Firing Over Facebook: What Do You Think?

So I’ve been hearing a lot about this as of late, and I was hoping to get some feedback on what you all think on the matter. There was a story online recently that talked about a California student that was suspended from school for calling his teacher “fat”. A lawyer for the student, because this obviously required a lawyer, claimed that his suspension directly violated his first amendment rights. The lawyer referred back to another case where an employee was fired for making derogatory remarks about her supervisor. In that case, the courts determined that Facebook Posts are, in fact, protected under the first amendment. I, myself, had a situation in high school where our school leaders were able to hack into the students Instant Messaging accounts and print off their previous conversations. They then held a parents-only meeting where they showed the conversations to the group and got a lot of people in trouble.

I’m kind of taken aback by this whole situation. I mean, I get that people shouldn’t so stupid as to post something mean, or derogatory, in a PUBLIC forum, then allow the people that is has been written about to see what they have said. It’s like vandalizing someones car then walking up to them and saying “Hi, I vandalized your car, wanna see?”, and expecting to just walk away unscathed. Having said that, I find it completely ridiculous to suspend, or fire, someone over Facebook. If they aren’t directly threatening someone than it should be dismissed. Facebook is a place to express yourself. You are connected with your friends and family and you want to tell them about your life. I’m sure the teacher had their feelings hurt when they were called fat, and I don’t condone being mean to people, but come on. As for firing people for their posts that I could understand a little bit more. If someone is using their Facebook to incite dissension, or reveal anything that is privileged information that I agree, it’s grounds for dismissal. It would equate to overhearing someone say those things.

I think there are just a few easy steps that would make this whole point moot. First, don’t be stupid, change your account’s privacy settings. If you are online, and you are posting about how much you hate everyone, and you know that your boss, or coworker, has a profile, and you have your page open to be read by anyone, than you deserve to get fired. Protect your page, remove your boss from your friends list, and have at it.

Second, from the other end, if your are a large corporation, or really a business of any kind, and you decide that you want to peruse your the profiles of your constituents than maybe it would be smart to have a mutually agreed upon Social Media policy that everyone is aware of and signed off on. If you develop a Social Media policy and your employees agree to it, than when they violate it, you can stomp all over their first amendment rights. Be smart people.

So there you go, that’s my take on the whole situation. What do you think?

LED Technology on Full Display at Detroit Auto Show

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) is known for one thing: Cars. It is a once a year event loaded with all of the next generation of vehicles as well as dozens of futuristic concept cars, all waxed to a near reflective shine. Well this year the show offered a glimpse at another new and exciting technology: LED Lighting. Now, LED’s are not new by any means, but they aren’t old either, and they are just hitting their curve. With the impending incandescent blubs ban, LED lighting will become the new norm in illumination. The future of LEDs was on full display at NAIAS where several of the worlds largest auto-makers built massive LED walls, screens and even a color-changing LED walkway or two.

In addition to the large LED displays there was also a focus on many of the smaller applications of LED technology. There was, what seemed to be, a competition on which of the new green cars used more of the new lighting. Every car that claimed to be “environmentally friendly” listed it’s various lighting systems that utilized LEDs. Also, Lexus was unveiling their new vehicle, the eco-friendly, wallet-friendly CT 200h, and one of the main points they pushed in their presentation was that they boasted, a record holding, 89 LEDs in this new vehicle.

Overall, the spectacle was quite impressive and really featured all of the advantages to LED lighting: crisp images, clean white light, limitless applications, and of course, minimal electricity usage. It was definitely a sign of whats to come.

Lexus LED Walkway

Prius LED Wall

QR Codes Make A Splash At NAIAS

As I predicted earlier, QR codes would soon be everywhere, and at the North American International Auto Show they were. The new, high-tech bar codes were being used by several of the worlds largest automakers at the yearly auto show in Detroit. The codes, which can hold a link to a web page, a picture, or preset text, allows customers access to this information on their smart phones. For the most part, companies at the Detroit Auto Show were using these codes, posted on their cars, to provide more information about the car that you were looking at. Some companies took it a step further. One company used them to direct you to a page that contained information about their products and a $250 “Auto Show” discount on their vehicles. Yet another company used them to sign you up to receive information and enter you in a sweepstakes to win a car.

I was impressed with these large companies utilization of a relatively new phenomena. Plus, not only did they use them, they used them perfectly. They used them to improve user experiences at their displays as well as cut back on a lot of the paper associated with information packets. In addition, I would assume they set up some sort of system to track their total scans on these codes, providing usable data from their presence at the event.

Overall it made the whole experience, which is fun to begin with, far more interesting and interactive. That is why I love these things; they could turn a boring trip to the mall, or grocery store into an interesting, fun, insightful experience. Expect to see a lot more of these in the future.

Good News: Starbucks is Now Making it Easier For Us to Buy Their Coffee.

Are you one of those people that can’t live without getting their favorite drink every morning from Starbucks?

Do you also dislike waiting in line as people fumble with their money, or talk rudely on their cellphones and hold everyone up? Well a new technology might have an answer to both of those problems. Starbucks announced yesterday that soon you will be able to pay for your favorite coffee drinks using your mobile phones. Yup, your heard me right. No more cash or change or anything like that. Soon you will be able to pay for your drink with a quick scan of your phone at all nationwide Starbucks locations.

Starbucks released their Starbucks Card Mobile app a while back and, until now, it hasn’t been good for much other than checking balances on your gift cards. Well now they’ve made it so you can use the app as legal tender at their stores.

Here’s how it works. You get a gift card for Christmas, or you buy a refillable card yourself, and you input it into the card onto your smart phone. From there, any time you want to pay you just push a button and it generates a QR code which you can scan using their readers, and voila, you’re on your way. In addition, you can add to your card anytime using PayPal or a credit card. It’s truly genius.
My hope is that, similar to how everything social I do can be done on my phone, I hope that one day I will no longer need to carry a wallet, and never have to worry about money again. Wouldn’t that be nice? Every great adventure must first start with one small step, and this is that step.

QR Codes: The Coolest Thing You Haven’t Heard of… Yet

Have you ever been out and about and noticed those little scrambled black and white boxes? Well those are called QR codes and they are the future of… well I don’t know, but the possibilities are endless. QR codes, or quick response codes are essentially bar codes that are able to store much more information. They can store URLs, geographic coordinates or text, and can be read by any smart phone, or tablet, with a QR reader. When you scan one of these codes your mobile device will display the hidden content right there in your hand.

I’m going to let that sink in because it is pretty awesome. These little scrambled boxes are paper links that, when opened, take you to whatever information their creator wants you to see. From an advertising standpoint the possibilities excite me to no end: coupon codes on products, coded sponsorships, codes that direct to your site, even guerrilla codes, posted anywhere, that take people to your content. The possibilities are endless.

In addition, as a consumer, I’m equally excited for this. It’s like a scavenger hunt. I’m hoping for hidden codes that provide discounts to a particular establishment, or less excitingly, codes that provide more product information on something I see in a magazine, or in an ad. This can literally make any paper media an interactive, and digital experience. I bet newspapers are letting out a collective sigh of relief. This might save them. They could use codes to give more information or insight that you could read on your tablets or phones, allowing them to provide something that you can’t get online. You could use them in museums to provide interactive content to guests, on your resume to link to your online profile, or put them on your business card to provide a prospective client with more information without more paper.

I’m sorry if this is becoming a scrambled, or rambling post, but I am literally coming up with new uses for these things as I write, and my excitement about them is causing my thoughts to get ahead of my fingers.

Anyway, check these things out, make a couple, get a scanner on your phone and start looking for ‘em. They’re out there.

Coming Soon: Robots!

Almost 15 years after their Kasparov super-computer beat the world chess champion,the computer giant IBM has done it again. Yesterday, in a Jeopardy practice round, IBM’s newest super computer “Watson” defeated the greatest champions in the show’s history: Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Now this may not seem like a big feat considering how a computer works, when asked a question it searches for an answer and delivers it, but think back to the last time you saw Jeopardy. The questions are always worded in a way where they, in fact, aren’t questions at all, but rather leading statements that are describing a certain word, person, or place. So how then would a computer be able to decipher was was really insinuated by these clues?    Well that’s where things get weird.

The genius behind Watson, besides having access to all of the knowledge online, is that it is able to distinguish the subtle nuances in the English language; which is what makes the English language one of the hardest to learn. I know what you might be thinking, “the English language isn’t hard to learn”, and that may be true, but it is difficult to use. Think about all of the “slang” words you use in a day; all of the words that aren’t taught. Then think of all the words that have multiple or situational meanings such as, “high”, “drive”, “hungry” etc. Almost every word can be used in different contexts to mean different things. Then you think about all of the homophones like “acts and axe”, or “capital and capitol”. If you keep thinking you soon find out that it may be easy to learn our words, but almost impossible to use them properly. Well Watson has been taught every possible variation of our language and can therefore respond properly to human speech.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is getting really sci-fi, really fast. You think about the next step in this progression and you can’t help but think of the movie iRobot. I think of artificial organisms that look real, and are programmed to understand language completely and be able to respond with equal understanding. It doesn’t seem out of reach; I mean, computers used to have tubes, and punch cards. In addition to that, in the last 20 years, we’ve been able to take any technology we’ve invented and make it as small as we want it. How long do you think it will take, remembering how big computers used to be, before Watson can fit in our hands and have conversations with us? That’s certainly an exciting and bizarre concept. Now I’m not so crazy as to think that some day the machines will rise up and destroy us, but it seems that they will be smart enough to do so in the near future.

If you are interested in the Watson super computer you can check it out on Jeopardy when they air their first ever “Man vs. Machine” contest February 14th – 16th. I know I’ll be watching.

The Verizon iPhone: Will it be worth it?

There is plenty of buzz around the web about the announcement of the iPhone coming to Verizon. Along with those articles are numerous predictions of the immediate demise of AT&T at the hands of Verizon. Everyone, me included, has been rather impatiently waiting for the day when we would have an iPhone alternative to AT&T’s horrible network. Well that time is now, and I find myself asking whether my immediate departure from my current plan is the best solution.

I have been reading up on this whole Verizon iPhone and the best article I’ve seen so far was on Mashable called “Why the Verizon iPhone Doesn’t Spell Distaster For AT&T”, by Ben Parr. It outlined the several reasons why switching to Verizon, while most likely the best option, should be considered more carefully. He pointed out that there are several factors that you might want to consider before making the switch. First, Apple has increased their early termination fee to try to dissuade customers from jumping ship early. Second, the iPhone that you have now will not work on Verizon’s network; so you will need to buy a new one. Third, Verizon may have better coverage, but they have a much slower 3G network, so you won’t have all of the capabilities that your iPhone does now. Finally, when has Apple ever launched something that hasn’t had major problems at the beginning?

I was reading through this article on my iPhone, and wondering if there were a more logical alternative for this problem. Is it wise to switch immediately out of spite for the network that has let me down so many times? Or would it be a better idea to wait for Verizon to catch up with their technology and work out the kinks with Apple? It’s definitely something I would recommend you think about before you make the switch.

Of course, as I was reading this article, and thinking about this decision, my iPhone lost service and kicked me off the web… maybe it’s not quite as tough a decision as I thought.

How the Mac App Store Will Advance the Social Media Agenda

I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the app store that Apple has launched for Macs. It allows you to run your favorites iPhone apps right on your desktop. They have managed to take the brilliant “I always have something to entertain me” mentality of the iPhone, and put it where you want it most, on your computer, where most of us spend our days. Now I personally came up with idea months ago while sitting in my room wishing I could play Angry Birds on my Mac, but I guess that’s beside the point. With the new App store for the Mac you can now spend your free time playing Sudoku, or tweeting about this and that, or even planning your week’s outfits using the Dress Assistant App.

Now, apart from the frivolities offered by the numerous apps available, there is also excitement amongst social media enthusiasts everywhere. This new Apple creation offers the next significant advancement of the social media agenda. They now, or soon will, take all your favorite sites and social media pages, and make them stationary on your desktop. Once there they will come alive and turn your computer into a living organism; constantly updating and breathing all of the social media you love. It will become a friend, that tells you everything you want to know when you want to know it. You will not be able to live without it.

This preposition, from a marketing standpoint, offers advertisers an ideal scenario. Consider this:  You are sitting at your computer at work, it has been a long day, and you have settled into the work/surf-the-web part of your day. You have your work computer set up with all of your favorite pages, in app form, scattered across your desktop. Needing a break, you decide to sit back and watch all of these pages deliver to you any and all information you want to know. You relax as you find comfort in the latest funny tweet from Steve Martin , or a reassuring Facebook post from your mother, and you are once again at peace.

Now, as an advertiser, this presents you with an opportunity to create content for these apps and have them delivered to a curious, and captive audience at all times of the day, and at locations, (like at work for example) that you normally couldn’t reach them. Also, the Mac Apps offer another benefit; they offer the customizability, and specificity of iPhone apps without the limitations that the small phone has. I know, for me personally, I hate the ads on my phone for two reasons: first, they always show up at the most inopportune times, and second, they take up half of my screen. It is for these reasons, along with the fact that the screen is too small to do much meaningful web browsing, that I refuse to follow any of the links in the ads. This shouldn’t be nearly as much of a problem with the Mac Apps, just as long as they don’t make me sit through 20 second, full page, ads for a weight loss drug while I’m waiting for Angry Birds to load.

The Mac App store is truly a genius idea that will, like the apps on the iPhone, change the way we interact with the world, and the way the world interacts with us. It’s still in it’s infancy but I know that it will expand rapidly, and I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

Ingenex Welcomes New Intern David Weight

David Weight is a recent graduate from Michigan State University with his Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising Management. He first fell in love with the digital world after taking the New Media Drivers License course at MSU. Since then he has been working his way through the web looking for the most interesting stuff he can find. He is one of the Spring 2011 interns at Ingenex Digital Marketing, and is excited about learning everything he can about Digital Marketing.

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