BloggingEducationMarketingMobile AppsProductivitySecurity & PrivacyShoppingSocial MediaTechnologyUncategorized

In our office we share memes, eat cake and brainstorm… a lot. But there’s one thing we do even more of.

We use our phones, like a lot, a lot! We use them for testing apps, testing websites, social media management, communication, the list goes on. So with that said, we want to give you the inside scoop of what apps we love to use day in day out, and why they are vital to our entertainment, productivity, communication and lifestyle.

We wrote an article a few weeks back about some of our favorite phone gadgets. Some were for pleasure, others for productivity. If you missed it, you can check it out here as today’s article goes hand in hand. So between, web designers, developers, digital marketers and our CEO, these apps are the ones you need to download, like yesterday!

Let’s begin with entertainment.

Head phones

Apple Music, Spotify, and Google Play Music, we need music like we need our coffee!

Podcast can be under entertainment and productivity as there are so many different types of podcasts out there. Our top favorite podcast apps are Podcasts (Apple) and Castbox. Castbox has over  95 million volumes of content and is available for almost all devices.

A few musicians came forward in the office and shared their favorite apps. Guitar Tuna was recommended by a few as an app to tune your guitar on the go or as a back up. It is available for both Apple and Android. Tabs is an app that has thousands of guitar, bass and ukulele tabs and chords for all your favorite songs. If you are looking to take up an instrument here’s two apps that are a go-to’s for the musicians in the office.

Audible is another app that fits into productivity and entertainment. Audible is a mobile library, with loads of books you can listen to or read.

Quora is an app to share opinions, knowledge and feedback. Ask a question and get a helpful answer.

Productivity

editing

Lynda.com is a popular app for taking online courses. You can choose a topic you would like to learn, for example: photography, web design, film, finance, interior design. The list is endless. You can also choose software you would like to learn. So if you are a photographer, maybe a course that is beneficial to your business is learning how to use Photoshop. If you are looking to get into finance industry, a valuable course might be learning QuickBooks, you can learn QuickBooks for payroll, online, for a Mac, etc.

We also have a lot of photographers in the office, so photo-shop apps or editing apps came up right away. Our favorites are Lightroom and Photoshop Fix, both are easy to use and high quality.

Our office uses Microsoft Teams to communicate and share info with each other (as well as a truck load of memes) it’s a secure way to create group messages. There are so many features within the program to expand functionality: like creating different groups, include files, planners and meetings.

If you want to create logos or invitations an extremely useful app is Canva. You can create logos, Pinterest graphics, resize images to fit other social media platforms, create business cards and so much more! We use this everyday to create our graphics, and images.

Lifestyle

Family Organization

Everyone has those apps they use regularly or occasionally that just make your life so much easier. When it comes to lifestyle, the office has a variety of favorites.

Some of us are obsessed with the weather, so we’ve got you covered with choosing the best weather apps. WeatherCan and The Weather Network are our most reliable apps we would recommend to anyone and everyone.

Cozi is a popular app for family organization. You can add shopping lists, cleaning schedules and upcoming events that your family has planned. It’s the perfect app for a busy family and even busier parents.

If you are prone to migraines which some are in the office the Migraine Buddy app is the best app according to both patients and doctors. This app helps you record and identify all aspects of your migraine. For example; what triggers them, your symptoms, medications and so on.

Headspace is a meditation app that helps you let go of stress, learn to relax and get a better nights sleep. If you don’t already have this app it’s definitely a must! Everyone can use a few techniques to reduce stress and anxiety during our busy lives.

 

What are some apps that are essential for you or just plain fun? Let us know in the ‘leave a comment’ section at the bottom! We’d love to hear from you.

 

BloggingEducationMarketingProductivitySEOSocial MediaTechnologyUncategorized

pinterest

Pinterest: An app where women find recipes and DIY projects, right?

recipes

Many people see Pinterest as an app women use to find home improvement ideas or recipes, but it has far progressed from when it was first released in 2010. Marketers are using it as a platform to drive more website traffic and increase sales. Pinterest has become a major visual search engine in the past few years. So how can you use it for your business in 2019?

 

Pinterest is 80% more viral and 3x more effective at generating leads than Twitter

traffic

1. Pinterest Drives Heavy Traffic 

Pinterest has a hover feature that when clicked it directs users directly to your site, This eliminates the amount of steps people have to take to get to your site. The other benefit is that users can pin pictures directly from your site, increasing your websites visibility.

watch

2. Longer Post Exposure

The average lifespan of a Pinterest post is three and half months,  that’s 1,600 times longer than a Facebook post. Pins last forever, meaning that it’s easier for people to search for you and easily find your latest pins. As time goes by and your pin gets shared by other users it continues to spread like wildfire. No need to re-share content and repeat your pin over and over.

3. Excellent SEO Strategy

Use keywords in your description for higher visibility and your target audience to find you easier. Continue to post with those keywords and create boards that are relevant.When a google search is made with that keyword, your pins will show up.

4. Free Marketing From Your Fans

The more your content is pinned the more visibility you gain, just like with any social media, although you don’t need to invest in content marketing, just spend time getting quality images and a good description and your pin is ready to be shared countless times. Users want to be inspired, so inspire them.

share

5. Engage Easier With Customers

Even though Pinterest is smaller than Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it is easy to engage with people on this platform. Users are eager to share, they want to send their ideas and dreams with others, so if they like your content they will be eager to share it.

 

We’d love to hear your Pinterest strategies. Leave us a comment below!

 

BloggingMarketingProductivitySecurity & PrivacySelf-ImprovementSocial MediaUncategorized

screen time

Social media nowadays is more than just a social network. It is used as a tool for businesses and a way to communicate with others. Although sometimes, we can get too caught up in the scrolling world that we don’t realize how it could be affecting our well being, relationships and even work.

As a digital marketing specialist I work with various social media platforms every day. It’s my job to scroll, to build community and relationships with people. Social media is a business tool so deleting it just isn’t an option… or is it?

The answer is yes. Yes, you can delete social media and you know why? Because it’s good for you.

community

 

The average person will spend nearly two hours a day on social media.

Want to to see if you fit the average? Take a look at your Screen Time feature (if you have an iPhone.) The results will likely surprise you. You can see which categories you spend the most time on. Entertainment, productivity, social networking etc. You can also see how many notifications you get a day and how many times you pick up your device. As someone who works on social media for work, my times may be a bit above average but I want to give you a look at what my statistics look like.

Average Screen time per day: 4 hours 33 minutes

Social networking (you will be knocked off your feet here) 24 *hours* 20 minutes! (Time for a social media detox!)

Pickups: 92 per day

Notifications: 59 per day

This is a lot of phone time! Most of it is social networking.

So here’s why it’s so important to take some time away from social media, even if you use it as a business tool. And some tips to get around the business aspect of it to put your mind at ease when you step away.

 

1. Social media tends to make you focus on others more than yourself

You mindlessly scroll, coming across a picture of how your co-worker bought a new car, or that your friends went out and had sushi on Saturday night. Are these things you really need to know about? No, not really. It’s entertaining, for sure. But this tends to just make you more concerned with what others are doing with their lives, rather than what you are doing with yours. Weekends spent working towards your personal, or business goals may not be glamorous or Instagram worthy. But it’s good for you. Taking the time away from social media means that you have to go out of your way to find out about other peoples lives. Its not just information accessibly to you. So if you need to know what others are doing you will have to be intentional.

private

2. Too public

Privacy has gone out the window, that is usually when it comes to social media. Of course as a business, keeping people in the loop about new offers or features you offer is key to your account and potential leads. But are you being too public with your personal account? Or finding it draining when others are too public with their lives? This could be a sign that you need to take a step away from the screen. Realigning what is appropriate to post on social media platforms and what is private to you or your family sometimes comes from taking a step away and realizing that you can still have a good time, without having to post about it or update your Facebook status.

3. Distorted version of reality

I can tell you that many accounts you follow on Instagram or Facebook are not all they say they are. Not that they are lying to you with their words, but sometimes it can be hard to differentiate whats real and whats not in an image. You see it in magazines, on billboards, TV ads and so many more places, especially on your own device. With the apps available to literally anyone, you can’t trust what is real or not. I can make the trees in the fall look more radiant than they actually are, my skin more glowing, even make water move in a still image. False images are thrown to you left and right and sometimes it’s exhausting. Even if you don’t realize it.

photoshop

4. Live in the moment

Ever been to a wedding and can’t actually see the beautiful bride because of all the phones popping up all over the place? Cellphones have actually changed how professional photographers do their job. Some couples have asked that people put their phones in a basket because the photographer won’t be able to get beautiful pictures without arms stretched all over the isle trying to get pictures or live videos for the world to see. We have sometimes forgotten how to truly live in the moment. Taking a social media detox will make events or scenery more fulfilling for you. Try going outdoors for a hike and just breathe in the fresh air, take in the moment.

Resist the temptation to pull out your phone to document the event or share it with your friends. Do it for you.

you are here

5. Free up your time

Now that your phone doesn’t have 410 notifications (okay maybe that an exaggeration) a day from Facebook or Twitter what do you do with all your free time? You can read a book, try yoga, go for a long walk with your dog… the possibilities are endless. You may even notice your energy go up, with removing yourself from comparison and false reality.

 

Quick tips to take a break from social media if you need it for work:

  • Get a scheduling app. Apps like Buffer or Tailwind can schedule your content for you if you need to be on top of posting for your business. Put in a bit extra time to retrieve content and caption your posts. Schedule them for times that suit your audience, simple as that!
  • Only delete your personal account to cut down on time you spend endlessly scrolling on the platform. Restrict your time limits to only work hours or only to answer messages or comments. (check in once a day for only a few minutes and avoid going into the feed. Only check notifications or places that actually need your attention.)
  • Hire someone to manage your social media accounts for you, so your account is still active even if you aren’t. This will make it easier if you want to make it a routine to get unconnected with the digital world more often.

social media

Taking a digital detox (more specifically social media) has multiple benefits to your personal well being.  The world will not end if you don’t upload a picture of your food. Allow yourself to step away from time to time. It’s becoming more and more important as social media grows to set boundaries with what’s private and what’s public. Start with one day, then a weekend, and adjust accordingly. Some can go a month, while for others, a day is just as refreshing.

 

If you are looking for someone to manage social media for your business, send us an email or call us at 780-652-1190

ProductivitySocial MediaTechnology

Here are some of our favourite gadgets for your phone. Some keep you efficient, some keep you working late, some are juts plain fun.

 

iWalk Portable Charger 

Being out for meetings all day long or at events can drain your battery and finding a plug in, isn’t always an option. We love portable chargers. These iWalk ones are about the “size of lipstick” so easily fit into pockets and bags and you can put on your phone anywhere to give it an extra boost of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SD Card Reader

I personally use one of these a lot for SD cards from my professional camera. It’s nice to be able to snap some shots on my high quality camera and then upload them directly to my phone for Instagram photos. This card reader in particular is neat because it has others options like getting data from USB cards too.

Phone Camera Attachments

Phones cameras are getting better and better but they are also still limited. There are so many options out there, but we are checking out this kit with a bunch of different lenses. Maybe a review coming soon on it?

 

 

Phone Light Ring

Yes, these are used a lot for selfies, but even if you aren’t into selfies that much they are great for illuminating people in dark places for photos of them. And the cool remote that this one comes with allows you to get in the picture with them sometimes!

 

 

 

MarketingMobile AppsProductivityTechnology

Will email ever die? Is email already dead? I have no idea. With the many different answers I have found on the Internet, it appears that as a whole, we really don’t know if email is leaving anytime soon or if it is already gone. I do however, think that texting is superior to email and that there is great potential for your business in using texting over email with your potential and loyal customers. So lets take a look at what we do know. 

 

Texting has become the popular form of communication of today. People like texting because of the relaxed setting. Texting doesn’t feel like work the same way that email does. Studies have also suggested that people say things over text that they wouldn’t say in person, its an opportunity for honesty. Texts allow for causal questions and answers without hassle. That said, here are my reasons as to why you need to look into reaching your customers through texting.

 

The stress free atmosphere that texting provides will first off allow customers to feel free to ask questions! You may have given them the ability to ask questions before, but the process of emailing feels like a hassle. Yes, I know submitting an email is easy. But people want answers right then and there. Even if texting is not actually instant, people are more likely to trust that a text was sent and delivered without complication because texting is just that basic. You could use this trust concept to your company’s advantage.

 

Let’s say a customer had a quick, generic question, they could either submit an email through your company’s website as they have been your customer on a couple occasions or they could ask Google and receive multiple answers from multiple resources along with advertising from your competitors, how do you think a person would seek out the answer? I know that if it was me, I would just Google it.

 

But, if I had been your customer before and had your company’s texting number and you had made it clear that I was free to ask questions, I would totally ditch the million answers from Google to get feedback from a company I had used before and have no reason not to trust.  

 

Another benefit of giving your company’s texting number to customers is that people use texting constantly. For you this means that notifications from you could not get ignored the way emails can, you could get away with more texts than emails and it is quick! You send a text, they take a quick glance and would know what the point of the text is.

 

Will email ever die? Is email already dead? I have no idea. With the many different answers I have found on the Internet, it appears that as a whole, we really don’t know if email is leaving anytime soon or if it is already gone. I do however, think that texting is superior to email and that there is great potential for your business in using texting over email with your potential and loyal customers.

 

Texting has become the popular form of communication of today. People like texting because of the relaxed setting. Texting doesn’t feel like work the same way that email does. Studies have also suggested that people say things over text that they would never say in person. Texts allow for causal questions and answers without hassle. That said, here are my reasons as to why you need to look into reaching your customers through texting.

 

The stressless atmosphere that texting provides will first off allow for customers to feel free to ask questions! You may have given them the ability to ask questions before, but the process of submitting a question on your website takes time. Submitting an email is easy, yes I know that. But people want answers right then and there. Even if texting is not actually instant, people are more likely to trust that a text was sent and delivered without complication because texting is just that basic. You could use this trust concept to your company’s advantage.

 

Let’s say a customer had a quick, generic question, they could either submit an email through your company’s website as they have been your customer on a couple occasions or they could ask Google and receive multiple answers from multiple resources along with advertising from your competitors, how do you think a person would seek out the answer? I know that if it was me, I would just Google it.

 

But, if I had been your customer before and had your company’s texting number and you had made it clear that I was free to ask questions, I would totally ditch the million answers from Google to get feedback from a company I had used before and have no reason not to trust.  

 

Another benefit of giving your company’s texting number to customers is that people use texting constantly. For you this means that notifications from you could not get ignored the way emails can, you could get away with more texts than emails and it is quick! You send a text, they take a quick glance and would know what the point of the text is.

 

Now they could move on and not even think about the 10 seconds they took to check the text from you, or if your call to action was enticing enough they may take a minute or two longer to click the link you gave them.

 

You can text your customers your latest deals, discounts, referral information, blog links, and reminders about shipping (imagine how your affiliates would love to simply text for you.) What I am trying to say is that you can text them anything that you are currently email them. But a text is favoured by your customers because of how low-key a it is and they would feel free to answer or ask a question without overthinking. (As a professional overthinker, I know this first hand.)

 

A factor to be careful with is to know that your customers gave you your number and trusts that you won’t abuse that privilege. Text them about things they would care about, or what ever it is that they actually signed up for. If you do this correctly you will form a relationship of trust between the business and customer, this will ensure further sales.

 

I do have one concern with your company texting it’s customers; people may expect instant replies. Now unless you have someone working your texting phone 24/7 you may want to clarify. Upfront you need to explain that it is a person with many responsibilities who is replying to their important texts. Customers appreciate humans. Messaging bots do not have a good reputation when it comes to talking with customers. If your customers know they are talking to a human and not an  incompetent robot, they would commend you for that.

 

Speaking of robots, another possibility with texting your customers is that someday a bot could do it all for you. Yes I know I just said that customers prefer capable humans to  unintelligent robots. But someday actually intelligent, messaging bots will be quite able to interpret natural language and give a proper answer. The ability for your company to have a dependable messaging bot would be extremely beneficial for you and your customers.

 

When bots are smart enough to communicate back and forth with customers, I know that these messaging bots will be the only realistic way to reach customers. Until then, I think that emailing will stick around… even though texting makes so much sense.

 

What are your thoughts on being texted by companies? Would you switch your company over to texting over emailing, why or why not? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Tess Houcher

 

FutureProductivityTechnology

limousine

Mobile homes were an all round great idea. Most include beds, a kitchen, living room furniture, it can all be packed up for safe transfer and you can drive it along with all you that you need wherever!

The food truck is genius for restaurant chains and those who want to put their food creations on wheels. In some cases the trucks can come to requested locations and other times they pop up and give food lovers a pleasant surprise.

limousine

The limousine… need I say more?

These vehicles with extravagant features and purposes were amazing ideas. So whats next?

Apparently there has been development in mobile offices.

Now you may be thinking, ‘well that doesn’t sound very fun.’ And I would agree. Fun is not the goal, but when I got thinking about the mobile office, my trailing thoughts made me excited for such development.

Whether or not people have been developing these specific concepts or not I do not know, but these are the ideas I myself put together.

Here are my ideas

Imagine the floor of a vehicle, that looks nothing like a vehicle’s floor. The floor is a perfect rectangle that comfortably fits a table, four chairs, a coat hanger and water cooler. There are four walls. These walls are giant one-way windows that are also touch screens. There are two sliding doors, one on each of the long sides of the rectangle. And of course there would be wifi and charging stations for all the needed electronics.

You may be thinking, ‘Now that sounds dangerous.’ Not to worry friends, by the time mobile offices become a priority, all vehicles will be self driven.

What’s the point?

People would use the mobile offices for getting work done while they are still on the go. No more clocking in late for your office job.

Still not convinced?

How about mobile meetings? What if the mobile office could hold 12 chairs comfortably? A presenter could show the actual location of the proposed hotel building to the board all while everyone still has their devices on a table and notes are drawn by finger tips on the walls around them. Your designer team needs inspiration? Rent a mobile office and allow them to all get out of the office, with the ability to continue working but their surroundings are changing and influence can be pulled from anywhere! Or a mobile art class!

people at conference table

I think there is real potential for the mobile office and I hope that one day I get to use one!


I also have my own idea for the next mobile features. A vehicle with workout equipment! For now we will call it the mobile gym.

It looks very similar to the mobile office from the outside. But inside, there is gym equipment. Now, before you roll your eyes let me explain.

The mobile gym would have space efficient equipment that would be customized to the owner/renter. The touch screen would display your workout schedule, music and could also have a virtual trainer. People would use the mobile gym as they would workout as they commute.

woman weight lifting

If someone wanted to make sure that they worked out daily, they could set up a program that helped them do so. A program could make it so that their phones would only charge if they were producing power through working out. Or maybe the one way mirrors would shut off exposing the interior if no one had been working out for the last 5 minutes.

Can you even imagine?

Yes I thought about the fact that a mobile gym could look ridiculous as people can walk, run or bike to places they need to go while being fit. But running in -22 degrees is not ideal and biking to work is not a reasonable option for those with a commute that is already 20 minutes of driving outside of city limits.

There is still a lot of development needed before these ideas are put into action. But I still think it’s fun to imagine what the future of transportation will look like. Maybe our mobile homes, food trucks and limos will all hover and fly by the time we get around to adding offices and gyms.

street

Where do you see our technology in transportation taking us? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Tess Houcher

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Mobile AppsProductivitySelf-ImprovementSocial Media

Moment app screenshot

A tracking app you need

I spend an average of about 2 hours on my phone. Some days I spend as little as an hour and one day I almost spent 4 hours on my phone. I know this because of the iOS tracking app called Moment.

Moment app screenshot

I learned about this app as I was looking through a blog on medium which was one of the many on the topic of managing your phone, not letting your phone manage you. (Sadly I cannot find the blog I originally discovered the app from as this was a many weeks ago now.)

Once set up on your phone, Moment can tell you how long you have spent on your phone after having the app for a full day. Take a screenshot of the battery usage page in your settings and the app will be able to calculate how long you spent on each opened app. Your apps will be listed most to least used.

Moment requires that your location sharing is always on and you must leave the app on in the background of your phone at all times. These two conditions are easy to follow and the results you get are worth the small obligations on your end.

Like I said earlier, on average I spend about 2 hours and 20 minutes on my phone. It was reconfirmed by that app that my most used app is messages which was no surprise to me. The app tells me that I spend about 15–30 minutes on the messages. With Pinterest in a close second place as it has become my favourite pastime app now that I only have Facebook and Instagram on my phone during the weekends. The rest of the apps I use for about 3–12 minutes each.

traditional alarm clock

As I am typing this out now I have already spent 34 minutes on my phone today. I started my day at 7:40 am and it is now 10:47 am. Today I have spent time on my phone texting my family members to get this app. I spent some time reading on my phone during breakfast. I also have been on my phone to adjust the music I listen to as I work.

When I look back on the day I spent almost 4 hours on my phone, I am taken aback. But I looked into the details and apparently 21 of those minutes were spent on the home screen of my phone, meaning I probably didn’t know my phone was on. So that was sort of a relief.

4 hours is a long time. So much could be accomplished in that time. I could start and finish a big DIY project, go places and be productive! Instead all I have to show for that time is a guilting 4 hours on my phone.

red traffic lightI say guilting because the app changes the colour of each logged day. If you spend less than 2 hours on your phone the colour is green. If you spend between 2 and 3 hours on your phone, the colour is yellow. If you spend over 3 hours on your phone then the colour for that logged day is an alerting red.

I also had my social media apps on my phone that 4 hour day so that helps explain why I went so far over my average. Tsk tsk.

doughnut with bites out of it being held by woman with painted nailsMy weekends with my social media apps are kind of like a dieter’s cheat day but for my social media. I do not ever allow the app to send me notifications during this time though. This way I can still forget about the apps. I do this to train myself not to crave the platforms and all the sugary, fattening content. This system is working for me.

As I have now had Moment for almost a month, it has given me predictions such as the possibility that I could end up using my phone for 5 years of my life at my current rate. And that on average I get about 9 hours of sleep. This is based on when I last am on my phone to when I open it again in the morning. I love how informative the app is.


Like I told you before, as I was creating this blog post, I was texting different family members to ask them to get this app. It has now been a few weeks since then and some now they have well over 7 days of data that they have shared with us.

41 year old female

Average daily time on phone: Around 4 hours.
Most used apps: Facebook, Safari, Pinterest

42 year old male

Average daily time on phone: 3 hours and 30 minutes.
Most used apps: Facebook, Candy Crush, Safari

71 year old male

Average daily time on phone: Just over 3 hours.
Most used apps: Messenger, Safari, Life 360 (a family location tracking app.)

18 year old male

Average daily time on phone: 2 hours and 50 minutes.
Most used apps: Facebook, Instagram, Safari

13 year old female

Average daily time on phone: 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Most used apps: Pinterest and Messages

13 year old female

Average daily time on phone: 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Most used apps: Messages, Instagram, Pinterest

17 year old female

Average daily time on phone: 1 hour and 50 minutes.
Most used apps: Snapchat, Messages, Instagram

As you can see, the most popular apps are all about communication, Facebook and Messages are being used the most.

open Macbook Pro with smartphone, plant, and cup of coffeeI would also like to note that the 41 year olds and up claim that they are on their phone more on the days that they are working. Meaning their phones are used for their work.

I explained to them that this experiment was just to see what the averages were, not to guilt people into using their phones less.

A couple people who I made get the app for this blog ended up making deliberate choices to shorten the amount of time they spend on their phones. Others embraced their hours spent on their phones. (One of them liked to brag about having the “high score”…😏) But most just became self aware. Which was the point.

I encourage you to try the Moment app. Not to guilt you into changing your routine or anything, but to become aware.

Tess Houcher

233 views
FutureProductivityTechnology

Each college student’s avatar is popping up in the desks around you. Most of them look like actual humans. There are a couple avatars that look alien like. The people who use those avatar types as their identities are usually artsy and can create pretty cool looking creatures. You tried making one of those but you don’t usually wear it out.

Some people display their brands on their avatar clothing. Though, this isn’t common in a classroom setting compared to social media platforms where each person is wearing their brand. This is the case as everyone collectively realizes that the classroom setting is not a place for marketing. It’s like an unspoken rule. Those who do try marketing in settings like a classroom are usually hurting their brands more than helping.

Your hour long class ends and you double check to make sure the notes were saved to your system. You decide to give your brain a break by looking through Facebook.

To look at posts on Facebook you are transported to a small, box shaped, white room. This is your profile. There is a special desk against one of the walls which you can sit at to create a post. There are pictures, posts and your shared content on another wall and your settings on the third wall. The fourth wall has a door which leads you to a hallway.

You exit the room through this door. The hallway is filled with labeled doors. Each door brings you to different group chats, Facebook groups or your feed. For now, all you want is to browse through is your feed, so you open that door and enter. As you enter, the door shrinks and puts itself in your “pocket tools” so you can access it later.

You are put in another white room but it is so big you cannot tell the exact distance between all the walls. You cannot see where the walls meet the floor or ceiling. But you haven’t taken notice of these details in years. The room is full of avatars walking around.

The avatars are the people who you follow on Facebook who are also active for the moment. Those who are active can see you too but none of you are actually interacting. If you wanted, you could talk with groups of people or an individual but once you are doing so you and those involved in the chat become invisible to everyone else.

This is because the speech between you and the other starts to show up in the old school text bubbles between you and the person you are talking to. If you are in a group setting, the speech bubbles show on the left side of your peripheral so you can still view the avatars you are talking to.

For right now you just want to take a walk and view all of the posts hovering above. These hovering posts are high enough so that no one else walking around hinders your view. The posts appear in two rows facing forward going down the never ending room. You take your time and stroll through them. You pause a few times to watch videos that catch your attention. When the video senses that you are watching it the sound will turn on and the video will start again.

After spending 10 minutes walking through Facebook you remember that you were supposed to text your girlfriend after class. You quickly grab the exit door from your pocket tools and hop back into your profile where you switch to the texting portal.

You had changed this portal’s theme months ago from the original pure white to a deep blue that has small white lights resembling stars that move around like fireflies. You figure it’s time to switch up the theme of your texting rooms again, but right now you still need to get back to your girlfriend.

You click the tile on the wall with your girlfriend’s contact which was easy to locate as it was on your most recent conversations wall. This is opposed to the wall that you have to scroll or search for contacts. You speak a quick message that turns into text before your eyes and click send. Relieved you got back to her before it had been too long since your class ended, you decide to pull out your favourite game.

Suddenly everything turns black except for the light coming in through your bedroom door. Your mom has just walked into the room so the VR glasses have switched to AR. She lets you know that your aunt and uncle have made a surprise visit for supper and you have to clean your room before they head up.

You stretch, remove your glasses, click the ON button of your Roombot, fix your hair and head down the stairs.

Tess Houcher 

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ProductivitySelf-ImprovementTechnology

My family has over a dozen chickens. They are laying hens. We use the eggs ourselves and sell what we don’t need to friends and family. You and I are a chickens, here’s why:

A chicken will lay eggs on a regular, daily schedule when she is happy. To make and to keep her happy, she needs to be free to wander, run, jump and sleep. Time to interact with fellow chickens, to feel safe and eat whenever she wants. A happy hen means good eggs on a regular basis.

In my odd scenario, my family is the HQ of the business. Expecting eggs, like tasks at work, to be fulfilled on time and done well. But if we don’t allow the chickens the ability to run around outside or provide them with good food, we cannot expect eggs at all.

At our jobs, we are expected to fulfill the tasks assigned to us. This guarantees long days when we aren’t always given the ability to wander, eat whenever we want, take multiple breaks, workout in the middle of the day instead of during the early or late hours and that phone of yours just keeps begging for your attention.

We have wants and needs that all attribute to a job well done. But, it is not the responsibility of the companies we work for to make sure we have our personalized list of necessities is met.

We need to put the power in our own hands. What can each of us do to ensure we are doing our best? Are the notifications on your phone stealing your attention? After work do you run to the couch, instead of taking time to work on your physical health? Do you bring healthy food to work or are you going out for fast food daily? These are questions we must ask ourselves.

There are two types of distractions which could cause you to not be efficient at work. Sensory distractions and emotional distractions.

Sensory distractions are caused by what is going on around you. A co-worker sneezing, not enough in your lunch that day, the weather outside is beautiful while you are inside. These are all examples of distractions that happen around you.

Emotional distractions are your drifting thoughts. Did you lock the door when you left the house this morning? Did Joe catch your sarcasm, or does he think you actually believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows? Did a family member say something to upset you? If you spill coffee on a t-shirt, is it still a t-shirt? These questions that take your mind off of the tasks you are supposed to be doing are emotional distractions.

There are distractions everywhere! It’s almost like they were placed there to avert our attention on purpose!

Not like this GIF which is obviously not at all distracting…

These distractions sound an awful lot like… you guessed it, social media! The notifications, beeps and buzzes are there to remind us of the world that is on our screens.

Our phones may inhibit our ability to think deeply about work. Therefore hindering our competence at work or any other place we should be focusing on an assignment.

Social media can be a welcoming break for the mind. It allows you to take in information that you don’t ever have to remember and all you have to do is scroll. But the problem occurs when we find ourselves unable to focus. Our attention spans have been shortened no thanks to our ever buzzing phones. In this day and age it takes self discipline and training to get a longer attention span.

Just like how you train for a marathon or practice an instrument. You never expect to be amazing after one day of practicing. The same goes with working on skills in keeping focused on one thing. It does sound odd, having to train our attention spans to be longer. But as that skill isn’t often practised in a natural setting it is necessary.

So maybe we aren’t exactly like chickens. Yes, our environment can make a big impact on our ability to work well but we can also be the difference. Thankfully, we are quite capable of taking matters into our own hands to ensure we are always completing a job well done.

We can start by minimizing the notifications received on our phones. Take a break from the desk and walk around. Sitting for hours on end doesn’t allow us gain perspective and everyone knows that walking just simply gets the blood moving. To make sure we bring a lunch that fills us up with real food. Maybe a fidget could be beneficial as they boost attention and memory.

There are so many ways you can help yourself be more productive at the office. As much as we would love to have the same freedoms given to a chicken, having the ability to decide for yourself what you need and don’t need to fulfill your day is a pretty great skill.

How are you working to have a prosperous work day? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

Tess Houcher

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Mobile AppsProductivitySelf-ImprovementSocial Media

If you and I were having a conversation and I said “I deleted Instagram and Facebook.” I think it is safe to say that you would respond by saying something along the lines of a “Good for you.” We all seem to understand that really, we could do better without the pressures and time consumption that comes with social media. But then why do we struggle so much to give it up? Or have we given up on trying to give up.

As a society, we have been diagnosed with an addiction of social media. We know we don’t need it, we are aware of all the time it consumes, we can imagine the peace that comes with a lack of the worldwide connection.

So why haven’t we quit yet?

First off, social media is really good at branding itself. It is a business and we are its loyal customers. They will convince us that to be connected and have a good quality of life we need social media. This is not at all truth, but it seems to be the reality for many.

Not only is social media good at convincing us we need it, we end up convincing each other that we need social media without even saying it out loud. There is an underlying pressure to keep your profile up to date and to like the posts and updates of your many friends.

Side note: My Nana actually does tell me to keep my otherwise useless Facebook profile up to date so she can know about my life… so I guess in some cases, I am literally told to post more on Facebook.

And once again, we seem to be addicted. These factors create a situation which has found to be quite difficult to escape.


Spring Break of 2016 I went to Mexico with a group of high school students and a couple adult leaders. The main reason for the trip was to help the people there. We went to a couple children centres, did maintenance and rebuilding at a couple different locations. We were there for a week and had no way to contact our families back home or use social media the entire time.

The trip was obviously amazing but the part that I will highlight now is my lack of connection with the whole wide world for that week. As stereotypical as it sounds, I felt free and at peace. I had no way to connect with anyone who was not next to me.

I loved how we never went on our phones to avoid awkward conversations, we were always present. The fact that there was no way to use our phones made it so we didn’t miss them. We were able to forget. It did help that we were in a mindset of helping others, being selfless and in a different part of the world.

It was very weird to cross the border, stop at a coffee shop and see all of the notifications I had received over the past week. Instantly we were reminded of what our reality feels like. As great as it felt to see all the texts from my loved ones, I was slightly repulsed at my instant urge to be connected again.

After spending a week with people who never feel obligated to post their thoughts, opinions, likes and tags, it was very odd to be back in a culture that does. I became aware of my selfishness. And what did I do about these feelings? I posted all about my trip on Facebook and Instagram awaiting the likes and comments.


It’s been over a year and a half since that trip and today I finally decided to give Instagram and Facebook a break again. Now how did I make this decision when I am so good at ignoring the issues that come with social media for me? 

I had a great talk with a friend last night. She told me it has been about a year since she has been on Facebook and about five months since she has used Instagram. With her decision to take this break she told me that she has more time. Not meaning she is always spending her time on productive items, but she does have more time.

She feels that she is now more connected to the people who really are apart of her life and she can invest more time into those people. She also appreciates that the urge to constantly be connected, to post, like and comment is gone.

I don’t think she has sworn off social media forever but for the time she is without it, she is definitely not missing it.

So, this morning I woke up and without over thinking anything, I deleted Instagram and Facebook….

iphone at sunsetI really don’t know how long I will last as my excuse to keep social media has always been that I love posting! I will start with a week without these two social media apps and then I will see how I am doing after that. I know I will get the apps again as I love to share posts when I am traveling and I don’t plan to stop myself from doing that.

This blog is not here to paint everyone with the same brush in saying that everyone is addicted to social media. I know many people who have these social apps but they are not at all addicted. I do however hope you are aware of the power of your self will. That you know that there is a life full of purpose and connections without social media. If you do take a break, you won’t regret it.

Tess Houcher

 

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ProductivityProgrammingTechnologyWeb Development

Recent years have seen the proliferation of high-quality package management tools for a wide range of web development languages. Ruby’s gems were always a key selling point of that platform, allowing for a sort legendary developer productivity which is now, thankfully, widely available regardless of platform.


But dependency management is an art unto itself, one that many give little thought to until something breaks catastrophically, leaving developers scrambling to patch some obscure dependent module they didn’t even know they had, as the left-pad debacle did for Node.js developers earlier this year.

If, as developers discovered that day, your project is only as strong as your weakest dependency, it’s prudent to have a handle on what you’re pulling in, from whom, and how you’re doing it.


Big names like Facebook were caught off-guard as everyone else, and the desire to be in control of their dependencies has doubtlessly led to the creation of yarn, a new JavaScript package manager, which we, too, are very excited about.

Operating alongside npm, meant as a drop-in replacement, Facebook touts the following benefits:

  1. Speed
  2. Reliability
  3. Security

The latter two benefits are tied to a .lock file, something that PHP users of Composer are likely familiar with, but which npm lacks:

The magic clue behind it? Whenever you run yarn install, the yarn.lockfile has precedence over the package.json.

If the yarn.lock file exists, the (exact) versions defined in it will be used.

If no yarn.lock exists, the (loosely defined) versions defined inpackage.json will be used, and a yarn.lock is generated.


Dependency Management for PHP

Package management on the PHP side seems comparatively safe and manageable. PHP has an extensive standard library, and we’re unlikely to pull in 100 packages to boot a simple application. It’s much easier to survey the landscape of an application’s dependencies and get a feel for what’s there and why it’s there.

Features that yarn aims to bring to the table for JavaScript developers, such as that lock file, have always been part of our workflow. So, perhaps you haven’t thought about it too deeply.

In fact, you might have questions which are worth reviewing.

Why the composer.lock file matters

How precisely does it relate to composer.json? Should I commit it to version control? How do I manage conflicts?

Managing PHP Dependencies Properly

What should I pull in as a dependency, and what as a dev dependency? Should I need to modify a dependency, what’s the correct way to go about it? How do I optimize my package usage for production?


Above all, be mindful of what you pull in, what that which you pull in pulls in, and the faculties your toolchain offers to allow you to manage these, lest today’s convenience lands you in an uncomfortable situation down the line.

YEG PHP 2.0

A place for Edmonton-area PHP developers to meet and collaborate. Administered by www.pandarose.ca

EducationProductivityTechnologyWeb Development

A client who wants a web app, and their internal IT told them they should use Ruby on Rails. During our initial exploratory period, we discovered that there was no existing quality libraries or Ruby Gems that covered their needs in Ruby. Now, Ruby is not a terrible language by far, but there simply wasn’t the tools to build this at this time.

Now, if we were a Ruby-only house, we would just charge them more to develop everything from scratch, and charge them to maintain it for the foreseeable future. Great short-term business model for us, but not so perfect for them; In other words, precisely why we are not that way; we want to save our customers money because when they succeed, we succeed.

How do we help you reach your goals? Well, we are your dedicated CTO, we are not just a Ruby-only house. In our exploratory meetings, we had our PHP and Node.js experts on hand. Both of whom quickly pointed out that there were specialty libraries that were established and clean in their languages, and that we could implement this entire system in likely half the time using those software libraries.

So, we finished off the work outline document with a quote for Ruby which ended up being almost double the quote for developing the same app in Node.js or PHP. We explained the reasons we felt that we did not need to stick with Ruby; They wanted to use a cloud service that supported Ruby, and there were similar, equally-priced ones that supported other languages. Moreover, we explained why we felt that using PHP or Node.js would save money in the long run.

If we were a one-trick pony house, but exquisite at that one trick, you would not get the best options.

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