Sendle Is A New Carbon-Neutral Shipping Service

Consumers are demanding faster shipping so carriers are scrambling to make next-day deliveries and don’t pack trucks as efficiently aka delivery trucks make their rounds with extra space in the back making each package have a higher carbon footprint than if the truck was packed efficiently.

This is where Sendle comes in. It’s a new (and fast) shipping service that leverages unused space on other carriers’ trucks. They take advantage of the inefficiencies caused by one-day shipping by cheaply booking the extra space in trucks that are going out anyway. Using this method they aren’t producing any additional emissions and lowering the carbon offsetof each package, making it the first 100% carbon-neutral national delivery service in the country. The company’s use of extra space means that it can offer the service affordably.”It doesn’t have to be a choice between carbon-neutral and saving money,” says Sendle CEO and cofounder James Chin Moody. “You can actually do both.”

The startup, a certified B Corp, grew out of another platform that the founders launched to help people donate old goods. Not finding a shipping service that was reliable and affordable enough, they ended up developing a new option for delivery themselves. It was so popular that they began offering it to others—focusing on sellers with small businesses on Etsy, eBay, and other platforms. Those customers, Moody says, are looking for “the right mix of speed and cost” and don’t necessarily need an option for next-day shipping; Sendle focuses on 2-day and 3-day shipping. In the U.S., the company will first pay for the extra space available on USPS trucks (Amazon recently cut back its use of the postal service, freeing up more room), so the packages will be delivered by your postal carrier. In the future, it could work with other carriers, like UPS and FedEx, as well.

In Australia, it works with a variety of carriers. “We basically said, ‘Look, if we can help you fill your trucks, we can improve your density, which again, improves the efficiency of the system,’” he says. The startup is also working with carriers to help them explore other ways to reduce the carbon footprint of shipping, such as shifting to new types of vehicles. It also helps customers further improve their environmental performance through offering options like a shipping pouch that can be composted in the recipient’s backyard.

Why It’s Hot

I wonder if there is a partnership or learning opportunity for USPS (potentially 250?) here since they tend to use USPS trucks more than others given the Amazon loss.

Source

No Luggage, No Problem

W Hotels and Rent the Runway are partnering for a service long awaited by heavy and light packers alike.

Now, for the first time ever, travelers can have access to all the perks of Rent the Runway on the road as the Rent the Runway (RTR) Closet Concierge launches at select W hotels around the country.


Source: https://news.marriott.com/news/2019/12/05/the-closet-that-checks-in-before-you-do-w-hotels-x-rent-the-runway-team-up-to-redefine-the-rules-of-packing

When guests arrive at the hotel, they will find a variety of outfits tailored to the weather and location. No packing and no baggage required!

After booking the room, guests will be able to choose from four rental styles to outfit themselves during their stay from Rent the Runway’s Unlimited Closet for only $69 USD. Guests have access to the entire Unlimited Closet in addition to being able to select from a destination-ready assortment tailored to each unique W hotel location incorporating Rent the Runway’s proprietary data on trending colors, designers, silhouettes and the climate of each location. To return, guests simply drop-off the items at the Welcome Desk at check-out.

Why It’s Hot:
Brand collaborations with a purpose are the best! Anything that eases the burden of travel is bound to take off.

 

PANDORA LAUNCHES INTERACTIVE VOICE ADS

pandora voice

Pandora is launching a series of interactive voice ads featuring Doritos, Ashley HomeStores, Unilever, Wendy’s, Turner Broadcasting, Comcast, and Nestle.

“For example, the Wendy’s ad asks listeners if they’re hungry, and if they say “yes” the ad continues by offering a recommendation about what to eat. The DiGiorno’s pizza ad asks listeners to say “yes” to hear the punchline of a pizza-themed joke. The Ashely HomeStores ad engages listeners by offering tips on getting a better night’s sleep. And so on.

“The company believes these types of ads will be more meaningful as they force listeners to pay attention. For the brand advertisers, voice ads offer a way to more directly measure how many people an ad reached — something that’s not possible with traditional audio ads, which by their nature aren’t clickable.”

Why it’s hot:
With loads of fraud in the digital media landscape, it’s interesting to see Pandora developing a new way of ensuring eyeballs and ears. I also think it opens the door for interesting ways to serve and target consumers.

Facebook AI Launches Its Deepfake Detection Challenge

Facebook’s AI division has been ethically producing deepfakes (manipulated videos or face swaps). The videos are part of a training data set that Facebook assembled for a competition called the Deepfake Detection Challenge that was launched yesterday. In this competition—produced in cooperation with Amazon, Microsoft, the nonprofit Partnership on AI, and academics from eight universities—researchers around the world are vying to create automated tools that can spot fraudulent media. Facebook has dedicated more than US $10 million for awards and grants.

The U.S. presidential elections in 2020 are an added incentive to get ahead of the problem, says Canton Ferrer (Facebook AI Red Team). He believes that media manipulation will become much more common over the coming year, and that the deepfakes will get much more sophisticated and believable. “We’re thinking about what will be happening a year from now,” he says. “It’s a cat-and-mouse approach.” Canton ­Ferrer’s team aims to give the cat a head start, so it will be ready to pounce.

It may seem odd that the data set compiled for Facebook’s competition is filled with unknown people doing unremarkable things. But a deepfake detector that works on those mundane videos should work equally well for videos featuring politicians. To make the Facebook challenge as realistic as possible, Canton Ferrer says his team used the most common open-source techniques to alter the videos—but he won’t name the methods, to avoid tipping off contestants. “In real life, they will not be able to ask the bad actors, ‘Can you tell me what method you used to make this deepfake?’” he says.

Why its hot: It’s interesting that Facebook is working to create this tech right after the infamous AOC versus MZ roast. Does this make up for the fact that they people make fake ads/is it going to be implemented on Facebook?

Source

The Rise of Skywalker Takes Over Facebook Messenger

Disney took their media takeover full throttle last week and launched a new sticker and reaction line on Facebook messenger dedicated to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

The changes include “a new Star Wars theme for its Messenger app, which gives it a starry background, a new set of SW-related stickers and special effects that will let you jump into hyperspace or turn you into a rebel fighter, among others.”

The only catch is it’s only available for some not all!

https://www.facebook.com/facebookapp/videos/831254103992198/

Why It’s Hot?

This is a bigger takeover than we’ve seen on Facbeook. Which makes sense for the seminal Star Wars finale movie. Will Facebook be open to more customization soon? For the right price?

 

Twitter is Breaking Up the Flock

Image result for decentralize twitter"

Several years ago, Twitter snubbed developers by limiting features they could use when using the Twitter API to create their own interoperable products. Today, they are trying to right that wrong.  In essence, the company will be adding a layer above twitter that will decentralize the service much like email, where yahoo users and Gmail users can email between one another making it platform agnostic.

Twitter is funding a small independent team of up to five open source architects, engineers, and designers to develop an open and decentralized standard for social media. The goal is for Twitter to ultimately be a client of this standard.

Although years away, the Bluesky team will eventually be building social media protocols that will allow the company to prove the viability of decentralized social media. Some are criticizing the move saying it will reduce Twitter’s liabilities regarding the types of content that have gotten the company in trouble in the past. Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, argues that Twitter’s value lies in its ability to direct attention towards valuable tweets – not hosting all the content.

Finally, new technologies have emerged to make a decentralized approach more viable. Blockchain points to a series of decentralized solutions for open and durable hosting, governance, and even monetization. Much work to be done, but the fundamentals are there,” Jack Dorsey

What this looks like: 

  • Centralized platforms have a lot of control over what data is seen, with algorithms deciding which content gets exposed. It promotes one type of content over another.
  • With decentralized social media, there would be no central control, no team of people who decide what content is shown to whom.
  • Personal data would go back to the hands of the user who would give complete control and could decide who to share it with.

Why it’s hot: 

Although still a pipe dream with a long road ahead, decentralization of social media may become the way of Web 3.0 – reducing platforms liabilities for UGC and democratizing content discovery – but what will become of brands that use these platforms?

Sources: TechCrunch, The Verge, Business Insider

 

How Social Media Can Help Save Indonesians From Climate Disasters

28-year-old architect Nashin Mahtani’s website, PetaBencana.id, uses artificial intelligence and chat-bots to monitor and respond to social posts on Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram by communities in Indonesia hit by floods. The information is then displayed on a real-time map that is monitored by emergency services.

Image result for petabencana screenshot

“Jakarta is the Twitter capital of the world, generating 2% of the world’s tweets, and our team noticed that during a flood, people were tweeting in real-time with an incredible frequency, even while standing in flood waters,” said Mahtani, a graduate of Canada’s University of Waterloo. Jakarta residents often share information with each other online about road blockages, rising waters and infrastructure failures.

Unlike other relief systems that mine data on social media, PetaBencana.id adopts AI-assisted “humanitarian chat-bots” to engage in conversations with residents and confirm flooding incidents. “This allows us to gather confirmed situational updates from street level, in a manner that removes the need for expensive and time-consuming data processing,” Mahtani said.

 

In early 2020, the project will go nationwide to serve 250 million people and include additional disasters such as forest fires, haze, earthquakes and volcanoes.

Why It’s Hot

Aggregating social data in real-time on a map allows for easy flow of information between residents in need and emergency services who can help them. In a situation when every second counts to help as many people as possible, this use of technology is truly life-saving.

Source

The Circle of Life… When Old Becomes New Again

Back Market, an online marketplace that sells refurbished and discounted electronic goods like smartphones, wanted to launch its service in the US.

However, Back Market had to find a way to promote its refurbished products in a country that is more interested in new technology than old, without a media budget to afford high profile influencers.

Back Market realized that all of the second-hand products that it currently sells have already been promoted by celebrities on social platform Twitter, back when they were originally released.

Back Market analyzed hundreds of the most well-known US celebrities’ Twitter accounts to find old Tweets about products now available on its site, replied to them and re-posted them as if they had just been published.Body image for Refurbished Tweets

In total, Back Market ‘refurbished’ the Tweets of 311 celebrities, including Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and 50 Cent. The online marketplace also sent 187 celebrities the smartphones that they had wanted years before.

The Refurbished Tweets campaign was promoted with a comical video explaining how the French company took over the Twitter feeds of US celebrities.

According to the case study video, more than 26,000 orders were placed for refurbished products within 48 hours of the campaign launch and visits to Back Market’s US website increased by 457% within one month, with no media investment.

Why it’s hot: Entering a new market is challenging, especially without a media budget. Back Market’s creative approach to “refurbishing” old tweets from famous celebrities and influencers was clever way of leveraging existing tweets as their own.

Source: Contagious.io

YouTube Continues to Fight Misinformation

Unlike some other social platforms (*cough* Facebook *cough*), YouTube continues to actively combat misinformation.

This has been a key focus for the platform in recent times – as explained by YouTube in a new update this week:

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve been working to raise authoritative voices on YouTube and reduce the spread of borderline content and harmful misinformation. And we are already seeing great progress. Authoritative news is thriving on our site. And since January 2019, we’ve launched over 30 different changes to reduce recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation. The result is a 70% average drop in watch time of this content coming from non-subscribed recommendations in the U.S.”

Definitely, those results are promising, and YouTube continues to add in new measures to reduce the spread of misinformation, or dispell concerning trends that are not grounded in fact.

For example, YouTube now also shows information panels on content ‘prone to misinformation’, which provides links to relevant resources for more insight.

YouTube’s also working to address concerns with borderline videos – content that “comes close to, but doesn’t quite cross the line of” violating its Community Guidelines. YouTube says that such videos make up a tiny proportion of its overall viewership, but it’s now expanding its program of reducing recommendations of borderline content “or videos that could misinform users in harmful ways” into more regions.

Why its hot

As noted, this is an important area for YouTube, because an increasing amount of people now come to the platform for information, and can be lead down concerning rabbit holes by the content recommended to them, relative to their search requests.

Aviation Gin used a viral moment in a brilliant way

It’s the holiday ad that caught fire for all the wrong reasons: A young woman is gifted a Peloton bike and proceeds to vlog her fitness journey over the course of a year. The ad went viral almost immediately, sparking criticism about Peloton’s unhealthy depictions of body image and marriage.

Naturally, Twitter users couldn’t contain themselves, dragging the cringe-worthy campaign with labels like sexist, elitist, and entirely unrealistic. But as Twitter users were flaming the ad, Ryan Reynolds and his Gin-owned company, Aviation, were putting together one of the most genius spots of the year. The ad cast the same actress from the Peloton ad in a sequel that tells the story of where the Peloton Woman is now.


Why it’s hot: In a play that combined timeliness, meme culture, and a simple product message, Aviation managed to capitalize on another brand’s moment of infamy with big success. Maybe the biggest win was how fast the spot came to fruition – only 15 days elapsed between the Peloton ad and Aviation Gin’s commercial.

Tik Tok tries to combat bullying, suppresses bullied groups from platform

Hey Social Media …

TikTok pulled a very Scumbag-Steve move recently, admitting that in an effort to curb bullying on its platform, it had asked moderators to flag accounts from people who “looked like the type of person others might want to bully” and then suppressed those accounts. #victimshaming

Via Slate: “TikTok, a social network video app with more than 1 billion downloads globally, admitted Tuesday to a set of policies that had suppressed the reach of content created by users assumed to be “vulnerable to cyberbullying.” As examples of users “susceptible to bullying or harassment,” the policy listed people with facial disfigurement, autism, Down syndrome, and “Disabled people or people with some facial problems such as birthmark, slight squint and etc.”

The admission came after the German site Netzpolitik reported that TikTok asked moderators to watch 15-second videos and decide if the creator looked like the type of person others might want to bully. If so, moderators were instructed to add flags to the accounts of these “vulnerable” users. These flags would stop their videos from being shown to audiences outside their home countries and, in some cases, would even prevent their videos from appearing in other users’ feeds. A list of flagged users obtained by Netzpolitik included people with and without disabilities, whose bios included hashtags like #fatwoman and #disabled or had rainbow flags and other LGBTQ identifiers.”

Why it’s hot:

Loss of trust: Social media plays a roll in both exacerbating and alleviating many social problems, including the bullying epidemic, but when those at the helm display their ignorance coupled with a reluctance to curb abusive users, trust is diminished.

Lack of control (or willingness): One more chapter in social media’s terrible track record of encouraging the worst parts of humanity and then exposing just how inept they are at controlling malicious activity on their platforms.

Source: Slate

Brands React to $120,000 Banana

Last Friday, Aviation Gin and its celebrity owner Ryan Reynolds got the ad world excited after hiring the actor from the much-maligned Peloton ad to star in a fun sequel spot. The booze brand and Reynolds were deservedly celebrated across social and major media for both the quality of the spot and the speed and agility with which it was executed, soon enough to ride the wave of Peloton-bashing and land an incredibly good comeback. “If you’re going to do something like this,” Reynolds told The New York Times, “you have to jump on the zeitgeist-y moment as it happens.”

Around this same time, at Art Basel in Miami artist Maurizio Cattelan was attracting headlines when his piece called “Comedian”—a banana duct-taped to the wall—sold for $120,000. The subsequent outrage and amusement of course quickly caught the eye of the world’s social-media marketers, sparking a rush of brands scrambling to make their own witty version.

Pepsi

Popeyes

https://twitter.com/PopeyesChicken/status/1203140095005605888

French supermarket, Caffefour

Royal Canadian Mint

https://twitter.com/CanadianMint/status/1204144845872336897

Even Aviation…

Between Peloton and “Comedian,” last week presented two moments seemingly perfect for the kind of participation that brands crave on social media, and yet each also illustrates the level of difficulty in actually pulling off something that is a) actually any good, and b) able to grab people’s attention.

Why it’s hot:

It’s interesting to see which brands jump on this meme-culture train and makes me wonder if it’s overdone.

Source: FastCo

Does Cooperation Beat Competition in Getting Brands Attention Online?

Brands on social media are often seen as competitors. Users on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram will only see a limited number of branded posts per visit, so social media managers battle to be one of them, paying or using owned channels to grab as much attention as possible.

On Dec 5, Netflix proved that cooperation can beat competition. Speaking directly to brand account managers on Twitter, it encouraged brands to push the boundaries of social acceptability by asking what can be said during sex and for a brand on Twitter.

The post generated over 100,000 retweets and nearly half a million likes.

Brands of all kinds jumped on board, even competitors. (e.g. Direct TV, not shown here.)

Why it’s hot:

In NYC, merchants realized that they could make more money by surrounding themselves with their direct competitors in districts that attracted more customers overall (e.g. the garment district, flower district, diamond district). Perhaps we are entering an era where brands will increasingly band together on social media to generate the type of attention they could not garner alone.

Do you know what VSCO is?

Link

VSCO is a new photo editing app, popular with Gen-Z girls that has had rapid growth in 2019. Over the summer a VSCO girl meme took off and became a thing from the starter pack pictured above to some stereotypical mocking..

Here’s a snippet from this post:

VSCO girls were always sort of a joke. Way back in January, YouTuber Greer Jones delivered a deadpan introduction to a video called “becoming the ultimate VSCO girl”: “Today I’m going to be trying to become a VSCO girl, because that’s my life goal, you know, I’m not focusing on college, not focusing on my grades, because that’s irrelevant,” she says sarcastically. “I really look up to the girls on VSCO.”

WHY ITS HOT:

VSCO  is on pace to surpass 4 million paying users in 2020, up from 2 million paying users in late 2018, the company said. Approaching $80 million in annual revenue, VSCO charges an annual subscription fee of $19.99 for access to a full-suite of mobile photo-editing tools, exclusive photo filters, tutorials and more. For no cost, users can access a handful of basic VSCO filters, standard editing tools and loads of content published by other users in VSCO’s photo feed.

75% of VSCO’s registered users and 55% of its paying subscribers are younger than 25, giving the company a small foothold into the most coveted demographic. On top of that, the hashtag #VSCO has been viewed 4 billion times on the immensely popular video sharing app Tik Tok, again according to the company’s own statistics, and another 450 million times on Instagram.

More info below:

Inside VSCO, a Gen Z-approved photo-sharing app, with CEO Joel Flory

Keep an eye on this apps popularity…

Rent the Runway Can Now Stock Your W Hotel Room Closet

Rent the Runway is taking their clothing rentals to W Hotels with a new “Closet Concierge” service. Upon booking a room, guests will be able to choose four styles to rent for $69 and have those items waiting for them in their hotel rooms. Guests can then drop off items at their location’s welcome desk when checking out.

The RTR Closet Concierge service is launching at W Aspen, W South Beach, W Washington, D.C. and W Hollywood.

According to a press release, the goal of the Closet Concierge launch is a means of extending services so clients can “pack light, really light.” While guests will have access to Rent the Runway’s Unlimited Closet, selections also will be personalized to each hotel location based on silhouettes, trending colors and the area’s climate.

Why It’s Hot

Quick getaways or “micro-cations” are the most popular trips Americans are taking. So having four styles waiting in your hotel room might really mean you can leave your clothes at home when traveling. It also taps into a market of travel influencers who always want new outfits to feature on their social feeds. For those who have never used Rent the Runway before, it seems like a great way to try the service and get a sense of what clothing is available.

Source

Can you see this now?

In Ukraine, a lack of people taking eye examinations combined with increasing mobile device usage has led to a national eyesight problem, so Luxoptica, a Ukranian optician, decided to leverage the problem device to get people to take eye exams, all on their own accord.

Luxoptica ophthalmologists created an eye test that sat within Instagram Stories. All users had to do to take the test was tap on the brand’s Instagram story and hold their smartphone at a distance, then text appeared on the screen. If they could see the letters clearly, they would be instructed to tap to the right, which took them to the next text – in smaller type.

As soon as users could no longer see the writing, they were instructed to swipe up. The result of the test then appeared on the screen with a prediction of their visual ability and a recommendation about what to do next.

Body image for Instoptica

If the vision score was below normal, Luxoptica recommended a visit to an ophthalmologist to prevent further reduction in vision and provided a direct link to book an appointment at any Luxoptica store.

Why it’s hot: Luxoptica was smart in its “show don’t tell” strategy by providing consumers with a free experience of an eye exam instead of lots of medical claims and reasons to go to your optometrist to get an exam. Its creative use of Instagram stories made their message easily accessible to their target audience, mobile phone users, giving them the freedom to experience the exam on their own time, ultimately driving 1 in 7 people to an optician for an eye exam, over 6,800 visits.

Source: Contagious

Black Friday to traditional calendars: Drop Dead!

 

Link

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Reports ranging from Bloomberg News to the New York Times published articles this week analyzing a recent shift in the traditional buying patterns of American holiday shoppers. In short: the marketers keep moving the goalposts.

Black Friday, of course, has traditionally been a huge shopping day on the Friday after Thanksgiving at brick-n-mortar stores, and Cyber Monday being the analogous day for e-commerce the following Monday. But what happens when marketers start bombarding their customers with online Black Friday sales beginning shortly after Halloween? According to Bloomberg, shoppers have reversed the tradition of procrastinating until December 20-something and have begun to shop earlier.

Some evidence:

Why It’s Hot

This has huge implications for marketers, consumers and shipping logistics. Shoppers are probably feeling less stress by doing their holiday shopping earlier, but at some point consumers will be annoyed at getting Black Friday emails months in advance (not as annoying as Christmas Music in October, but still…) On the other hand, earlier shopping means that shipping carriers and warehouse managers can spread out the annual pain of delivering millions of boxes and actually get the stuff to the destination on time!

American Eagle uses fashion staples to encourage charitable giving

In a clever move melding consumerism and charitable giving, American Eagle Outfitters (AE) has achieved WokeAF status by developing a clothing line with a multicultural council of GenZ activists, which both donates 100% of its sales to the clothing charity Delivering Good, and contains a conversation-starting QR code that allows others to donate as well by scanning said clothes.

This line was developed by the AExMeCouncil, a gaggle of GenZ movers and shakers, including Delaney Tarr, cofounder of March For Our Lives, who are being given some say in how AE operates. “We are treating these council members like board members,” says Chad Kessler, global brand president of American Eagle.

Other council members include Gabby Frost, who founded the Buddy Project to promote mental health and prevent suicide, and Joseph Touma, who created Bridge the Divide, which wants to create bridges across political lines.

Why it’s hot:

1. GenZ folks are cause-oriented shoppers, so this gimmick makes perfect sense from a brand and PR perspective (they were featured in Fast Company after all) and costs AE basically nothing.

2. Smart use of highly personal products to instigate conversations about social causes and create a real-time pathway to digital donations.

3. It’s probably a good thing when business interests and social good align, and it seems like that’s the case here. Better than when fast-fashion brands laughably try to align themselves with sustainability.

 

Source: Fast Company

Slack just taunted Microsoft with ‘OK boomer’ for running an ad campaign that looks almost exactly like one of Slack’s

Slack is leaning into its status as the young, hip startup by calling out its older, more established competition: Microsoft.

Slack tweeted a video on Thursday comparing a Slack ad and a Microsoft ad, showing the similarities between them and implying the Microsoft copied Slack’s concept. The video was captioned “ok boomer,” a phrase that has turned into a meme for millennials and Gen Z to voice their gripes with the baby boomer generation.

Watch the video here

Valued at $12 billion, Slack is as essential as an internet connection in some circles, and has even become a verb. Despite its ubiquity, however, the workplace chat app might be falling behind competitor Microsoft Teams.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that Teams hit 20 million daily users, while Slack most recently announced just 12 million users. Slack’s stock took a dive after the announcement.

At the same time, NY Times announced that at least five trademark applications are pending for the retort, according to a database for the federal patent office, including one by Fox Media, which hopes to use it for a possible television series.

Source: Business Insider

First came the “OK Boomer” memes on social media. Then came the T-shirts, phone cases and other merchandise emblazoned with the viral retort. Now, get ready for an all-out war at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and a possible television series using the phrase.

On Nov. 11, Fox Media filed a trademark application for a TV show called “OK Boomer,” one among a handful of applicants hoping to secure rights to the phrase hurled by Generation Z and millennials to older people who don’t understand their positions on various issues and anyone issuing condescending remarks. (This month, Chloe Swarbrick, a 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker, even used it in Parliament to respond to a heckler during a debate on a zero carbon bill.)

Separate applications filed on Oct. 31 (by a man named Kevin Yen) and Nov. 14 (by the jewelry company Rust Belt Creations) described intentions to use the phrase on clothing items. Another application, filed on Nov. 12 (also by Rust Belt Creations), mentioned plans to sell decals and stickers. And an application filed on Nov. 13 (by William Grundfest, a TV producer known for “Mad About You”) referred to plans to use “OK Boomer” for live stage performances and lectures.

NYTimes

Why it’s Hot

Odd trend taking more odd turns.

Amazon’s New Smart Shelf for Small Businesses

Amazon has announced the Dash Smart Shelf, a Wi-Fi-connected smart scale that connects to Amazon’s shopping services and can automatically reorder supplies when they run low.

It’s designed for small businesses to put in their supply rooms, and it can sense the weight of things like pens or printer paper that are placed on top of it. When those items run out, customers can either set the scale to automatically reorder the item in question or simply send a notification to whoever manages the company’s supplies to manually place an order instead. (Although Amazon also says that the Dash Smart Shelf is designed to avoid accidental automatic reorders if items are just temporarily removed.)

To sweeten the deal, Amazon is offering businesses using the Dash Smart Shelf discounts of “up to 15 percent” on certain items, like Keurig and Folgers coffee, Nestle Coffee-Mate, Kind snack bars, Bic pens, 3M Post-it Notes and Scotch tape, and more.

Setting up the scale is fairly simple: either plug the scale into the wall or add four AAA batteries, connect it to Wi-Fi through the Amazon, and then use either your Amazon Business account or the Amazon app to specify which item you’ll be using with the shelf. The Dash Smart Shelf is roughly one inch tall, and it comes in three sizes: small (7 x 7 inches), medium (12 x 10 inches), and large (18 x 13 inches).

Why It’s Hot

After discontinuing the Dash buttons for homes earlier this year, it’s interesting to see Amazon shifting the focus to small businesses who may find this service more useful. There is also a big potential for partner brands to drive preference among small businesses with the 15% discount.

Source

Mozilla’s holiday shopping guide rates creepiness of connected products with animated emoji

Be Smart. Shop Safe.” That’s the tag line for Mozilla’s initiative to spread awareness about the privacy status and risks of new connected products — and promote their brand as a privacy leader.

The privacy of physical connected products is new for many people, so getting people to consider privacy before impulsively slamming the BUY button is a big deal for an organization focused on privacy. Mozilla needed to make their report interesting to grab people’s attention.

Smart but simple UX and strong copy makes this happen.

A privacy focused shopping guide allows you to see which products meet Mozilla’s minimum privacy standards.

An animated emoji shows how “creepy” users have said various products are, regardless of their privacy rating.

Why it’s hot:

Is this the beginning of, if not a backlash, at least a recalibration of the excitement about smart IoT products?

Mozilla frames itself as the authority on the growing concern of privacy and getting into the product-rating game drives a new kind of awareness regarding physical products which many people have heretofore not had to consider.

Gathering data on creepiness sentiment is an interesting (and fun) approach to consumer metrics. Users can vote on the creepiness scale, but you have to give your email to see the results.

Source: Mozilla

Sony teaches new dog old tricks

Sony’s Aibo robot dog has been around in various iterations for around 20 years (it was actually discontinued in 2006 and revived with a next-gen look in 2018) and has garnered a lot of attention in tech circles. In fact, the re-boot of the Aibo got a lot of buzz at CES 2018 due primarily to Sony’s commitment to make it as cute as possible.

Nevertheless, the toy costs almost $3000 and the company has always failed to plan for what happens when the novelty wears off. Consumers think ahead and $3k is really steep for a toy that’s bound to wind up in a box down in the basement in a couple of months.

Sony is starting to realize that they have to add an element of interactivity and gamification to the experience if this thing is ever going to succeed. Enter the Aibo Food AR app.

Story on Gizmodo

Why it’s Hot

While it’s not yet trained to kill on command, it’s a step in the right direction. Aibo’s  survival depends on Sony expanding the imaginations of its customers beyond simple product redesigns.

And Other Stories collaboration with information designer Giorgia Lupi finds the human element in data-driven narratives

And Other Stories teamed up with New York based information designer Giorgia Lupi to launch it’s newest co-lab that turns data visualizations into wearable stories.

 

Lupi is known around the world for her singular, artful approach to data: Instead of relying on hollow charts and graphs, she creates beautiful hand-drawn prints that lend a “human” touch to sterile numbers and statistics.

“As human beings, we have no use for seeing raw data in an Excel sheet, because we can’t detect the patterns. It’s only through design and visualization that we can access that knowledge.”

Through her unexpected take on storytelling, a visually compelling collection of hand-drawn prints reveals the achievements of three female science trailblazers. Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program in the mid-1800s; Rachel Carson, who started the environmentalist movement with her 1962 book Silent Spring; and Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel to space in 1992.

“They were pioneers in fields that were historically male-dominated,” Lupi says. “But I wanted to focus on their significant accomplishments, not necessarily just on their lives as women. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the obstacles they overcame, but to be really aspirational, I think it’s important to look at the contributions they brought to the world.”

Ada Lovelace

the mathematician

Recognized as a pioneer for the discipline of computer science, Ada Lovelace used her gift for mathematics to translate and write instructions, imagining how to program a machine to do complex calculations”

“For Ada’s design, we created a colourful geometric pattern that analysed the mathematical structure of the algorithm she wrote.”

Mae Jemison

the astronaut

A true polymath and NASA astronaut, Mae Jemison’s accomplishments include participating in the STS-47 lower orbit mission, an achievement that established her as the first woman of colour in space.

“The pattern is based on her orbits and experiments that she conducted in space. As a memory of her mission, the visual represents the days she was in space and how she might have viewed her surroundings as well as the many experiments she performed.”

 

THE CONSERVATIONIST

Rachel Carson

The author, environmentalist, and activist is best known for her book, Silent Spring, which is considered the first contribution to literature from a conservationist perspective and helped to launch the environmental movement.

“Through different techniques on the garment, such as embroidery and colour codes, we visualise the structural and semantical analysis of her work, Silent Spring.”

Why it’s hot

I posted this because I design surface prints and data visualization and I think it’s sick.

It’s hot because as inauthentic and disconnected influencer partnerships have flooded the market, it’s exceedingly rare to see a truly innovative and unique collab. This was a smart partnership with a resulting collection that feels thoughtful and authentic the brand and artist.

Sources: Vogue

Amazon’s Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Sellers Puts Consumers at Risk

WSJ ARTICLE

WASHPO ARTICLE

‘In fact, Amazon’s China business is bigger than ever. That is because it has aggressively recruited Chinese manufacturers and merchants to sell to consumers outside the country. And these sellers, in turn, represent a high proportion of problem listings found on the site, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.”

The paradox of choice is an interesting phenomenon in which the number of given choices, in any scenario eventually passes a certain threshold and leads to dissatisfaction. Personally, lately, I’ve felt this way about Amazon.com scrolling through pages of low-quality crap with 1,000s of reviews claiming something deserves 5 stars…

Why it’s hot: 
Amazon often seems completely invincible, but this story feels like a good illustration of what I perceive to be an interesting weakness – too much junk.

I’ve personally become a bit jaded on purchasing things off Amazon and wonder how they hope to combat some of the shopping ‘spam’ (?)

So you think you can Freddie?

Image result for Freddiemeter

In honor of the first live performance of Bohemian Rhapsody 44 years ago this month, Google partnered with Queen to create “FreddieMeter”. This web experience available for Android, iOS, and desktop rates how closely you sound like Freddie Mercury.

Behind the scenes, FreddieMeter leverages on-device machine learning so no audio is being sent out to servers for the rating. Google trained the models using Mercury’s isolated vocals from original studio tapes and sample covers.

With FreddieMeter people can record a video and audio clip of their performance to share on social media. This minute-long clip features YouTube Music branding and can be downloaded after a performance, with Google deleting it afterwards.

Why its hot?
Other than the fact you’ll know how close you are to sounding like a super rockstar, it’s a great use of AI – analyzing your pitch (how well you hit the notes), melody (how well you hit the notes in relation to each other), and timbre (how much your vocal style matches Freddie’s).

And BTW no data is being stored on the Google servers.

 

Source: 9to5google.com

 

Inside Amazon’s plan for Alexa to run your entire life

The creator of the famous voice assistant dreams of a world where Alexa is everywhere, anticipating your every need.

Speaking with MIT Technology Review, Rohit Prasad, Alexa’s head scientist, revealed further details about where Alexa is headed next. The crux of the plan is for the voice assistant to move from passive to proactive interactions. Rather than wait for and respond to requests, Alexa will anticipate what the user might want. The idea is to turn Alexa into an omnipresent companion that actively shapes and orchestrates your life. This will require Alexa to get to know you better than ever before.

In June at the re:Mars conference, he demoed [view from 53:54] a feature called Alexa Conversations, showing how it might be used to help you plan a night out. Instead of manually initiating a new request for every part of the evening, you would need only to begin the conversation—for example, by asking to book movie tickets. Alexa would then follow up to ask whether you also wanted to make a restaurant reservation or call an Uber.

A more intelligent Alexa

Here’s how Alexa’s software updates will come together to execute the night-out planning scenario. In order to follow up on a movie ticket request with prompts for dinner and an Uber, a neural network learns—through billions of user interactions a week—to recognize which skills are commonly used with one another. This is how intelligent prediction comes into play. When enough users book a dinner after a movie, Alexa will package the skills together and recommend them in conjunction.

But reasoning is required to know what time to book the Uber. Taking into account your and the theater’s location, the start time of your movie, and the expected traffic, Alexa figures out when the car should pick you up to get you there on time.

Prasad imagines many other scenarios that might require more complex reasoning. You could imagine a skill, for example, that would allow you to ask your Echo Buds where the tomatoes are while you’re standing in Whole Foods. The Buds will need to register that you’re in the Whole Foods, access a map of its floor plan, and then tell you the tomatoes are in aisle seven.

In another scenario, you might ask Alexa through your communal home Echo to send you a notification if your flight is delayed. When it’s time to do so, perhaps you are already driving. Alexa needs to realize (by identifying your voice in your initial request) that you, not a roommate or family member, need the notification—and, based on the last Echo-enabled device you interacted with, that you are now in your car. Therefore, the notification should go to your car rather than your home.

This level of prediction and reasoning will also need to account for video data as more and more Alexa-compatible products include cameras. Let’s say you’re not home, Prasad muses, and a Girl Scout knocks on your door selling cookies. The Alexa on your Amazon Ring, a camera-equipped doorbell, should register (through video and audio input) who is at your door and why, know that you are not home, send you a note on a nearby Alexa device asking how many cookies you want, and order them on your behalf.

To make this possible, Prasad’s team is now testing a new software architecture for processing user commands. It involves filtering audio and visual information through many more layers. First Alexa needs to register which skill the user is trying to access among the roughly 100,000 available. Next it will have to understand the command in the context of who the user is, what device that person is using, and where. Finally it will need to refine the response on the basis of the user’s previously expressed preferences.

Why It’s Hot:  “This is what I believe the next few years will be about: reasoning and making it more personal, with more context,” says Prasad. “It’s like bringing everything together to make these massive decisions.”

College, was it really worth the amount you paid?

65% of jobs require some type of college degree. As tuition skyrockets, how much is it really worth when you can basically learn all the things you actually are interested online.

Trends like the Gig economy, smaller boot camps and more directed programs that don’t take as long are gaining momentum not to mention huge interest in educational classes from places like Lynda, Pluralsight, LinkedIn and Youtube are recognizing the need for knowledge in the market.

This is all happening while tuition’s skyrocket. So is it even worth it?

Georgetown set out to find out. They considered 4500 Schools for non-profit, profit and private schools in the country.

Georgetown Study

Best long-term plan: Four-year private, nonprofit colleges. These pricey degrees take a while to bear their fruits. For example, Babson College, a private college in Massachusetts, ranks 304th in value at 10 years, but 7th after 40 years, with a payoff of $1.98 million—edging out Harvard University at $1.96 million.

Best short-term plan: A two-year certificate or associate’s degree can have a high return on investment after 10 years, particularly in nursing. Veeb Nassau County School of Practical Nursing and Putnam Westchester BOCES-Practical Nursing Program rock 40-year payoffs of $1.4 million, which are in line with the payoffs of four-year degrees from Northwestern University or the University of Chicago. #gonursing

Chart to look it up your school

Was your college worth it?

Why it’s hot:

Because of all the questions it arises!

Is it worth it for some people to go to certain schools? Shines a bit of more light not only on the institution but a bit on the actual attendees.

average age of entry for CUNY schools is higher than private schools. Why is that?

And some of them average 33. So the idea of the typical college grad is different than the norm.

What are the stats for you school?

Our Platform Isn’t Secure, So Give Us Your Credit Card Number

Facebook is launch[ed] a new payments system, appropriately named Facebook Pay. It will be available across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and it’s designed to facilitate payments across Facebook’s popular social networks and apps. You’ll be able to use Facebook Pay to send money to friends, shop for goods, or even donate to fundraisers. The service will be separate from Facebook’s new Calibra wallet and the Libra network, and it’s “built on existing financial infrastructure and partnerships,” according to the company.

Facebook is planning to start rolling out Facebook Pay on Messenger and Facebook in the US this week. It will initially be available for fundraisers, person-to-person payments, event tickets, in-game purchases, and some purchases from pages and businesses that operate on Facebook’s Marketplace. “Over time, we plan to bring Facebook Pay to more people and places, including for use across Instagram and WhatsApp,” explains Deborah Liu, Facebook’s vice president of marketplace and commerce.

Facebook Pay will be available in the settings section of the Facebook or Messenger apps, and it will support most debit and credit cards and PayPal. Facebook is using Stripe, PayPal, and others to process these payments.

Facebook isn’t revealing exactly when this payment system will be available across all of its apps, nor when it will launch internationally. Facebook Pay comes just weeks after a large number of payment companies dropped out of Facebook’s Libra project. PayPal, which is supporting Facebook Pay, was one of the first companies to distance itself from the Libra Association, the nonprofit organization that oversees the creation of the cryptocurrency and its rollout.

Every major US payment processor has now exited the association, and it’s left Facebook with the daunting task of convincing governments that Libra is an option, just when trust in Facebook is at an all-time low. That’s not stopping Facebook from launching a more traditional payment system today, though.

“Facebook Pay is part of our ongoing work to make commerce more convenient, accessible and secure for people on our apps,” says Liu. “We’ll continue to develop Facebook Pay and look for ways to make it even more valuable for people on our apps.”

Why it’s hot: With the massive lack of trust about its data privacy practices and approach to how its platform is used and can be manipulated, it’s a strange time to ask for people to trust you with their credit card information. Not to mention the plethora of ways to execute digital payments (Apple pay, Samsung pay, Venmo, Paypal, etc.) that exist.

Would you trust Facebook pay with your credit card info?

Will Facebook pay go the way of Snapcash?

Source: The Verge

Bigger Waves = Bigger Discounts on Flights for Surfers

Alaska Airlines teamed up with surf forecasting site Surfline to create a sales promotion that uses data from waves to determine prices for flights to Hawaii.

For the “Swell Deals” promotion,​ Surfline will source data from sites that monitor wave conditions by the minute around the Hawaiian Islands to determine the offer. A reading of 0-10 ft. will generate a 10% discount, 11-15 ft. swells translate to 15% off, 16-20 ft. leads to 20% off and 21+ ft. swells will bring a 30% discount.

Digital and social ads supporting the promotion will be dynamically updated and Alaska Airline’s landing page will feature the live Surfline forecast along with the corresponding discount.

Why It’s Hot

The use of real-time data creates a sense of urgency to book flights, while personally appealing to surfers’ motivation for traveling to Hawaii.

Source

WeChat and the future of CX

The story of the internet has mostly run west to east, San Francisco to Shanghai. WeChat has proven an exception. In China, it has become the dominant platform for everything from social media, bill pay, and messaging.

In the last 2 years, it has added digital storefronts to it’s roster. Businesses like HeyTea are primarily using it–instead of their own app or website– to reduce wait times through mobile ordering.

Image result for heytea whatsapp

Why it’s hot: 

With Facebook looking to integrate Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp with each other and with business payments, it’s worth asking whether a unified online experience with one app for all purchases, messages, and media is the customer experience that we will ultimately demand, or whether a series of apps and websites–each with their own usernames, passwords, and interfaces has benefits that will stand the test of time.