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Stop trying to ‘go offline’ and learn to set priorities instead

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One thing the news media doesn’t shy away from is telling you about how your technology use is out of control. Your kids are getting too much screen time. We’re costing businesses billions wasting company time on YouTube and Facebook. Experts say the reason your relationships are so screwed up is because you spend too much time checking emails and not enough time checking-in with people.

So isn’t the answer to just calm-it-the-hell-down? Starting right now let’s all just stop looking at screens when we’re with family, at work, or on vacation. And, for extra measure, we’ll also just take more time to appreciate life and real face-to-face conversations.

The only problem with that: unless you literally go off the grid and remove all digital connectivity from your life, it’ll always be waiting for you. If you aren’t addressing the “online” world in real-time it piles up. Email overload, experts say, causes a ton of stress.

There’s no such thing as “going offline” anymore, unless you do it permanently. No matter how hard you try to just get away from it all: it’s all waiting when you return, like a neglected pet that’s going to require tons of extra attention in order to nurse back to health.

If I don’t check my email for one day, my inbox becomes an abyss to rival the depths and horror of the Sarlacc.

In 2017 I treat talking on the phone as something I have to do for work. The only person in my life who I call for anything other than business is my mother, and you can rest assured she’ll tell you I don’t do so often enough. Plus she’s in her 60s and doesn’t like to text. Anyone born before 1960 gets a free pass, if they want one.

Twenty years ago logging on to the internet was an act. Online was a “place” you went so that you could interface with other people and their websites. Then you logged off and you weren’t connected again until you went back to that “place.” This was not a physical location –though web cafes were a fresh idea then too — but something you compartmentalized as different from “the real world.”

What happened to that? Did we fly too high, each of us an Icarus of the internet, and lose sight of reality? No, probably not. The fact that we’re stressed when we don’t connect doesn’t mean we’re doomed: perhaps we can just connect.

We need to change the way we look at things. It’s becoming counter-intuitive and counter-productive to continuously suggest that the solution to our connectivity woes is simply to place arbitrary limits on usage.

This doesn’t work for me – email and text messages are more than an upgrade to “the phone call” for me, they represent a ledger and record of everything going on in my world.

I have “shared memory” with my devices. This means if I lose connectivity I know, at best, three actual phone numbers. One of them is 911. I can’t remember dates, I don’t keep track of my own appointments, and can barely use an ink-pen for anything other than stabbing someone trying to steal my tablet.

We rely on the data we carry around in our inboxes and messages.

I’ll be 100 percent honest here: I often start start saying something that requires me to use Google search to finish.

“Jason Mamoa? He’s one of my favorite actors,” I’ll say as I’m already pulling my phone out of my pocket “In fact, hold on, OKAY GOOGLE,” I pause until I feel the vibration, “how old is Jason Mamoa?” My phone responds and I continue speaking as though it was a part of the conversation “I like that he’s almost my age but still a badass.” I’ll conclude, as though I knew that all along.

It’s not feasible for a lot of people to just put the phone away when they aren’t working – which is something that’s changed, it used to be. A lot of research has gone into telling people they need rules and boundaries with online usage.  In light of that research, by real experts who are basically saying the opposite of what I’m saying, it might seem like bad advice for me to say: use your devices when you need to and check your email and messages whenever its appropriate.

But consider that setting priorities instead of boundaries might actually be more beneficial, as TNW’s CEO Boris wrote, we sometimes treat what children are doing on their devices as unimportant without regard to what kind of online citizen they are being.

Arbitrary time limits don’t respect their primary source of social interaction, and they don’t encourage prioritizing whether you should be staring at a screen or a person. We’ve also arrived at the era of adult professionals who grew up on social media. The President uses Twitter for official announcements.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way advocating you forget what experts say, nor do I claim to be any kind of expert here. What I’m saying is: there’s a difference between an addiction to being connected and the desire to stay up-to-date. I’m advocating the seamless integration of Siri into my life, not setting time aside for her.

I believe it’s important that we stop trying to separate the “online world” from the “real world” and start prioritizing how we spend all of our time in order to avoid constantly being the source of our own anxiety.

Tell me I can’t check my email and I’m instantly going through a checklist of things that will go wrong while I’m “offline.”

But…

Hang on, give me a minute here and I’ll have a conclusion for you.

Just a sec, checking this email real quick.

Okay.

Anyway, as I was saying, there’s nothing wrong with taking a few minutes to check your email and then returning your attention to the real world. Just don’t forget that the people who know you’re doing it are aware of where your priorities are in that moment.

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Apps

Why Snapchat Spectacles failed

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How come only 0.08% of Snapchat’s users bought its camera sunglasses? Hundreds of thousands of pairs of Spectacles sit rotting in warehouses after the company bungled the launch. Initial hype and lines for its roving, limited time only Snapbot vending machines led Snap to overestimate demand but underdeliver on quality and content.

Massive piles of assembled and unassembled video-recording sunglasses sit unsold, contributing to Snap’s enormous costs and losses, says The Information. Internal Snap data shows less than 50 percent of buyers kept using Spectacles a month after purchase, Business Insider’s Alex Heath reports. A “sizeable” percentage stopped after just a week, with a source calling the retention rate “shockingly low”.

What was the problem? Snap generated huge hype for Spectacles, but then waited 5 months to openly sell them. Once people actually tried Spectacles, few kept wearing them, and word of mouth about their disuse spread. Snap never got visionary video markers onboard. And as Snapchat’s popularity waned in the face of competitors, the fact that Spectacles only interfaced with its app rather than a phone’s camera roll became a burden.

Snap did some things right with Spectacles. The fashion photo spread announcement felt classy and surprising despite clues and photos of CEO Evan Spiegel trickling out ahead. The initial launch was a marketing extravaganza, with multi-hour lines of cool kids waiting on the Venice Beach boardwalk to buy them. And the Snapbots being dropped in random locations was exciting and made people feel special if they got ahold of them. But once people put them on their face, the excitement died off.

Karl Lagerfeld’s photo of Snap CEO Evan Spiegel donning Spectacles for their September 2016 reveal

Here’s a breakdown of the major flaws that emerged with Spectacles in the year since their debut, with a focus on the stilted launch strategy:

Botched Roll Out

Snap first announced Spectacles with some Karl Lagerfeld photos of Spiegel wearing them on September 24th 2016. Hype was high despite the beachey color options that turned some people off. It took until November 10th for the first Snapbot vending machines to launch. While the hype had cooled slightly, demand was huge as people wanted to be the first on the block with Spectacles, and lines stretched down streets.

But Snap whether it was because Snap wanted to milk the Snapbot promotion, couldn’t tell if Spectacles should be exclusive or widely available, or it had supply chain problems, it took until February 20th for Snap to start openly selling Specs online.

Waiting five months after the initial announcement was an eternity in the fast-moving teenage fad cycle. They weren’t cool by the time they were buyable. Everyone had already seen the sunglasses and circular video all over the Internet, most owners had long since stopped using them, the holiday season had passed, and few people wanted to buy so late. It took until June, 8 months after their debut, for Spectacles to become available in Europe.

If Snap had instead made its announcement, quickly outfitted some lucky normal users and celebrities with Spectacles, then launched a giant Black Friday sale at the peak of its hype, all those people fascinated with the gadget might have bought immediately. Everyone would have paid before word got out that people weren’t going to wear camera glasses all that much.

Alternatively, Snap could have gone the path of exclusivity lit by its fashion-focused debut. Rather than ever selling Specs openly, it could have gotten them into runway shows and magazines while sticking with the limited-edition Snapbots. Then after a few months it could have ceased all sales, turned existing pairs into fought-over collector’s items, and saved the mainstream rollout for an eventual v2 launch. Unfortunately, Snap seems to have got stuck between these exclusive and mass-retail strategies.

Where Were The Spectacles Influencers? – To drive demand, Snap needed to demonstrate all the creative things you could do with Spectacles, and the cool people who wore them. Yet at the time, it still had a very hands-off approach to dealing with traditional celebrities and web influencers. Snap didn’t make outfitting creators with Specs and training them to use the camera glasses a priority. Instead of top Snappers constantly posting circular videos and encouraging fans to do the same, Snap effectively left the gadget out to dry. Snap let random Spectacles buyers, often over-enthusiastic social media amateurs, define the image of the product, similar to how Google’s core mistake was allowing geeky developers to become the face of Glass.

TechCrunch’s video host Tito Hamze became a de facto face of Spectacles as there were so few influencers using them

Few Examples Of Great Content – Stemming from Snap’s failure to foster a Spectacles creator scene, it did a terrible job of showing off how Spectacles could be used beyond the initial commercial. Neither Snap’s in-house team or independent social stars were recruited to make videos exposing the creative opportunities of the device. It did little through event marketing or in-app promotion to encourage Spectacle content creation. Karen X. Cheng was perhaps the only Spectacles influencer lighting the path, with her first-person mirror dancing video and Spectacles-on-babies ad she helped Brawny make. But Snap should have ensured the Internet was flooded with these videos proving what you can’t do with your phone’s camera, and why you should buy Spectacles.

People Are Still Freaked Out By Camera Glasses – Google Glass tainted the market with its “not sure if you’re recording me” design. Even though Snap put more obvious recording signal lights on Spectacles, people would still question you about whether they were on camera. That not only made people uncomfortable being around Spectacles, but made you feel like a bit of a creep just wearing them even if you never tapped the shutter button. Their appeal was further limited by their polarizing  “fashion-forward” design (some would call ugly), while the only non-black colors were aggressively bright teal and coral.

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Insider

Virtual reality – the only way same-sex marriage is legal in Australia

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As Australians agonizingly await the final results from the same-sex marriage survey (which doesn’t even guarantee a change in the law), gay couples continue having to tie the knot elsewhere, as it’s insanely the only way.

A dedicated group from Sydney have done their best to try and change this with an event they termed Virtual Equality. The project gives Australians the possibility to experience a same-sex wedding the only way legally possible in Australia – through virtual reality. Giles Clayton, one of the organizers, wanted to emphasize that same-sex marriage is nothing to be afraid of:

The goal was for Aussies to get the chance to experience something they can’t right now and hopefully change perspectives about the fear of legalizing same-sex marriage.

The project was funded by J. Walter Thompson and Luscious International, both major players in the Australian advertising and video production world. To bring the event to life, the first step was finding a same-sex couple looking to get hitched.

Through a few degrees of separation, they came across Dan Thurston and Thomas Crow, a soon-to-be-married Kiwi-American couple based in New Zealand. The loving pair volunteered for the project, allowing J. Walter Thompson and Luscious International to attend their Kiwi wedding on September 22 and film the ceremony in 360-video. You can watch the ceremony here.

Credit: Emily Raftery

After attending the NZ wedding, the Virtual Equality team began organizing a second wedding for Dan and Thomas in Australia – only this time, in virtual reality. They invited the public, politicians and some of the couple’s Australian friends to attend and appreciate how great a same-sex marriage in Australia can be. Dan was hopeful that seeing would be believing.

I hope that, in seeing us as a positive model for marriage, Australians can see that marriage equality is a no-brainer and any debate about such basic human rights is dumb.

The ‘virtual ceremony’ took place in First Fleet Park in Sydney on October 10, with each guest receiving a VR headset and headphones to experience the Kiwi ceremony. Hundreds of people of all ages lined up to be part of the event, with responses ranging from joy and laughter to tears. Directed by Lou Quill, watch how it went below:

Guests included Sally Rugg, director of GetUp’s campaign for marriage equality and Jenny Leong, member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Newtown for the Greens. Leong was deeply affected that something so simple and natural can’t legally happen in Australia.

It’s bizarre that in Australia we can only experience a same-sex marriage through virtual reality. Especially in Sydney where we fly the rainbow flag so bright. Love is personal but should be inclusive of everyone and this is why we need to change the ban on same-sex marriage.

The legalization of same-sex marriage has been a controversial issue on Australia’s political agenda for several years. The current Marriage Act 1961 in Australia narrowly states that marriage is “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.” 

Australia is currently in the midst of a non-binding, non-compulsory postal survey which asks the question “Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?” Unlike a referendum which seeks to amend the Australian Constitution if a majority of Australians vote “Yes” in the majority of states, the postal vote merely seeks to gauge public opinion on the issue.

That means, even if the postal vote delivers a majority “Yes” result, there’s no guarantee the law will change. Instead, the government will introduce a private member’s bill to amend the current Marriage Act. Members of parliament will then be allowed to freely vote for or against the bill. On the other hand, if the postal vote delivers a majority “No” response, the decision is binding and no bill will be introduced…

The team behind Virtual Equality are hopeful it won’t get to that. They have distributed hundreds of rainbow-branded Google Cardboard headsets to influencers and politicians around the country, letting them experience the same-sex wedding in VR. Rachel Wintle, one of the organizers from J. Walter Thompson explained:

With many Australians still fearful about same-sex marriage both companies urge positive responses from anyone who wishes to share or comment on the campaign, to counteract the often hateful messages that have been shared by members of the NO campaign over the voting period.

While the absolute deadline to return your ballot is November 7, 2017, both companies encourage Australians to vote “Yes” for marriage equality by this Friday, October 27th.

With same-sex marriage now legal in 23 countries, let’s hope that Australia will be the next to recognize loving relationships like that of Dan and Thomas. And the message to take away from Virtual Equality’s campaign: it’s time to make marriage equality a reality.

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Gadgets

PSA: Bigger smartphone apertures don’t count if the sensors get smaller

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In the past few years, smartphone manufacturers have started paying more attention to the optics they use on their smartphone, using wider apertures for better low light performance. That’s awesome, but as a photographer, I have an ongoing gripe about the marketing buzz around apertures: An aperture tells you little about performance if you don’t know the camera’s sensor size.

As a refresher, all else being equal, wider apertures (a lower number) mean better low light performance and shallower depth of field (more background blur or ‘bokeh’). The problem with smartphone photography is that rarely is everything else equal, sensor size in particular.

I’m going to oversimplify things a bit, but let’s assume two phones are technologically identical except for their aperture or sensor size. If two phones have the same sensor size, the one with the wider aperture will be better. But by the same token, if two phones have the same aperture, the one with the larger sensor will win.

If both of the variables are different, well, things can get pretty messy.

To use an exaggerated example, here’s a photo taken at F1.8 on the Pixel 2.

And here’s a photo taken at F3.5 on a high-end camera with a much larger micro-four thirds sensor.

Despite the ‘wider’ aperture on the Pixel, the micro four-thirds camera has much more blur (and would theoretically perform much better in low light too). That’s because the micro four thirds sensor is capturing more light overall thanks the much larger surface area on the CMOS chip.

To drive the point home, here’s the micro four-thirds camera at F1.8

This image compares common sensor sizes for different camera categories. The Pixel 2’s sensor is believed to be 1/2.55,” or a teensy bit smaller than the smallest sensor on that image. You can see the dramatic size difference.