People who need people rating apps

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Controversial app Peeple is everything tech shouldn’t become

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 23, 2016

I hate that review apps exist to begin with. While customer reviews are one of the most trusted forms of marketing, I have little respect for the people who leave negative reviews. What can I say? When I read reviews sometimes, I often feel that those who wrote them are small people who need to do whatever it takes to feel big. They are using their power of free speech to harm a business.

Now, it gets worse. There is now an app that allows you to rate and review people’s reputations. The app is called Peeple, and it is gaining a lot of negative publicity. Why not? Remember when you were young, and your parents taught you that if you have nothing good to say, then you shouldn’t say anything at all? This teaching should not change in the digital age, but I believe it has. Take a look at all the bullshit comments on social media if you don’t believe me.

It’s clear that things are going to get worse before they are going to get better in this realm.

Interacting with people shouldn’t be the same as buying electronics. You shouldn’t go online, Google someone, and compare them with other people. The thing is, I know what the creators and founders of Peeple were thinking: so many people are shitty. Yes, of course, people are shitty, but that is life. Dealing with shitty people, whether they are in front of you in the Starbucks lineup or they are your parents, is a part of human existence. Technology does not make people more considerate or more caring, especially not an app that encourages people to treat others like businesses.

If you were a business, you would separate the job from your personal identity. You would have a website, a LinkedIn page, a Facebook fan page, or anything else where you can have a two-way channel, where there can be communication, and progress to resolving an issue—should there be one. However, if it is just a review or a rating system, rarely is there any valuable feedback. It’s more or less just a rant or words of caution. Since, we aren’t talking about a business but an actual human person with feelings, giving someone a one-star rating is a clear, unprovoked diss.

Let’s live in a world where we can approach each other as friends and speak honestly, rather than reviewing and rating others, harbouring animosity, and deterring others from having a genuine human experience. If you truly want to help someone, and not just judge them, you wouldn’t use an app like Peeple to express your thoughts.

And for those who really care about their online reputation, well, maybe you should work on your actual human reputation first.

Let technology marinate

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Why you should let tech ripen and avoid being an early adopter

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 4, 2014

When new technology is released to the public there is often a party of people who approach it with absolute frenzy. The mystique of new technology is certainly alluring, since innovation is seen as a remarkable achievement. However, it’s that mystique that should leave consumers wary of new technology, be it the latest app, smartwatch, tablet, smartphone, or other new tech.

You should always embrace new technology, but it’s not necessarily important to wait in line for days outside the Apple Store. We’re living in a time where we are governed by tech. We use it for work, we use it for entertainment, and yes, we use it for pretty much everything else imaginable. But what we should know is that technology will move us, it’ll teach us to adopt it as it grows. We shouldn’t go out our way for it and we should stop treating it like a false messiah.

There is no reason to get a product as soon as it hits the shelves, aside from having the small claim to fame as being the guy with the latest gadget. For many of those people the way of thinking is: you shouldn’t wait because technology moves at such a fast pace that if you don’t get this newest item now, it’ll be old news when the next new release is out. Although I understand that sentiment, I cannot condone it.

Getting new technology for the sake of having new technology will only lead to disappointment. Why? It’s because a product or a service generally takes a certain amount of time in order for it to hit critical mass. No doubt the faster you join something the more experienced you’ll be once it becomes popular, but you’ll also be a guinea pig for the first few quarters as the producers and designers determine its true functionality.

New products have complications in a few categories. 1) New devices, products, and even services will have compatibility problems. 2) As a beta tester for a new technology, you’ll be exposed to defective tools with bugs and glitchy software. 3) New products will naturally be more expensive and their value will depreciate as soon as you purchase them, making them poor investments with little resale value.

Although marketers are always looking for early adopters for their products, we should understand that owning premature technology might in fact be a frustrating experience. Remember how choked you were every time Facebook updated its layout without your permission? With that in mind, enjoy the technology you have for a little longer, and allow gadgets to depreciate and new technology to appreciate.

Don’t fall victim to the hype. As life changing as technology is, it takes a community to adopt it, not just an individual. So wait.

How Making, Recording, and Measuring Decisions as a Team Can Change Your Company

Nothing says teamwork better than a group of people aligned in the decision making process. While some workplaces are guided by the “executive decisions” of the boss, that leadership practice might not necessary be the best approach in advocating change, nurturing involvement and learning from prior mistakes (i.e. bad decisions).

Steven Forth, CEO and director of Nugg, an application that enable workplace team members to focus, decide, track and align ideas, believes that decisions should not be made in a vacuum, and that the full decision-making cycle begins and ends with proper communication.

Forth wrote: “Some would say research, and research is sometimes needed, but the best decisions are made as part of conversations.”

Intuitive decisions should not feel random

The decision making cycle includes five key steps: surface, discuss, decide, execute, and review; all of which plays into a long-term goal. It’s true that not all decisions are of equal value; some are undoubtedly more serious than others. With that being said, the process of making decisions should not feel random, even though gut feelings, deadlines and stress may play a role.

“Emotions are critical to making intuitive decisions. ‘It feels right’ is a valid reason to make a decision,” wrote Forth. “But you still need to think through what the outcomes will be. Nugg let’s you mark any update or comment as a decision and then you or another person on your team can unfold that decision in more detail.”

Designate time to perform and review

By establishing a workplace culture that track, measure and review decisions after time have passed, allows team members to stay alert and execute appropriately in the future. Setting deadlines may seem like a stress magnifier, but that is not necessarily true. Implementing deadlines can sharpen intuitive decision-making, dampen procrastination and offer a more focused timeframe for exploration.

“Review date and getting explicit about expected and actual outcomes is so important,” Forth wrote. “And in most cases the first review should be relatively soon, within three months at the very longest. If you expect an outcome and are not getting it you need to review the decision.”

Don’t let good ideas and bad results get lost in the clutter

It’s not surprising that most people would want to quickly dismiss a bad decision from the past, wipe it from their mind and start anew. But that mentality will lead to history repeating itself. Don’t simply brush bad results under the desk, because they’ll likely reemerge in another form to waste time, effort and money.

On the flip side of the coin, good ideas are exchanged on the daily with zero trace. These ideas are often lost in an email thread, scattered amongst the shambles on your desk or simply placed in the back of your mind.

“Recording decisions and measuring the outcomes is critical today,” noted Gord Kukec, Member of the BCFerries Board of Directors, in a conversation with Nugg. “With so much happening it is easy for people to lose track of decisions and fail to check what actually results, but few teams do this in any systematic way. If you don’t record your decisions and measure the outcomes, you will never improve.”

Employ team members to participate in the decision-making process

Making decisions, especially on behalf of a whole company, is a scary venture. Ultimately, most long-term results are unpredictable.

That being the case, an individual may panic, second-guess or be guided by a bias intention. Even the most apt leaders will have trouble making those “executive decisions,” but the pressure shouldn’t fall solely on the boss—the supporting team should have equal responsibility to supply input and review previous cases, thus leading the best possible result, even if the decision was made in haste.

Vancouver’s Unravel Brings Businesses and Customers Together Through Apple’s iBeacon

Vancouver-based Unravel recognizes that in our content-heavy world, consumers are often bombarded with irrelevant content—content that has imminent expiration or is calling to an improbable action. These types of engagement are fruitless for the brands and businesses and are annoying for everyone.

The old paradigm is that it was up to the brand to attract and nurture the consumers by reaching as far and wide as possible, but Unravel is enabling the consumers to meet the content and data halfway.

By using iBeacon technology developed by Estimote, Unravel is creating a new avenue for companies to communicate with the public. People with the Unravel app on their smartphone can one day walk up to a restaurant and instantly see the menu or approach a movie poster and get the nearest theatre location and show time.

Unravel offers three different models of content upon their dashboard: Webpage link that will show up as a browser, image that will tell a story through mobile swipe and a simple message such as “Welcome!”

“A great thing about this is that when you leave a location, you don’t leave all that content behind,” says Amit Aujla, cofounder of Unravel. “All the content gets compiled into the [Unravel] feed, so if there was something that you were interested in that popped up on your phone, you can come back to it later.”

Once the individual “Beacons” are implemented in a given service location, it will be capable of functioning in three different zones: Immediate (one meter), intermediate (five meters) and very far (25 meters).

“The main one that will be used by businesses will be the Immediate Zone,” Daniel Khatkar, cofounder of Unravel, told Techvibes, “because when you start going into the larger range, the radius gets really big. If you are on the other side [of a business] you might not necessarily want to receive information there.”

Unravel is not only using the iBeacon to send messages and entice customers, there is a lot of big data that can come from such a little device. The iBeacon can measure temperature and evaluate the number of occupancies in one area for a length of time. All this data can be instrumental for companies such as transportation, retail and event hosting that are seeking optimal costumer services and internal performance.

Currently Unravel is preparing to host a series of scavenger hunts in collaboration with established businesses. Participants will get to experience the new technology first hand and have a chance to win gift cards and event tickets. The app will be available shortly on the App Store and the scavenger hunt is set to commence in August.

“With the scavenger hunt, we want to show people how the technology works,” said Khatkar. “It’s an opt-in technology, if they don’t want to use it, at least they will know the purpose of the technology and what it is.”

Unravel offers brands and advertisers a broad platform to inform, promote and keep in touch with consumers. The scavenger hunt is the initial step for Unravel to gain traction, but the potential seems promising for this young company as they continue to educate the newfound value of iBeacon.

“I want businesses to contact other businesses and say, ‘I want to advertise on your Beacon in your store,’” said Khatkar. “Or if I’m an advertiser and I want to contact Uber or a cab company and put a Beacon in there—based on the demographic—then I’ll have a target audience.”

Farm At Hand is the Modern, Technological Solution to Traditional, Antiquated Farm Organization

There is a common misconception about farmers that Farm At Hand cofounder Kim Keller wants to wipe out.

“[Farmers] are just people like everyone else,” said Keller, who grew up on a 12,000-acre farm in Saskatchewan and continues to farm to this day. “They use their phones for banking, news, Facebook and Twitter. They are on all of that everyday, because they obviously have lives outside of farming.”

Farm At Hand sprouted from the idea that farmers needed a new solution for managing their inventory, field activities, calendar, deliveries, contracts, equipment and storage. But the problem was that there wasn’t anything out there. So the farmers resulted to the primitive solution: pen and paper.

“On the farm each piece of equipment will have a notebook where the person operating it will have to write everything down,” Keller explains the complications that farmers deal with. “Chances are they didn’t write it down, or if they did write it down it doesn’t make any sense to the person who actually has to read it. Notebooks get lost, get covered in water, coffee, whatever. It’s a matter of not having information for record keeping and it ends up costing a lot of money in mistakes.”

The goal for Farm At Hand is to streamline the management process by creating a single point of data entry for the famers and a single point of access for agriculture businesses. Whether the farmers are tracking the growth of a potato or the pesticide spray in an acre of crop, the optimal results can only be reached when the work is communicated and tracked effectively.

“We have a lot of record keeping and data that comes into the program,” said Himanshu Singh, co-founder of Farm At Hand, “but actually turning it around and supplying summary of the data, providing summarized report of the end of seeding and things like that is what makes the application valuable.”

“When farming operations gets large with so many different people around, farmers need to make sure that task are completed,” added Singh. “[Farm At Hand] is just a better way of visualizing that information.”

Farming jobs change depending on the seasons and so does the way farmers use Farm At Hand features. During the growing season, the field planting and spraying features are used predominantly. Then as farmers approach the harvest season in the fall, they begin to use the storage features. In the winter, the equipment, contracts and sales features are used. Farm At Hand is built with farmer’s various workloads in mind, understanding that at any given time of the year certain jobs will shift and so must the usage of the application.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations by 2050 farmers are required to produce twice as much food to feed a growing population. It might seem like a long time from now, but the day is fast approaching. While more farmlands and farmers may seem like a plausible answer in the next 35 years, Farm At Hand believes that the real solution is in managing and organizing the system we already have for increased efficiency.

“I’m not sure if things are changing quickly,” said Keller, “or if people realize how important their food source is now, but agriculture is earning a lot of interest and farmers know they need something better.”

FIXO Manages the Communication Between Property Managers and Their Tenants

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Home. It’s where our heart is—or at least it’s where our things are.

Regardless, it’s pretty important. So it only makes sense that the care for the house and the livability aspect is something that property owners, private landlords and tenants should be able to communicate without having to play cat and mouse.

FIXO, a new communication app designated for residential property managers and their tenants is eliminating the lost messages and the neglected bulletin board postings of a bygone time. Having an accessible mobile solution to such an old relationship is proving to create many new opportunities for both parties that otherwise might have been ignored.

As a participant in The Next 36, a SFU business student, and an aspiring property manager, FIXO’s co-founder, Chantelle Buffie, wanted to take part in a project that she herself will find value in. “The biggest complaint is that tenants don’t see a resolution or their maintenance issues fixed right away,” Buffie tells Techvibes Media. “And a lot of that comes with the inefficiency of current communications tools used by property managers.”

While Buffie recognizes the complexity of being a property manager, her business partners and fellow co-founders of FIXO, Jonathan Yam and Armin Mahmoudi have seen the problems from the tenant’s perspective. It’s not easy living with a predicament, addressing it to the property manager in an email and then feeling forgotten due to a messy inbox. With no on-the-go and easily accessible tool, property managers are challenged when it comes to prioritizing issues and inquiries, in addition to organizing documents and contracts. FIXO establishes mutual respect by bringing the needs of residents and renters out of the junk folder.

But FIXO is not only a platform for tenants with “complaints”; it also works as a communication centre between a property manager and all his or her tenants. FIXO is a paperless option for building notices, a chore often left to the property managers, security guards and the friendly door guy/concierge/whatever his actual title is—whatever he’s nice.

“If something is happening in the building, you’ll want to know,” said Buffie. “That is why we are working to incorporate building notices and mass-group notices across the platform, or just general inquires. At the end of April we will be testing [FIXO] out with a student residency in Toronto. Our focus is going to be student residency first, because students live on their phones.”

Hear ye! Hear ye! As our communities grow, town crier jobs are harder and harder to get. Yet the number of communication tools will increase. Even property managers have multiple options when it comes to performing their duties: CRM software, web apps, customized portals, emails and of course, in-person communication.

“Where we see having the advantage is that a lot of them don’t focus on having a mobile application,” said Buffie. “What we want to do is have instant real time communication, where we can get Push notifications instantaneously. For instance, if there is a fire alarm testing you as a property manager can send out a quick notification in the app and it’ll get Pushed to the tenants automatically, so they won’t have to fish through their emails and they won’t have to read a notice on the door.”

New Canadian App Encore Helps Concert Fans Relive Memories Of The Epic Nights

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The bass drop, the drum beat and the roaring applaud and cheers of the crowd, urging the band back on stage for just one, maybe two more songs: those are the fleeting moments of a concert.

Those moments are what Toronto-based Encore is hoping to save for fans and concert lovers all across the world. The new app will act as a storage bank containing photos, videos, set lists, past and future shows and other sharable content, as well as the convenience and accessibility to purchase tickets and invites friends.

According to Encore’s Summer 2013 Survey of concertgoers between the ages of 18 and 30, 72% will take pictures, 49% will post it to Facebook, 41% will film videos, and 35% will tweet about it. Concerts are spectacles that fans will wait months and years for, and there is little doubt that it is worth remembering.

“We know everyone needs a good concert app,” Nicholas Klimchuk, co-founder at Encore told Techvibes. “We know what a good concert app entails. We don’t think people have designed it well. What makes Encore different from other concert apps is that we don’t just focus on upcoming shows—we focus on the past.”

“Users add every concert that they’ve been to and we suck in all the photos and videos, so you have a time capsule of the experience,” he continued. “And then it’s really cool to see a profile of every concert you’ve been to.”

Nostalgia is an important element of being human. The ability to recall the past and feel the warmth of a memory is something unique to us. But people evolve too and habits change. There was a time when concertgoers would keep their ticket stubs and place them with their collection after the show. They would keep it all in a box, an album or make a collage, frame it and hang it on the wall—some still do that, but most have transitioned into the digital age… and Encore is embracing them.

Yes, gone are the days of raised lighters, sign of the horns and peace signs, instead people are holding up recording mobile devices during the performance. Although the percentage shows that the majority is behaving this way, the act itself is still a little irritating to other attendees.

“It is kind of annoying that you have an iPad in my face and I can’t see the artist,” said Klimchuk. “There are ways to do it where people get used to it or it’s less annoying. But I think it makes a great beginning line for Encore, because people click through things they hate and people hate phones at concerts. Even if you don’t like the product, this will get people to click through.”

Encore puts the photo taking pressure on someone else. We have all tried getting the perfect shot through the crowd and even if we are competent iPhone photographers, the result may be a little disappointing. Sure, we put a higher value on the photos we take, and Encore is not trying eliminating that, what it is doing is sourcing the crowd and collecting the images and videos from the audience as a whole, allowing you just to enjoy the show in the moment, and the pictures after, should you choose.

“If you look at the past seven Beyoncé concerts, all the different angles and photos, they all look the same,” said Klimchuk. “I can a take a photo from the England concert and say it was the Toronto concert and no one would be the wiser. But the interesting thing is that people prescribe a higher value knowing that that is the Toronto concert and I was there.”

We continue to anticipate concerts and reminisce about them long after it’s over. It’s not just about the music, the venue or the artist, but the memories we share with the people we went with. If you live in a big city, odds are there is a concert you would like to attend every other day; this leaves a lot of possibilities. Whether you end up going or not, Encore knows that we all need a moment now and then to recollect our thoughts, think about the good times and prepare ourselves for the next one—whether it is the opener, the headliner or the encore.

FinanceIt Launches New iPad App Enabling Businesses to Offer Consumer Finance

FinanceIt celebrated the fourth of July not with fireworks, but by launching their new iPad app, which will be available to the public in early August. For those who are tired of fussing over finance, the app is worth the wait even though access at first will be limited due to its first-come, first-served registration basis.

By using the iPad camera to scan a photo ID for an instant loan approval, FinanceIt’s mobile app will allow businesses to reduce the consumer funding process to less than five minutes and is completely paperless.

Businesses in retail, healthcare and home improvement will be the first to utilize the new app. Some other businesses that the app will be initially available for are furniture and electronic stores, dental practices, home renovation contractors and other retail businesses.

FinanceIt launched in 2011 and since then they have enabled over 2,300 retail, home improvement, health and vehicle businesses to process over $380 million in loans.

“We provide small and medium sized businesses with the tools they need to compete with big box retailers,” said FinanceIt COO, Casper Wong. “By taking advantage of marketing programs like ‘0% financing’ or ‘don’t pay for 12 months’ these businesses can gain a significant competitive advantage at no additional cost.”

FinanceIt’s mobile app is expected to cause some disruption in the retail credit card industry with 80% loan approval rates and no cost to merchants. The app provides instant point of sale financing for loans under $5,000 with a simple scan of a driver’s license.

FinanceIt is planning to release the second version of the app in Fall 2013; the new features will include the vehicle program and maximum loan amount of up to $60,000—features that are currently available on the web platform.

New Canadian Grocery Alerts App Brings Savings to the Palm of Your Hand

One dollar here, a couple of dollars there, and what was supposed to be an inexpensive trip to the grocery store ends up costing a small fortune.

It is not uncommon to hear about bargains, but taking advantage of them is a chore we have to schedule for. Most of us don’t have time to scour through the stack of flyers or click through online retail catalogues. What ends up happening is that we just show up at the store whenever we can with our little list and wing it.

Last month, Canadian startup Grocery Alerts launched a new app, Coupon Find Canada. The app supplies a database that allows user to search for items with a discount or spontaneously look up deals for stores they are already at.

“We want to keep it simple,” said Steven Zussino, founder of GroceryAlerts.ca. “We want to show all the different categories we have coupons for on the website; beverages, snacks. And then be able to show store coupons, so if you are at Save-On-Foods or Rexall or Bulk Barn or Shoppers Drug Mart, you can just click on the coupon and show it at the counter.”

Although digitized couponing is evolving, it is still suffering from some growing pains. The public still relies heavily on the printed material, because the virtual format is still so darn hard to read.

“I don’t mind reading books or magazines on mobile devices,” said Zussino, “but flyers you need to zoom in a lot, because they are so visual.”

That is why simplicity is the key for Zussino, who stripped back all the glitz and glamour of marketing and just stuck with the essential, which is to save you some money.

Grocery Alerts has been live since 2009 and has accumulated over 22,000 email subscribers and 120,000 readers each month. Providing coupons for stores and manufactures nationwide, Grocery Alert, with its new accessible app Coupon Find Canada are hoping to expand to a wider audience.

“Our audience tends to be mothers with large families,” explains Zussino. “Usually single people and younger people don’t use a lot of coupons. But I think things are changing with all those daily deals websites. It is interesting when people say they don’t use coupons, I always find good examples of things you buy on a daily bases that you can just print off and it is pretty easy to redeem. Four or five bucks doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up.”

Coupon Find Canada is currently offered for iOS at the app store and in the coming weeks it will be available at Google Play store and will be compatible with Blackberry and Androids smartphones.

 

Canadian App ‘Get to Know’ Puts Outdoor Adventures in Palm of Your Hand

In 1999, famous Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman introduced an annual art contest dedicated to getting youth out into nature and experiencing the wonders of the wild.

Six years later, the Get to Know program took what Bateman started and transformed it into a digital format that is more accessible to the public. The new “experiential program” blends the environmental with technological creating a platform that engages and educates the public.

Joining forces with organization such as Parks Canada, US Forest Service, Canadian Wildlife Federation and others, Get to Know has developed a game for iOS and Android that puts the users in scenarios where they have to physically explore and connect with the environment. Targeted for an audience ages nine to 14, Get to Know plays like a scavenger hunt where answering trivia and uncovering clues earns experience points that advances the players in rank and progress them through national parks, zoos and other natural sites.

The first test drive of the app took place in the Calgary Zoo, using QR codes to trigger clues and achievements at various areas. “We are finding that kids enjoy the context of pretending to be spies when seeking for QR codes,” said Andrew Munroe, program coordinator of Get to Know. “Because the storyline of the app is about joining a spy agency, they feel it is little more of a spy-like activity.”

“In national parks you cannot install anything new,” Munroe told Techvibes. “You have to use what is already there. Eventually we like to do away with QR codes altogether, because there is the issue of maintenance and vandalism, and getting permission to install a small post can be a huge undertaking.”

Although QR codes are effective in the game play, Get to Know is hoping to move forward into using Bluetooth low energy beacons that can be buried in the ground and has battery life to last years.

Get to Know is consistently adding new features into their game and expanding to different natural locations. Currently the team is planning to introduce the game to Mount St. Helen’s National Volcanic Monument in Washington in September. Other sites they are aiming to include in the near future are Vancouver, Kelowna, Los Angeles, and even Cumberland, Wisconsin.

“We want to create a value-added proposition for people who are already at the site,” Munroe explained. “With this app we are more focused on bio-diversity so it is really about the species we are profiling. So we plant a code in front of known grove of red cedar in Stanley Park and then we can get people to engage with the red cedar in a way that is other than just looking at it.”

Get to Know is currently a work in progress, but with the strong goal of focusing on app and game development specifically targeted for socially conscious, active living-based clients, the possibility is infinite. Currently Get to Know is working in collaboration with Taking it Global and Heritage Canada to develop an app celebrating the 150 anniversary of Canada, which is coming up in 2017.

“That will be another location-based, educational app that we are pretty excited about,” added Munroe.