What’s On Your Home Screen?

iOS 8 Home Screen


It doesn’t matter what operating system you’re on and how you organize your screens there’s always one main go-to screen.  In iOS that’s called the home screen.  Everybody organizes their apps in different ways but one thing remains fairly consistent and that’s the most important or most often accessed apps typically end up on the home screen.  I actually arrange my screens based on themes.  For example I have a full screen devoted just to camera and video editing apps.  Since they are my guiltless pleasure I have nearly enough to fill up an entire screen.  I reserve another screen for entertainment apps such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, iTunes, etc.  The theme my home screen has going for it though is quick access to my most used apps.  I’ve decided to share my home screen with a brief description of the apps encompassing it.  Think of it as my top ten list for app recommendations (in this case top 28 list because that’s how many can fill up my iPhone 6 screen including the bottom four located on the dock).

Here’s my list in order from top to bottom and left to right according to the included screen shot (click on any link to download):

1)  Fantastical – I’ve tried several calendar apps and I just keep returning to Fantastical.  I believe it really sets the benchmark for calendar apps.  I prefer agenda (list) views over calendar (monthly) views and an agenda view is front and center in this app.  Rotating your screen horizontally gives you the traditional calendar view so it should appeal to everybody.  It’s always worked fluidly and flawlessly for me and easily bests the stock Apple Calendar App. You’ll notice that speed and reliability are very important to me as you read through the rest of this list.

2)  Photos – I’ve replaced virtually all of the stock Apple apps except for 9, 8 of which show up on my home screen mostly out of necessity.  There are other photo apps but in my experience the stock Photos App gives me the fastest access to my pics and until iOS 8 was the only place you could delete photos.

3)  Litely – As previously mentioned I’ve got another screen that houses all my photo and video editing apps except for this one (and Instagram but it’s also a social network).  With its dozens of preset filters and zippy/simple interface it’s really my secret sauce to serving up endless sunsets that are so easy to come by in my part of the world out to my social feeds. Turns out Litely was written by the same guy who wrote seven of the original Instagram filters.

4)  Google Maps – One word…Awesome!  Does any other mapping and navigation app come remotely close?  It recently saw an update to Google’s Material Design experience and it’s oh so lovely to look at.

5)  Checkmark 2 – Little known and still overdue for an iOS 8 update it’s still the best reminders app in the App Store in my opinion.  It’s best feature is location-based reminders with the ability to postpone said reminders.  For example you can set a reminder to take out the trash 10 minutes after you arrive home because if you’re like me and if your phone dings in the car the second you pull into the driveway then by the time you get in the house and are gang tackled by the kid and dog you’ve done forgot about the reminder 5 minutes later.

6)  Safari – Necessity here because though I love Chrome on any other platform Safari just offers a zippier experience in iOS though that’s changing as Apple is opening up their walled garden more and more.

7)  Settings – Necessity again because I change a system setting at least once a day (usually wallpaper) or am usually looking to connect to a wifi network.

8)  App Store – Because I shop for apps and look for updates daily.  Still a choppy experience but getting better.

9)  Google – Two words…Google Now!  Check it out.  It’s both a little creepy but so so cool when it dazzles you with just the right information at just the right time or place.

10) Weather – This is the lone Apple app that I actually prefer over third-party apps because I think Apple got it right.  I’ve tried a half-dozen weather apps and I recently dumped them in favor of the stock Weather App because it just does one thing and does it well.  It quickly displays all the pertinent weather info upon opening the app and does it blazingly fast.  It’s got a decent flat interface that doesn’t fill your screen with ads like so many other weather apps do.

11) Evernote – This one’s actually just filling a void left behind when my favorite note taking app was shuttered.  I was a big fan of Springpad, a direct competitor to Evernote until it abruptly closed up shop.  When it did it offered a streamlined method to port all of your notebooks directly into Evernote hence it’s arrival on my home screen.  Nothing against Evernote which actually is quite pleasing on the eyes and is certainly light years more robust than the stock Apple Notes App.

12) Rise – Rise is my alarm app.  I was duped into purchasing it with the allure of tapping the screen anywhere to snooze but found out after the fact that you had to leave the screen on all night in order to take advantage of its full feature set.  Leaving the screen on all night albeit dimmed just seems silly so I don’t.  Nevertheless I keep it because it’s stock set of alarm sounds and remaining feature set are better than the stock Apple Clock App.

13) Mail – Another Apple mainstay but only on my home screen until Inbox (see below) accepts my Hotmail account.

14) Wunderlist – Bar none the best list making app and I’ve tried them all!  Super easy to use and uncluttered but can be as feature rich as you want it to be (think sub lists for lists).  Especially love sharing a grocery list with my wife because you can go back through completed items and re-add them to the list again.  Handy for things you need every week like milk and bread.  Completely free to use and ad-free to boot.  It syncs shared lists with ease and allows you to drag to reorder items.  It’s the small things that count and being a lifelong list maker Wunderlist truly lives up to its name.

13) Drafts – One thing Apple’s stock Notes app does well is it allows you to dive right into creating a note fairly quickly.  Drafts one-ups it.  The app defaults to opening right into a brand new note every time you open it.  It’s got a nice selection of fonts and share options so for me it really has replaced the stock Notes App more so than Evernote has.   At $9.99 it’s a bit pricey though.  I’m still on an older version and waiting for a deal to upgrade to the latest but it’s still the fastest app period when needing to tap out a quick note.

14) Misfit – This is the accompanying app to the fitness tracker I use (the Misfit Flash).  The Jawbone Up app gets all the attention for fitness trackers but I find Misfit’s to be more than par for the course.  It’s got a crisp flat design and for an app that I frequently check throughout the day I can’t honestly think of a single hiccup I’ve ever experience.  It’s quite stable and that should always count for something.

15) Google News & Weather – Seems I’m always trying out a different news service.  This is the flavor of the month for me.  It’s claim to fame is being able to Google any term and creating a whole news feed on it.  For example when I was researching the aforementioned Misfit Flash fitness tracker prior to purchase I created a whole news feed that offered up several pre-launch reviews since it was new to the market.  It also tipped me off when it was finally available for purchase since they were being tight-lipped on the exact date.  It also shows a snap shot of local weather on its home screen.

16) Asana – Another list taking app.  This one’s claim to fame is that’s an enterprise app.  I’ve begun to track my projects and daily to-dos in it at work.  Not sold on it yet and really it is meant for team collaboration which I don’t do a lot of because that’s how I roll.

17) Kindle – The king of reading apps.  No other reading app comes close to its feature set yet it will get out of the way when you need it to and let you just read.  I bought into the Amazon reading ecosystem long ago when I preordered their 2nd generation Kindle eReader and have never looked back.  The Kindle App a mainstay on my home screen and each successive version adds clever little things to further enhance reading experience like page numbers, percentage completion, their X-Ray service, and estimated time remaining to read.

18) Pocket – A read it later service.  It literally is formerly known as “Read It Later”.  It’s an app that allows me to read web links that I save to read later in an uncluttered mobile friendly canvas.  It gives the Kindle app a run for the money on number of reading features.  It’s one of the few apps that actually gets the low light reading experience right by offering a dark gray background with off white text rather than the deep black with bright popping white letters most other reading apps do.  It’s so much easier on the eyes in the dark.

19) Paper – Facebook sucks but like the other billion people on the planet like it or not I’m stuck with using it because all my other friends use it.  Paper is one of the rare things they cooked up that actually enhances the experience.  Born out of one of their labs it’s basically a heavily gesture based alternative to the traditional Facebook App sans ads (for now).  It also allows you to subscribe to a stream of curated news feed.  Not fond of their daily selection of news content I’ve turned off those feeds and use it exclusively for viewing and posting to my Facebook feed over the decidedly vanilla and cluttered traditional Facebook App.

20) Twitter – Nothing flattering to say here.  Does its job adequately, no praises per say but no complaints either.

21) Instagram – I must admit to a bit of nostalgia for Instagram.  It did after all spawn my shutterbug app addiction.  It works well and stays fresh enough.  I just never understood it’s love affair with square photos.  Why does it always seem when technology gives us more screen real estate something comes along to put black bars all around it?  Still mad they sold out to Facebook too.  Forever tainted but like Facebook, we’re stuck with it because everybody uses it.  At least it’s been mostly left alone to thrive since selling out and the few ads that I’ve seen begin to populate my feed are usually tasteful.

22) Bible – Did you know this app has been downloaded 161.4 million times and counting?! There are actually better apps for traditional bible study (see Faithlife Study Bible) but the Bible App has the best overall package with a thriving social feed and an ever-growing library of free community supported devotionals many authored by prominent Bible thumpers.


Dock Apps

23) Phone – These next four apps encompass my dock apps that show up on every screen.  The first is the stock phone app and I’m beginning to rethink its place here as I consider how little I use it.  I don’t place a lot of calls and most usually am on the receiving end of calls so I’m not sure I can justify its coveted place anymore in the dock.  I’ve never really pondered searching for a replacement phone app.  Open to suggestions…

24) Inbox – This is Google’s next great thing.  Think Google Now for Gmail.  It’s currently an invite only affair and I’m super glad I snatched an invite.  It replaced my all time favorite app (Mailbox by Dropbox).  Though I believe it still carries a Beta moniker it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  What Inbox does is basically serve you up a feed of emails automatically organized in categories like Promotions or Financial but rather than leaving you guessing at content by what the subject line says it will pull out the pertinent parts and put them front and center.  For example it will offer a link to track a package without having to open the message or serve you up a movie ticket confirmation number right in the subject line.  It is also written with a heavy dose of Google’s new Material Design experience which personally I can’t get enough of.  It takes liberally from many of my favorite features offered up by Mailbox and even gives you the option to add reminders to your message feed which just seems to be a natural place to add reminders after all.  How has nobody else thought of that yet?

25) Songza – If there’s one app on this list I would encourage anyone to download it has to be Songza.  You simply will not find a larger library of curated playlists anywhere.  You can pick from moods to genres to activities.  Google recently purchased and incorporated these playlists into the Google Play Music App but for now seem content to leave this free ad-supported service intact.  The ads aren’t in your face either and mostly consist of a small static banner at the bottom of the screen and you can rest assured that no loud car commercials will interrupt your feed like so many have ruined the Pandora experience for me.  Please download it, you’ll thank me later…tip check out the “Songs From Apple Commercials” playlist.  It’s delish!

26) Messages – And finally the last app in my dock is the stock Messages App because it’s adequate for me especially now with the latest feature set added with iOS 8.  Most of my friends use iMessages so really it’s a no brainer for me.  I’m actually aware of the plethora of better alternatives but truthfully none of my core friends and family use them so…

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Startup Morale

OfficeSpace

Every day I enter the doors to my current place of employment I pass by 3 plaques housing the names of every employee honored for 20 years or more of employment there.  The plaques have accumulated 180 names total.  Sadly this is a rarity in today’s marketplace.  I would wager that 20 years from now, those plaques are removed because few new names are being added.  This is no disrespect to my employer it’s just the reality of the marketplace where jobs are constantly abandoned for greener pastures. Loyalty exists paycheck to paycheck simply because money is usually the only morale driver at least in my region of the country.

I live in the Midwest where the famed startup stories and legends of company perks at places like Google are only part of some mythical place known as Silicon Valley.  Typically the only benefits that differentiate one company from another in these parts is the amount of out of pocket expense incurred for yearly medical benefits.  Boring.  Except for the local Big Oil company or two most benefits and company policies are fairly interchangeable from one place to the next.  Now I currently have a couple entrepreneurial things on the back burner and who knows maybe one day something will take off.  When it does I’ve got a wish list of perks or intangibles I hope to institute from the start that I hope will coax a few people to work for me and stay put.  Here they are and reasons why in no particular order:

  1. Offer A Flex Work Schedule.  Can you say Half Day Fridays?  This is something common in places like Colorado where you live in a real life playground but it makes sense for many other practical reasons besides morale that I won’t list here.  I once watched a 60 Minutes special on Patagonia the outdoor gear outfitter based in California.  One key to their employee success and productivity they highlighted was a very liberal and trusting flexible work schedule policy.  It was simple; get your time in when you wanted to…period.  For example employees still had to put in a 40 hour workweek but if someone popped in the door and boisterously exclaimed, “Surf’s up!”, they bolted for the beach and returned to work that afternoon, evening, or weekend when their cups were full and the waves had died down.  It didn’t matter when so long as you got your hours in.  You can only imagine the loyal employee base they have as a result!  For some this simple flexible policy will cause an employee to think real hard before bolting for a  job that paid a couple dollars an hour more.  That’s a novel concept that certainly goes against the grain of our punch card culture for standard factory workers but perhaps a slightly more restrictive policy will still produce similar results.  I know for me a similar policy would’ve allowed me to catch my son make his first snow angel this year rather than sulk that the moment was enjoyed via a texted photo.  I would have happily came in the following Saturday after the snow had melted if I could’ve left early that day.
  2. Work To Play Is The Company Motto!  I’ll never understand our country’s aversion to vacation allotment but it’s not remotely close in comparison to the rest of the industrial world.  Some will argue it’s a factor that affords us the world’s largest economy but I say bunk.  I say we’re successful in spite of our lack of vacation days.  Two weeks a year seems to be the universally accepted starting vacation policy.  That typically goes up as a reward for different milestones of company service.  I’ll offer 3 weeks starting vacation minimum not counting personal time.
  3. Provide Only The Best Stuff For Employees.  If the smartphone and tablet trend has taught us anything it’s that employees are tired of drab corporate centric products.  Buy them that iPhone, iPad, or touch mouse they envy.  Buy them the best gear available to do their job or at least help them get it.  My company pays up to $100/year for steel toe shoes.  I took the $100 and added $30 out of pocket to buy a premium brand that are ridiculously comfortable.  I haven’t dipped into that $100 allowance the last 2 years because I’m quite happy with the pair I bought then.  I’d say this was a win win policy for my company and me.
  4. Offer Internet Freedom.  Want to foster employee loyalty?  Show some trust.  Naturally all things should be doled out in proper portions but for most company internet policies that means an all or nothing approach.  Bandwidth restrictions I get because we are after all at work to be productive and a few Pandora boneheads can really sap internet productivity for the responsible majority.  Restricting adult sites is a no brainer too, but that’s where I think a line should be drawn after.  For starters open up social sites already!  Get with the times employers and let your employees have a free second to make evening plans with their buddies or even a coworker.  Internet filters in my opinion are a lazy exec’s way of micromanaging.  It’s silly.  If your employees are judged on their productivity and performance and they’re spending all their time on Facebook then their performance will suffer.  These things work themselves out if your people are being fairly judged on performance.
  5. Never Waste Employees’ Time.  Don’t make your accountant take a 45 minute online safety training course covering the proper shop safety gear when he/she will never ever set foot on the factory floor.  Limit the allowable number of meetings/length of meetings for each business day.  I know this sounds restrictive but most employees will actually appreciate such a policy for it’s time-respecting merits.
  6. Premium Toilet Paper.  This one is self explanatory.
  7. Free Great Coffee.  Can I get an Amen!  Don’t be cheap, pick one great perk like free premium brand coffer or an expresso machine to splurge on your employees. It really is the small things that count folks.

How To Select The Right Compact Fluorescent Bulb

Bulb1

You may have noticed recently the supply for good old fashioned incandescent bulbs seems to be dwindling.  You might have even heard that they’ve stopped making certain ones beginning this year.  Myself I find it near impossible to locate clear 60W incandescent bulbs but an overwhelming selection of compact fluorescent bulbs abound.  It’s like there’s some grand conspiracy to get you to stop using incandescent bulbs.  Technically there is but it’s not as bad as you think and no they’ve not stopped making incandescent bulbs either; just check out this article from The Verge that debunks all the rumors here.  The problem with switching to compact fluorescents is that nothing seems like an apples to apples swap.  The packaging would lead you believe it’s a pretty straightforward affair by printing bold letters indicating 13W bulbs are 60W replacements and technically they’re right but that’s really where the similarities end.  Buy two different brands and try to mix them within the same light fixture and you’ll see what I mean.  One light is more blue, one is more yellow, and one is brighter.  How do you pick the right one and how do you replace one brand with another?  It really boils down to reading the fine print, literally on the bulb that is.  There’s really three key specifications you want to try and match up closely particularly if you’re mixing different brands of compact flourescents.

Bulb2

The first you already know is wattage.  The package usually takes care of that by spelling out the incandescent equivalent.  The second specification you want to pay attention to is bulb brightness.  This is usually measured in Lumens.  This is easy to follow, simply the higher the number the brighter the bulb.  If you’ve got a fixture with 4 bulbs from Brand A and one burns out and you can only find brand B then you want to try and get this number to match as close as possible.  You will also want to match the color temperature of the bulb.  Color temperature is usually measured in Kelvins or simply ‘K’ as shown in the picture above measured as 2700K.  The lower the number the yellower the hue of the bulb.  The higher the number the bluer the hue becomes.  That’s it.

The Single Greatest Reason Google Glass Will Fail Miserably

glass_photos4

Credit: Google

Yesterday closed out a one day fire sale of Google Glass.  It was opened up for anyone to purchase directly through Google’s site for a whopping $1,500 for one day only and it was supposedly a massive success with a complete sell out.  For the past year+ since Google announced the developer version of Google Glass there’s been a ton of buzz.  Much criticism has been cast as well.  It usually goes something like It’s got the cool factor with a ton of potential for sure, but it’s also a little creepy too.  The creepy factor comes with the built in camera that can potentially be activated with a simple wink.  This is the foundation for both the cool and creepy factor.  It’s also the greatest reason Google Glass will be a dismal failure.  This is a first for me.  I typically won’t rant on a product before it really has had a chance to get off the ground and prove the pundits right or wrong but I must make an exception here because it seems so obvious that it will fail.  Here’s the scenario that will precipitate the dramatic fall or prevent a meteoric rise for Glass.  Remember the helmet cam footage recently from the bikers’/Range Rover road rage incident from last year in NYC?  Well there’s gonna be something as dramatic caught on Glass.  This footage will air all over the world, a perpetrator will be tried and convicted based off the footage, and Glass will have all the free press it could dream of.  A few days later somebody is going to be walking down the street minding his own Ps and Qs and take a wrong turn down some villainous city block.  Some madman is going to take issue with said Glass wearing pee on and beat him to a bloody pulp for wearing it and invading his turf and privacy.  It’s going to happen.  Unfortunately it’s a solid bet and when it does nobody is going to want to wear their Glass in public for fear of a repeat performance.  There are other factors that will lead to it’s demise like the first vehicular accident involving an offender wearing Glass but the camera will be Glass’s ultimate demise.  How about instances where security is involved?  Dare I mention this, but a synchronized camera feed would be a nice tool for terrorists to utilize when attempting to pull off coordinated attacks.  FYI Google, there’s very good reason camcorder manufacturers started putting a little red light on their products when recording.  Crap, did I officially just become a pundit with this last statement?

I applaud Google Glass for its possibilities and technical prowess but unfortunately we simply can’t handle the human factor as a society yet.  Will I get one?  Sure when the price drops 100% and will likely use it as a TV companion so I can blink my way through channel surfing in an effort to stave off carpal tunnel syndrome from excess remote usage.  If I’m really lucky a series of coordinated blinks might even someday tell some Google Bot to appear with a cold beer in extended robo grip.  Now that would exhibit some cool factor!

 

The Basics | Engine Etiquette

Credit: blogs.cars.com

Sorry folks for the hiatus.  I’ve been working on another writing project and have been blindly devoted to it.  Nonetheless I’ve taken a break to start a new advice column that allows me to as usual scratch an itch to passive aggressively opine about certain pet peeves.  This will be the first post of an ongoing advice column named “The Basics”.  These will be short and very simple “basic” insights I wish to share on things that many people overlook or have never been educated on.  For this first post I plan to tackle three very common mistakes (I politely use the word “mistakes” loosely, see told you passive aggressive) people make pertaining to the use and maintenance of motor vehicles.

‘Tis the season of single digit weather and as such our reliance on cars and their conveniences become ever more important.  For starters simple physics dictates that cold air is typically denser air.  Translation: when things get frigid stuff constricts and this is true of the air in your tires.  Many new cars are equipped with tire pressure sensors that will flash a light on your instrument panel telling you that you’ve got low tire pressure inevitably the morning after the first cold front passes through.  What most people don’t know is that there’s actually two conditions that will trigger that light; one, a tire has abnormally low pressure (ie, you got a flat bro) and/or one or more tires’ pressures vary within approximately 2 psig from one another.  It’s particularly the second condition that complicates things for the layperson who doesn’t know this.  For those people (not judging) the most logical thing to do is to hit a free air station at the local 7-11 and start randomly putting air into tires starting with the ones that look lowest until the low tire warning light goes off.  This could exasperate the problem and potentially cause a more disconcerting issue by overpressurizing a tire.  I won’t waste your time by discussing the hazards with a overpressurized tire, just know this is bad, every bit as bad or possibly worse than a underinflated tire.  My advice is simple, buy a tire pressure gauge and keep it in your console.  But what pressure do you maintain your tires to?  Answer:  it’s stamped on the tires themselves right?  Wrong.  What’s stamped on the tires is a max rating that’s intended to be a benchmark if you were hauling a maximum payload for example (trucker speak).  The real answer can be found somewhere inside your driver’s side door usually on the main upright near your seatbelt.  There you can find a label that will typically detail recommended tires pressures for front and rear tires.  Please whatever you do please don’t aimlessly fill your tires until the silly light goes off.   In that case you’re probably better off doing nothing (unless you’ve clearly got a flat).

To quote the classic movie “Shawshank Redemption” “The world went and got itself in a big hurry.”  One of the most common mistakes we tend to do when we get in our cars to go somewhere is to not wait for it to warm up.  Car engines and car technology certainly has advanced and it takes most cars much shorter spans of time to get that heater blowing warm air than it used to so people seem to forget one important fact that is universal about cars and car engines in particular.  That fact is that they are still made up of literally hundreds of precisely machined and fitted moving parts.  In some cases all it takes is one small nick and you can get a catastrophic engine failure.  Most of those moving parts still depend on oil to keep them lubricated and moving freely.  Most oils, even the overpriced and overrated synthetic kinds, still get thick and gummy when the temperature drops.  My advice is succinctly simple – let your car run at least a minute before putting it in gear, even thirty seconds as a bare minimum.  This allows the oil to loosen up and cover all intended surfaces before putting a heavy load on them.  It could save you many headaches in the long run.

My last piece of advice though begs you to do the exact opposite from the previous piece.  It actually seems silly to me to even mention it nevertheless I’m floored every time I see this warning go unheeded.  Folks turn off your stinking cars when you’re pumping gas and especially when smoking!  I’ve debated with myself how much detail to get into to explain the common sense in this so instead I’ve decided to offer an example link of the hazards associated.  The lady in the video was the smoker’s wife and she did suffer burns.  PLEASE don’t endanger (or enrage) me or anyone else because you simply wanted to keep that heater running longer or wanted those last couple drags from your smoke.  Trust me it’s not gonna make much difference during the time it takes to pump a tank of gas.

Size Matters | The Screen Size Debate

Credit:  Apple

Credit: Apple

September 20th was the official launch of the new iPhones 5C and 5S and just prior to it’s release every tech site and news site all rushed to get out their verdicts on the new models.  For the most part all the reviews were positive.  It’s really hard to argue with Apple’s solid hardware designs and reliable and vast App Store but every single review I read dinged Apple on one common thing – screen size.  The rumors were all abuzz with a larger screen for the iPhone but all proved to be untrue.  Android has toppled iOS in worldwide market share in large part due to affordable designs and big and bigger screen sizes.  It’s the same game that has played out year after year whether it’s TVs, laptops, or smartphones.  What’s lost here is the value of true functionality, portability, and ultimately purpose.  The purpose being that of a smartphone.  By definition a smartphone is limited by size because of it’s inherent requirement to be portable but size can also limit functionality.  How do you define and strike the right balance of portability, functionality, and features?  That’s ultimately the debate in play in the smartphone market with ever increasing screen sizes.  Personally I define it one way with one question.  Can you fully operate the device in one hand?  This is precisely the marketing ploy Apple baits us with.  Most people can touch their thumb anywhere on the iPhones’ screen without having to readjust the phone in any way with another hand.  This simple subtle fact I believe is at the core of the very purpose of a smartphone.  In my opinion if it takes two hand to operate it then just save you money for a full blown tablet.  Don’t be swayed by giant phone screens unless you just don’t care about portability.  Make the overall experience your priority.  I do believe there’s a market for larger screens sans the Galaxy Note 3‘s 5.7″ display but I treat that market as really the outer fringe of the tablet market.  Even Samsung knows the Note’s screen is a stretch that’s why they’re solely paring it with the Samsung Gear smartwatch for now.  Gee I wonder if the smartwatch market will play out the same way?  Will we soon be toiling over whether 1.3″, 1.6″, or 2″ is the proper screen size for the smartwatch?

Customer Service – The Good, The bad, The Ugly Part 2: Get a Clue

1378435745_mailToday is the official start of the NFL football season and to celebrate it I’ve received two emails and counting from ESPN.  One was a reminder that “NFL is back and ESPN has you covered” and the other was a reminder to download the fantasy football app.  Last week I got the same reminder emails about college football and their corresponding ESPN College Football App.  Seems like harmless notifications right?  When I already own both apps and have likewise signed into both with the same credentials that included the very email address these emails were blasted to I find these emails decidedly repetitive and annoying.  This post could be considered a bit of an overreaction but my frustrations go way beyond these emails; they just serve to illustrate a point.  The point is, those emails were dumb.  Ok so now I sound juvenile right?  Couldn’t I have used a more eloquent word than dumb.  Nope.  There are at least two factors that qualify something as simply dumb.  The first is could it have been avoided?  The second…see factor #1.  In the case of the ESPN example a simple algorithm in ESPN’s databases could very easily have filtered out anybody who has downloaded those apps by corresponding registered emails.  The emails were simply pointless to me an already engaged app user.  Is there anything wrong with a reminder email, no but folks these were not reminders emails, they were blatant pitches to download their apps.  A separate reminder email encouraging me to engage with the app would have been just fine and frankly expected if I had opted in to subscribe to their alerts and correspondence.  Junk mail.  Purely avoidable.  Dumb.  ESPN has the means to know that I already own their apps and use them. Read More

Customer Service – The Good, The bad, The Ugly Part 1: Will HELP For Fee

1375855160_call-userWith this post I will begin a four-part series that examines the importance and relevance of good customer service.  For each post I will cover a specific customer service theme and as the title suggests I will offer real world examples good, bad, and ugly.  For my first post I’ve chosen a theme that I believe is at the heart of what customer service means – helping.  In this day and age of easy access to online forums, help articles, how-to videos, etc. it is easy to suggest that customer service doesn’t quite hold the importance it once did but that notion is easily dispelled the second you get a flat, or your AC goes out on a blazing August day, or you’ve made an honest mistake when paying a bill.  In times of crisis we are sometimes forced to rely on good old-fashioned customer service be it via phone, in store, or online and nothing is worse than when you are at your most vulnerable and need help you get hit with fees and fees for fees!  We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling when you ask for help and the response is “Sure, that’ll be $195 including service fees”.  It begs the question, should customer service cost?  The short answer is technically yes, because customer service, like parts and labor, costs companies and must be accounted for somewhere but we the consumers just don’t like to pay for it when we need it most.  I’m no different; it’s like pouring salt on an open wound when I have to pay additional fees for an unexpected expense.  Below I will go into a few personal examples I think illustrate how to properly service a customer and keep a customer because let’s face it bad customer service equates to lost customers.

The Good

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