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How to make technology work for you, not against you

Technology brings us closer together yet pushes us further apart, so how do you overcome this and other conundrums to make tech work for you not against you?

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The conundrum of technology

Technology is a conundrum; a confusing and difficult problem or question, indeed! It is the double-edged sword that simultaneously arms you with the powers of productivity and the perils of procrastination. It gives you the WORLD in the palm of our hand yet may prevent you from listening to the person standing right next to you. Technology is a gift that can sometimes feel like a curse. It is becoming more simple and easy to use, yet with increasing complexity and capability. Such is the irony that is technology.

Don’t get me wrong because I love technology! Perhaps even a little too much. It is difficult to fathom what my life would look like without the technologies I am accustomed to using on a daily basis. Yet the relationship I have with technology is…well, complicated. Perhaps it is for you as well.

There is hardware to buy, storage to manage, accounts to setup, passwords to store, accessories to buy, data to synchronize, apps to update, emails to read (or not), receipts to save, alerts to acknowledge, more accessories to buy, software to upgrade, documents to scan, to dosto do and of course calls to take, voice messages to listen to, texts to read and AGBeat articles to clip and share. There is no end to what you can do (and not get done) when you use and interact with the latest and greatest technologies available to you.

Real Estate & Technology

When it comes to real estate practitioners and technology, I’m of the opinion that it will ultimately be an ‘Adopt, Adapt or Die’ scenario within the next 10-15 years, if not much sooner. Regardless of age, background, upbringing and love (or lack thereof) for technology, those who call themselves real estate professionals must be willing to do what it takes to adopt relevant technologies and adapt to using them effectively or be prepared to see business significantly dwindle as a result.

Agents and brokers don’t necessarily need to become 100% paperless, but should decide in what areas a paperless approach may make sense. Then take the steps necessary to put a paperless process into place.

There will always be those that have no desire to adopt and adapt to technology innovations. They may seem to know everyone or simply have enough sheer social grit to keep their business going and growing, even without using all the latest technologies available to them. While power agents that are technology-averse may see little to no change in their business in the near term, they could be out of business within the next decade. When we limit the value we provide to our clients, we limit our results. Ultimately our results will be in direct proportion to the services we render; the value we create in the market.

We live in an age where we are becoming hard-wired to be wireless. Sure, you can opt-out of technology, but in so doing you would also opt-out of the challenges and opportunities technology brings us. We need to be able to have an open mind, be flexible and recognize thatchange is the only constant in our lives. We need to release negativity and let go of any mental blocks or self-limiting beliefs which tell us we can’t do something, learn something or use something…just because we don’t understand it.

I believe my future success in real estate will, in large part, be directly correlated with my willingness and ability to adopt and adapt to technology innovation. Keep in mind that even the sharpest techno-gurus out there have their moments of difficulty, frustration and even fear. They just work through those emotions and keep learning; keep getting better. You and I can do that, too! Here’s how…

Be An Early Adopter of Relevant Technologies

While you don’t want the influence of technology to overrun your life, you need to be able to embrace it to the extent that it can benefit you personally and professionally; to the extent that it can help you to do what you do more effectively and efficiently.

One way to do that, starting today, is to become an early adopter. An early adopter is simply anyone who learns about a new technology that seems like it could be of value, and jumps right in to test it out to see how well it works.

A word of caution though – beware of the never-ending rabbit-hole of NEW. Just because a device or application or gadget is NEW or popular it doesn’t mean it is for you. In fact, when discussing technology it is particularly useful to keep in mind that less is more. Having an overwhelming number of devices, accessories, applications and programs will likely tend to unnecessarily complicate your life rather than simplify it.

Leonardo da Vinci’s wise words from a past era are still applicable today: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

Keep It Simple… Without Getting Left Behind

Frequent interaction with technology (hardware, software, applications, cloud computing) throughout each day is not just the norm, it is often a necessity. An inability to understand and effectively utilize and embrace both old and new technologies can disqualify you from being able to work within certain industries and professions.

I have been implementing and testing the following methods and mindsets for keeping it simple when it comes to technology. Through some experimentation you too can determine the approach that will work best for you.
  • Eliminate unnecessary alerts and distractions: If technology ends up distracting you more than it focuses you, then it is not to your benefit. It owns you rather than you owningit. I choose to turn off all audible and vibration alerts on my computer and mobile devices with the exception of phone calls, text messages and certain work emails. I often close unused programs and windows when not in use to remain focused on the task at hand. I work best when my desk or work area is clear of clutter and visual distractions.
  • Remember that multi-tasking is a myth: This statement alone may possibly launch a wave of controversy so I will devote a future article solely to this subject. Yet it is true. Computers can multi-task; people cannot. You and I can switch tasks, but can’t do two things effectively at the same time. Obviously you can do certain things simultaneously, and we all do, but when it comes to using the mind, focusing and being productivity, don’t kid yourself into thinking that you are being productive when you bounce from one thing to the next in a flurry of busy-ness. Being busy and being productive are two entirely different things. They are not synonymous, unfortunately. Set your priority and focus on it until complete. Then set your sights on the next one. I think we all inherently know this is the surest path to productivity, yet it is difficult to consistently do it. We live in the age of distraction after all.
  • It Only Takes Half a Dozen of…Whatever: Jim Rohn certainly knew what he was talking about when he said that it only takes about half a dozen things to make the difference in our lives. If we look closely at what really matters, what really produces results, it would be about half a dozen things! And since the subject is technology, I’m here to tell you there are probably about half a dozen apps and/or software programs that are essential for your business success. The take away? Start deleting some apps, removing some programs and freeing up some space in your life.
  • Use It Or Lose It Baby: This statement is so true in all facets of life, isn’t it? If you consistently workout, you get stronger; you have more energy! Find ways to consistently use technology. By creating daily habits related to technology that serve you well you can find creative ways for making your life more simple, productive and fun. Enjoy the process of learning and growing with all the advances in technology. If you are overwhelmed by it all, just devote 10-15 minutes a day to practicing and working with whatever it is that happens to intimidate you. You could also take a local class or online course to gain a better understanding and increase your confidence with technology.
  • Implement Your Social Media Strategy: Social media platforms can be a huge time suck if left unchecked; though they can also be a great way to meet people and to provide value for others. You need to be strategic and mindful with the way you approach social media to ensure you are not just wasting time. There is a lot to it so keep it simple and if you need to, work with one program at a time until you are comfortable enough with it to add others into the mix. I still consider myself somewhat of a social media novice, but my current approach is based on using content that I’ve published in various blog formats to then be pushed out through the social media networks that I have accounts with. That gives me a chance to share something of value and to hopefully create some dialogue with others related to the topics that I have written about.

The ultimate take-away I would hope you remember from all of this is that you own your technology; it does not own you. You can setup and configure your devices and applications to either work for you or against you. You can let technology drive you crazy, or you can utilize it efficiently to help drive you towards your goals with greater speed and precision. The power lies in your hands.

Munro Murdock is a Realtor-Associate in the Kahala office of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers in Honolulu (catch "Hawaii Life" episodes on HGTV). His passion is for luxury real estate and exclusive Hawaii vacation rentals. He enjoys writing about technology, travel and real estate trends. Munro’s active lifestyle also includes SCUBA diving, stand-up paddle boarding, cycling, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Tech News

Having your license plate data stolen is worse than you think

(TECH NEWS) California’s license plate camera system not only records everyone, but has some glaring security issues that could expose sensitive data.

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Turns out, California’s been recording millions of license plate information. What’s the deal?

Another day, another privacy violation. That’s sure what it seems like in our increasingly connected world – from our speakers spying on us, to our phones recording our every move – but that shouldn’t stop us from interrogating what is happening and whether or not it should continue.

For instance, should the government be allowed to store images of license plates for no apparent reason? Because that’s exactly what’s happening in California.

Okay, it’s probably happening in plenty of other states too, but California’s recent audit revealed the extent of their privacy violations. In fact, 99.9% of all license plate images stored had no connection to cases from law enforcement. This is bad enough, but the audit also revealed that this information was shared with all sorts of agencies for no justifiable reason.

And it should come as no surprise, but California’s audit also revealed that none of these agencies are up to snuff when it comes to the state’s 2016 privacy policy. In fact, few of the agencies audited even had reliable protections on their cloud based storage system, which leaves them vulnerable to outside attacks. This would be bad enough if they’d only stored information collected for legal purposes, but the storage of plenty of innocent civilian’s records makes it much worse.

Don’t get me wrong, California isn’t the only state to have troubling policies when it comes to ALPRs (automatic license plate readers). In fact, it’s been revealed that many of these cameras are connected to the internet – and make it terribly obvious to boot. That means if you live in an area with a heavy concentration of ALPRs, any stranger might easily be able to learn about you: your preferred route to work, the times you’re typically out of the house, sometimes even where you live. In short? Not great.

There is some glimmer of hope, though. Last year, Virginia became one of the few states to more strictly regulate ALPRs. After being sued by the ACLU, a Virginia court ruled that a license plate can only be recorded and stored if said plate was part of an on-going investigation. They’re now one of 16 states to have some sort of regulation on LPRs.

In the meantime, if you’re in California – or one of the 34 other states without regulations – drive carefully. You never know who’s watching.

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Futuristic air commuting via drone-like air taxis is around the corner

(TECH NEWS) German aviation company, Volocopter, and southeast Asia rideshare company, Grab, partner to take business to the skies in Singapore.

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air taxis taking flight

Move over, Jetsons! You too, Leela and Fry! You’re not the only ones living in the future. If Volocopter and Grab have their way, you’ll soon be able to hail an air taxi as painlessly as you hail a rideshare, at least if you live or travel in Singapore.

Nothing thrills me like being airborne, so I am excited to read this. The dreams of my childhood are unfolding before me. Electric air taxis transporting us across the urban landscape? Yes, please, and hurry up. Are you with me?

Imagine what a powerful–and fun–flex it will be to summon your own private electric multicopter and hop from rooftop to rooftop (AKA VoloPort to VoloPort), arriving at your destination in high style. Eyebrows will go up, and jaws will drop as you saunter into your appointment with a nonchalant air of confidence. In my mind, clients and investors will rush to sign contracts with you, and potential mates will move you up to the top of their short lists.

This is the reaction I imagine at first, when Volocopter and Grab launch their test commercial flights in 2022. If we are to believe the hype, this experience won’t always be such an exclusive one. The long-term goal (at least ten years) is to offer affordable and accessible rides for the general population, not merely the posh and pompous among us.

Drone-type electric Volocopter air taxis are single-passenger multicopters. Other companies are also dabbling in these vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft as well, but the Volocopter 2X has beaten them to the punch with successful test flights in Germany, Dubai, and Las Vegas.

By many accounts, multicopters with several chopper blades are simpler to navigate and more stable than a traditional, single-blade helicopter. However, flying requires mucho power, which must be why Volocopter has set its sights on multiple, short flights vs. long-distance transportation. They currently are projecting a maximum distance of 17 miles and 30 minutes per ride.

Singapore-based Grab is already part of daily life in Southeast Asia, much as Lyft or Uber is in the U.S. and elsewhere. Singapore is one of the fast-growing financial hubs in Asia, one of the Four Asian Tigers. Wealth and commerce abound in this charming island nation/city. In general, Singaporeans are quick to embrace modern solutions that add value and convenience to their lives. As such, it’s a dream location to test the waters for using VTOLs as a means of transportation.

Therefore, it makes sense that German aviation startup, Volocopter, and popular southeast Asian rideshare company, Grab, would team up in Singapore to make this futuristic dream a reality. No word yet on the cost-per-ride of traveling via the uncrowded skies of Singapore, but one can assume it will start out fairly prohibitive. Testing these flights with commercial clients first ensures that the math checks out for now.

However, Volocopter foresees a time when their VTOLs can land in a park or parking lot as easily as at a sanctioned rooftop VoloPort. Bring on the glory days of your average commuter as they hop from home to work to the nightclub with the greatest of ease. I want to live in this reality.

By 2035, Volocopter and Grab predict building up the capacity to deliver up to 10,000 Grab air taxi rides per day in Singapore alone. The commute to work never looked faster, easier, or sexier. One day in our nearish future, we may shrug and see air taxis as a mundane part of daily life, a mere getting from point A to point B.

I expect it to stay exclusive and kind of a thrill a while longer. However, if you’re planning to travel in Singapore, and your company is an early adopter of the first commercial Volocopter air taxi flights, rest assured your glamorous sunnies and fanciest gear will not look out of place–yet.

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You’ve seen the job listings, but what exactly *is* UX writing?

(TECH NEWS) We seeing UX writer titles pop up and while UX writing is not technically new, there are new availabilities popping up.

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UX writing

The work of a UX writer is something you come across everyday. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touch points through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints UX writers work on are interface copy, emails and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find a UX writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must have. Excellent communication skills is a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post.

But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater UX design team. In larger companies some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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