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Opinion Editorials

All the Google machines in the house say Yeah!

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Tech is fun and useful, but we’re advancing too quickly on one hand (devices are so smart, do so much) but too slowly on the other (as evidenced by this conflicting devices problem).

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Setting the scene

It’s 4:47 AM. It actually is 4:47 AM as I write this, but it’s OK. Don’t, I don’t know, dispatch journalist-wranglers with tranq darts or anything.

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I work night shift. But I’m saying, imagine.

Ok Google

4:47 AM. You’re up. You’ve got a flight to catch, or work to do, or a baby to feed. All of the above! You need to accomplish all those tasks at this godforsaken hour and, like any civilized human, you would like to do it with as little impact on you and yours as possible.

Like any civilized human, your first thought is to use your tech, because that’s what it’s for.

Right? That’s why we have all the shiny plastic things. Easing our lives is what they’re for. You roll over, rub your eyes, rise from your comfy bed, mutter “OK Google…”

And the entire house wakes up.

A symphony of Googles

For the single grownups and only children in the audience, take it from someone who did a short but memorable portion of his growing up in a small house with seven people in it, three of them small girls and one a crabby male tween (hi!): that’s a freaking extinction-level event.

“Wake up the whole house” is a killing curse, especially with children. There is only so much sleep to be had in a house with children.

Interrupting it should be punishable by law.

If it were, Google would be doing hard time up Folsom way. Try it like this. A Google household of two adults (or an Apple or Amazon one; Google just happens to have the highest “good market saturation/dumb UI” ratio) might have two wearables, two phones and a shared hub.

That’s five devices, and they all answering to the same trigger phrase, all designed to be audible and run Audible. Five devices plus one “on” switch equals a nonzero chance of blanketing your home with overlapping noise every time you’d like the equivalent of a glance at your calendar.

Oops

It may seem like a nit. It will probably get fixed, since it’s such a glaring flaw. The obvious answer would be naming devices, so your wearable responds to different commands than your hub: “OK, HAL, what’s it like outside? OK, SHODAN, set an alarm for 2:30 pm.” I name all my tech after evil computers, just so they know I’m onto ‘em.

But it is a glaring flaw.

We’re talking about user interaction fail on the level of setting every light in a house to a single switch. The question isn’t “When is Google going to fix this?” The question, and it’s a big, serious question, is “will Google fix this properly?”

Context people!

It comes back to AI and context, and how one doesn’t understand the other. It’s tempting to write that off as just another kind of technical glitch. But it’s a new glitch, one built into our evolving relationship with technology.

The great dream of AI and voice control has always been “zero UI.”

Technology built on that premise is meant to integrate seamlessly into our lives; we should interact with it without noticing the interaction, the way we turn on a faucet without noticing the pipes or the water heater.

AI is a giant leap in that direction, the first big move toward digital tech becoming an ambient part of day to day life, basic as plumbing.

The great nightmare is: ever had your plumbing fail?

When off isn’t an option

I have. I was out of my apartment for days, crashing anywhere I could find while spending money I didn’t have on repairs I couldn’t afford, on terms I finished paying off years after the event. I’m not a plumber. I couldn’t fix it myself. I didn’t even know there was a problem until it disgorged itself on my carpet.

That’s the danger of ambient technology.

When our digital conveniences were limited to phones and workstations, tools we used, then hung up or turned off, their positive impact on our lives was limited, but so was their ability to do damage. The worst thing that can happen to your hard drive can’t deactivate your car.

That’s not true of AI

Lock yourself out of security, for example, and it may not just be a matter of not being able to get to your data for 15 minutes. It might also lock your phone. And your watch. And the only copy you have of your plane ticket. And, ten years down the road, your spiffy self driving AI-enabled Tesla.

By contrast, waking the kids an extra hour before breakfast might seem minor, though I’ll wager they won’t see it that way. But it’s the same problem on a smaller scale. AI tech, and AI buy-in from consumers, is advancing at a remarkable pace. At the moment, AI usability is not. That needs to be fixed, and fixed from go. AI applications need to be designed, or at a minimum updated, on the assumption that people will actually use AI as a basic, permanent fixture of their lives.

Reliability please

In short, if Google, Apple and Amazon want people to buy into AI on the scale of a home utility, it needs to be home utility convenient and home utility reliable.

Anything less will leave the robot voices on the 3D TV scrap heap of “used to be a good idea.”

#AllTheGooglesSayYea

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Matt Salter is a writer and former fundraising and communications officer for nonprofit organizations, including Volunteers of America and PICO National Network. He’s excited to put his knowledge of fundraising, marketing, and all things digital to work for your reading enjoyment. When not writing about himself in the third person, Matt enjoys horror movies and tabletop gaming, and can usually be found somewhere in the DFW Metroplex with WiFi and a good all-day breakfast.

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Opinion Editorials

The measure of success is more than just salary

(EDITORIAL) Chicago-based hair stylist, Lindsey Olson, explains why passion and dedication is proven to be the most fruitful attributes for success.

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Six figure stigmas

For years, I’ve been interested in the societal stigma that you have to be a doctor or a lawyer in order to make a solid salary. But as time goes on, what I’ve learned is that it isn’t what you do that necessarily makes you money but what you put into it.

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We live in a different world today than we did even 20 years ago and we have more of an ability to think outside of the box when it comes to the search for success. Lindsey Olson, a Chicago-based hair stylist, is a living example of this.

Finding a passion and running with it

After developing an interest for hair early on in life, Olson began her career as a shampoo technician in a salon while still in high school. Immediately after graduation, she went into cosmetology school and continued bettering her craft.

Now, she has found success as a salon professional, as well as a Redken Exchange Artist and educator.

From there, it has become a matter of building onto the foundation of her success by trying new avenues and taking on new challenges.

Risk and reward

“I’ve always had the mindset that anything is possible,” says Olson. “It’s almost like taking risk. Once you start doing a little bit and see what happens, then you do a little bit more…the bigger the risk the bigger the reward. It really comes down to that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.”

After her years working in a salon, Olson joined the Redken team in 2007.

With this, she has traveled internationally and has taught the ins and outs of hair coloring, cutting, and styling.

Being that the industry of style as a whole can be quite competitive, Olson has had to learn how to brand herself in a way that sets her apart from the competition. With this, she is very active on social media by sharing the work she has done with clients and models.

Branding against the competition

In addition, she also creates hair tutorials that she shares with her followers as a way to gain traction. “[What’s important is] making it known who I am as a person, as an educator, as a hair stylist, [sharing] my style and showing that to people,” Olson explains.

Despite the fact that her dentist tried to take the wind out of her sails in high school by asking what else she had lined up for herself besides cosmetology school, Olson has continued to take on bigger and better challenges. By doing shown, she has proven that a passion can be successful.

In Lindsey’s words

“Moral of the story, I think, is, don’t ever think that you can’t do something. The moments where you get to the place where you doubt yourself are almost some of the best,” states Olson. “If your life isn’t a little chaotic and challenging, you’re not living.”

#Redken

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Opinion Editorials

Why entrepreneurs need minimalism too

(EDITORIAL) You don’t have to ditch your couch and all but one cushion to be a minimalist. Try applying minimalist thinking to your job if you’re having trouble focusing.

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As a concept, minimalism is often accepted as the “getting rid of most of your stuff and sleeping on the floor” fad.

In reality, minimalism is much closer to living an organized life with a pleasant sprinkling of simplicity as garnish—and it may be the answer to your entrepreneurial woes.

I in no way profess to be an expert on this topic, nor do I claim to have “all of the answers” (despite what 16-year-old Jack may have thought).

I’m a firm believer that you should take 99 percent of peoples’ suggestions with a grain of salt, and that mentality holds true here as well.

However, if you’re struggling to focus on your goals and you consistently fall short of your own expectations, following some of these guidelines may give you the clarity of mind that you need to continue.

First, reduce visual clutter.

If you’re anything like the stereotypical entrepreneur, you keep a thousand tabs open on your computer and your PC’s desktop is an unholy amalgam of productivity apps, photoshop templates, and—for some reason—three different versions of iTunes.

Your literal desktop doesn’t fare much better: it’s cluttered with notes, coffee rings, Styrofoam coffee cups, coffee mugs (you drink a lot of coffee, okay?), writing utensils, electronic devices, and…

Stop. You’re giving yourself virtual and visual ADHD.

Cut down on the amount of crap you have to look at and organize your stuff according to its importance. The less time you have to spend looking for the right tab or for your favorite notepad, the more time you’ll spend actually using it.

And, y’know, maybe invest in a thermos.

Instead of splitting your focus, try accomplishing one task before tackling another one.

You may find that focusing on one job until it’s finished and then moving on to the next item on your list improves both your productivity throughout the day and the quality with which each task is accomplished.

Who says you can’t have quality and quantity?

In addition to focusing on one thing at a time, you should be investing your energy in the things that actually matter. Don’t let the inevitabilities of adult life (e.g., taxes, paperwork, an acute awareness of your own mortality, etc.) draw your attention away from the “life” part of that equation.

Instead of worrying about how you’re going to accomplish X, Y, and/or Z at work tomorrow while you’re cooking dinner, try prioritizing the task at hand.

If you allow the important things in your life to hold more value than the ultimately less important stuff, you’ll start to treat it as such.Click To Tweet

Rather than stressing about the Mt. Everest that is your paperwork pile for the following Monday, get your car’s oil changed so that you have one less thing to think about.

Minimalism doesn’t have to be about ditching your 83 lamps and the football-themed TV stand in your living room – it’s about figuring out the few truly important aspects of your daily existence and focusing on them with everything you’ve got.

As an entrepreneur, you have the privilege of getting to do just that.

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Opinion Editorials

Two myths about business that could land you in a lawsuit

(EDITORIAL) Two misconceptions in the business world can either make or break a small business.

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Business casual

When you’re an entrepreneur with a small staff, you may be in the habit of running your team casually.

While there’s nothing wrong with creating a casual environment for your team (most people function better in a relaxed environment), it’s wise to pay close attention to certain legal details to make sure you’re covered.

Labor laws still apply

It’s easy to misinterpret certain aspects of labor law since there is a lot of misinformation about what you can and cannot do inside of an employee-employer relationship. And since labor laws vary from state to state, it can be even more confusing.

As an entrepreneur, it might be strange to think of yourself as an employer. But when you’re the boss, there’s no way around it.

Here are two employment myths you might face as an entrepreneur along with the information you need to discern what’s actually true. Because these myths carry a lot of risk to your business, it’s important that you contact an attorney for advice.

1. Employees can waive their meal breaks without compensation

It’s a common assumption that any agreement in writing is an enforceable, legally binding contract, no matter what it contains. And for the most part, that’s true.

However, there are certain rights that cannot be signed away so easily.

For example, many states in the US have strict regulations around when and how employees can forfeit their unpaid meal breaks.

While meal breaks aren’t required at the Federal level, they are mandated at the state level and each state has different requirements that must be followed by employers. While some states allow employees to waive their meal breaks, on the other end of that the employer is usually required to compensate the employee.

For example, in California an employee can waive their 30-minute unpaid meal break only if they do so in writing and their scheduled shift is no more than 6 hours. In other words, when a shift is more than 6 hours, the meal break cannot be waived.

Additionally, when an employee waives their unpaid meal break, they must be paid for an on duty meal break and be compensated with an extra hour of pay for the day.

Vermont, on the other hand, provides no specific provisions for meal breaks and according to the Department of Labor, “Employees are to be given ’reasonable opportunities’ during work periods to eat and use toilet facilities in order to protect the health and hygiene of the employee.”

As you can see, some states have specific regulations while others have general rules that can be interpreted differently by each employer. It’s best not to make any assumptions and contact a labor law attorney to help you determine exactly what laws apply to you.

2. You own the copyright to all employee works

So you’ve hired both an employee and an independent contractor to design some graphics for your website. You might assume you automatically own the copyright to those graphics. After all, if you paid money, shouldn’t you own it?

While you may have paid a small fortune for your graphics, you may not be the legal copyright holder.

Employees vs. independent contractors

When your employee creates a work (like graphic design) as part of their job, it’s automatically considered a “work made for hire,” which means you own the copyright. An independent contractor, however, is different.

While any legitimate work made for hire will give you the copyright, just because you created a work for hire agreement with your independent contractor doesn’t mean the work actually falls under the category of a work made for hire.

According to the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 101) a work made for hire is defined as “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas.”

This means that unless your graphic design work (or other work you paid for) meets these requirements, it’s not a work made for hire.

In order to obtain the copyright, you need to obtain a copyright transfer directly from the creator, even though you’ve already paid for the work.

Always play it safe

The boundaries of intellectual property rights can be confusing. You can protect your business by playing it safe and not making any assumptions before consulting an attorney to help you discern the specific laws in your state.

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