Human Habits

Habits are hard to break and even harder to build. Well, wait let me rephrase: they are exceptionally easy to build if they’re algorithmically driven. But us mere humans struggle to do it the old fashioned way.

This morning, in the New York Times, was a great article about an Italian restaurant in New York City’s east village. Customers were distracted. They spent entire meals on phones. What could be done? The owner considered a few options: offering to “check” their phones at the hostess table? (Nah) How about having the waitress offer to take them? (Even worse) What about buying vintage tins from Etsy, placing them on the table, and allowing patrons to discover them, and their use, at their own pace? Bingo.

I have to admit, I’m so happy to see this trend.

Last week I got a new phone and all of the notifications were set to default: in other words, ALARMINGLY obnoxious. I posted an Instagram photo and every single time I got a like, I was notified. That’s over 100 notifications! Throughout the week I started to feel laggard. I was checking my phone even more than usual. My battery was drained (on a new phone)!

Last night, when a stranger “liked” my photo. I had had enough. I went into settings and silenced them all.

I work in technology, but I hate the way technology demands to own my attention and the cadence of my life.

So on I go trying to fight the algorithmic habits with good old fashioned discipline: Settings > Notifications > Mute All.  

The American Identity

I had dinner with my friend Carri Twigg last night. She’s a former organizer who worked in the White House during both Obama terms. She’s the kind of person who attracts attention wherever she goes, and despite her humility, I can tell deep down she likes it.

I was telling her about my recent trip to Minnesota, far, far up north to a town of about 300 people. It just so happened the annual summer parade (celebrating mythical American hero, Paul Bunyan, mind you) was happening. So, embracing my American roots, I saddled up on the street ready to receive candy tosses and cheer on the modest floats.

Just as I was wondering if there would be a LGBT float (it’s Pride season, after all!) along came the Congressional representative’s car. A naive girl, I did a quick Google search in the hopes he stood on my side of the culture wars. Unlikely. The first result was his Facebook post shaming gay people and black people, saying something about Obama’s agenda to ruin the United States.


I was telling Carri about this experience and once again, naively stated, “I think it’s just about exposure” suggesting that if that Congressman, or those voters, just got to know me, they’d feel differently about the entire group.

Carri, half black, born and raised in an all-white Ohio community, smirked. “I’m not convinced,” she said rather gently, going on to explain to me how her community, growing up, was constantly exposed to her (black) which didn’t stop them from saying all sorts of hateful, racists things about black people as a whole.

“I’m going to say the douchiest sentence ever, Erica. Forgive me: have you seen my TEDx talk?”

I smiled, “no, I haven’t.”

And there it is, all laid out: why exposure alone isn’t enough in shaping, and reshaping the American identity.

Response to "Twitter Trap"

A few weeks ago I made a visit to the New York Times newsroom. Walking past a cubicle, I was introduced to Bill Keller, the Editor-in-Chief. Upon learning I work at Twitter, he said back, “I’m actually writing a piece about Twitter right now.”

“Go easy on us,” I joked.

His piece,  The Twitter Trap, came out yesterday.

Here is my response, which I wrote personally and not on behalf of Twitter.

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Katie Couric’s Social Media Path

About a month ago, I connected Katie Couric and Brian Solis for a conversation about Katie’s push into new media which started in 2008. What ensued was a discussion about the challenges, the opportunities and the areas of exploration they both think about when it comes to the convergence of “new” and “old” media. What I like to call – present media.

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Privacy Is Lost And That’s OK

My version of family dinner happens anytime after 9pm – on a weeknight, with food or without food, at my quiet NYC apartment. Sitting in front of my roommate’s flat screen TV. Matching silver laptops in front of us and on the coffee table – a pair of iPhones. Eyes dodging back-and-forth between browsers and broadcast. Browser and broadcast. Browser and phone.

Tonight I decided to type into my browser. I guess I wanted to know what was happening in his world. I like Brian because he is smart and savvy and really dedicated to sharing new ideas and information. I would say that’s why Brian is one of my digital educators. A person who bends my mind to think about what changes in technology mean to our society, our lives, our industries. And tonight I got just that when I read this line.

“In this episode (of BrianSolis TV), Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of Reputation Defender, joins the program to discuss privacy and the reasons why you and everyone who matters to you, will be unfairly, but forever judged by what’s online.”

The statement, in that very instant, made me think about and question to what extent people might unfairly judge me.

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The Downside of the Internet

Discovery. Essential to what we do as online entrepreneurs, in the business of information exchange.

Tonight I’m surfing YouTube. The CBSNewsOnline channel to be exact (as well other lesser-known channels like RT and Which means watching clips, taking notes, jotting down views and thinking about the content. What makes exceptional click-worthy video journalism?

While I ponder that question….I wanted to post this clip of former CBS Evening News Anchor, Bob Schieffer.  It wasn’t at all what I expected when I clicked play, but was pleased that I did. Same goes for the next clip of CNN’s Jeanne Moos – a playful, informative poke at our culture of capitalism.

From Schieffer: a valid piece of wisdom on the “downside of the Internet.”




The New York Times and the 20-Somethings

Robin Marantz Henig’s piece in the New York Times today, ‘What Is It About 20-Somethings?‘ left me with an abundance of thoughts.

The article starts out by describing what the ‘milestones’ of adulthood are: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. And since numbers show my generation hasn’t hit those yet, or is approaching them in a different order, she suggest this means we “slouch towards adulthood.”

While I appreciate the amount of research and thoughtfulness that went into this, I feel compelled to offer the other side.  While some of my peers may appear to be ‘slouching’ towards adulthood, some of them have accelerated towards it, building new milestones that might set the next generation’s bar. Milestones like being your own boss, traveling the world, paying for your own health care. Milestones that positively help our generation to worry less about how we stack up against the past, and more about how we can contribute to the new, emerging American future.

20-somethings, as noted by Henig, also have something else going for them – a sense of possibility. One that has been considered ‘romantic’ and fades in time. Yet from my perspective, that sense is one of the qualities driving innovation, new models of business, opportunities for growth. Far from romantic, it’s a new reality.

Now that deserves to be a milestone.



What Is It About 20-Somethings? – The New York Times, 08/20/2010

Why Can’t Twenty-Somethings Grow Up? -The Atlantic, 08/20/2010

Sitcom TV and the Cognitive Surplus

Thanks to Nick @ Nite, I spent the 1990’s watching classic American sitcoms. From I Love Lucy to Bewitched, I loved meeting my family after a sun-filled summer day around that television. But as the years went on, it was the lure of a new screen in the room – the computer – that pulled me away from the connectivity of those nights and into the future.

Clay Shirky reminded me of those memories when I watched his 2008 Web 2.0 Expo talk about the “cognitive surplus.

Here is the back-story.

In 2008, Shirky credited the television sitcom (summary here: Gin, Television and Social Surplus) as the most critical technology of the last few decades. He says, and I paraphrase – that as the country came into the five-day workweek around the start of the second World War, society experienced something new: free time. Problem was, people, like my grandparents, didn’t know how to handle it. So they “panicked” – and flocked to TV that acted as the “social lubricant” to our patchwork society. For decades, it linked us all together. It was present media. And with the onset of the Internet, web 2.0 and the long tail of choice, the sitcom and well, TV, has been challenged by choice.

If you follow Shirky’s perspective, he goes on to say that society is just now waking up from a collective bender, a bender that has exposed a cognitive surplus. Massive amounts of time that people choose to spend in different ways – from updating Wikipedia page to creating video content to building a personal brand.

So who will be the game changers that create the new sitcom – the new social lubricant? Will there be one or many? And who will find the avenues to construct the new model of business, news and entertainment around it?

I can’t wait to dig into Shirky’s new book – fittingly named The Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

Posted via email from EricaAmerica’s posterous