Whatever happened to digital photo albums?

Anthony and I were in Montreal over the weekend. We had a blast and, unsurprisingly, spent a lot of time eating. During one of those moments, we happened to be in the Old Montreal area at a restaurant called Le Robin Square enjoying a leisurely lunch. We had VERY leisurely lunches. While the service at all the restaurants we visited was great, we noticed there's a bit of a slower pace of life in Montreal — especially when it comes to dining — that is pretty much unheard of in New York. Not a bad thing but just different!

This poutine did not stand a chance!
This poutine did not stand a chance!

While we were there for lunch, we happened to notice the restaurant had a TV screen with some digital ambiance playing on it. This consisted of a stock video of a vineyard and you could see the leaves gently swaying in the wind. This got me thinking about the idea of the "digital picture frame."

Remember when that was a thing? Continue reading "Whatever happened to digital photo albums?"

Luxury User Experiences: Chanel

If you know me, you know that I'm mildly obsessed with nail polish. I have a large box in my dresser containing various colors and styles – as well as nail art tools. Selecting a polish to wear can sometimes be really difficult (seriously, it's like choosing among children!) so I'll ask my dear husband to weigh in. Most recently, he selected one of my all-time favorite polishes, Essie's Chinchilly.

Chances are you are not like me and know the names of all your favorite nail polishes. However, Chinchilly is a legend so you've probably seen it without knowing you were looking for it. I've had women in the elevator stop me and ask me if the color they are admiring on my fingers is Chinchilly. It's a seriously "greige" color; a bit of neutral and grey and even lavender depending on the light.

Essie Chinchilly on a chilly day
Essie Chinchilly on a chilly day

When I decided to begin painting my nails with my bottle of Chinchilly, I discovered a dire situation — the bottle was past its prime and beyond repair. I have some nail polishes that get a bit gloopy (really thick and barely manageable because they are probably actually expired…) but they are still somewhat useable so I keep them around. But this time, most of the bottle had been used and what was left over was the nail polish equivalent of backwash.

I considered instantly re-buying it on Amazon but I held off because I thought that might be a bit excessive (and dear husband would've surely made fun of me!). Instead I bought a new bottle later at Rite-Aid. But that's not the point. The point is I thought about the experience of re-buying something that you absolutely love. Continue reading "Luxury User Experiences: Chanel"

A Small Omission: Gran Turismo Sport and Female Gamers

The other day, my husband decided to share a trailer for the latest Gran Turismo game that was unveiled for the Playstation console at the latest E3 events. I remember playing Gran Turismo games with my little brother way back when on the original first Playstation! I also really enjoy, now as an adult with a driver's license, having the opportunity to drive high performance cars from time to time; though, most of the time, I'm rolling around in a compact car with good fuel economy thanks to Zipcar. All that said, we watched the trailer together and were in awe of the beautiful graphics that made sleek sports cars look even sleeker.

However, while the game graphics look fantastic, I noticed a small omission in the trailer I watched. Let me explain.

At about 45 seconds into the video, multiple world flags appear circling the globe with some text overlayed that says "Driving is for Everyone." I thought that was cute and chuckled softly to myself. Yes, driving should be for everyone because, personally, I find it fun and convenient for getting across this giant country we live in.

By about 2 and a half minutes in, they start presenting images about live tournaments they'll be running regularly. I think to myself, "How the hell are they going to manage that?" but I'm sure they've figured out some way to automate it so that people can play in these tournaments online and it works fairly seamlessly.

At 3 minutes in, the screen now reads "Open to all ages, anyone can enjoy" but all the faces I see feverishly playing the new game are men. Eight seconds later and I think I've spotted ONE woman deep in the background at this tournament event they are showing footage from. Another six seconds go by and I see a crowd of people clapping for the game, not sure if they are fans or journalists but it is fairly clear that they are also ALL men. By 3 minutes and 38 seconds into the video, it is still a sausage fest with a group of male victors celebrating.

By 3 minutes and 50 seconds, I finally see a woman in the foreground and she is congratulating a winner, who is of course male. Continue reading "A Small Omission: Gran Turismo Sport and Female Gamers"

Candidates for a Work Appropriate Laptop bag

I work at a company that loves email. You might work at one, too! I spend a good part of my work day simply triaging and responding to email. And, because the little red circles next to applications on my iPhone keep me up at night, I cannot stand for an Inbox that has double or triple-digit unread messages.

On a particularly tough work day, I discovered a really cool thing that Outlook does. When I receive messages, even if I haven't read them, everything about that message has been downloaded (included attachments). For NYC area commuters with limited wifi access, this means you can spend your commuting time managing your inbox (provided you get a seat). I turned a colleague onto this who commutes via MetroNorth (the above ground railroad that leads to points north of the city) and she proclaimed it a godsend. Hooray for productivity!

Of course, after I discovered this, I started toting my laptop home with me more often. On the ride to work, I could clean up whatever was in my inbox that I didn't get to the previous day and start my day fresh! Or maybe I could work on a document during that time. Either way, stealing moments to catch up on work during particularly busy stretches helped immensely.

However, what didn't help was the fact that my laptop got a little hefty after a while with all its accessories. I decided to stop bringing the charger home which definitely helps lessen the load (I keep one charger at the office, and another at home). That said, I discovered a good bag to tote it home in would be necessary. Right now, I have a leather bag designed for 15 inch laptops which is far too big; especially on the subway where I feel like a bull in a china cabinet. And I tried to search for this type of information (i.e. "best laptop bags") but the ideas that turn up are usually centered on men's bags or bags that can exclusively hold a laptop, but not much else.

My ideal bag doesn't look like it has a laptop in it. Perhaps that's the New Yorker in me but I would like to walk down the street and not feel like someone might target me because of what they know exists in my bag. Also, my ideal bag consolidates a lot of different bags. On many days, I carry a gym bag so I'd like to avoid having 2 additional bags (purse + laptop bag) on top of that.

I did a lot of soul searching and I'm mostly decided but here are some of the bags I'm looking at. Consider this a highly curated list of the "best work appropriate bags for ladies who like large (and organized) laptop bags that look as good as they function." That's not a mouthful! Continue reading "Candidates for a Work Appropriate Laptop bag"

Career Day

The word "career" is loaded with so many expectations.

Over the past year and half, I've really wrestled with the significance of this word. I started my career knowing that I definitely wanted to learn and grow as a developer of technology. I was always striving to learn how to develop in a new language or learn a new facet of how the sausage gets made, so to speak. To that end, I spent a good ten years dedicated to developing web-based experiences. I was pretty confident that I could do this — and more — and so I embarked on a new phase of my career.

I decided to transition away from the familiar world of entertainment and execution into strategy and an industry I've never worked in before. While I've enjoyed the fact that my technology background has allowed me to dip my toe into various industries, it's been truly eye-opening working in the financial services industry. The amount of regulation we are subject to (and that I must now be aware of in my day-to-day work) and the volume of outsourcing (across all kinds of functions) is pretty staggering. I've also come to find that I miss the good ole days when I knew what I was doing from one day to the next. Being in a more strategic role means that as strategies change, so does what you are doing; there's definitely less exposure to that volatility at the developer level (or at least, maybe you don't feel the ambiguity as ultimately someone is always telling you what to build).

That said, I recently created a small web application and I felt like I was back in my element. I created the app for my husband to be able to update his podcast feed on his own; there are definitely services that do this but since we have the means, I figured I would build this myself. It's nice to have a compact finished product; this reminds me of a previous job I held where I did get to make a lot of decisions on product direction but I was also directly involved in building the interface to support those decisions. Today, it takes a village to get anything done at work. This is great when it works but frustrating when it doesn't. It can definitely trigger a feeling of impotence when you go to work day in and day out but have little output to show for it. Continue reading "Career Day"

A Serious Commitment: Co-Watching TV

We are living in a golden age of television.

Seriously, how great is it to be a television fan? What used to be relegated to HBO and Showtime (and sometimes Starz) has now been extended to all methods of consumption. There are great long-running shows that first aired on cable like the dramatic Mad Men and the often ridiculous It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Then there have been amazing shows on Netflix like the addictive House of Cards and the adorable Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. And don't get me started on all the programming on network television! Shows like Flash and New Girl come to mind immediately, but there are many others.

And, on top of all the great programming that has been developed, we have more ways to watch than ever. Netflix and chill is a thing because pretty much everyone has Netflix. And since a lot of people have Amazon Prime membership, Amazon Prime Video is also a thing (it doesn't hurt that they have the entire HBO back catalog — now I can watch Six Feet Under and The Wire!). Finally, there's also Hulu which amazingly has carved out a niche for itself with original series content as well.

With so much great stuff to watch, it's often hard to find the time. What can make it even harder is if you are part of a couple that co-watches. My husband and I typically try to watch shows together because we enjoy talking about them when we aren't watching them, but also because it's another way to spend time together. And you know that co-watching is a real cultural phenomenon when even the New York Times devoted some space to it, touching on how it impacts real relationships.

And, while I fully acknowledge this is a total first-world problem, co-watching can be really challenging! My husband, Anthony, and I want to watch things together but sometimes I'm at Muay Thai class late or he's off covering a soccer game. The reality is that because we are two fiercely independent people, our schedules don't always line up. We don't always watch the same things, but when we do, it can be something that we literally need to schedule on our calendars to ensure we can watch together.

But, this can put a strain on a relationship and cause a partner to stray — and watch TV shows without their partner (instead of patiently waiting for a co-watching opportunity). I've often said that Anthony has "cheated on me" with a particular program that we wanted to co-watch. Like most things in this day and age, thankfully, there's an app for that!

Screenshot of Phones from SeriesCommitment.com
Screenshot from SeriesCommitment.com

Continue reading "A Serious Commitment: Co-Watching TV"

In Defense of Cold Feet

Right now the temperature is starting to warm up in New York. However, it's inevitable: winter will be here again before we know it.

Ned Stark in Game of Thrones
#winteriscoming

And every winter, I'm freezing to death because at some point in time I wore the wrong shoes. Like that time I was going to Philadelphia and needed a headphone splitter so my husband and I could co-watch a movie on the bus ride down. I spent the better part of an hour searching for one while the snow came down around me. All I found was that my boots had sprung a leak and that apparently the only place to buy dry socks in TriBeCa is at the Equinox where you will spend too much money for them (do rich people not need socks?!).

Continue reading "In Defense of Cold Feet"

A Quest for Wireless: Part 1 – Wireless Headphones

Over the past few months, I've been on a quest. My mission has been to find an affordable pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones. The purpose for this mission is pretty simple. I wanted to have some headphones that I could wear while running now that I work from home one day a week and can feasibly run during my lunch hour then. While I don't love running, I love the dedicated time with my music. And when I focus on my music and the landscape outdoors, running turns into something I can get into.

Of course, it would be great if these headphones were also esthetically-pleasing, had great battery life and could replace my every day headphones (and headset for phone conversations) that I typically carry in my purse.

In short: one pair of headphones to rule them all!

Continue reading "A Quest for Wireless: Part 1 – Wireless Headphones"

An Update on Wearables: Fitbit Charge HR

A little while ago I wrote about the market on "wearables" for women. I did some research on a few different options in part to share here and also in part because I was interested in picking one up for myself. I did finally end up picking one up, but it may not be what you might've expected me to select.

I thought Ringly was really really pretty but ultimately I decided a little too impractical. And, while the Apple Watch would be in line with my Apple sensibilities, it is a little too pricey and, frankly, a little bulkier than I would like it to be given my small wrists. I realized that, for me, I would prefer a wearable more for its ability to track my caloric expenditure per day and my sleep per night. Anything beyond that is a nice to have.

With this in mind, I narrowed down my search to the recently revamped Jawbone Up3 and the Fitbit Charge HR. When it comes to new tech, I typically consult with my younger brother who I trust about these things. He also owns a Jawbone so I thought it would be great to get his opinion from his own life experience — and he recommended I opt for the Fitbit, much to my surprise.

So, when I had the opportunity to get one of these for free via some points I racked up, I opted with the Fitbit Charge HR. I think the form factor of the Jawbone is still more appealing to me (feels much smaller and more discreet) but I've found I like the Fitbit and I've found its tiny display helpful. Even though I went for the "small" size of the Fitbit Charge HR, it still feels big on my wrist and it took a little while to get used to. That said, I got it in black and I think the textured pattern to the wrist strap is very sophisticated and keeps it from getting easily scuffed-looking. The tiny display does get scuffed (I bump into walls sometimes…) but it's pretty easy to clean and rather resilient. The thing is pretty sturdy and I like that the black is pretty gender neutral.

I like the fact that it only has one button — that's it! If I tap the display face or tap the button it has the same effect, but the tap is something you can customize. You can also customize how it displays the date and time (I like seeing the time and then today's date underneath) when you hit the button once as well as what pieces of data it tracks that you'd like to see when hitting the button subsequent times.

While the Fitbit Charge HR says it can automatically track your activity, you can also tell it, "hey, I'm exercising right now so track me accordingly!" I use this feature a lot when I go to my muay thai (i.e. kickboxing) class. All I do is simply hold down the button until I feel a little vibration; once the unit vibrates, I know it is tracking my exercise explicitly. Also, I should mention that, while I can't speak for other activity trackers, this one is wearable during activity like this. For better accuracy during periods of activity, Fitbit recommends wearing the device a bit further up the arm (away from the hand) so I usually just push it up and wrap my hands just adjacent to it. It doesn't get in the way and tucks nicely into boxing gloves so for amateur training, this is a great way to track just how much you burn while training.

The best part of the Fitbit though is probably the app. Their app is well-designed; it looks pretty and it works. And, if you have a phone with an accelerometer, you don't even need to have a Fitbit to use their app. This makes it way more fun to engage in their "Challenges" where you and your friends compete for the most steps in a given period of time. That said, if you do have the Fitbit Charge HR and happen to wear it while you sleep, the app will tell you how well you slept every morning. I find this information super valuable as it helps me understand how cranky I'm predisposed to be that day (I admit, I am not the nicest person when I'm tired). I also find it fantastic that it just knows when I'm sleeping — I did not have to tell it that I was going to sleep, which is impressive in that human sleep patterns are so easily discernible by our future robot overlords…

I also find the Fitbit goals very interesting. I'm currently trying to shed a few pounds to get back to my goal weight and so I set a weight goal. I tell Fitbit app how much I weigh every so often and it will keep a log for me (if I had their scale, I suppose I wouldn't even need to tell Fitbit, but I'm not in the market for a new scale so can't validate that purchase!). It will also tell me how many calories I should eat to make my goal weight in the given period of time I told it I want to get there. What's really great about the Fitbit app is that it integrates rather nicely with MyFitnessPal, which already has a fantastic interface for food journaling. So I enter my food intake into MyFitnessPal and then the Fitbit app knows how many calories went in and, based on my heart rate, how many calories went out. Losing weight is all about creating a calorie deficit and this app is able to make that incredibly plain in a really easy to follow way.

Overall, I really enjoy how the Fitbit app focuses on the positive aspects of fitness rather than all the "fitness inspiration" that can just be defeating or guilt-tripping which nobody likes. Allowing anyone to play Challenges, even folks who don't have a Fitbit, is really democratic and it makes it really fun. With the Challenges, my only gripe is that I wish there were more options such as being able to create challenges based on calories burned. Gameification is a huge motivator for folks and I think a lot of people already do this in their work places with "biggest loser" challenges so why not extend that functionality to live within this app?

I have two complaints but they are relatively minor. The first is regarding the heart rate monitor. The heart rate monitor can definitely light up your room at night if you are wearing the device loosely against your wrist — it would be great if there was a way to avoid the flashing lights! My second complaint is regarding charging. While I appreciate that it sends an email (yes, it emails you to let you know that it needs some juice!), I wish I didn't have to use this very specific-to-Fitbit wire to charge the thing. This means that, if my Fitbit is dead while I'm away from home, it would be impossible to charge unless I have the specific cord for charging it. Ideally, I'd love to be able to just set it down on a platform to charge wirelessly but, if it has to be a wire, I would've just preferred that to be something more universal like mini or micro USB as I already carry some of these wires in my bag for other purposes.

Finally, if there's one thing that really sets Fitbit apart it's the "surprise and delight" factor. When I fully charge my Fitbit and attempt to unplug it from charging, I usually see a message on the screen. This is not something I ever customized but it displays some sort of vaguely motivational message like "Rock On" or "Go." It is subtle but one of those really nice touches and, to some degree, it serves a purpose as it lets me know that, yes, this device is now fully charged and ready for action.

To summarize my feelings on this particular wearable, I find that I'm wearing it more than I'm not wearing it! I only take it off when I have to shower or charge it — otherwise it is tracking my steps and activity. And, while I know there are way more features in other wearables, I find that the Fitbit Charge HR has just the right amount to meet my needs.

The Pink One: Designing for Women

Inc Magazine published an amazing piece by Jen Alsever in 2014 outlining how companies should market tech to women. In short: Houston, we have a pink problem!

I have no idea where this came from but there appears to be some prevailing logic among marketers (perhaps mostly the male decision makers? I digress…) that women will buy something as long as the item in question is pink. Perhaps the worst (and simultaneously best!) example of this is when BIC, the company that creates writing implements, decided to create "BIC for Her." The marketing for this pen — which, by the way, was just like their other pens except pink on the outside — seemed to imply that women had been waiting eons and FINALLY the good folks at BIC created a pen for the ladies! Needless to say, Amazon reviewers have had a field day with this.

Today I discovered that KOSS, a brand that creates affordable headphones that I happen to really like, has a rather unfortunate filtering criteria on their shopping website.

forwomen

Within the "earbuds" category, KOSS' filtering criteria tells me that in the "For Women" category there is only one option. Who on earth decided that of the 20 earbuds listed on their shop, only one pair was appropriate for women? And furthermore, who decided that the "FitBuds" (which come in colors like Coral and Mint!) are exclusively for women? Do men not enjoy colorful earbuds? And, while I can acknowledge that maybe some women have smaller ears, surely having small ears / ear canals is not a problem exclusively faced by women. That said, I own earbuds from KOSS; the ones I own are not in the "For Women" category which begs the question: why even have a "For Women" category at all? How about filtering criteria based on scale (large buds / medium buds / small buds)? Or filtering criteria based on color (colorful / printed design / black)?

Not only is the KOSS approach lazy but it's also insulting and demeaning to women. While brands probably do not intend for this to be the result, they are making assumptions about a market they are trying to reach. These assumptions are simply validating that they know very little about the market they are aiming for and have done very little to educate themselves. And I say it is lazy because, per Alsever's second point in the Inc article, "women" is pretty broad as far as being a segment you are looking to target.

In the past, I came down on the Coach handbag company for this but it seems like their website has evolved! Their marketing used to infer that their beautiful leather totes and briefcases were only of interest to men. Their web shopping experience used to put all of these bags under the "Men" heading. Now, I'm happy to say that under "Women" they have a "Business Bag" category which includes many of the fine leather bags that are gender neutral. They also have a "For Everyone" header which is nice to see for gender identities that aren't so black and white.

In short, I've reached out to KOSS on their Twitter account to implore them to fix their filtering. Given that I do really enjoy using their products, I hope they will consider making some efforts to avoid pink-washing their marketing.