Tis the season for travel (and unfortunately, airport lineups and flight delays). With people from all over the world scrambling to fly home for the holidays, travelling can quickly lose its appeal when a snowstorm delays your flight and you find yourself sleeping overnight in an airport using your luggage as a pillow. Luckily, if you’re the proud owner of a smart phone, you can use this helpful guide of apps to pass time between vending machine meals and make your temporary stay, a little less painful.
1. Skype (FREE) – There’s no better way to cheer up than calling a friend or family member and sharing a smile and some good conversation. It’s free to join and you can make calls to anyone in the world with a Skype account. You also have the option of calling landlines and cell phones for a small charge
2. Wi-Fi Finder 2.0.1 (FREE) – Interested in surfing the Internet aimlessly to burn some time? Chances are the answer is yes and luckily for you, this app will help you find a good connection nearby. You can download a complete directory of free Wi-Fi spots in the US and it even works without a data connection. Keep in mind this app works best in populated cities because that’s typically where you’re more likely to find free (and paid) Wi-Fi connections.
3. Word Lens ($5.00) – There’s nothing worse than being stuck in an airport where all the signs are in a language you don’t understand! Word Lens instantly translates printed words from one language to another, using your phone’s built in video camera, in real time! There are different language options to choose from so no matter where you find yourself during the holiday season, you’ll always be able to navigate efficiently.
4. Apple iBooks (FREE – books vary in price) – With airline luggage costs soaring, it’s hard to bring along your favourite reading materials without sacrificing your first born child as payment. Now you can download some of your favourite books and read them right on your phone. iBooks organizes all your titles, allows you to bookmark and set notations. It’s a great way to catch up on your reading while on the go!
5. Postman ($2.99) – What better way to share your experience of being stranded in an airport? Create custom postcards with photos and text and share them through email, web, Twitter and Facebook! You customize everything right down to the font so there’s no doubt that this app is a great way to pass time and share some of your magical holiday moments captured while waiting at gate 7.
6. Airport Maps ($2.99) – Navigate around the airport more effectively with this app that shows you where to find food, a comfortable spot to sit, or a few stores to browse through while you’re waiting. It offers coverage of 61 major North American airports providing airport maps and even terminal maps so you can find what you’re looking for fast!
7. iChristmas Tree ($0.99) – Take some time from sleeping on an airport bench to celebrate the holiday season and decorate your very own Christmas tree right from your phone! Choose from many ornament options, decorate your tree, take a snapshot and share your creation with friends and family.
8. Angry Birds ($0.99) – Is it really necessary to type an explanation? In case you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, now would be a great time to try out the game the whole world is talking about! It’s simple, addictive, and highly time consuming. We recommend playing near an outlet since chances are, you’ll kill your battery before you snap out of the comatose state hours later.
9. Next Flight ($2.99) – Want to make sure you beat that annoying woman and her screaming child onto the next available flight? Use this app to plug in your origin, destination, and departure date for a list of available non-stop flights from more than 1200 carriers for the current and following day. You can find all the flight details you need without fighting to view an airport monitor. Avoiding chaos, priceless.
10. Christmas Sudoku ($0.99) – A popular game with a Christmas twist! This puzzle will have you starting tournaments with strangers while you wait for your flight. It gives you the option of playing with Christmas goodies or numbers and will definitely get you thinking! It’s a great way to pass time and exercise your brain for the holidays!
The Christmas season always brings many different re-enactments of the birth of Jesus from nativity figurines to school plays. But what if the Nativity were to happen today in the age of technology?
Designed by Portugal-based media company ExcentricPT, The Digital Story of the Nativity is a viral video that answers that very question. It’s a seasonal video that tells the story of the nativity through Foursquare checkins, Facebook status’, Google searches, emails, and online shopping. It appears to be inspired by Google’s Parisian-based commercial that was launched in February during the Super Bowl and told the story of a courtship through Google searches. Just proof that viral ideas can stay ripe for parody months after they launch.
Get in the Christmas spirit and see what the immaculate conception would have been like if Mary had an iPhone.
Have you ever wanted to pick up a newspaper that had articles you were actually interested in reading? Well perhaps a quick visit to paper.li is in order. Paper.li can arrange all the links you’ve shared on your twitter account into a beautifully organized, easy to read, newspaper-style format. You can create custom papers based on hashtags, lists or your entire Twitter account. You can also create a paper based on your Facebook account using the same premise.
Local culinary adventurers, Windsor Eats, have established their own foodie newspaper and share it with their followers on Twitter. The Windsor Eats Daily is comprised of interesting articles about food from all over the internet. Be sure to check them out @Windsoreats and say up to date with the latest trends and taste bud teasers!
If you’re not too fond of the content on your own pages, you can visit the website and search for your favourite twitter accounts to see if they have newspapers you can read. It’s a great way to keep up to date with all the people you follow, especially if you don’t have time to go through individual tweets on a daily basis. You can even search by topic to find some interesting new people and stories.
Newspapers based on lists are also a great way to focus on a certain topic. You can create custom lists on your Twitter account that allow you to group together certain people for whatever reason you choose. If you’re running a local bakery and your twitter account isn’t the most interesting thing on the planet, you can create a custom list from people you follow such as other bakeries/bakers and compile their tweets into a unique custom newspaper that focuses on what you do best, baking! The same premise applies to food, electronics, or any other niche Twitter category.
If you want a custom newspaper based on a certain topic like Lady Gaga’s meat dress (you never know!), you can group the related hash tags together to create a paper that includes different articles or opinions about her risky outfit. This would work for any topic on Twitter and the opportunities are abundant.
These custom newspapers are a unique way to share information especially across a platform that’s so bogged down with updates every 5 seconds. It can be hard to keep up with recent tweets, especially if you follow a lot of people! Paper.li has created an interesting concept that merges traditional media (organized and structured), with social media (spontaneous and frequent) to create the perfect combination. Regardless of the medium, news will always be a static influence in our lives and it’s refreshing to see companies like Paper.li thinking outside of the box and developing a new process of sharing information online.
I’m sure we can all remember designing the layout for our Myspace page, adding music from our favourite bands, photos of ourselves and our friends and spending hours looking at profiles and commenting. It’s hard to recall, but at one point Myspace was the hub for social activity. Flash forward a few years and Facebook has taken social interaction to a whole new level. While we’re all on Facebook playing games, tagging photos, and creeping profiles, Myspace is still defying the odds and thriving outside of the spotlight.
What was once a website based on social connections and content sharing for people of all ages, is now a music network that is growing larger every day. Myspace is a great example of how shifting your focus online, can bring unexpected success. If you take the time to visit the website, you’ll find bands and artists of all genres showcasing their song recordings, concert/show listings and interacting with fans. With a sleek new image, Myspace helps users connect with their favourite artists with daily top artist charts and even offers them the ability to purchase music.
The new Myspace is about showcasing new and interesting movies, music, TV, games and people who create, find and share. The site offers a simple signup and once you’re in, live notifications will let you know who is interacting with you. You can set viewing preferences and auto share content with Facebook and Twitter. Myspace sees the new design as an award for users who love to share, listen to favourite artists over and over and connect with new interests. They emphasize that music is their core focus and they want to showcase users who find the “cool stuff” and create trends in the online community. There is also a game section to keep you occupied for hours and the topic page features new trends, world events and allows users to watch video clips, read articles, and view photos. Myspace is encouraging self expression through profile design and has recently re-launched with a new logo to match the concept.
There is even a new section entitled karaoke that features Myspace users singing their favourite songs and showcases the most popular videos. It has never been easier to reach out to the music community and we can all thank Myspace for that!
Despite the attention Facebook has received in the past few years, Myspace is far from dead. The new beta site is a breeze to navigate and the graphics and content organization are flawless. While it may seem that only one community can be the winner, I think both have their strengths and weaknesses. Facebook will never have the personalization that Myspace offers and it will never be able to compete with the platforms Myspace has created for bands and artists to share their media. On the other hand, Myspace will never have the personal connectivity that Facebook offers or the corporate brand pages that allow businesses to interact with consumers. While both similar concepts, their communities and the user experience are entirely unique.
It will be interesting to see how users respond to the new Myspace. Hopefully the re-design and re-launch will create some well-deserved buzz for the long lost website. It just goes to show you that re-inventing a brand can make all the difference in the world.
Social media is a great way to share information and build relationships online but did you know that it can also be a great resource for improving your health? There’s no questioning the growth of mobile apps in the past year but despite what many people think, there are applications that can do much more than turn your cell phone into a glow stick.
The first step to a healthy lifestyle is setting goals. It seems easy but many times these goals can fall short in hours, days or months. What seems realistic at the time may not be possible when put to the test in real life scenarios. It’s one thing to say you’ll start every morning with a healthy breakfast but when you remember what a whirlwind the morning can be as you race around getting the kids ready for school, it can fade away quickly as you find yourself in the McDonald’s drive through.
Life can be hectic and if you find yourself on the go a lot, the app Restaurant Nutrition will make it a lot easier to stick to your goals. What you will find within this app is plenty of nutritional information from your favourite fast food joints and family restaurants. Information such as sodium content, fat and calories are broken down for each item and compared to your maximum daily intake so you can figure out just how big of a deal that extra hash brown will be. Personally, I use this app religiously. I find that it actually alters my decisions so as I read through the content in some of the sandwiches at Wendy’s, I change my mind and opt for Subway instead. It’s a great tool to have in your pocket as many restaurants can’t seem to grasp the fact that they need to post their nutritional information publicly now.
Add Some Spunk!
Sometimes not meeting your goals can be directly related to boredom and lack of creativity in the kitchen. Eating out often has an exciting appeal; always going somewhere different, trying new flavours and new cultural dishes. If you’re preparing the same boring meals over and over again at home, it’s no wonder your taste buds have wandered! 160,000 Recipes – Big Oven gives you plenty of recipe options across different categories. The best part about this app is that it gives you the option to enter what ingredients you have on hand and it will automatically produce a list of recipes that you can use based on what is available to you. It’s a great way to try something new without going to the grocery store armed with a list of ingredients you’ve never heard of before. Plus, this app provides access to food buying and handling tips and comments about specific recipes so you know how best to handle the chicken for your quesadillas and what other people thought of the recipe. Spicing up your cooking regime doesn’t have to be rocket science. There are thousands of great recipe apps available so you’re bound to find limitless inspiration wherever you look.
Stretch It Out
It’s one thing to have your nutritional needs down pat, but when it comes to exercise, it can be very difficult to squeeze some physical activity into our every day routines. Working in an office is never a pleasant experience for your body. You get back pain from the chair you sit in for up to 8 hours straight every single day, you get a sore neck and wrists from typing or working on a computer for long hours at a time, you get stiff joints from lack of movement and migraines from the poor lighting and the constant office chatter. Luckily for all of our office comrades, there is hope, and it goes by the name of iStretch. This app provides office yoga exercise videos that allow you to stretch out and work muscles that become tense throughout the day because of repetitive movement or immobility. Five minutes of iStretch videos every day will have you relieving lower back pain, neck stiffness, shoulder tension and wrist, arm and leg soreness. Not to mention it will also allow you to burn fat, increase your blood flow, eliminate headaches, and reduce stress. Working long hours every day in an uncomfortable environment can have serious side effects on your body! By keeping up with stretches during the day you can drastically improve your mood and your well-being all from the convenience of your office chair!
Track Your Progress
Once you have nutritious eating and exercise working on your favour, weight loss will undoubtedly follow. Sometimes it’s difficult to track progress without spending hours in Excel creating a complicated chart or diagram and that’s where apps like Weightbot come in handy. You can use this app to enter your weight daily and see your trends get plotted on a graph so you can set goals, watch your progress and view interesting analytical data about your weight changes. No need to calculate anything complicated just customize your graph type and view and watch as the app tracks your progress for you.
Ditch The Stress
Many medical studies have linked stress to weight gain and other ailments but sadly enough, stress is a part of our lives whether we like it or not. It’s impossible to remove stress completely, but there are ways to counter its effects and clear your mind of the clutter that weighs you down on a daily basis. Relax is an app that is designed to utilize the audio and visual power of the iPhone and provide you with multiple relaxing destinations to choose from. You pick from the options (night in paradise, campfire, under the sea etc) and simply relax as the audio and video transport you to a stress-free zone. It makes for a great escape during your busy day!
Utilizing a device such as the iPhone and its vast array of applications to help you set health-related goals is easier than ever. Find which apps work best for your lifestyle and offer the features you consider most important. Tracking, measuring and staying positive are a lot easier when you have the appropriate tools at your finger tips so don’t be afraid to harness the power of the iPhone and become the healthy person you’ve always wanted to be.
Technology has taken the inevitable leap towards a younger target market and experts are urging parents to monitor and limit their children’s usage of electronic devices. These young children are growing up alongside parents who blog on a daily basis, share family photos on Facebook and are constantly connected through their mobile phones so it’s no wonder that their habits are becoming contagious.
A recent study conducted by Research Now for security company AVG found that 84% of Canadian children have an online presence by the time they are two years old. More than one-third of Canadian mothers posted photos of newborns online and another 37 percent said they’d posted sonograms of their as-yet unborn child. What’s even worse? Eight percent of Canadian moms had given their baby a social network profile on a site like Facebook.
While these behaviors are most likely stemmed from good intention (ex sharing photos with family and friends that live far away), no one is sure what it means for the children with profile pages and photos floating around online before they even turn five. The rate at which technology is holding parents and their children captivated has educators and parenting experts worried.
How many times have you been to the mall and seen an eight-year-old girl with a cell phone? How many of your younger cousins or siblings have their hearts set on an iPod Touch for Christmas? Realistically, technology is becoming more user-friendly and companies are realizing that children are the wave of the future. Imagine presenting a child with an iPod at a young age; that child will be much more likely to remain brand loyal for the rest of his future purchases because of his early influence.
The problem, according to Professional Parenting founder Judy Arnall, is that the research on the effects of this technology on children is not available yet, it’s happening too fast to be studied. Of greatest concern to the Calgary parenting educator are the hand-held, portable devices such as the iPod Touch, or the Nintendo DS.
The iPod Touch has thousands of downloadable apps that preach developmental pros for children such as teaching them to count, spell, add, or even learn a new language. This new direction combined with the device’s overall appeal and popularity is proving to have a big influence on parents who want to believe that the devices are educational and beneficial. Many experts worry that these devices are seductive to the point of children preferring them above all else. Technology can be very addictive and marketing techniques/campaigns make certain devices seem seductive to the public, which is where the problem takes root. Toddlers are growing up with the belief that an iPad is as indispensible as Lego bricks or Barbie dolls.
There is no doubt that these technological learning devices have a place in a child’s routine but experts say they can’t be the only option. The fact is that children learn best when they engage all five of their senses but screens limit that experience to hearing and sight. Parents need to limit usage and ensure their children have human interaction and a hands-on-environment that welcomes brain growth and development. As for the social network pages one can only hope that parents can strike a fine balance when it comes to sharing content about their children online.
Ontario’s Amber Alert program has begun a new journey through Social Media giant Facebook. As of Friday October 8th their Facebook page has become visible to users worldwide and they hope the community can help them track down missing children in the real world. In less than 24 hours the page was already “liked” by over 18,000 people and looks to provide a new sense of hope for the authorities.
OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis says “In the first hours of a child abduction it’s extremely critical that we get information out to the public fast and there’s no time to waste.” This is why they are focusing their efforts on Facebook where they can post live updates and alerts that are immediately visible on the news feed.” With 15 million active Facebook users in Canada, authorities are hoping to spread the message quickly. Aside from their agreement with Facebook, the alerts are also broadcast on radio, TV, Ministry of Transportation highway signs, OLG terminals and convenience store LCD screens.
There is no doubt that this medium has created a new outlet for sharing information about missing children but as with all social media endeavors, there will always be risks. As we all know too well, when you share something online you can’t simply remove it afterwards. That content could be floating around the Internet for months and authorities want to ensure that citizens are double-checking how recent online Amber Alerts are before they take action.
Ontario is the third province to create an Amber Alert Facebook page (New Brunswick with 24,000 likes and PEI with 9,400 likes) and Canada is actually the first country to send Amber Alerts through Facebook. This seems to be the beginning of a new communication wave that, as with anything else, has its pros and cons. For now, just spreading the word quickly and reaching a mass audience simultaneously is enough to provide new hope for children across the province like the 16 out of 19 that were found using the alert system since 2003.
It’s great to see Facebook expanding beyond social interaction and becoming more mature. Businesses and organizations are finally beginning to realize the potential of tapping into the sites online communities. This is an excellent example of a provincial effort using social media to improve its reach and frequency with alerts/messages. Hopefully if everyone comes together and unites for a common cause, we can help the authorities track down missing children and potentially save their lives. If you haven’t already, please “like” Amber Alert Ontario’s Facebook page and help spread the word across the country that Social Media really can make a difference.
If I’ve learned anything from the documentary Catfish, it’s that you never really know who you’re talking to online. As scary as it sounds, it’s actually relevant in modern day life especially with the recent boom of social media that seems to foster identity theft and deceit. Do you really know if the person in the profile photo is who they say they are? This film explores that realm and discovers that the answer is no.
Websites like Facebook and Myspace are praised for bringing people together and allowing communication even though the other person is miles away. What we seem to lose sight of very quickly is that we’re sitting in front of a screen with absolutely no idea who is on the other side of the conversation. Yaniv “Nev” Schulman is a 24-year-old photographer who, after having one of his photos published in a magazine, receives a painting in the mail by an 8-year-old girl in Michigan named Abby. Retreating to his online domain (Facebook), Nev connects with Abby and soon enough develops a close relationship with not only the 8-year-old girl, but also her mother Angela and older sister Megan. As Nev’s relationship with the family begins to grow, his filmmaking brother Ariel and their friend Henry, decide to begin documenting this journey to see where it ultimately leads.
What Ariel and Henry originally intended to document was Abby’s artistic ability and every day inspiration but by the end of the film you realize it has become the perfect analysis of the modern day social networking age. At some point along the way the story shifts from Nev and Abby to Nev and Megan who begin an impersonal love affair that is a superficial common place in today’s society. They communicate via text message, online chat and phone calls, yet all Nev knows about Megan is what he’s gathered from her Facebook profile page. It seems as though he is in love with an online profile, not an actual person.
The underlying theme doesn’t evolve until later on in the film but the influence, and seemingly strong foothold of the Internet, is apparent throughout. This film is about more than an online bond, it’s about society’s shift away from human interaction into an age of artificial and hollow relationships based on unstable foundations and naivety. Essentially the vast portion of this film has us looking over Nev’s shoulders as he sends online chat messages, posts comments on Megan’s wall, and uses Google street view to discuss locations or travel destinations.
Aside from its extremely creative and unique depiction, many critics are left wondering if the film’s ending was fact or fiction. So far reviews are mixed from the general public who argue that the handheld camera style is nauseating and that the movie has no right to consider itself a “thriller”. Either way, Catfish is sure to make an impression and change the way you think next time you find yourself chatting with a stranger online.
Since launching on October 4th, Gap’s new logo has received a firestorm of criticism from every corner of the Internet. Gap swapped the old logo for the new one on their website without saying a single word and once fans and consumers caught sight of it, they turned to the Internet to complain. Consumers immediately compared the new logo to Coca-Cola’s release of New Coke saying it was best left alone. Fans on Twitter and Facebook were not afraid to critique the design and point out that the new logo destroyed the brand image Gap had spent 22 years developing.
Completely stunned by the overwhelming and unexplainable response, the company reacted to what was quickly becoming a public relations fiasco by sending out a friendly invite to fans. Just a few days later the message appeared on their Facebook fan page asking for new design ideas and inspiration to replace the very unpopular new logo. The company stated that they were listening to consumer complaints and returning to the original design. Most importantly, Gap admitted to missing the chance to gather consumer input and they say that when it does come time for the logo to evolve, they will go about it in a different way. Although many fans reacted instantaneously to Gap’s decision to bring the old logo back with joy and appreciation, many are left wondering if a contribution to the future logo design will be utilized or just tossed in the vault.
Even though consumers can sleep well knowing their complaints were heard, stockholders, employees and even competitors must be in awe at how such a large and established company could make such a silly mistake. Gap had a solid fan base of 700,000 people and could have benefited greatly by simply listening to what they had to say and getting their input on the design and the new company image. The fact of the matter is that a logo is extremely important to a brand and often consumers find themselves connected with the image, which in this case, proved true on multiple levels.
This story has become another example for other businesses utilizing social media. Thankfully, through all this drama, we can learn a thing or two from Gap and hope that no such mistakes are made in the future. This whole thing started because the company launched a logo without telling anyone so when it appeared online, fans and consumers were outraged and offended. Not to mention that the company had a reason for creating a new logo but it was never conveyed properly because of the way in which they approached the situation. It seemed, from a consumer point-of-view, that Gap didn’t even care enough to tell its loyal fans what they were planning or how their image was evolving and that gave off a sense of arrogance that did not sit well with the public. This is where the problem lies; many businesses don’t realize that the community they are building online is not just some outlet for promotions, it’s a fan base that deserves recognition and attention. There are ways to engage people and use their enthusiasm to your benefit, especially through social media platforms. The whole point of using social media is to interact and show some personality so why are companies like Gap not utilizing this fan base to their benefit? Hopefully after the dust settles Gap will take a long, hard, look at their strategy and realize that they have a few holes to patch up.
After such a massive public relations fiasco, it seems safe to assume that Gap will lie low for a while and allow the story to bury itself in the news headlines. After all this I can’t help but wonder, will a new Gap logo ever meet consumer approval?
Apple is no stranger to innovation so when Steve Jobs announced the creation of Ping, a social network for music lovers, people weren’t very surprised that he’d managed to do it again. Social networking has been a hot spot for brands and businesses alike to interact with consumers and potential consumers via multiple platforms that are built around a variety of different interests. However, what about bands and artists and people with a real passion for music? Apple saw an opportunity and seized it. Not only that, but they did so with such precision that only 48 hours after its debut, Ping had already acquired over one million registered users.
The social network, offered as part of the iTunes 10 update, allows users to create a profile with a photo and other personal information, and add friends and artists they appreciate. Once they’ve joined, users can specify which genres of music they prefer and see what friends and artists are listening to. Users can also post reviews on songs, albums or artists for everyone to see and link to them from their profiles. Ping not only allows an expansion of your musical library, but it also gives people the ability to interact through a shared passion for music.
Not every artist has jumped on the bandwagon but those who have are already establishing fan bases quickly. From the perspective of an average user, I can say that the reason I enjoy it so much is that I love discovering a new band or artist and completely emerging myself in their sound. If I can see what tunes Madonna is listening too, you better believe I’ll check them out. If I, as a fan, am interested in an artist’s music, I can bet I’ll also be interested in what that artist is listening to personally since there is no doubt that their musical choices influence their own sound to some extent.
Aside from the people who dived in early, there may be a few who are hesitant to share their musical library with the world, and for good reason! Who doesn’t have at least ONE embarrassing track on their iPod? I know I could name a few! Luckily for these people, Ping offers the option to display music you like on your profile, or not. As for privacy, Ping has kept it very simple. You’re either private or public. If you choose to remain public, anyone can follow you (similar to Twitter) without your permission and your profile photo and provided information will be accessible by anyone on the network. If you choose to remain private, no one can follow you but your name and photo will appear for some options such as writing reviews.
For the time being one of the biggest downfalls I’ve managed to spot is the horrendous “recommendations” Ping offers. Instead of tying this into iTunes’ Genius feature, Ping is simply pulling the top artists on the network which presents two problems; the recommendations are nowhere near the music I enjoy and Ping can only pull from which artists have signed up so if you’re favourite artist doesn’t have a profile, you’re out of luck, at least for the time being. Hopefully Apple will clue in and fix this issue in the future but for now it looks like I’ll be using the search bar a whole lot.
From what I can tell, Ping is just your average social network so far. There are many updates, changes and additions that need to be completed before Ping can rise to its ultimate potential. What it requires to be successful is not unattainable and knowing Apple’s track record, it should not be difficult to incorporate. Ping isn’t incredibly useful just yet but it has managed to lay a solid base for a future worldwide platform that has the potential to change the way people share music.