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Startup fights smartphone addiction by locking devices down #LiveInTheMoment

(TECH NEWS) We’re all addicted to our smartphone, but sensitive areas like courtrooms, and entertainment venues like concerts, are putting phones on lockdown.

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The advice to “dance like nobody’s watching,” which you’ve undoubtedly seen everywhere from your Facebook newsfeed to hand-painted signs at craft fairs, has becomes such a popular catchphrase that most people don’t even remember where it came from (probably from Kathy Mattea’s 1989 country single, “Come From the Heart,” just for the record).

But these days, following that advice, at least in a public space, is harder than ever. In 2018, it would be more accurate to encourage people to dance like nobody’s watching, filming, posting, and commenting. (Good luck with that.)

At a music festival in 2012, Graham Dugoni was pleased to see a fellow festival-goer wildly dancing, lost in the music and the moment. He was less-than-pleased to see several bystanders filming the dancer, then instantly posting the video to YouTube.

It made Dugoni think hard about the impact of cell phones in public space.

Just about everyone feels crummy when their date seems more interested in swiping their screen than in engaging, or when conversation falls dead at the dinner table because everyone’s eyes are glued to their phones.

Yet who among us is willing to leave our phone at home for even one evening?

And there are other situations where the omnipresence of phones is particularly problematic. At concerts and entertainment events, audiences view the show through their phone screens. At school, students get distracted from learning by their phones, and in some cases even use their phones to cheat on exams. Taking a picture or video of a special occasion, like a wedding, will help you relive the memory later – that is, if you actually had time to make any memories between snapping and posting selfies.

Says Dugoni, “I don’t think people realize how radically different it is to be a human being with a phone in your pocket. If it becomes something that’s going to hollow out the meaning in your life, that’s something we’re going to have to address.”

And address it, he has. In 2014, Dugoni founded Yondr, a company that makes lockable pouches so that people can carry their phone into events, but can’t use them. Upon arriving, users lock their phones in the gray pouches, and can only open them again by swiping them over an “unlocking base” as they head towards the exit.

yondr

The pouches have been rented by entertainers, event planners, and by 600 U.S. schools. They have been especially helpful in places where discretion is important, such as courtrooms and hospitals. Schools using Yondr have seen grades and test scores rise, and disciplinary problems reduce. Court administrators have been pleased to find a way to deprive jurors of their phones without taking responsibility for them.

Yondr has also been used by comedians like Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock at their live shows. Says Chappelle, “People actually watch the show, they’re in the moment and they’re vastly more fun to speak to.”

Cell phones have added a lot of convenience and efficiency to our lives – but at what cost? Younger generations have never even experienced a day in their lives without phones. We’re losing our capacity to, collectively, be present, intimate, and engaged with one another. If for no other reason, Yondr is a worthwhile experiment because, as Chris Rock explains, “You want a break from your phone. It feels good.”

At a concert where the audience has their phones “Yondred,” perhaps we could all dance together as though no one were watching.

Ellen Vessels, Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Tech News

Facebook starts handing out merit badges like we’re Girl Scouts

(TECH NEWS) Facebook offers merit badges to users, and it’s pretty neat, but we’re also rolling our eyes.

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According to some Facebook Group administrators, Facebook has today rolled out merit badges. So far in the wild, we’ve spotted “Conversation Starter” which praises the admin (or user) for starting engaging posts that got the conversation going.

We have asked numerous users if they’ve seen these badges, and so far it appears that only one badge has been rolled out, potentially with more on the way. Upon logging into the group where you have earned a badge, you’ll see a notification at the top of the feed informing you of your new badge (get out your vest, it’s time to start collecting them all)!

The merit badge that you’ve earned shows up in your profile when other group members (where you’ve earned the merit badge) click on your face:

Currently, when an Admin posts in the group, it still only has their Admin badge next to their name, not the “Conversation Starter” or other badges lined up next to it, but if a regular group member has posted something engaging, the badge appears next to their name (it may be a one-badge-limit so far, maybe hold off on buying a Girl Scout vest for your badge collection):

Lastly, users apparently do have control over the display of whichever neato merit badges we eventually earn or collect:

There is no word on what the ultimate plan is or what merit badges will be awarded, and it appears to be limited to Facebook Groups at the present.

We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and will update the story as we learn more. For now, if you want a badge, you can at least get a “Conversation Starter” badge in Facebook Groups, so go get ’em – we’ll soon know which other badges we can earn slash collect slash compete for slash game.

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Tech News

Slack video messaging tool for the ultra lazy (or productive) person

(TECHNOLOGY) Courtesy of a company called Standuply, Slack’s notable lack of video-messaging options is finally addressed.

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Slack — the popular chat and workflow app — is still going strong despite its numerous technical shortcomings, one of which is its notable lack of native video or audio chat. If you’re an avid Slack user, you might be interested in Standuply’s solution to this missing feature: video and audio messaging.

While it isn’t quite the Skype-esque experience for which one might hope when booting up Slack, Standuply’s video messages add-on gives you the ability to record and send a video or audio recording to any Slack channel. This makes things like multitasking a breeze; unless you’re a god among mortals, your talking speed is significantly faster than your typing, making video- or audio-messaging a viable productivity move.

The way you’ll record and send the video or audio message is a bit convoluted: using a web browser and a private Slack link, you can record up to five minutes of content, after which point the content is uploaded to YouTube as a private item. You can then use the item’s link to send the video or audio clip to your Skype channel.

While this is a fairly roundabout way of introducing video chat into Slack, the end result is still a visual conversation which is conducive to long-term use.

Sending video and audio messages may feel like an exercise in futility (why use a third-party tool when one could just type?) but the amount of time and energy you can save while simultaneously responding to feedback or beginning your next task adds up.

Similarly, having a video that your team can circle back to instead of requiring them to scroll through until they find your text post on a given topic is better for long-term productivity.

And, if all else falls short, it’s nice to see your remote team’s faces and hear their voices every once in a while—if for no other reason than to reassure yourself that they aren’t figments of your overly caffeinated imagination.

At the time of this writing, the video chat portion of the Slack bot is free; however, subsequent pricing tiers include advanced aspects such as integration with existing services, analytics, and unlimited respondents.

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Tech News

This phishing simulator tests your company’s (lack of) readiness

(TECHNOLOGY) Phishero is a tool which tests your organization’s resistance to phishing attacks. Pro tip: Most companies aren’t ready.

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In the wake of any round of cyberattacks, many organizations question whether they’re prepared to defend themselves against things like hacking or other forms of information theft. In reality, the bulk of workplace data thievery comes from a classic trick: phishing.

Phishing is a catch-all phrase for a specific type of information theft which involves emailing. Typically, a phishing email will include a request for sensitive data, such as a password, a copy of a W-4, or an account’s details (e.g., security questions); the email itself will often appear to come from someone within the organization.

Similar approaches include emailing a link which acts as a login page for a familiar site (e.g., Facebook) but actually stores your account information when you sign in.

Luckily, there’s a way for you to test your business’ phishing readiness.

Phishero, a tool designed to test employee resistance to phishing attacks, is a simple solution for any business looking to find any weak links in their cybersecurity.

The tool itself is designed to do four main things: identify potential targets, find a way to design a convincing phishing scheme, implement the phishing attack, and analyze the results.

Once Phishero has a list of your employees, it is able to create an email based on the same web design used for your company’s internal communications. This email is then sent to your selected recipient pool, from which point you’ll be able to monitor who opens the email.

Once you’ve concluded the test, you can use Phishero’s built-in analytics to give you an at-a-glance overview of your organization’s security.

The test results also include specific information such as which employees gave information, what information was given, and pain points in your current cybersecurity setup.

Phishing attacks are incredibly common, and employees – especially those who may not be as generationally skeptical of emails – are the only things standing between your company and catastrophic losses if they occur in your business. While training your employees on proper email protocol out of the gate is a must, Phishero provides an easy way to see how effective your policies actually are.

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