Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

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What kind of product do you need to pitch to raise a million dollars in funding? Apparently nowadays, an app solely dedicated to sending the message ‘Yo’ is enough. What the fuck? You’re thinking. Yeah. But wait, think about this, are you really in that much shock? I mean, we live in a time where society has embraced platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Is it really so shocking that an app that JUST sends the message ‘Yo’ got funded?  Not anymore.

Investors simply can’t rely on their past criterion of practicality and usefulness in predicting the potential success of digital products anymore. Affordances provided by products that seem benign and trivial to the older crowd are embraced by the younger generation; in part due to the mindset of anarchy and a rebellion against traditional values that permeates the attitudes of teenagers and young adults. As a result, we gravitate towards novelty. Which means investors now invest into products based off of its novelty and its potential for going viral.

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This obsession with novelty has both positive and negative implications. On one hand, we are more accepting and open to new ideas than ever before. Take for example the funding of the potato salad party on kickstarter. The guy was merely trying to raise $10.00 on kickstarter to make some potato salad, instead he ended up raising $55,000 in crowd funding…enough to host a potato salad party. The novelty lies in the request of a simple task on a platform known for crowdfunding more serious endeavors such as startups and humanitarian causes. And while the success of this request may seem absurd and outrageous, it goes to demonstrate the significant allure of novelty or ‘hipsterness’ to society currently. And it’s also pretty damn awesome that we live in day and age where people can come together to support quirky causes like the pursuit of potato salad.

However, novelty for the sake of novelty and the pursuit of virality is dangerous. By focusing so heavily on novelty, we blind ourselves to the value and potential within the tried and true. For example, if investors refuse to invest in a product that is a significant improvement over its competitors simply because it’s not innovative enough. Or the fact that yes, $55,000 could probably be put to better use for cancer research or feeding the homeless but we don’t support these causes as heavily because they’re not novel to us anymore. Money talks. Who or what we choose to invest in will determine the types of products and companies that enter the world. These products and corporations will then shape and influence the society we become. Let’s make sure we think about putting our money where our mouth is.

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Parrot, a voice controlled text to speech email reader to make your commute to work a little more productive. Try it out at goparrot.me (must be in chrome browser)

Designed and made at Hack the North, a hackathon in Waterloo

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Thinking when it comes to Images versus Text

Being critical is important. Not in the way that you are cynical or distrustful of things, but rather taking the time to think about things and develop your own thoughts on the topic. More often than not, I find that I must distinguish the societal and cultural influences on my thoughts before I’m able to formulate my own. Examining the idea from different facets is also really important. Sometimes I forget to do that, or I rush headlong into an opinion in my excitement. Opinions are important. Opinions are how we define who are and what we stand for in this world. Therefore it is important to practice formulating our own thoughts.

When I’m presented with a thought in the form of a piece of media though, I find myself struggling with different pitfalls when it comes to images versus text. Images for myself tend to stimulate the least amount of critical thought, especially if it is found within the social media context. Perhaps it goes back to Debord’s Theory of the Spectacle; we are bombarded by images on the daily that we become numb, insensitive to what we see. We glaze over, simply reacting to the image, we no longer think. However, if they’re presented in a school context for example, we tend to think more deeply about the denotation and connotations of the images. It’s interesting that we even have to turn our critical thinking on and off. At what point does it become overwhelming? When does thinking critically about everything get in the way of living and enjoyment?

The difficulty I have when it comes to communication in text form is that the cognitive load of understanding and entertaining the author’s thoughts and opinions overwhelms my ability to formulate my own thoughts. Perhaps it’s mastering the art of switching in between those two modes that distinguish the best readers.

Nevertheless, I will continue to sharpen my critical thinking abilities by doing things such as these thought spews and forcing myself to organize my thoughts to better understand them.

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Redesigning Love & Dating

It seems like everyone is jumping onboard with online dating nowadays. From OkCupid, to Tinder, to EHarmony, it’s become more and more socially acceptable to state that you met your significant other on the virtual space (a.k.a. the internet). I definitely think online dating has its virtues. Not only is it easier and more accessible to peruse a large pool of singles, you can also filter them pre-date through a variety of lenses including attractiveness, interests, and values. There are even sources that state that marriages made between couples who met online are more satisfying. Yet, from a business point of view, online dating services benefit the most from designing the planned obsolescence of your next significant other. Because simply put, if you found someone and settled down happily ever after, you wouldn’t be using their services anymore.

This is where the true harm of online dating services emerge. Online dating services encourage the commodification of potential mates through the sheer abundance of people that are flaunted before you. ‘Look who’s checked you out!’, ‘These people liked you!’, ‘Similar to this fellow you’re checking out’, ‘Your top matches of the week’. All of these messages encourage users to check out an abundance of suitors and further emphasizes the expendability of each suitor. If one person doesn’t work out, don’t worry, there’s 5343256326 other people who would be a great match for you. Not only that, but these sites deliberately tempt you with the fear of missing out on the next best match. Like the next hottest deal, the pursuit of love and companionship is transformed into a sale; you can always return what you ‘bought’ for something else if it doesn’t fit.

Love and the pursuit of companionship is of significant value to most people. As such, the negative effects of online dating platforms on the behaviours of its users has significant impacts on culture. By trivializing the pursuit love and the commodification of suitors, we encourage diminishing attention spans and obsession with instant gratification and easy wins within our society.

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