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COVID-19 remote work is no reason to spy on employees

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) COVID-19 related remote work is bringing with it some remote surveillance…and it can be a lot. With the new blend of work and home, privacy is paramount.

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spying on employees

Think that remote work means you’re off the hook when it comes to being monitored on your productivity? Unfortunately, the technology that makes working from home possible also provides supervisors with the means to keep an eye on your efficiency.

In other words, surveillance doesn’t stop just because you aren’t in office anymore.

Take, for example, a software called Sneek, which promises “human contact for remote teams.” It’s a group conference call that is always on by default and can take photographs of users upwards of once every minute. Yikes. Now, Sneek representatives insist that the software wasn’t intended for “spying,” but that’s no guarantee for how some employers will utilize it.

Even if Sneek isn’t explicitly designed for monitoring employees, though, there are plenty of applications that have been created for that purpose. TeamViewer, for example, gives employers a real-time glimpse into what’s happening on employees’ monitors, and it’s just one of many applications designed to provide real-time updates on potential productivity – or lack thereof.

Of course, this sort of questionable violation of privacy is insane by any standards, but the whole thing is made more ridiculous by this entirely unprecedented pandemic situation. Not only are we all dealing with the stress of an overarching pandemic, but there’s been a lot of major adjustments to how life works now. With both schools and work pivoting to remote access, families are being cooped up together. On the flip side, others who relied on the office as a way to connect to the world are now completely isolated as quarantine continues for many parts of the United States.

The point is, now, more than ever before, is a time to cut employees some slack. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of complaints about the rise of coercive surveillance, but the more pressing matter at hand is that things are not normal. Our routines have been upended, collective stresses have increased, and there’s no definite end in sight. The last thing anyone needs is to worry about getting in trouble for something like not promptly replying to a random check-up email.

Employees are humans, not machines, and we’re all going through a hard time right now. A bit of kindness can go a long way.

Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

Real Estate Technology

Google Nest: A sneak peek of the new and improved version

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) The secretive Google Nest speaker has been leaked. It looks fantastic and sleek–but will it sound better?

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Google Nest

There’s no denying that Google Nest has done a lot to make the modern smart home accessible and easy to set up, but the common consensus remains that the system doesn’t quite meet the audio demands of many users. Thanks to leaked photos of a new Google speaker, it seems that those demands are to be addressed.

The photos originated from a regulatory establishment in Japan, and while there isn’t anything to see in the way of press from Google as of now, it’s clear that the device is the upcoming Nest speaker associated with Google’s smart home line.

Google Nest–an amalgam of the aptly named Nest and Google Home–is a series of smart devices poised to turn any house into a fully functioning smart home. While the Google Home setup includes a hub that includes built-in speakers to report various metrics and information depending on your preferences, the actual sound fidelity was, reportedly, somewhat lacking.

And, even though the Nest Mini improved upon Google Home’s audio flaws, it still left something to be desired–a space that, ideally, the Nest speaker will fill.

9 to 5 Google also points out that the sound disparity between different iterations of the Nest Mini shows vast improvement in terms of audio output and overall quality, so it seems appropriate to assume that the Nest speaker–with larger dimensions and more advanced architecture than the the most recent Nest Mini–will vastly outshine Google’s audio solutions thus far.

As for the speaker itself, Google seems to have grown away from both the conical Google Home device and the Google Home hub in favor of an oval, cloth-covered speaker that seems reminiscent of the Nest Mini’s overall presentation. There are a couple of design updates, too–the mute button is now a switch, and there’s a lot more rubber on this rendition of the speaker.

Users will be able to use a standard wall outlet to power the speaker, a design choice that may raise some questions since it detracts from the otherwise sleek presentation.

Google has yet to list the speaker on its website, but it’s worth noting that the Google Home, formerly listed alongside the Nest Mini, is no longer available. If you have a smart home endowed with Google products and you’re looking to upgrade, keep an eye out for the Nest speaker in the coming months.

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Real Estate Technology

Instagram now allows you to pin comments

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Instagram introduces pinned comments; with this feature comes possibility for positivity in an overwhelmingly negative space.

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instagram pins

Bad press is forthcoming and constant in any industry, and social media often bears the brunt of such negativity. Perhaps that’s why Instagram, following in YouTube’s footsteps, now offers the option to pin comments under posts.

Pinning a comment typically refers to placing said comment at the very top of the comment section (say “comment” one more time, I dare you). However, Instagram comment-pinning doesn’t just apply to the comment section itself: Any pinned comments will appear directly under the post when scrolling, negating the need to open the thread at all.

This is incredibly handy for anything from highlighting positive user reviews to calling out a voice that mimics or adds to the message you hoped to send with your initial post. In fact, the applications here are virtually endless; Lifehacker even suggests using the pin feature to update followers on winners of virtual give-aways or other competitions, for example.

To pin a comment, you’ll need to use the Instagram mobile app on Android or iPhone. Once at the comment you want to pin, you can swipe from right to left over the comment and then tap the thumbtack icon that appears. Keep in mind that you can’t pin a comment from your feed–you’ll have to open the comments section by tapping the top comment before you can adjust anything.

Removing a pinned comment is as simple as swiping left and then tapping the pin again.
You can’t use the Instagram website to pin comments, but that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given Instagram’s limited functionality on desktop. Both iOS and Android users should be able to access the pin feature immediately, but if you find your Instagram app doesn’t allow it, try updating and restarting. Instagram is set to roll the feature out universally, so you shouldn’t have to wait.

Being able to call attention to community voices is especially important in 2020, and Instagram’s implementation of this feature couldn’t be more timely. It’s clear that there are substantial marketing and outreach implications for pinned comments, but this is also a chance for users to highlight culturally significant standpoints or alternative positions where appropriate. As people begin engaging with this feature in earnest, we can only hope to see it used in such a capacity.

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Real Estate Technology

Send personalized, automated texts to your customers with Respond Flow

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Respond Flow is the new “Mailchimp of SMS”, allowing you to easily automate personalized text conversations with your customers.

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CRM Respond Flow

CRM solutions in 2020 are all over the place, but one factor among them has not changed: the engagement aspect. This is something that Respond Flow, an SMS-based CRM tool, hopes to address by helping you craft realistic, convenient messages to make your customers feel valued.

Respond Flow is, self-admittedly, the “MailChimp of SMS”. This means that they cover everything from your location-based phone number to your marketing resources and strategies, all of which are available from an easy-to-use dashboard.

It’s a lofty comparison to be sure, but while Respond Flow doesn’t incorporate the web-hosting aspect of customer management that one finds in MailChimp, it more than makes up for that discrepancy through customer engagement, thereby earning its place in the CRM line-up on principle.

Respond Flow also leans into the personalized communication style that many brands have embraced in the last few years. Perhaps one of the most obnoxious aspects of any automated communique is that feeling of being just another number on a list; this is something the company is clearly aware of.

Instead of making customers feel like cash resources, Respond Flow allows you to reach out to or engage with customers at all hours–a process for which you can control the parameters from your Respond Flow dashboard. The best part of this system is that Respond Flow allows you to create lists of customers that, based on your interactions with them, enables custom content depending on those customers’ preferences.

Respond Flow also boasts a bevy of other features that make your life substantially easier. These include everything from social media integration and mobile app support–you know, the things you expect in 2020–to the aforementioned list feature and some customization options to help customers feel like you’re actually talking to them one-on-one. Keyword integration and formulaic messages based on customer responses are, of course, part of the deal as well.

Similarly, you can set up different location-appropriate numbers for each of your brick-and-mortar locations that use Respond Flow, thus affording more credibility to your communications with local customers. It’s a subtle touch that is sure to save you countless hours, headaches, and cash along the way.

Currently, Respond Flow offers a two-week free trial. If you’re interested in checking out a new CRM solution, consider giving this one a shot.

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