How PlayAPI Can Transform Your Startup


Everywhere you look, it seems that there is always someone trying to sell you something. The amount of clutter that a normal person encounters on a daily basis has grown immensely, so advertisers are always looking for new ways to break through this clutter and stand out. I think a solution to the problem of clutter lies within the growing relationship between advertising and technology.

A prime example of this can be found in a startup called PlayAPI. The company popularizes the idea of gamification in today’s modern world, and thus creates new ways for companies to engage with customers. The website showcases how this idea has been recently introduced in the fashion industry, but I think every company should take a look and see how gamification can give them an edge in their industry.

The creators, Julie Fredrickson and Philip Bjerknes, found one another through the world of online fashion blogging, and met up in New York City to start this new venture.

What Is PlayAPI?

According to its website, PlayAPI “is a suite of tools and templates that allows brands to create custom game experiences. It gives companies a framework for tapping into different social graphs and rewarding their customers.”

Engagement

PlayAPI supplies companies with templates for many “games” that they can tweak to fit their products, and use to engage with customers. They want to interact with the audiences they’ve already built through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and  Foursquare.

The company provides already-built templates for games such as Bingo, Brackets, and Memory, which can run on Facebook, tablets, or the web. Through these games, users can get rewards for playing such as badges (similar to Foursquare), points, and even the chance to end up on the leader board.

Why It Works

The information that the companies will gain from running these games may be twice as valuable as the engagement itself. For example, a company can set up a bracket that shows many shoes of the season, and have them all compete to see which is the crowd favorite. Their target market will be the ones voting on the outcome, so the winning product will also be the shoe that most customers want to buy. The retailer sees the shoes [that gets] the most engagement, and then decides to build another campaign highlighting the winning shoe. This first hand research is valuable to any marketing plan.

What do you think of PlayAPI? Will your company get on board with the gamification trend? Let me know in the comments!

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#RetailRT


This past weekend, 40 students and their chaperones hopped on a bus for the iSchool’s Retail Roadtrip. This two-day trip focused on the blend between technology and the retail industry. I was lucky enough to be part of this experience and visit three leading companies in and around New York City.

L’Oreal

Our trip started in New Jersey where we visited L’Oreal. L’Oreal has 27 global brands, and over 613 patents filed in 2011 alone, making the company the top nanotechnology patent holder in the United States. When we got there, Division Systems Officer Jennifer Alvarez introduced the company history and informed all the students of the large scope of products that fall under the L’Oreal Paris brand.

Students could then ask questions of panelists who worked in L’Oreal’s IT department. Throughout this discussion, they covered the importance of having knowledge of software such as Microsoft Sharepoint, and encouraged students to learn softwares such as Excel throughout their college careers. They answered questions about RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology in the retail industry. Specifically, they pointed out that RFID technology, while it could be extremely helpful, is unrealistic for their beauty products because of their small size.

Another interesting part of the discussion focused on social media. The L’Oreal team explained the company’s relationship with video blogger Michelle Phan, who has a great following and influence in the beauty industry. Interestingly, the panelists also brought up their concerns with emerging social platforms such as Pinterest. Although many hold various positions on this subject, the L’Oreal team expressed their concern that Pinterest and similar sites bring no return on investment. They see it as a fun site to spend time on, but don’t see them getting anything out of investing their time into it. (Maybe, some #RotoloClass students will change their mind someday soon…)

Macy’s Inc.

We then went back on the bus and traveled to New York City for our next visit: Macy’s Inc. The Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s employees unveiled a plethora of new technologies.

They talked about a new social technology on bloomingdales.com that allows shoppers to poll their friends before making a purchase. The process allows shoppers to pick two to four items and allows their friends to vote on their favorites via public or private message on Facebook. After the voting process is complete, the customer will be notified via email of the winner. Bloomingdale’s also discussed its award-winning Denim Seeker. This system allows shoppers to pick one of eight body types, and the system will show a daytime and nighttime look that accentuates the select body structure.

iSchool Retail Road Trip attendees visit Macy’s Inc.

Two employees from Macy’s then talked more in depth about their current major RFID project. Their main goal is to implement this technology in the stores to eliminate many issues that come about from theft and human error.

From the Classroom

It was interesting that RFID technology was so prominently featured, as many students who were on the trip know that this topic is a major part of the required iSchool course IST 195: Information Technologies. It is always exciting to see information you learn in class come to life in the real world.

Gilt Groupe

The final stop on the Retail Roadtrip was Gilt Groupe. This company offers flash sales on items such as clothing and shoes, but also rare items such as vacations and cars.

The panel of employees at this company discussed the way their IT department handles all the sudden traffic for flash sales. Because of the nature of their service, they never experience in a lull in traffic, so the IT department always must be prepared.

They gave the students a valuable tips on working in an area outside of your major, and stressed how much value is put on the desire to continue learning throughout your career. Allison Down highlighted the power of Linkden, and encouraged all the students to connect with potential employers.

Additionally, any student that went on the trip would tell you that one of the highlights was the incredibly cool USB bracelets that were given out by the Gilt Groupe.

I had a great time on the Retail Roadtrip and would like to thank everyone involved in the organization of this trip. I hope it will continue to occur for many years to come!

 

5 Hidden Features in iOS6


Now, you may not have been in line at midnight, but it has officially been enough time for you to get your eager hands on the iPhone 5 and upgrade to the iOS6 software. Everyone had their Immediate Reactions, but I’m here to dive a little deeper than initial likes and dislikes. The standout features were maps, siri enhancements, and passbook, but even after all these improvements, some people were not impressed.While these are all features you should have heard of, every upgrade always contains some hidden features, that make your iphone or iPod Touch just a little bit cooler.

Wake Up With A Song

A features that I was pretty excited about when I found it, is the ability to set any song in your music library as an alarm. Before this you had to go through a whole process of creating ringtones on garageband, transferring them into your iTunes, and dragging them onto your phone. Some people even went to the length of shelling out money to buy ringtones. I find this new trick super useful as it gets repetitive to wake up to the same alarm each day, or even worse, to use the presets that are included in the phone. You can now wake up to any song of your choice.If this isn’t creative enough for you, you can make a original recording and wake up to that each day.

Spam Defeated

Now, I know in #electionclass we have been having problems with spambots, and it seems that this problem has transferred over to the phones of many iphone users as well. I don’t yet have a solution for the members of #electionclass, but the iOS6 software defeats this problem. With the new update you have the option to deny notifications when receiving messages from an unknown source, so the spambots won’t get to bother you anymore.

Youtube’s Back?

I know everyone had a minor freakout when they updated to the new software and the Youtube app was nowhere to be found. Yes, you can download a different, free Youtube app from the app store, but it’s just not the same.While the native app was removed, there is one way that it can still be found. When you pick a video from your camera roll the option will appear, along with the old and loved logo, to upload the video directly from Youtube.Complete the Album

Hidden somewhere deep inside you digital music collection is now the ability to “complete your album” right from your music library.

If you only have one song in an album, but are interested in buying more songs, you can do this without even having to go into the itunes music store app. You can hit the show complete album, and all the songs pop up with direct links to purchase them.

It seems like this makes it easier to get caught up in buying songs, so remember that even though it is so quick and easy, the cost can add up rather fast too.

Sing Me to Sleep

Late night listening is now available to those who have the latest and greatest technology. Technically, this option lowers bass levels and attempts to make your music less-intrusive in the evening so you can listen and fall asleep easily without being distracted. This new features allows your favorite artists to sing you to sleep.

Now that I have shared how I uncovered five of the hidden features in iOS6, tell me if you found any more. Leave them in the comments below!

3 Ways Social Media Was Used During Fashion Week


Last week, anyone who’s anyone in the fashion industry packed their bags and hopped on the nearest mode of transportation to spend some time in New York City. Now, it would still be a great experience to attend any of these events in person, but a new trend in the fashion industry allows the average person to”go to fashion week” without actually jet setting. Right off the runway, social media is the Fashion Industry’s Hottest Trend. Because this new trend isn’t gaucho pants, or Ugg boots, it will not be going out of style any time soon.

Instagram Makes Dreams Come True

Social media started impacting fashion week months before it even started this year. Designer Rebeeca Minkoff launched an Instagram contest with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. All you had to do to be entered was take an Instagram image showcasing how you rock Rebecca Minkoff styles and tag the image with the hashtag #RMCatwalk. The luck winner,Kate Ogata, did just that and won two tickets to the runway show. She then returned the favor through none other than social media, as she bloggedher way through the grand prize.

Up Close and Personal

The most sought after seats of fashion week have just been snatched up! By who? Well, that would be you. With the use of social media, anyone in the world can feel like they have front row tickets to their favorite designer’s new collection.

Twitter snapshots, Pinterest boards, Tumblr blogs, and Youtube livestreams all give up-to-the-minute visuals of everything going on during the events, so you won’t miss one gown, shoe, or outrageous hair accessory.

The immediacy of the social media that was used during Fashion Week allowed for “real time fashion analysis of consumer behavior.” This immediate feedback from customers is unlike anything that Fashion Week has ever seen before. The brand will immediately know if its target market is hyped up about the new collection, or if they should pull the plug on similar designs that are in the works.

Google’s New Accessory

Only Google would be able to make geek look chic.

picture from here

This new piece of technology made its debut as an accessory during the Diane Von Frustenberg runway show. This product quickly moved through the social media sphere as pictures of models wearing the glasses surfaced on the DVF Facebook page, as well as a Youtube video that premiered on their Google + page.

These glasses contain:

  • A Touch pad
  • A Built-in camera and camcorder
  • A Speaker
  • A Microphone
  • A display to feature multiple radios and information
  • Hands-free smartphone access

The designer, and self professed “techie,” expressed her opinion on this new fashion statement as she said, “I am so excited to introduce Glass to the fashion world and use this revolutionary technology to give everyone a unique perspective into fashion.”

Not Out of Style Yet

I think social media and fashion are a pair that won’t be breaking up any time soon. What do you think? Leave your opinions in the comments down below!

The Facebook App Gets a Facelift


On Thursday August 23rd, the millions of iPhone and iPad owners rejoiced as one of their most frequently-used apps received an update. Facebook has over has 543 million monthly mobile users, and this growing statistic supports the idea that technology is going mobile.

People are always on the go, and with this update, Facebook dramatically improves the mobile experience. Facebook responded to user complaints, and “rebuilt [the app] so it’s faster and easier to use.” Customers previously took to forums and blogs to complain about the app’s scrolling speed and the constant lags when retrieving updates. So, when the Facebook team went to improve the app, they knew exactly where to start.

The Vision for the New Version 

Product manager Mick Johnson explained, “The app is actually a complete re-write of Facebook for iOS.” They felt this was necessary because those who are in charge of making changes are also users of the app. They have the user experience to pinpoint the problems while using the app in their personal lives. With this in mind, they experienced firsthand the speed issue and opted to make the app twice as fast.

Other improvements include:

  • Scrolling through the news feed is faster than ever
  • New banner lets you tap to quickly see more stories – no need to refresh
  • Allows you to see when person has seen your message
  • Instant Access to your notifications

  • Photos open fast and close with one downward swipe
  • Faster photo uploads

Consolidation

The messages component of this app received a great deal of improvement in this update through the integration of the previously separate messenger app. The look, feel, and features of the messenger app are all now included in the standard Facebook app.

The iPad App Joins In

Along with the iPhone updates, the iPad app also received a facelift, which included the introduction of timeline for the iPad. Now that almost all Facebook users have reluctantly been forced into timeline, it’s about time that this feature made its way to the retina display of the iPad.

The People’s Opinion

Overall, this update seems to have received a positive response. I agree that this is “the best update in a very long time” because it actually delivered what the customer wanted. It seems that this group of developers finally got it right.

Anything Left to Improve?

Even with all the revisions made, there is always room for improvement. Some of the most frequent complaints after the update include the need for a share button and the ability to tag people in comments. Another problem that the Facebook mobile team should tackle is the quick decline in battery life. Users continue to fuss out about how this app, update or not, continues to drain their battery life even if the application is only running in the background.

So, you hear that Facebook? This is what we, the users, want to for version 6.

What’s your opinion on the Facebook App Update? Feel free to share in the comments below!

My Top 5 Apps for Back to School


As the end of August is near it is now the time to pack up everything from home, jam way too many suitcases in a small car, and move back to school! Some younger teens might not want to think ahead to the daunting reality that school is right around the corner, but for most college students it is actually the opposite. Excitement is in the air because within the next few weeks college students will either be stepping onto campus for the first time as freshmen, or returning and cheerfully reuniting with friends.

Now, along with the usual back to school necessities such as jeans and a backpack, many college students will not leave home without their favorite accessory, a smartphone. When you look at the popular selection of apps on a smartphone they will normally include cult favorites such as FacebookAngrybirds, and Pandora. While all those apps are nice to pass the time on the drive to school, college students should stock their phones with apps that will help them succeed during the year. I thought I would share my favorite back to school apps that make your backpack a little bit lighter, and allow your smartphone to make you a little bit smarter.

  • Flashcards– This app is one of the best study tools because it allows you to learn loads of information through the use of digital flashcards. One of the world’s most efficient study tools is now more environmentally friendly because you can make hundreds of flashcards without using any paper.This app also allows you to simply create a new set of cards right from the app and immediately start studying. Another option is you can download flashcards from Quizlet, the leading online study site, and add them to your library for offline studying.
  • The Wolfram series of apps are great for any math course you may encounter. The list of available apps match popular math courses, and although they are not free, these apps are a great tool to help with homework and go over concepts learned in class. Instead of just having generic examples for you to do, each of these apps can solve specific problems, that you enter, while providing step by step solutions. They can integrate, differentiate, and really serve as a “mini tutor” to help work out any equation.
  • A modern idea that smartphones explore is cloud storage with the two most popular apps being Dropbox and GoogleDrive. Through this service students can have access to documents, photos, and videos, no matter the location. Both apps basically serve the same purpose, so a lot of people find themselves asking Is Google Drive that Different from the competition?
    I personally use Dropbox because I find the design to be very clean and easy to use, but any cloud storage app will provide a similar result. No matter the service, it will allow the everyday student to overcome the problem of procrastination by granting quick access to his or her files online so he or she can print a research paper in the library the morning it is due.
  • I have always liked to use my phone instead of a standard, written agenda to keep track of all my “to do’s.” Keeping with the synced devices theme, the app Wunderlist helps me stay on top of homework and any outside tasks I need to get done.This specific app also allows you to sort your list by order of importance, set reminder notifications, and share your lists with friends. You can collaborate through social networks and email, or you always have the option to print your list out.
  • My last app is not specifically school related, but the app GroupMe allows you to create chats with friends no matter what type of phone or provider they have. This app is a great, free way to collaborate on group projects, to be in constant contact with your roommates, or just to keep in touch with friends from home.

Now that I have listed my top 5 apps for back to school, let me know what your favorites are! Do you agree, or are you outraged that I left your favorite off the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Social Media: The Big Olympic Spoiler


Every four years, a two week period comes along where the best athletes in the world compete in various sports to become the best. Right now, everyone has been glued to the TV to follow the rivalry between swimmers Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte , and watch every flip and stuck landing of the US Women’s Gymnastics Team. Now, it has been a tradition to become engrossed in the Olympic Games, but since the last Summer Olympics in 2008 our world has become much more reliant on social media.

Why Spoilers Are a New Problem

I have been hearing everyone complain that the Michael Phelps race they were so excited to watch was ruined by an insensitive twitter account, and it made me think about why society hasn’t faced this problem before. During the Beijing Olympics in 2008 there was a delay in TV coverage as well, but I don’t remember there being nearly as much of a problem with spoilers. Then it hit me that although it feels like Twitter has been around forever, it only emerged as the new popular social network around the time of 2009, a year after the last summer Olympics. Now, 3 years later, it is the ”Official Narrator” of the London 2012 Olympics. It is hard to remember a time when you didn’t tell all your followers every one of your thoughts in 140 characters or less, but Twitter is still new to the social seen. Twitter UK even reported that there were more Tweets in a single day last week than during the entire 2008 Beijing Games.

Avoiding Spoilers Should Be an Olympic Sport

Because we all live in the high tech world that is 2012, avoiding learning the Olympic results before primetime is just as a hard as preforming an Amanar Vault in gymnastics. Olympic spoilers have people turning off phone alerts, hiding their iPads and shushing co-workers. But logging off all technology isn’t a full proof plan to avoid spoilers either. If Twitter, email alerts, and notifications don’t spoil it, the next person you meet will. You might miss reading Ellen’s funny tweets for two weeks because you’ve sworn off Twitter, but the second you walk into the lunch room or doctors office somebody will say “OH MY ! I can’t believe Missy Franklin won that race.”

So clearly, the only way to avoid having the Olympic games unspoiled is to: Cease to live in the modern world. Use no social media. Talk to no one. Eyes front: Look at no newsstand, no TV crawler. No radio! Get home, take out the earplugs . . . but only after you turn on NBC. 

A Suggestion from the Source

Enough with the sarcasm, avoiding spoilers from friends is a though battle, but ESPN gives a realistic tip so you can use Twitter sans spoilers.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

Now this phrase is not just a catchy Kelly Clarkson tune, in fact it actually represents NBC’s position in the world of spoilers. You would think that because everyone is finding out the results of all the matches, meets, and races during the day they skip the chance to watch it at night, but NBC reports otherwise. The network can point to its stellar ratings — 40.7 million viewers for the opening ceremony and 28.7 million for the first night of competition Saturday — to argue that it must be doing something right. One of the creators of the hit tv show Lost, Damon Lindelof, even tweeted about his thoughts on the great Olympic spoilers. Looks like he thinks people won’t stop tuning in anytime soon.

Why I Don’t Mind the Spoilers

I seem to have the same mindset as Damon, as I don’t mind the new era of social media introducing spoilers. When watching Olympic events I get anxious and nervous that my favorite athlete isn’t going to win. I like finding out the basic results such has who won and lost during the day, and then seeing how all the action played out when it airs on TV at night. This way I can be calm and enjoy watching the events. Spoilers won’t get me to give up social media just yet.

What is your opinion on Olympic Spoilers? Have you sworn off technology for the time being, or you “pro-spoilers” like me?