. I have eyed the soon-to-be-available Apple Watch with extreme concern and suspicion.

I still like to do the NY Times crossword puzzle in the paper - with a fountain pen.

No matter what, I rely on the fact, that each morning will find me sitting at a table, pen uncapped, attacking that day's puzzle. I don't ever want to lose that.

But I have to admit, there are many things I not only don't do anymore, but I will never, ever, do again. An infographic reminded me that:

I no longer advertise in newspapers - I use Craig's List

I no longer call a travel agent - I use Kayak

I no longer buy tickets for events over the phone - I visit StubHub

I no longer need a pay phone - I carry a device that allows me to communicate instantly

I no longer print photos - I store them in Dropbox

I no longer own a dictionary - I visit

I no longer watch TV shows at the time they are shown - I stream them at my convenience on Netflix or Hulu

I no longer remember phone numbers - I find someone's name on my smart phone's contact list and I press it to dial their number.

What do you no longer do?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Web Secret #336: The long view

Sometime during the summer, my 20 year old son tried to tell me that "driverless cars are going to change the world."

I didn't pay close attention to what he was saying because:

a. I hadn't had my morning espresso and was somewhat comatose.
b. He is prone to making these kinds of sweeping statements.
c. Driverless cars, like colonizing Mars, seemed like something that was happening way down the pike, and therefore was completely irrelevant to my current, everyday life.

Well Eric, I owe you an apology.

You were right. Driverless cars are not happening in the distant future - they will enter our lives as early as 5-7 year from now. Even more conservative estimates predict driverless cars could go mainstream in about 10 to 15 years. But before that happens, something truly disruptive is already transforming our lives.

Let me explain.

For those of you not living in an urban area, Über is an app that allows you to get a taxi, private car or rideshare from your mobile phone.

Convenient, but nothing special, right?

In June of 2014, the Wall Street Journal announced that Über had been valued at $18.2 billion.


What did I miss?

In an article for The Information, (a publication for professionals who want the inside scoop on tech news/trends,) Sam Lessin wrote "The Über Effect on the Property Market," noting:

"Real estate is one of the few industries in the world that’s bigger than transportation. But in the coming decades, companies like Über...eventually super-charged by self-driving cars - are likely to change living patterns and upend property markets in ways that we’ve only begun to understand.

The most interesting thing to me is that the shift is already beginning to happen in some urban areas, and I expect that residential and commercial real estate values are going to start adjusting much faster than people expect.

Ironically, I am a poster child for the above. In mid-2012, I relocated to Long Island City (aka LIC,) a Queens neighborhood which used to be a warehouse and factory area. I cheerfully moved into a beautiful, loft apartment with epic views of the Manhattan skyline. My rent was laughable compared to a similar Manhattan space.

Well you do get what you pay for. There was, and still is, very little infrastructure in LIC. You have to drive to get to a nearby supermarket or drugstore. I started to think that we might have to move somewhere else when our lease was up. But then within a few months of our move, Über expanded into my area, making it possible for all of us to get a car in a matter of minutes. When my children need to come back from late night week-end parties, they know they can get an Über, instead of taking possibly unsafe public transportation.

Eventually, Über will be everywhere. So it doesn't take a prescient genius to realize:

1. People are going to be able to live in areas that were undesirable due to poor infrastructure/transportation. It's already happening.
2. Those undesirable areas, won't be so undesirable anymore, and the property values will go up. It's already happening. Case in point, the rent on my apartment has gone up almost 25% in the two years since I moved here.
3. The automobile industry will be seriously impacted, because you won't need a car - especially in urban areas. Owning a car will become very expensive, perhaps a perk of wealth, much as it was when cars were first invented. This is coming.
4. All of the businesses that are dependent on the automobile will suffer: car insurance, gas stations, car washes, etc. This is coming.
5. This is coming: When the cars drive themselves, people will sit in them with their mobile devices and work. Commuting will be highly productive.

That is why Über is worth over $18 billion.

Change is happening much faster than we think and we all need to take a long view.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WebSecret #335: ShrinkSync

I love psychotherapists. I was one.

But most of them are profoundly clueless about marketing their practices. And I say this lovingly.

This is not new. It was that way before the Internet and social media.

It seems that the type of person who is willing to spend hours listening to people share their most wrenching personal issues, is not the same type of person as, say advertising maven Don Draper in Mad Men.

And so, fellow clinicians, that is why my colleague Anita Avedian, along with a team of experts, developed ShrinkSync - the networking app for therapists. The short video below explains it best:

Let's recap: "ShrinkSync is a revolutionary social network created specifically to meet the needs of mental health professionals. Connect with therapists, build your network, grow your practice – ShrinkSync makes it all happen with little to no effort, so you can focus on what you do best: helping your clients."

Well done, ShrinkSync.