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Gmail extension helps you write more confident-sounding emails

(TECH NEWS) The plug-in identifies wishy-washy words and phrases thought to undermine a message so you can weed them out.

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A lack of confidence in emails is a serious problem, especially in business because it often sets the wrong tone or makes messages seem weak. Most times it’s because we don’t want to be brash and arrogant, so we sometimes soften things to make them seem more appealing.

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Just Not Sorry

When you compose a message, if you say “I think”, it implies you are not sure of your position. The word “just” is also a dead giveaway as a weak throwaway word that doesn’t need to be there. Similarly, saying “sorry” in an email makes you come across as timid. We try to squeeze in these qualifiers in hopes that the reader will accept what we are trying to say. Yet, this often results in a lack of confidence in writing.

Cyrus Innovation is looking to change weak writing. The company has built a simple Gmail plug-in called “Just Not Sorry.”

The plug-in identifies wishy-washy words and phrases thought to undermine a message so you can weed them out.

Phrases such as “I think,” “just,” “I’m no expert,” and, of course, “sorry” are a just a few that will trigger a warning from the service.

Once identified, the problem word is underlined in red as though it were misspelled so you can quickly see it. If you hover over the word, you can see a quote from famous folks like economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett explaining how the phrase is usually perceived and why you should think twice about using it in your message.

Stop sounding like a pushover

That’s not to say these phrases should always be avoided in your messages. Sometimes saying sorry is perfectly fine in an email. However, it’s saying sorry too much that can set a weak tone or make you seem like a pushover. The trick is to use strong words that make it easier to understand your intent.

Perhaps a future extension will spot all passive voice, poor word choices, or unclear phrases. In the meantime, you can try the extension to help you write stronger emails. “Just Not Sorry” can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store

#JustNotSorry

Nichole earned a Master's in Sociology from Texas State University and has publications in peer-reviewed journals. She has spent her career in tech and advertising. Her writing interests include the intersection of tech and society. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Communication and Media Studies at Murdoch University.

Real Estate Technology

Beef up your security against COVID with this new environmental sensor suite

(TECH NEWS) This new security sensor can help protect your company from COVID-19 and monitor the overall health of your building.

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Office setting, with spaced employees for security against COVID.

Verkada, the cloud-based physical security company, is modernizing the world of enterprise building security by enabling customers to proactively respond to COVID-19 in the office.

In June, Verkada introduced its COVID-19 Response Suite. Part of the this release included People Heatmaps. This new feature allows organizations to “identify areas that are prone to overcrowding, and find ways to disperse traffic”. In other words, it helps ensure employees are practicing social-distancing.

This week, Verkada announced the release of its new environmental sensor product line, and its product, SV11. This all-in-one environmental sensor monitors changes that are happening in your physical space. The product is made from photochemically engineered stainless steel mesh that filters out large particles. The integrated sensors measure air quality, temperature, humidity, motion, and noise. Then, all the data is reported back to users for regular monitoring and analysis.

“The SV11 sensor is a cloud-based sensor that seamlessly integrates with the Verkada ecosystem of products,” said Jeff Chase, a product marketing manager for Verkada, in a recent video. “The SV11 can be used across all indoor environments and can meet the needs for a wide range of use cases, including simple remote monitoring of facilities.”

In the security system’s web-based command platform, users can see all the sensors, and can quickly scan real-time data for each location. Live footage and current readings are easy to view. Custom thresholds can be set for each sensor so a user can receive alerts as they happen. This is helpful so you can know when a server room is getting too warm, or when the TVOC (total volatile organic compounds) level is too high.

“Our customers are responsible for the systems that keep facilities online, and our mission is to give those administrators the best possible tools to do their jobs,” said Filip Kaliszan, CEO and co-founder of Verkada. “Whether it be monitoring the status of a server room, the temperature of a patient room in a hospital, or the air quality of a school, the SV11 gives facilities and staff unprecedented visibility and control over the sites they’re responsible for keeping safe and secure.”

With more companies bringing their workforce back into the office, Verkada’s security system can give them visibility on what’s going on at work. And with the valuable information rendered by the sensors, they can gain insights into what they can do to keep their employees safe.

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Real Estate Technology

Is Internet access a basic human right? T-mobile thinks so

(TECH NEWS) Last year, T-Mobile announced a plan to bring free and at-cost internet access to 10 million homes in the US; 2020 has made this mission crucial.

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Student viewing internet on tablet.

Modern classrooms practically require students to have access to the internet in order to succeed. This was the case well before COVID forced a national switch to remote online learning.

It’s hard enough to rely on public computers and WiFi networks to complete school work under ordinary circumstances — and I speak from experience there. But campuses, libraries, and cafes are still closed or limiting access in most places. The school year is already a month in progress, yet the struggle to get online is still too real.

This was captured perfectly in a photo that received viral attention on Instagram when the fall semester started: Two teenagers seated on the ground outside of a Salinas Taco Bell, using the restaurant’s internet for their schoolwork.

Fortunately, in their case, the girls’ school district was able to help them obtain a Wi-Fi hotspot. And they’re continuing to distribute hotspots and laptops widely to its student body.

In light of this, T-Mobile is investing $10.7 billion dollars over the next 10 years into ensuring youth are no longer put into situations like that. The company is partnering up with school districts to provide students with a free wifi hotspot and 100 GB of data year (or roughly 8 GB of data per month).

An estimated 16.9 million US youth currently lack internet. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Matt Staneff cites his concern that a majority of school-age kids consider homework to be a major source of stress in their lives.

Of course, telecommunications companies are clearly aware of how much our educational systems depend on the internet. It is unquestionably the most comprehensive collection of human knowledge and culture ever. It can no longer be considered just a luxury or a novelty. It’s a critical tool for academic and career success.

While he acknowledged the potential business opportunity in providing schools with internet connectivity, Stanek claims T-Mobile’s intentions are good. He stated, “We recognize there’s a problem in society of kids not being connected. We want to do more than just try to win customers. This is a huge problem.”

Staneff concedes that suitable Internet access extends to hardware, too: “[sometimes students] need a bigger screen, which is why [T- Mobile is] also offering at-cost, larger-screen devices.”

But even if T-Mobile has the best intentions, the fact remains that they aren’t a charity. Service providers like T-Mobile would probably not be too happy about the lost “business opportunity,” should tablets and internet access be made freely available to every student. The schools are public, and they rely on the internet, yet the internet is privatized.

The responsibility to solve the civic issues brought on by the pandemic is increasingly falling onto the private sector. If T-Mobile is willing to offer the money and infrastructure to help kids get an education, that’s a step in the right direction.

Yet it prompts the question: Should we consider internet access to be a human right? Because as long as the web remains corporately controlled and commodified, the access gap will persist and our schools will pay the price.

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Real Estate Technology

The real reasons we’re all obsessed with spy machines (I mean smart speakers)

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Regardless of privacy issues with them, what does information about smart speakers, ownership, and usage tell us about future trends?

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smart speakers scare me

I don’t trust smart speakers, but even I can (begrudgingly) admit why they might be convenient. With just a simple wake word, I would be able to do anything from inquire about the weather or turn down my own music from across the room. And the thing is, plenty of people have bought into this sort of sales pitch. In fact, the worldwide revenue of smart speakers more than doubled between 2017 and 2018. And it’s projected that by 2022, the total revenue from smart speakers will reach almost $30 billion.

With over 25% of adults in the United States owning at least one smart speaker, it’s worth figuring out how we’re using this new tech…and how it could be used against us.

First things first: despite the horror stories we hear about voice-command shopping – like when a pet parrot figured out how to make purchases on Alexa – people aren’t really using their smart speakers to buy things. In fact, in the list of top ten uses for a smart speaker, making a purchase is at the bottom.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief, though, it’s worth knowing where advertisements might crop up in more subtle places.

Sure, people aren’t using their smart speakers to make many purchases, but they’re still using the speakers for other things – primarily asking questions and getting updates on things like weather and traffic. And I get it, why scroll through the internet looking for an answer that Alexa might be able to pull up for you instantly?

That said, it also provides marketers with a great opportunity to advertise to you in a way that feels conversational. Imagine asking about a wait time for a popular restaurant. If the wait is too long, it creates the perfect opportunity for Alexa to suggest UberEats as an alternative (promotion paid for by UberEats, of course).

Don’t get me wrong, this is already happening when you search Google on your phone or computer. Search for a tire company, for instance, and the competitors are sure to appear in your results. But as more and more consumers start turning their attention to smart speakers, it’s worth being aware that they won’t be the only ones.

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