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How Google’s new Allo app is different (but kinda the same)

(BUSINESS NEWS) Google announced a new messaging app called Allo in the latest case of big companies claiming their products are all you need.

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Yep, it’s another one

If you’re like me, you’re already communicating on too many apps: iMessage, SMS, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Hangouts. And that’s not counting all the different Slack channels for work and online dating apps. Someone sent me a direct message on Instagram yesterday and I refused to answer in kind. I’ve had enough.

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But it isn’t that I’m against finding a one-stop-shop of messaging apps. That sounds great. It’s that I have friends who use each of those as their primary mode of communication. To keep up with all of them I have to continually switch back and forth. But Google swears this is the one app to rule them all, with shiny new features and shiny old features too.

What makes it different

A new feature called Google Assistant claims to eliminate the need to leave the conversation.

Sort of an embedded Siri, you can use the AI to look up the address of a restaurant or find out the name of that one guy in that one movie without leaving the chat interface.

You type @Google a lá Slack to invoke the power of the AI helper.

Incognito mode offers a super secret way to chat that includes encryption on both sides, messages that expire, and notifications that don’t spill your personal business all over your lock screen.

What makes it the same

You can use Allo to message people who are not on Allo through SMS. Hopefully this will work better than me trying to iMessage pictures to my android-using friends which has only ever ended in confusion and heartbreak. It’s 2016! I just want to show my BFF I cooked a thing!

Google is offering “a rich canvas” of features like emojis that get big or small, a drawing feature, and custom sticker packs.

If this sounds a lot like the new iMessage system, and also Facebook Messenger, it’s because it is.

What people are saying

Reviews have already been mixed. One reviewer pointed out that Google is at odds with its values of privacy and AI with this app. You have to tell it to not store your messages, and if you do, it won’t learn if you like to respond with a “haha” or a “LOL”.

And, while you can doodle on pictures and send audio and video recordings, you still have to switch apps to send things like documents or music. Fail.

You can only use Allo on one device at a time so if you lose your phone, you’re out of luck.

You’d think Allo would play nice with other Google communication apps like Hangouts and Duo, but so far it doesn’t.

The app is smooth and pretty, but Google will need to make it socially ubiquitous for it to really work, and they might not be able to do so without fixing these big things soon.

Until then, Allo will sit in the folder I have on my phone for messaging – yes, a whole folder of apps for messaging – while I fantasize about sending all my friends owls to invite them to dinner.

#Allo

Felix is a writer, online-dating consultant, professor, and BBQ enthusiast. She lives in Austin with two warrior-princess-ninja-superheros and some other wild animals. You can read more of her musings, emo poetry, and weird fiction on her website.

Business News

Walmart delays the launch of its Amazon Prime competing service

(BUSINESS NEWS) Walmart+ is being delayed once again, but the service has yet to be cancelled. Will it be another flop?

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Walmart+, the supposed Amazon Prime alternative of the century, has been delayed from launching until further notice. This marks the second delay of the year.

Vox reports that the Amazon Prime competitor was initially supposed to launch in the first quarter of 2020, but Walmart pushed the release back to July due to Coronavirus concerns. Now, Walmart+ doesn’t have a definitive launch date–indecision that’s easy to chalk up to both the ongoing pandemic and trepidation regarding profitability in an Amazon-dominated world.

Amazon Prime, a service which runs customers $119 per year, has well over 100 million members in the United States; that works out to at least one member in a little over 80 percent of households here. Between its ubiquitous nature and the fact that Amazon Prime members are more inclined to use Amazon frequently than non-Prime members, it isn’t hard to see why a premium Walmart subscription seems a little redundant.

But Walmart doesn’t see it that way. “Walmart executives have hoped the program would strike a balance of being valuable enough that customers will pay for it, while boasting different enough perks from Amazon Prime so that there aren’t perk-by-perk comparisons,” Vox posits. At $98 per year, Walmart+ would include things like same-day delivery, gas discounts, line-skipping, a dedicated credit card, and potentially even a video streaming service.

While there are some clear parallels between Amazon Prime and Walmart+, one can attribute those to convenience rather than imitation. People seem to enjoy having extra streaming options as a perk of Prime, so for Walmart+ to include something similar wouldn’t exactly be inappropriate.

The largest obstacle to Walmart+’s success in a post-Coronavirus world probably won’t have much to do with brand loyalty, but the fact remains that Amazon’s value is so far above and beyond Walmart’s that people who regularly use Amazon Prime aren’t likely to make the switch–and, as mentioned previously, the sheer number of people who have a Prime membership is high enough to be concerning to Walmart executives.

However, for customers who frequently shop at Walmart or live in relatively rural areas, Walmart+ doesn’t seem like a bad gig. It isn’t Amazon Prime, to be sure–but that’s the point.

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Business News

What COVID-19 measures do workplaces have to take to reopen?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Employers can’t usually do medical screenings – but it’s a little different during a pandemic.

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COVID-19 temp gun

Employers bringing personnel back to work are faced with the challenge of protecting their workforce from COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidelines on how to do so safely and legally.

Employee health and examinations are usually a matter of personal privacy by design through the American’s with Disabilities Act. However, after the World Health Organization declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic in March, the U.S. EEOC revised its guidance to allow employers to screen for possible infections in order to protect employees.

Employers are now allowed to conduct temperature screenings and check for symptoms of the coronavirus. They can also exclude from the workplace those they suspect of having symptoms. The recommendations from the CDC also include mandatory masks, distant desks, and closing common areas. As the pandemic and US response evolves, it is important for employers to continue to monitor any changes in guidance from these agencies.

Employers are encouraged to have consistent thresholds for symptoms and temperature requirements and communicate those with transparency. Though guidance suggests that COVID-19 screenings at work are allowed by law, employers should be mindful of the way they are conducted and the impact it may have on employer-employee relations.

Stanford Health Care is taking a bold approach by performing COVID-19 testing on each of its 14,000 employees that have any patient contact. They implemented temperature scanning stations at each entrance, operated by nurses and clinicians. The President and CEO of Sanford Health Care said, “For our patients to trust the clinical procedures and trials, it was important for them to know that we were safe.”

Technology is adapting to meet the needs of employers and identify symptoms of COVID-19. Contactless thermometers that can check the temperature of up to 1,500 people per hour using thermal imaging technology are now on the market; they show an error margin of less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit. COVID-19 screening is being integrated into some company time-clocks used by employees at the start and end of each shift. The clocks are being equipped with a way to record employee temperatures and answers to a health questionnaire. Apple and Google even collaborated to bring contact tracing to smart phones which could help contain potential outbreaks.

Fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing are the three most common symptoms of COVID-19. Transmission is still possible from a person who is asymptomatic, but taking the precautions to identify these symptoms can help minimize workplace spread. This guidance may change in the future as the pandemic evolves, but for now, temperature checks are a part of back to work for many.

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Business News

Technology that may help you put the “human” back in Human Resources

(BUSINESS NEWS) Complicated application processes and disorganized on-boarding practices often dissuade the best candidates and cause new hires to leave. Sora promises to help with this.

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Even in a booming economy, finding the right applicant for a role can be a drawn-out, frustrating experience for both the candidate and the hiring manager. Candidates submitting their resume to an automated HR system, designed to “seamlessly” integrate candidates into their HRIS accounts, face the interminable waiting game for feedback on whether they’re going to be contacted at all.

Ironically, this lack of feedback on where a candidate stands (or even if the resume was received at all) and a propensity for organizations to list roles as “Open Until Filled”, overwhelms the hiring manager under a mountain of resumes, most of which will not be reviewed unless there is a keyword match for the role. And if they do somehow manage to see the resume, studies indicate that in less than 10 seconds, they’ll have moved on to the next one.

The problems don’t end there, however. Once the candidate and hiring manager have found one another, and the HR team has completed the hire, the dreaded phase of onboarding begins. During the first few days of a new job, a lack of effective onboarding procedures—ranging from simple tasks like arranging for technology or introductions to a workplace mentor—can be the cause of a significant amount of employee turnover. Forbes notes that 17% of all newly hired employees leave their job during the first 90 days, and 20% of all staff turnover happens within the first 45 days.

The reason, according to Laura Del Beccaro, Founder of startup Sora, is that overworked HR teams simply don’t have the bandwidth to follow up with all of those who are supposed to interact with the new employee to ensure a seamless transition experience. Focusing on building a template-based system that can be integrated within the frameworks of multiple HRIS systems, Sora’s focus is to set up adaptable workflow processes that don’t require the end-user to code, and can be adjusted to meet the needs of one or many employee roles.

In a workplace that is becoming increasingly virtual, out of practicality or necessity, having the ability to put the “human” back in Human Resources is a focus that can’t be ignored. From the perspective of establishing and expanding your team, it’s important to ensure that potential employees have an application experience that respects their time and talent and feedback is provided along the way, even when they might not be a fit for the role.

Take for example the organization who asked for an upload of a resume, then required the candidate to re-type everything into their HRIS, asked for three survey responses, an open-ended writing task, a virtual face-to-face interview, *and* three letters of reference—all for an entry-level role. If you were actually selected for an in-person interview, the candidate was then presented with another task that could take up to two hours of prep time to do—again, all for an entry level role.

Is that wrong? Is it right? The importance of selecting the right staff for your team can’t be overstated. But there should be a line between taking necessary precautions to ensure the best fit for your role and understanding that many of the best candidates you might find simply don’t want to participate in such a grueling process and just decide to move on. There’s a caveat that says that companies will never treat an employee better than in the interview process and in the first few weeks on the job—and that’s where Sora’s work comes in, to make certain that an employee is fully supported from day one.

Bringing on the best to leave them without necessary support and equipment, wondering at the dysfunction that they find, and shuffled from department to department once they get there creates the reality and the perception that they just don’t matter—which causes that churn and disconnect. Having your employees know that they matter and that they’ll be respected from day one is a basic right—or it should be.

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