08.02.21

Guide To Manage Hybrid Meetings

BY Fast Company Contributor 4 MINUTE READ

When hybrid conference calls go sideways, they’re like bad meetings on steroids. Improperly managed, they’re not only chaotic, they also impede organizational decision-making. Remote workers feel this frustration most acutely. They’re at a disadvantage vying with onsite participants to contribute and influence meeting outcomes. Onsite participants simply ignore or undervalue remote participants—often because they can’t see them.

Facing these hybrid headwinds, remote workers become passive participants in group innovation or brainstorming exercises. How can teams successfully achieve hybrid work nirvana then?

At my company, aside from more general connectivity issues, we’ve observed that hybrid conference calls can fail in less tangible ways, such as when meetings are run using their former in-person formats. The problems that impinge hybrid workplace meetings aren’t solved simply because you can “see” every participant.

Just as a concert experienced in person affects fans differently than one watched on TV, a hybrid workplace meeting today can be less engaging or productive for participants than one conducted entirely in person. We believe that hybrid meetings don’t foster great decision-making—at least not without thoughtful prework and follow-up work.

The Wall Street Journal reported that large organizations such as Adobe, Apple, Salesforce, and Allstate among others, intend to make hybrid work a long-term practice. That places even more stress on the importance of getting hybrid meetings right.

HOW HYBRID MEETINGS SHOULD WORK

What does it look like when hybrid meetings are planned and executed more productively and appropriately? I asked our usability experts at my conferencing software company to study this question

In today’s hybrid workplace, with workers in multiple time zones and only some onsite at company headquarters, decision-making isn’t bound by scheduled video conference calls. But in many, if not most, organizations, looping in off-site workers is basically hit-and-miss. Actual business decisions are often made by phone or in different message threads. While that’s simply going to happen sometimes, what matters is sharing new ideas or current thinking with the entire team.

Here are nine ways to improve your organization’s hybrid meetings:

Think inclusion. Notify everyone on your team about your objectives for the meeting and any related project.

Think completeness. Create a concise opening message on a team message board that spells out the goal of the effort, the timeline, defines everyone’s responsibilities, and provides pertinent materials.

Post, post, post. All decisions should be highlighted on the team messaging board, keeping everyone looped in about what’s happening or in the works. Posting after-meeting notes will help ensure follow-through. The notes should again tag participants and highlight who owns which deliverables and when they’re due. Moreover, tag people, so they know when a new message or assignment is up.

Asynchronous collaboration. Keep in mind, team message boards are not a one-way street. Encourage feedback, questions, and document sharing as needed. Utilizing cloud applications, such as shared whiteboards, enables real-time collaboration. This ensures that work keeps going without busy schedules and time differences becoming a blocker.

Focus on prework. When it comes to scheduling hybrid meetings, prework pays off. While adding structure such as an agenda helps enhance productivity and team engagement, too much structure may stifle those benefits. If the agenda is too dense, for example, no one will absorb it.

Goal setting. A longtime best meeting practice, setting meeting goals and objectives is probably twice as important in a hybrid setting. By sharing goals in advance, everyone can come prepared to contribute. Participants should know in advance who called the meeting, what it’s for, and how everyone will know if the objective has been met.

Support time-shifting. Even before the pandemic, workers in many distributed organizations were “time-shifting” to better suit personal, family, or business team priorities. Now there are even fewer reasons to assume everyone can join a meeting in real time. That’s why it’s critical to record team meetings and make the recordings available in a team space on a collaborative communications platform. Remote participants will also use this space to pose questions that can be answered asynchronously at the meeting participants’ convenience.

Engage remote participants. Keeping remote participants engaged and involved is largely just a matter of assigning someone on-site to keep an eye on them during meetings and encouraging their questions and comments (within reason, see next point).

Cater to short attention spans. Attention spans have never been shorter. It’s a great idea to keep hybrid meetings as crisp as possible, which means avoiding over-presenting. While we all want to be heard, there are times you may need to impose limits. Everyone may want to ask questions or make points, but keep in mind, when that happens, the meeting won’t be as productive as it otherwise might have been.

FINDING A PRODUCTIVE BALANCE IN THE HYBRID WORLD

The hybrid workplace is proving its value. A remarkable 83% of global workers surveyed by Accenture call it “optimal.” But, if leaders and workers fail to adjust their behavior to optimize a hybrid workplace meeting model, organizations will become inefficient, remote workers will languish, and morale—or even innovation—may nosedive.

Before the pandemic, many people thought about meetings strictly in terms of business productivity. Were we making decisions that advanced our business objectives? It’s still a worthy question, but today, we take a more nuanced view. Productivity in a hybrid workplace is about fostering healthy and engaged workers, leading to smarter business decisions, not just seeing how much stuff we can discuss by the end of the call.

Keep in mind the meeting itself is not the desired outcome. A team meeting remains what it’s always been: merely a means to an end. Hybrid meetings need to be planned and executed more thoughtfully and appropriately. What the world needs now isn’t more meetings, it’s smartly planned or better-managed ones.

Michael Peachey is a VP of user experience at RingCentral.

Source: FastCompany.com

07.29.21

EduTech is on the rise in SA

BY Fast Company Contributor 3 MINUTE READ

Dell Technologies recently announced the findings of a local study by IDC, the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the ICT sector. The study titled “Post-Pandemic IT Infrastructure in South African Universities” shows how universities have had to ramp up their compute power to accommodate the increase in online learning since the onset of the pandemic and the resulting move toward hybrid learning models…

The study analyses key trends shaping the higher education sector in South Africa and gauges the adoption of IT hardware, server, and storage equipment among universities in the country. The study also looks at some of the drivers of adoption and the challenges institutions face and provides the context for the future outlook of the sector.

Speaking the study Mark Walker, Associate Vice President, Sub-Saharan Africa, IDC had this to say “At IDC, we aim to promote economic growth and industrial progress in South Africa by providing rich insights into trends shaping our economy. The insights obtained in the study, show the current digital transformation taking place within tertiary education institutions in South Africa. There is no doubt that the South African government is encouraging the adoption of technology within institutions both private and public. CIO’s need to motivate for the technology required to move universities forward and to keep students learning and equipped to enter into the working world and contribute to the growth of the South African economy.”

South Africa has 25 private universities and over 20 public universities across its nine provinces. Currently universities accommodate more than 1 million students, with government planning to increase university enrolment to 1.5 million by 2030.

University CIO’s need to reprioritise spending

The findings highlight that CIO’s need to reprioritise their technology spending plans in 2021 and beyond by investing in technologies that enable cost savings while maximising business productivity and learning outcomes.

This includes adopting a “cloud first” approach to reduce costs and improve efficiency. In addition, vulnerability to cyber-attacks has increased as the attack surface has expanded. CIO’s need to ensure that security remains a key priority for higher learning institutions. Another key priority is the urgent need to modernise and automate existing systems and platforms by implementing technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics. As IDC cites in the report, “Only a few use cases exist at the university level; for example, AI is used to enhance the admission process by enabling universities to forecast demand and achieve their target enrolment numbers. The use of AI to deliver classes is yet to gain traction at the university level, although this will likely be a future area of focus.”

Enhanced connectivity and computing power to modernise current IT infrastructure

Looking at current IT infrastructure usage requirements of universities, the study details how at the onset of the pandemic institutions were focused on connectivity and secure access to educational content. IT departments are now shifting focus to adopting better computing power and storage, to handle the vast amounts of data being generated from online learning platforms and learning tools.

Until recently universities deployed up to 250 server and storage systems in their IT infrastructure environments. Server and storage systems are typically deployed centrally in a single datacentre and then split into different clusters that run specific applications. Traditionally, administration departments used about 60% of existing IT infrastructure capacity, however this is changing as academic departments have shifted to online teaching and so has the level of usage.

According to Doug Woolley, Managing Director, Dell Technologies South Africa, “Universities, like most organisations, are undergoing a process of rapid digitisation and whilst there are barriers that need to be considered, CIO’s in the education sector need to be empowered to assist universities to transition into the digital area, by being in a position to secure grants to gain access to the hardware and storage they require to transition to an advanced hybrid-learning model. At Dell Technologies we are committed to drive human progress, and technology-driven education will allow our youth to reach their true potential and create a better future for themselves and South Africa as a whole.”

Looking to the future, universities will have to adapt their digital transformation strategy, based on key technology shifts while seeking new ways to invest and consume technology.

Growth drivers: Spending will be driven by the adoption of online learning which will require investment in technologies such as cloud, storage and servers. In fact, the IDC report states that average spending on storage and server systems is expected to grow by 8–10% annually in the shorter term (over the next one to three years) and by 2.5–3% annually in the longer term (three to five years).

Addressing budget constraints: While educational institutions are fast tracking their digital initiatives, as little as 5-10% of budgets are allocated to IT. To help ease the financial burden, Dell Technologies recently announced the availability of APEX Custom Solutions in South Africa. Offering flexible payment options, organizations have greater access to technology across Dell Technologies’ infrastructure portfolio. Tailored to today’s fast-paced business and education environment, organisations can work with Dell Technologies to plan, deploy and manage their entire IT footprint and choose how they consume and pay for IT solutions.

07.27.21

Samsung to launch LED gaming monitor

BY Fast Company Contributor < 1 MINUTE READ

Samsung Electronics said on Tuesday its new curved gaming monitor with Mini LED display will be launched this week.Samsung Electronics said on Tuesday its new curved gaming monitor with Mini LED display will be launched this week.

Samsung Electronics said on Tuesday its new curved gaming monitor with Mini LED display will be launched this week.

The Odyssey Neo G9 will hit the shelves in South Korea on Thursday with a price of 2.4 million won ($2,085). It will be globally available by August 9, according to the tech giant.

The latest product is the industry’s first curved gaming monitor with Mini LED display, Samsung said.

It uses the Quantum Mini LED light source that is 1/40 the height of a conventional LED, which is also used in Samsung’s Neo QLED TVs, reports Yonhap news agency.

The 49-inch monitor is also equipped with Quantum Matrix technology that offers 12-bit gradation for greater control of the light source, making dark areas darker and bright areas brighter with 2,048 dimming zones.

Samsung said its Quantum HDR 2000 solution provides a peak brightness of 2,000 nits, alongside a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1.

The Odyssey Neo G9, featuring 100R curvature, also offers dual quad high-definition of 5,120×1,440 resolution with 240Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time, for immersive gaming experience, according to Samsung.

Samsung said the monitor also comes with a rear infinity core lighting system, which includes 52 colorus and five lighting effect options, for a better gaming environment.

The monitor also received Eye Comfort certificate by TUV Rheinland, a leading international certification organisation, to ensure the eye safety of users.

IANS

Netflix bringing mobile gaming to its subscribers

BY Fast Company Contributor 2 MINUTE READ

The streaming platform has opened up on its initial moves in the gaming world as they detailed plans during the company’s second quarter earnings report this week.

Picture: Unsplash

The streaming platform has opened up on its initial moves in the gaming world as they detailed plans during the company’s second quarter earnings report this week.

Netflix is planning to bring mobile gaming to its subscribers.

The streaming platform has opened up on its initial moves in the gaming world as they detailed plans during the company’s second quarter earnings report this week.

In a letter to investors, Netflix said: “We’re also in the early stages of further expanding into games, building on our earlier efforts around interactivity (eg, Black Mirror Bandersnatch) and our Stranger Things games.

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“We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV.

“Games will be included in members’ Netflix subscription at no additional cost similar to films and series.

“Initially, we’ll be primarily focused on games for mobile devices.

“We’re excited as ever about our movies and TV series offering and we expect a long runway of increasing investment and growth across all of our existing content categories, but since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games.”

The update comes days after the firm announced former EA and Oculus executive Mike Verdu has joined as VP of game development.

BANG SHOWBIZ

07.21.21

Netflix is winning with movies, will it win with games?

BY Fast Company Contributor 2 MINUTE READ

With subscriber growth hitting headwinds in 2021 after a COVID-19-led surge in 2020, Netflix recently made a splashy announcement that it was hiring a gaming executive, Oculus and EA alumnus Mike Verdu, to build up the company’s newly minted interactive division. Reports soon followed that Netflix would start offering video games on the service within a year. Details are sparse at this point, but the assumption is that Netflix will create games around popular Netflix franchises—think Stranger Things—as a way to “enhance and deepen member engagement,” as a job listing recently put it.

The move isn’t all that surprising. There have been rumblings about Netflix looking to hire a top gaming exec within the gaming industry for a year now, and Netflix cofounder and co-CEO Reed Hastings has referenced Fortnite as one of Netflix’s biggest competitors. But it is audacious for a company that has been so disciplined about refraining from sideline businesses, instead keeping its focus on doing just one thing really well: offering movies and TV shows to stream.

That single-mindedness seems to be weakening, however, as the streaming wars rage on: Amazon Prime is now head-to-head with Netflix when it comes to subscribers, with over 200 million worldwide, and it potentially just boosted its content library with the purchase of MGM for $8.5 billion (if regulators permit it). Apple TV Plus is still playing subscriber catch up, but it’s gaining critical acclaim with shows like Ted Lasso, which just scored 20 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series. HBO Max and Disney Plus, meanwhile, are loading up with tentpole offerings, such as, respectively, Space Jam: A New Legacy and Black Widow, from their parent companies.

With pressure from all sides, and an unspectacular outlook ahead as COVID-19 (potentially) begins to subside—in advance of Netflix reporting second-quarter earnings after the market close on July 20, the company projected that it would add just 1 million subscribers in the quarter—Netflix is looking for new ways to boost subscribers, its one and only revenue stream, and justify future price hikes.

But venturing into games has many observers scratching their heads, given the technical and financial challenges of the games industry. “When I say it’s impossible and Netflix is going to fail miserably, I’m not saying that because I’m a Netflix hater,” says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. “I’m saying it because to me this is like Starbucks saying, ‘We’ve decided to get into the FedEx business because people come to our store already. They can pick up their package when they get their coffee.’ It’s like, ‘Are you crazy? Why do you think you can do that?‘”

Pachter pointed out the cost of building up a games business, recalling how Disney abruptly shut down its Infinity gaming division in 2013, even after it had generated $1 billion in revenue. “They couldn’t make any money,” Pachter says. “Their games were awesome, but they couldn’t scale it. Their overhead was so great, the cost of games was so great, even with a billion dollars in revenue.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based senior writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety

07.19.21

Great Resignation: People are resigning enmasse

BY Fast Company Contributor 3 MINUTE READ

Whether you call it the Great Resignation, the big quit, or the turnover tsunami, a lot of people are leaving (or at least thinking about leaving) their jobs. While every sector is being hit, some are suffering greater losses than others.

“We’re seeing white-collar and blue-collar jobs being impacted,” says Jessica Schaeffer, vice president of LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm. “There’s a mass exodus from many industries and roles.”

These are the hardest hit:

RETAIL AND HOSPITALITY

Retail hospitality struggling to find talent, says Schaeffer. “Many were put on the front lines during COVID and weren’t getting benefits or a ton of money,” she says. “They worked long hours and their perspective has changed.”

Arran Stewart, co-founder of Job.com, a job search site, agrees and says this industry is suffering the greatest losses. “A lot of people are blaming burnout in this scenario, but I don’t believe that’s the case,” he adds.

Several roles were displaced or made redundant during COVID-19, and employees moved into new occupations during the shutdown by finding transferable job skills, such as taking a job in a grocery store after being furloughed.

“Now that the economy is opening back up, we’re seeing stats on applicant data that shows a massive shift back to their former occupations,” says Stewart. “They’re leaving employment that wasn’t ideal to go back to what they were doing originally.”

MANUFACTURING

Another industry that is seeing a surge of resignations is manufacturing, and it’s due to the economy opening back up, says Stewart. “People are always looking for better opportunities,” he says. “There is a shortage of hourly workers for industrial manufacturers and people are going where the money is.”

Manufacturing is a salary-sensitive industry that is prone to movement in labor. “Workers will move to a new employer for a 25-cent wage increase,” says Stewart. “Companies are raising their pay to attract labor, which has created a war on talent.”

TECHNOLOGY

High turnover is technology is attributable to burnout, says Stewart.

“Everybody had to move from working in the office to working fully remote, which created a time of high stress and uncertainty,” he says. “Now some companies are insisting that workers go back to offices while others are staying remote or going hybrid. Workers are moving to companies that fit their work style preferences, especially in tech.”

HEALTHCARE

Another industry suffering from employee burnout is healthcare, says Schaeffer. According to NSI Nursing Solutions, a nurse recruiting agency, the turnover rate for staff RNs increased by 2.8% in 2020, reaching 18.7%. Hospitals have a nearly 10% vacancy rate for RNs and recruiting and onboarding a new nurse takes an average of 89 days.

The same is true with physicians. According to Jackson Search, a physician recruiting firm, 54% of physicians surveyed said COVID-19 has caused them to change their employment plans. Of those, half plan to leave their current employer, while 36% are opting to retire early or leave the practice of medicine completely.

SLOWING THE EXIT

Employees who stayed put during the uncertainty of COVID-19 are feeling more confident, says Schaeffer. “During the pandemic we saw one of the best retention rates because people didn’t want to leave,” she says. “We’re at the opposite end of the pendulum. With a stable, strong employee-driven job market, people are ready to leave and go where they can make more money, get better benefits, and find flexibility. We’ve gone from one extreme to another, but it’s just starting to even out.”

While there is a sea of various motives across verticals causing the turnover, Stewart says it’s a lot more expensive to lose and replace an employee than to keep them. “Employers should be talking to their labor force to preempt or limit the amount of employee turnover,” he says. “Studies have found that if three close work colleagues leave, there’s a high chance you may leave, too, which creates regrettable turnover. It can start a rot within the company. If managers are preemptive, asking employees if they’re happy and finding ways to address burnout, it’s easier to retain them. The cost of a complete staff turnover could be astronomical.”

07.09.21

This new photo-sharing app may be an Instagram killer

BY Fast Company Contributor 6 MINUTE READ

Dispo, a photo-sharing app that allows users to take retro-style pictures that they can’t see until 9 a.m. the next morning—much like a disposable camera, is a fresh take on the single-most-popular digital activity for a generation stressed out by the pressures of Instagram perfection. Dispo, a photo-sharing app that allows users to take retro-style pictures that they can’t see until 9 a.m. the next morning—much like a disposable camera, is a fresh take on the single-most-popular digital activity for a generation stressed out by the pressures of Instagram perfection.

Just four months ago, Dispo, the photo-sharing app that allows users to take retro-style pictures that they can’t see until 9 a.m. the next morning—much like a disposable camera—looked unbeatable. It had a fresh take on the single-most-popular digital activity for a generation stressed out by the pressures of Instagram perfection. It had the funding to grow and a buzzy valuation of $200 million for an app still in beta. It scored a splashy New York Times profile. Most of all, it had David Dobrik, perhaps the most successful digital creator of the last decade, whose stardom emerged first on Vine, blossomed on YouTube, and then exploded further on TikTok. The likable 24-year-old star who was once dubbed “Gen Z’s Jimmy Fallon” was a multimillionaire with a golden touch, and now he was going to build a new social network.

Then the calendar turned to March, and Dobrik went from one of the most beloved and successful social media stars on the planet to one of its most disgraced. A member of Dobrik’s Vlog Squad—the posse of guys and gals with whom he shoots Jackass-style videos—was accused of raping a woman while making a video for Dobrik’s YouTube channel. (Dobrik responded to the charges in an apology video in which he said that “consent is something that’s super, super important to me . . . I’m sorry I let you down.”) As a result of the allegations, Dobrik stepped down from Dispo, and Spark Capital, which had led its $20 million series A funding round, severed ties with the company.

The company could have vaporized. Or rebranded. But Dispo CEO Daniel Liss, a Harvard and Stanford alum who worked in politics before turning to tech, didn’t panic. In the wake of the turmoil, Liss says, he and his team “sat down for a couple weeks. We said, ‘okay, we’re putting marketing on hold.’ We’d gone from feeling like the world was on fire, we were top of the App Store, there was euphoric press. So we were kind of holding our breath.” Then he and the Dispo team—all of whom remained at the company—decided to dig in and continue to work on their product. Sure, their greatest branding tool was now gone (Dobrik has amassed more than 18 million YouTube followers and 25 million-plus TikTok fans), meaning millions more would have to be spent in marketing dollars. But as they put their heads down and thought through what Dispo was all about, they realized that the answer went far beyond any one person.

The company’s mission—to move beyond the Facebook and Instagram era of curated images of perfect-seeming lives—had only become more crystallized in the wake of the scandal.

The result of that introspective period, which included a series of conversations to reassure investors, including Sofia Vergara, Weekend Fund, and Shrug Capital, has led to a relaunch of sorts for Dispo. Although the app has remained available to download this whole time, Dispo has not done any promotion or outreach over the past few months as it instead focused on building a product that aims to be more than just a really fun way to take and experience photographs. Indeed, new features and an amplification of its overall message makes it clear that the app is as much about righting the wrongs of Big Tech as it is about snapping pics.

This vision helped Dispo—whose team is majority female and majority people of color—retain all of its other original investors, also including Seven Seven Six, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian’s venture fund—though Ohanian has said that any profits he sees from this investment in Dispo will be donated to “an organization working with survivors of sexual assault.” Liss and company also attracted a new group of advisors and investors, including photographers Annie Leibovitz and Raven B. Varona; NBA stars Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala (via their respective investment vehicles Thirty Five Ventures and F9 Strategies); Endeavor; and Angelica Nwandu, CEO of the Shade Room.

Liss says that Dispo is “the antithesis of this curated, perfect aesthetic that has dominated the last decade,” thanks to forces like Instagram and Facebook. “We believe what we’re capturing now is this new wave of social media. That’s why we’re so excited to be at the vanguard of it. We all know that Hollywood, fashion, art—there are cycles in culture. Social media is so young, we’re actually heading into its first-ever cycle, which is back to the beginning.

“A lot of what we’re doing feels reminiscent of the early days of social media, but there are other parts we’re hoping to get right from the absolute beginning, which is a much greater emphasis on trust and safety; a much greater emphasis on thinking critically about the impact the product is having on a person’s mental health. The early days of social media were all about ‘move fast and break things.’ Our thought is, ‘move fast and build things.’ How can you create something that is additive and not just destructive for the sake of growth?”

PHOTO SHARING’S NEW WAVE

The trend toward spontaneous and imperfect interactions on social media has been gaining steam with the rise of companies like TikTok and Clubhouse, where conversations take place live and unedited (in contrast to the podcast model). In the photo-sharing space, Poparazzi, an app whose camera function won’t let you take front-facing selfies and that forces you to fill your profile only with pictures others have taken or uploaded of you, debuted at No. 1 on the iPhone app store in the U.S. in late May, reaching approximately 1.1 million downloads in the U.S. and 2 million globally its first week. Meanwhile, BeReal, an app that’s taken off in France and that asks users to post a photo of themselves once a day by using both the selfie camera and the outward-facing camera on the backside of the phone—thus creating a more realistic image—is valued at $150 million following a $30 million investment from Andreessen Horowitz and Accel. All of these companies create the first real threat to the multibillion-dollar ecosystem of Instagram, which along with Snapchat—the last notable innovation before TikTok—have proven to be impenetrable to competitors.

Many in Silicon Valley believe this is about to change. “We’re in a scenario where the culture, especially consumer social product culture, is driven largely by teenagers—it always has been and will be,” Ohanian tells me in an interview. “And that is a vulnerability because this generation of teens, Gen Z, has grown up in the shadow of a lot of problematic [issues with Big Tech] . . . things that are leading them to seek alternatives. So I think there’s a huge opportunity for a culture shift just because there is a massive market of digitally native, smartphone-wielding content creators.”

And those creators are hungry for “the next-generation photo-sharing app that prioritizes living in the moment as opposed to living on your phone during the moment,” Ohanian continues. “Where you take a bunch of photos, make them perfect, and just shove them off to people who are you don’t really care about.”

Raven B. Varona, the official photographer for Beyonce and Jay-Z’s On the Run II Tour, said of her decision to invest in Dispo: “There is a joy that comes from capturing a moment unplanned and unrehearsed. Every photo that’s given me the greatest happiness came in the moment. I am excited to help build a company giving people more of that.”

Beyond forcing users to take photos without any reshoots or filters—you simply shoot a roll of photos and see the results the next morning—Liss and his team have worked to avoid adding any features that can lead to angst and a negative sense of self on social media. For example, the number of people someone is following on Dispo is hidden. “If you talk to the average teenager, they obsess about what’s known as their ratio on Instagram—the number (of people) they follow versus who follow them,” Liss explains. “It’s desirable to have more people following you. That behavior has been ingrained in us by Oprah, who follows nobody, and Beyoncé, who follows nobody. But for the rest of us, who cares? As a result (of taking that number away), we’ve found people following much more freely and not stressing over how long their following list was.”

RECREATING EUPHORIA

The challenge for Dispo 2.0 is to build back up to that initial “euphoria,” as Liss dubs it, that Dispo experienced when it first took off in Japan last February. At the time, the app was in TestFlight, or soft launch mode, being used by friends of the Dispo team and tech enthusiasts who were quietly trying the app out.

Then word got out in Japan. Overnight, TestFlight maxed out at 10,000 users and “all hell broke loose,” recalls Liss. The app had caught on among locals who grooved on the fun aspect of not seeing the immediate results of their photo sessions, as well as the built-in privacy of the app, which allows users to control which content is public and what’s private. This feature is particularly prized in Japanese culture, where many people have multiple Twitter accounts in order to make a distinction between their professional and nonprofessional voices.

Even better, the success in Japan—where Dobrik is all but unknown—meant that the product was selling itself. Within weeks, Dispo raised that $20 million.

But even since the company went quiet, there have been signs that its success wasn’t just lighting in a bottle. In April, the app reached the top 10 in the app stores in Germany, Japan, and Brazil over three subsequent weekends. Overall, Dispo has surpassed 5 million downloads and 100 million photos taken.

“This past weekend we went top 10 in Mexico, even though we have no staff there,” says Liss. “It just gets picked up somewhere. This is the magic of a viral, digital product. Some teenager gets ahold of it, and they share with their friends and it goes crazy. All of a sudden, we wake up and we have tens of thousands of downloads and happy people who are spreading this product by word of mouth.

“It’s a product we all need,” he goes on. “It untethers you from your phone. It returns us to the way we all used to live.”

Author: Nicole LaPorte. Article originally published on fastcompany.com.

07.07.21

Meet a TikTok influencer who made home renovation videos her full-time job

BY Fast Company Contributor 3 MINUTE READ

TikTok is known for everything from popular dances to short comedy sketches. But during the pandemic, another sort of content went viral.

With people stuck at home during lockdown, home renovation projects took on a whole new urgency. And TikTok was there to deliver.

There’s a community of creators on TikTok taking on full room renovations, showing us how to fill a wall with plants, designing custom wall paneling, and helping make wallpaper trendy again.

One creator, Kyla Herbes, runs the account @houseofhipsters and saw her internet presence blow up as a result of the interior design videos she posted during the pandemic. While her early videos from 2019 would only get around 1,000 views and no more than 50 likes, she now has nearly 350,000 followers and her videos can top 100,000 views.

Herbes’s first brush with TikTok fame came in May 2020, when she embarked on a project called the “One Room Challenge.” The viral video, now at over half a million views, shows the sped-up renovation of a room in her house, with the popular song “Renegade” playing in the background. In fact, she often uses trending sounds or songs in her design videos in order to get more views.

After that first viral video, Herbes worked to grow her following, posting one video a day for a month straight. “People were doing 30 days of outfits, so I started doing 30 days of home vignettes,” Herbes said. “It was really difficult because I was like, ‘Well, which corner am I going to style now?’”

She started out small, showing a piece of empty counter space in her kitchen, for instance, which she would decorate with a few basics like plants, candles, and bowls. However, as the videos progressed, Herbes realized that viewers were more interested in “tips and tricks” and learning how to improve their own homes. She changed her strategy to start reconfiguring small parts of her house, like a video teaching viewers how to style a bar cart into a coffee station.

Herbes also runs a blog called House of Hipsters, which she started eight years ago. TikTok came later, in 2019. While she still runs the blog, she now posts TikTok videos three to five times a week, largely featuring home projects, vintage store finds, furniture renovation, and decor and shopping advice.

“I definitely like mixing old and new,” she says. “I would say [my style] is eclectic modern. I like to put something brand new with something kind of creepy, crumbly, crusty, and old.”

In her bedroom, Herbes has high-end Philip Jeffries wallpaper, paired with $50 velvet curtains from Amazon, along with a vintage Chapman tassel lamp, mixing a variety of styles for a unique, signature design. She plays up these juxtapositions in her TikTok home tours, where she regularly talks about mixing modern pieces with thrifted and vintage finds, like old lamps or even vintage ceramic monkeys.

Before the pandemic, Herbes owned a vintage shop, but once Covid hit, she found herself in the position of many other small business owners and had to shut down her store. TikTok became her primary business. Because of the popularity of her blog, Herbes was able to monetize her TikTok through sponsored posts, which she works with brands to develop.

Sometimes, to mix it up and engage her followers, she’ll involve them in her design choices. When decorating a guest room, she asked viewers to vote on the color of the decorative pillows. (Teal won out over pink, and viewers also chose a salmon-colored paint for the walls.)

This viewer involvement is what really helps Herbes’ TikTok stand out. She doesn’t claim to be the absolute authority on interior design and, like many of us, has made some purchases she regrets (a $70 pepper grinder, for instance, or a French cutting board that doesn’t fit in her cabinets).

One of the most popular designs in her home right now are her unique wallpapers, which appear on #wallpaper TikTok frequently. Right now, six rooms are wallpapered, including three bathrooms, a closet and her office.

One bathroom, which she calls “Potty Paradise,” has a black, animal-print wallpaper, paired with a Lucite chandelier. To her surprise, many viewers have recreated the look in their own bathrooms, and she found out that a restaurant in Seattle has done the same.

In the foyer closet, Herbes has a pink wallpaper design by Divine Savages. One of her followers loved it but was unable to find the same wallpaper for sale, so they designed their own by hand, then sent it to a printer. “I was like, that is amazing,” Herbes says.

07.06.21

Not sure what do with Lego? there’s an App for that

BY Fast Company Contributor 3 MINUTE READ

The Brickit app, free on iOS, is a promising way to look at your bricks anew. While it was designed by a team of fans rather than The Lego Group, it can do something that no other Lego app has ever done

Lego is amazing. But if you or your kids are avid about building, you will inevitably end up with a big pile of bricks, shed from different sets. Sometimes that pile looks like the pure nuggets of creativity. Other times, it’s just a maddening reminder that you will never, ever get your life organized.

The Brickit app, free on iOS, is a promising way to look at your bricks anew. While it was designed by a team of fans rather than The Lego Group, it can do something that no other Lego app has ever done: Scan that big pile of bricks, and it offers specific plans as to what you can build next.

That’s no small feat. Modern Lego is so much more complicated than its classic three-by-six bricks; the company produces thousands of different styles of pieces today. With Brickit, all you do is take a picture of your pile, and it uses object recognition to identify the specific brick types you have. With your collection cataloged, the app offers specific building plans—like vehicles and animals—that you can build with the pieces you have right in front of you.

To test the app, I knew just the place: the room of my 7-year-old. Right on his desk sits an omnipresent tub of loose Lego, a rainbow graveyard full of the limbs of Harry Potter minifigs and other studded detritus.

First, I tried to take a picture of the tub. But the app simply identified all the things it couldn’t understand: Lego rail track, some other specialized pieces, and a few non-Lego toys. (Brickit doesn’t claim to identify special Lego sets like Technic or anything else you might own). So I enlisted his help, and did that weird parent thing where you sometimes have to ask permission of your own child to dump much of the bin onto the floor. We weeded out the bad pieces and scanned again. The system counted 150 pieces this time, but the app gave no suggested builds.

At this point, my son’s initial elation at the very existence of this app waned, as he suggested there are all sorts of things he could build with this pile. But we trudged on, doubled the pile, and got 20 suggested plans. The app told us that we’re still missing a few pieces in order to build all of those 20 plans, but we try to build the truck the app suggested anyway.

The app lists each piece type in a clear illustration, just like classic Lego instructions. And when you tap the illustrated piece, the app brilliantly pulls back up your scanned photo and points out right where you can find them. It’s very difficult to pick out one tiny Lego among hundreds!

It’s a sharp bit of UX. Unfortunately, the app was prone to stalling and crashing, and we found a pretty large margin of error where, especially if one piece was partially obscured, Brickit labeled it incorrectly. Those errors meant our truck was a non-starter. However, these engineering quibbles are fixable for the Brickit team with more refinement of the platform, and it’s possible that a few issues were due to our specific camera and lighting setup. Don’t let them undercut your own willingness to try out the app.

As screens have taken over, Lego has foundered at bridging its classic physical play with digital gaming. Ultimately, Lego’s primary strategy has been to create mixed experiences that ask kids to build something and then spend their time looking at a screen to play with it. That’s always felt backwards to me. While the Brickit team didn’t respond to our request for interview, they clearly took the opposite approach that Lego has: Brickit leveraged the technology of smartphones only on the front end of the experience, to push you back into the world of building and playing in the real world.

TechCrunch has already suggested that Lego should buy Brickit. A more formal marriage between the company and app is fun to daydream about. However, what the app is best at might not be in Lego’s short term financial interest. Brickit reminds you to be happy with the bricks you already have, rather than be tempted to collect your next set.

Even though we didn’t end up building anything recommended by Brickit, my son asked me to leave the Lego pile where it was on his floor on my way out. He suddenly had his own plans to build something massive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

07.02.21

Do you really want to quit your job?

BY Fast Company Contributor 3 MINUTE READ

Thinking of quitting your job? You’re not alone. A study by Microsoft found that 41% of the global workforce would consider leaving their current employer within the next year. And a poll from Monster reports that 95% of workers are at least contemplating a job change.

A good way to know if it’s temporary burnout or a real desire for change is to take the alarm clock test, says Rob Barnett, author of Next Job Best Job: A Headhunter’s 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now.

“When your alarm goes off and you’re in that moment between sleep and waking, are you raring to go or saying ‘ugh,’” he says. “It’s a soul speaking moment. If you’re saying ‘ugh,’ then your job is not giving what you need. That’s when you know you’re stuck, settling, being disrespected, underpaid, underutilized, or overworked.”

Employees who were furloughed or had to take a pay cut or pay freeze during the pandemic may be disenchanted with their employers, says Vicki Salemi, Monster’s career expert. “Now that we’re seeing companies restart hiring, a significant portion of employees are saying ‘yes’ when it comes to considering changing jobs,” she says.

Walking into the office and quitting when you’re in a bad mood, isn’t the best strategy, says Barnett. Instead, ask yourself a few questions:

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO LEAVE BEHIND?

When you’re deciding to exit, Salemi suggests doing some soul searching to determine what you don’t like at your current job. Perhaps your job feels like dead end due to a lack of growth opportunities. Or maybe you want to use different skill sets or change industries. “Identify what you do and don’t like so you can begin a focused search and set up job alerts,” says Salemi.

Barnett suggests approaching your boss with the list of things you’d like to change. “Try to have a substantial conversation about how to improve what’s wrong,” he says. “You have to give your boss a realistic amount of time to help you correct what’s wrong. But the only person who can set that realistic timeframe is you. If it has passed, it’s time to leave.”

ARE YOU FINANCIALLY SECURE?

“Option one is leaving without knowing what’s next,” says Barnett. “It’s also known as being brave and perhaps a little crazy. Option two is secretly setting up the next best job before you quit.”

Crunch the numbers, suggests Salemi. “Everyone has a different comfort level, and some may feel okay resigning without a new opportunity because their current situation is toxic, and they may not be able to focus their energy into a successful search,” she says. “If you have enough money in savings, you may be able to quit without a new job lined up. Or you may want to hang on to your current job and look for another job in your spare time.”

Financial security goes beyond your paycheck, adds Salemi. “What benefits are you currently getting through employer?” she asks. “Paying for your own healthcare could be detrimental to your budget. Look at your entire compensation package while you’re considering quitting.”

DO YOU JUST NEED A VACATION?

In the Monster survey, nearly a third of respondents said the number one factor prompting their desire for a job change is burnout. Salemi suggests taking paid time off and completely unplugging from work.

“Last year so few people took personal time,” she says. “They thought, ‘Where am I going to go?’ And there are only so many closets to organize.”

It can help to take a step back from your current position to decide if you want to quit or if your job would be tolerable with some changes. “When you start to think about returning, evaluate your job from birds-eye view,” says Salemi. “There’s usually a good reason when you’re thinking about quitting. Circulate your résumé, network, and start to apply for jobs. You can always decide whether or not to stay when you get an offer. Now is an excellent time to look, especially when you do it strategically and methodically.”

Every tragedy creates opportunities for light and positivity, says Barnett. “The rapid upheaval of the workforce had 41 million people filing for unemployment,” he says. “The new reality is that many companies are now having a hard time filling new jobs. While there’s competition for the premium jobs, candidates have greater opportunity than they did a year and a half ago. If you’re thinking of quitting right now, make sure you think through the process to set yourself up for success.”

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Article originally published on fastcompany.com.