Monday, August 25, 2014

Thinking About the ALS Bucket Challenge of 2014

The ALS bucket challenge is an interesting phenomenon. On the one hand it's a great way to generate interest and money for the cause of caring for the stricken and finding a cure.

Rabbi Yisrael Rice did a little Torah
and then the bucket challenge.
On the other hand it's another good example of how technology allows us to step out of our comfort zone and easily do something we wouldn't normally do online. I think of this as an opportunity to go beyond the selfie still picture and add a video component.

Beyond the celebrity bucket challenges the phenomenon now includes YouTube videos of bucket challenges gone wrong. Recently I viewed an odd "lowlight" reel of people getting clocked on the head by a bucket dump gone bad. I suppose people are drawn to the sideshow that this story has become.

Sadly, four firefighters were badly injured in an electrocution that occurred when two of them went up in a fire truck bucket and got too close to electrical wires with a large cache of water.

It all makes me wonder why people so easily forget the idea of thinking before doing something. As educators we are often teaching our students to think before they print. We ask them to think before they post. Why aren't we listening now?

It's not that I don't agree with the concept of raising money for research and awareness about ALS. I just feel like it's an idea gone too far now.

I do have one favorite video that I think is a good example of a teachable moment. Rabbi Yisrael Rice in Marin County gives a little "drash" of Torah about why the bucket challenge is a good thing because it takes us out of that comfort zone or bubble we all live in each day. Doing this crazy act and posting it online allows us to do something we would never do and that can be liberating as well as helpful to others. I think it's nice that Rabbi Rice turned this into a teachable moment.

For me the whole thing sits very close to home and the fact that one of my best friends, Joe Babin, died of ALS in December 2012. I just don't see the point of all the fun and games.

We know what this disease is all about and what it will take to fix the problem. Why don't we just get down to doing that?

In the meantime I'm going to challenge everyone to use the technology to help us all remember those who were impacted and continue to be impacted by this disease. This will help us personalize the issue and focus on caring for the sick and their caretakers,  and someday with finding the cure.

Let's all do something if we can.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Viv - Global Brain or Gold Digger?

This week a silicon valley start up Viv Labs announced their new artificially intelligent digital assistant Viv. While the former Apple engineers (who helped develop Apple's Siri) launched a media blitz to announce Viv it's interesting to me that their website has very little information about this new product.

They link to a Wired Magazine article about Viv for visitors to "learn more about Viv's team, technology, and vision.

It's a bit striking that a digital product like this would have so little promotional material. After all, if you have a vision, why don't you share it? Why have someone else deliver that information? I've worked in advertising and PR and I know what it takes to get your message out. Most successful PR campaigns are driven by the vision of the company and not by the press.

They have a nice tag line: "The Global Brain - Viv radically simplifies the world by providing an intelligent interface to everything." However, what does that really mean?

Perhaps the reason why there is so little information is that Viv Labs doesn't want people to know what they are trying to accomplish. In my view this is where the technology industry often fails.

In an NPR interview with Wired Magazine writer Steven Levy, Viv is described as "a more complex Siri." That seems more realistic to me. Levy describes the potential of this new digital assistant by talking about how you could use Viv on the way to a dinner party to help you find the best bottle of wine to pair with the menu. Viv can access store information, locations, and available supplies of products. Viv accesses the contact information on your phone and begins to collect information about your interests, habits, lifestyle and so forth.

There it is, e-commerce is the goal of Viv. "They are going to make money . . . not so much by serving you ads, but in taking a cut in all the transactions you are going to make" using Viv. The more Viv knows about you, the better Viv can "assist you" in your daily life -- and purchases.

I believe it'a about time technology companies begin to say exactly what they are doing with the development of their products. Viv is not a global brain. It's a way for people to use technology to find the best deal on the best products they are looking to purchase.