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We began our blog in January 2017. Although to date we only published approximately 130 organic and curated blogs, we are pleased by the wide range of audiences we attract. We are a creative disruption think-tank pursuing new ways of helping our readers step outside your comfort zone and position your company as a trusted leader in your industry. We also encourage individuals to do the same. This platform, along with our Facebook and Twitter channels, gives us the opportunity to share, educate, engage, collaborate and communicate with an international audience. We divulge resources from a wide range of industries and offer inspirational and motivational good reads outside the business realm.
Here are 4 easy tips to apply to your blog content creation:
1. Ideas drive interest and social engagement. Whatever your blog’s unique angle is write down ideas that connect or contrast to your theme, no matter how farfetched they may seem. This gives you a premise to work from and a unique topic to write about.
2. Research- In order to break out with new, informative and exciting things to write about, you must first disrupt yourself by doing your research. You can find out information about practically any subject matter anywhere. Research will help you to either innovate or disintegrate in the construction of your words and ideas.
3. Use images whether they are your personal credits or those from public domain to give a well rounded more engaging introduction to your blog piece. Be sure to avoid using images from stock photography, stock footage, and stock music providers, unless you purchase them. Give credit to images you may add to your post from sources like Google Search images if they are not copywritten. Some are.
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Those worried that the rise of artificial intelligence means that robots will take their job might feel comforted by the fact that many AI tools are actually being designed not to replace humans, but to help them do their jobs better.
Though the field is still in its infancy, many young startups came to Europe’s largest tech conference, Web Summit, last week to showcase how their AI tools are working to make people more efficient and productive, in both their personal and professional lives. Here are a few that stood out.
(HONESTLY) TRACKING YOUR TIME
Does it feel like you’ve never got enough time for the things you really want to do in life? Paris-based AI startup Smarter Time is helping its 80,000 users find the time that always seems to be missing by tracking their habits and providing feedback.
[Photo: courtesy of SmarterTime]
The concept is that even if one were to try and track every moment of their day in order to manually analyze and optimize their time, few would bother putting in the really small things, but that’s where much of our time gets lost.“You will think it’s so small, I don’t need to input it, but that’s one way of cheating with your own schedule, because these small bits of time add up,” said Smarter Time’s cofounder and CMO, Anna Winterstein. “If you spend five minutes on Facebook 10 times a day that’s 50 minutes, that’s a huge amount of time, and you get distracted, and studies say you need at least 15 minutes to get focused again.”
Using a plugin that tracks desktop browsing, along with an app that tracks phone usage patterns, Smarter Time seeks to “give its users back time for what really matters,” said Winterstein, adding that the company is building features that will eventually encourage healthy lifestyle habits as well.
“By using the latest scientific research we’re trying to give people advice, like maybe you haven’t been sleeping enough or should be doing more fitness,” she said.
The app is currently available as a free download on Android devices, with additional features available for purchase, and an iOS version coming soon.
CRAFTING THE PERFECT COLD EMAIL
Founded in 2016 and officially launched last week at Web Summit, French startup AiZimov seeks to take the guesswork out of cold emails and solicitations, gathering data and information in order to autonomously craft emails that are more likely to receive a positive response.
[Photo: courtesy of Aizimov]
“All you have to put in are four things; first name, last name, email, and company,” said AiZimov’s CEO, Jérôme Devosse. With that information Devosse says the tool crawls the internet for every mention of the person and their organization, and crafts a message tailored to them. That could include references to their latest position paper, their company’s latest press release, their personal Twitter feed, or the hobbies listed on their LinkedIn profile.“If the guy, for example, has done a marathon, I may finish the email by saying ‘by the way, I also did a marathon in Rome, here is my time, how do we compare?’ to get their attention,” said Devosse.
Over time the tool collects information on the sorts of emails that get the best responses among specific target audiences and adjusts various factors–such as tone, length, content, and the time it’s sent–accordingly. While the program optimizes a first draft, the sender still has the opportunity to tweak the email according to their preferences and style, which AiZimov gradually learns to replicate.
“The tool will learn how people in that industry and that country react to different propositions; do they like humor? Do they like a formal tone? Do they like if we talk about their expertise?” explains Devosse.
Though a limited number of users can still get a free trial, Devosse says that it will eventually come with a price tag. As a result the company is targeting B2B companies to be used by their sales departments.
MANAGING AND IMPROVING YOUR WEBSITE
Those who manage their own website typically have three options for improving and optimizing its effectiveness: relying on free tools that require an understanding of website analytics, hiring a firm to help with website optimization, or doing nothing. With little time or resources to dedicate, many freelancers and startups must opt for the latter.
Based at the Technical University of Copenhagen, Canecto hopes to spread website optimization to the masses, providing everyone with the ability to affordably improve the performance of their online presence. “We remove the analytical process and just tell them exactly what to do to improve their website,” said Canecto’s CEO, Per Damgaard Husted, explaining that it doesn’t require significant resources or technological proficiency.
[Photo: courtesy of Canecto]
The tool, which officially launched to the public at Web Summit, seeks to help its users increase their visitors’ time onsite, and will eventually be able to optimize for other metrics as well. “What we’re working on is to enable you to put in your business goals, and get recommendations,” he said. “So in a couple of months you can put in say conversion goals, signups to the newsletter, downloading a PDF file, whatever generates value for you.”By downloading the Canecto script for their content management platform, users are not only able to get detailed information about how visitors interact with their website, but recommendations on how to improve. Such recommendations can range from color scheme to the prominence of photos to the length, tone, and content of text to the optimal number of links, videos, and images.
The tool even tracks social media to help provide additional recommendations based on real-time trends and interests amongst the target audience.
“It will tell you what are the interests of the people who have downloaded that PDF file or signed up for the newsletter, and you can see the reverse, the people who didn’t, and see the difference,” said Damgaard Husted.
Damgaard Husted adds that Canecto’s basic features, which are targeted toward individual freelancers and small business owners, are now available for free, while its more advanced tools, which can help optimize media spending, are available for a cost.
YOUR OWN EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
The decline in executive assistant roles following the Great Recession has always confused Roy Pereira. Though originally considered a cost-saving measure, the extra time now spent by executives on organizing schedules, preparing meeting notes, and planning travel logistics often proves more expensive. “I wanted to have my own EA, so I decided to build it,” said the Toronto-based entrepreneur.
The resulting product, Zoom.AI, can learn your habits and preferences, make recommendations, schedule meetings automatically and order a car to take you there.
[Photo: courtesy of ZoomAI]
“One of our most important tasks is to get you prepared for the meeting,” said Pereira. “So when you’re in the Uber you’ll pull up two pages of information on the person you’re meeting with, based on public information.”That information can include work history, common connections and friends on social media, recent media appearances, research papers, blog posts, common interests, and an analysis of personality traits.
“There’s also informational discovery inside the office,” said Pereira, who explains that the application can pull information from public documents, internal customer relations management systems, digital files, and other support systems. “With a couple of requests you can just ask, ‘where is the N.D.A. for Coca-Cola that we did last month?’ and it will find it,” he adds.
Asking Zoom.AI for the location of a file or to schedule a meeting is as simple as sending a message via text, Slack, Facebook, Skype, or any of the 16 compatible chat platforms. “It’s like talking to a person in a direct message,” said Pereira.
For example, if Pereira sends a message to his Zoom.AI assistant asking to schedule a coffee with a friend, the program will find time in both schedules near the time of day and for the duration that he typically takes a coffee break, at the coffee shop he frequents that is most geographically convenient for both participants, and send a meeting request.
According to Pereira this technology gives users an average productivity boost of 14%, or 25 hours a week.
A new report from App Annie predicts that time spent doing mobile shopping via apps will grow 45 percent in the U.S. during the week of Black Friday, compared to the same time two years ago. The firm also expects revenue generated through apps to break new records this season, and says consumers will spend over 6 million hours shopping in the top 5 digital-first apps on Black Friday alone.
App Annie’s forecast is based on data from Android devices in the U.S., as it doesn’t have visibility into iOS in the same way.
According to App Annie, the 6 million-plus hours spent on Black Friday in the top five digital-first apps (e.g. apps from companies like Amazon, Wish, Etsy and Zulily that only exist online) represents a 40 percent increase over just last year.
That also means that on Black Friday – November 24, 2017 – these top five apps will account for 15 percent of the total time spent in shopping apps during the entire Black Friday week (Nov. 19-25).
Meanwhile, other top shopping apps that App Annie dubs the “bricks-and-clicks” apps – meaning those where the retailer has both an online and brick-and-mortar presence – will also see some growth, though not as strong. Top bricks-and-clicks apps include those from retailers, like Target, Walmart, The Home Depot, and Kohl’s, for example.
The firm predicts the top five apps in this group will see 30 percent growth in time spent on Black Friday 2017, compared to Black Friday 2016.
Combined with the expected increases in mobile shopping revenues generated in the apps, App Annie believes Black Friday 2017 will be the biggest mobile shopping day ever in the U.S.
Black Friday may also lead to a ripple effect in mobile e-commerce around the world, the report points out.
As with the traffic increases seen on Amazon’s Prime Day, the total time spent in shopping apps outside the U.S will also increase this year. In Japan, the time spent in shopping apps on Android will be up 65 percent from 2 years ago to over 15 million hours; the U.K. will see a 45 percent increase to over 6 million hours.
This year, AliExpress may also see significant usage during Black Friday week. The app already snagged the number one spot for shopping apps across iOS and Google Play ahead of Singles’ Day (Nov. 11) in the U.K., France, and Germany.
Separately, the firm Sensor Tower noted AliExpress has just achieved a milestone here in the U.S. as well – it hit the top of the U.S. iPhone chart for the first time on November 12, 2017. (Its previous peak had been #51 back on March 23.)
Over the past year or so, earbuds with translation tech have been popping up everywhere, signaling the evolution of an industry. Headphones are now capable of being more than just a means to deliver music — if the tech is good enough, they can act as a bridge between disparate cultures, bringing people together to foster mutual understandings.
The new Bluetooth-enabled Mars wireless earbuds, a collaborative project from Line Corporation and Naver Corporation (a leading internet provider in Korea and Line’s parent company), aim to do just that. Boasting real-time ear-to-ear translation of 10 different languages, Mars is unique in that it is designed for each person to wear one earbud (as opposed to needing two pairs). The earbuds were named a CES 2018 Best of Innovation Honoree at CES Unveiled New York on Thursday, November 9.
Scheduled for release in early 2018, Mars support Line’s Clova artificial intelligence, a virtual assistant which takes cues from Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Aside from translation, Clova can help users stream music from several sources, check the weather forecast, and control Internet of Things (IoT) devices, all via voice commands. Line touts Clova as the first A.I. platform developed specifically with Asian markets in mind; Clova integration will be available at launch in Korea and roll out to other markets over time, though we don’t have any sort of timetable.
Microphones inside the Mars — Line doesn’t specify but we assume they’re bone-conduction mics — feature automatic ambient noise blocking, ensuring that users can take phone calls comfortably, even in loud, busy environments. For translation purposes, supported languages (for now) include: English, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Thai, and Indonesian. We don’t yet know how much the Mars will cost or where they will be available.
In addition to Mars, Line launched a smart speaker in Japan in 2017 called the Clova Wave. Line also announced a series of kid-targeted speakers called the Champ, featuring anthropomorphized Line characters Brown (a bear) and Sally (a baby chicken), but we haven’t heard anything about them since. Line is perhaps best known for its messenger app and social media platform, which is popular in South Korea.
When it launched in 2015, many of the bajillions of media impressions REI racked up with its #OptOutside campaign were a result of the sheer counter-intuitiveness of it all. A major retailer closing its doors on one of the biggest shopping days of the year is news worth talking about. For the co-op to make good on its commitment to the outdoors by closing down to give employees a paid day off that they could enjoy in the fresh air was cool in and of itself. But what took #OptOutside to a higher level was how the brand also created content and tools for people to use in their pursuit of fun outside: trail guides, expert advice, and more. What could have been an admirable stunt became an entire platform.
This year, REI is keeping #OptOutside going with what it calls an “experiential search engine,” essentially a hashtagged library of pictures, videos, and more from people all over the world who are offering up their favorite places and activities in the outdoors for others to discover. The images are pulled entirely from #OptOutside user-generated content on Instagram, augmented with real-time information about locations and experiences. For example, if you click on an image of a hiker, you’ll also see the name of the specific trail featured, the trail’s difficulty rating, directions to the trailhead, recent user reviews of the experience, and related expert advice from REI. Leading up to Black Friday, the brand is also releasing 20 films featuring this type of community-created content.
In its first year, #OptOutside got tons of attention and won almost every major advertising award. For REI’s chief creative officer Ben Steele, the strategy behind keeping its momentum going starts by focusing on its original purpose.
“Why did we make this decision? Why did we take this action? It is about closing our doors, paying our employees, and inviting the world to join us, but it’s really about enabling more people to get outdoors, in more ways, more often,” says Steele.
While the first year of the blockbuster campaign got most of its attention for closing the stores and giving employees a paid day off, last year the brand brought more partner companies into the fold, including Google and Subaru, and launched an outdoor activity finder on the campaign’s website, where people could find nearby trails and parks, upload photos, and find nonprofits that help protect the outdoors. This year the goal was to find a creative way to bring all of it even closer together.
“What started as a moment has kind of become a movement,” Steele says. “It’s about behavior change and giving people tools to do something different with their time. The experiential search engine idea is really about: if we’ve invested in helping people get out, enabling them to get out there, how can we connect those dots even more? Inspiring them with the stories of people living the life outdoors, enabling them with awesome trail content that gives them the functionality to get out there, augmenting that with classes and events and the best expert advice, and connecting the co-op into one place and one experience.”
Given the success it’s seen over the last two years, you’d think keeping #OptOutside going would be a cakewalk for REI marketers. But Steele says the challenge lies in making it even better and more useful without sacrificing simplicity.
“There are challenges in continuing this work on a couple of fronts, and the first is really being laser-focused on the purpose, the reason we’re doing it, ” he says. “We’re really lucky that we’ve got an 80-year-old co-op. It’s not like we have to invent what it stands for and what it’s all about. When we need to be reminded, we have generations of members and visionary leaders to look to. So the number one focus is to keep it simple. Why did we do what we did in 2015? Why are we adding to it? Does it help enable that? Does it make it brighter? Does it make it better? Or does it just make it more complicated?”
Trail guides and expert advice are great, but perhaps#OptOutside’s biggest draw, even among people who measure hikes in city blocks, is how it represented a brand putting its people and overall mission above short-term sales. Make no mistake, shutting down all retail and online sales on Black Friday is no small sacrifice. In the past, it was a Top 5 sales day for REI. But the payoff in putting action behind words has been invaluable.
“We talk a lot about the power of authenticity and the power of truth, and it’s got to be there in your stories, but it’s got to be there in your actions, too,” says Steele.
And that philosophy resonates just as strongly within the co-op itself.
“When we first announced this at the co-op internally, there were people who worked retail, with us and elsewhere, who had never had that day off,” says Steele. “The emotional power it had for them to know that on Thanksgiving they’re focused on their family and doing something awesome with the people [they] love the next day, versus having to go into work? That power hasn’t faded.”