Friday, March 31, 2017

Too many messaging services, not enough time.

I remember AOL Instant Messenger really fondly.   All of my friends used it, and there were a lot of conversations every day among people I knew.   AOL IM let you know who was on, and who wasn't, and there were a lot of great conversations going on.   Sure, this was 15 years ago, but the memories are really good... and singular.   AOL IM was it.  It was the thing.

Today, how many channels are there?   I have an entirely category of communications tools on my phone.   Hangouts, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Signal, Duo, Also, plus on the work side Skype for Business and Yammer, much less using Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for communications.

A lot of these I have to be logged into, too.  WhatsApp is particularly annoying, in that I feel like I haver to remember to check it, and since it's mostly used with colleagues and friends in Europe, it's not central to my workflow.

With all the communications tools, I actually feel less in touch with people on an individual level.   That could be due to being older and busier too, but focusing on the tech side for a moment, does having more channels make this harder?

Am I alone in this?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why I'm totally obsessed with Amazon Alexa

I'm totally obsessed with Amazon Alexa.

I admit it.   My wife Sharon has been along for this ride, and she really should be sympathized with, because she's been quite patient.  I think she's coming around on it over time, as she now asks Alexa for the weather, sets her wake up alarms by Alexa, and seems to find most of the corny jokes to her liking.

I have two reasons for this obsession.

First has to date back to my childhood.  As a Star Trek fan, the idea of speaking to your computer and getting an answer back is the ultimate geek fantasy.    It even made it to the joke stage.


Who doesn't want to just talk to their computer and get answers back?   And it's already been shown to be cool.

But secondly and more importantly, Alexa is the interface to devices that need control, and makes system control approachable.    As a die-hard gadget guy, I've embraced the "Internet of Things" to have tons of devices in our home to make the true smart home.   Sonos, everywhere.   Lighting control, everywhere.  Temperature control.  Water sensors.   Security system.  Everything is connected, and everything can be linked.

But the building of systems is the key -- having systems come together to create experiences.    An example.

In the evening, the house now "knows" to change the LED lights in the light switches upstairs to red. Red is the best color to create a nightlight style glow but not disturb sleep.   At 11:30, the bedroom starts playing some soft music, as that's our normal "getting ready for bed" time, and it automatically cuts off at 12:15.   At 12:15, another system kicks in to create white noise, which is proving to help Sharon sleep through my snoring.    A simple voice command or single button on the nightstand will activate "goodnight", which turns off any lights we forgot, locks the front door, and arms the security system.  

It's the system that matters -- each individual gadget is "nice", but when linked together, they create a total experience.  

I love Alexa because it's the easiest interface possible -- say it, and it happens.  That's the user experience we're looking for.    Thinking in that way is a different mindset, but one that makes all the difference.   By being able to set into motion anything with a simple command, it takes the experience to a whole new level.