09.04.20

Burger King designs new “touchless” restaurant for Covid-19 era

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Ask any fast food company, from KFC to McDonald’s, and they will tell you: COVID-19 accelerated everything. While these restaurants knew that drive-throughs and delivery services had been growing, and that digital apps were essential to their future business, shuttered dining rooms catapulted us into that future of fast food overnight.Nowhere is that more evident than in a series of new stores Burger King plans to start building next year—where the car is treated like royalty.

The first is a small-footprint store with no dining room—an idea pioneered by Starbucks circa 2012—which reduces Burger King’s footprint by 60%. Instead of dining in, it invites you to either walk up, drive through, or park under the shade of a solar roof and have your food brought to you—like an old fashioned carhop or a Sonic.

The second is a T-shaped, two-story restaurant. The bottom features a counter to order and plenty of lanes for cars. The top story features the kitchen and a dining room.  Why have this top-heavy second story? It allows the store to have a smaller footprint than the one-story Burger Kings of today. Steel framing and concrete lift the dining room into the air, which creates more space for cars to hit the drive-through. And today, at least 65% of a fast food restaurant’s revenue is made in the drive-through.

“We’d already seen a pretty consistent trend into a higher mix of drive-through [business], even pre-2020. That’s increased further this year, but I suspect that will persist to some extent into the future,” says Josh Kobza, COO of Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International. “We’d also seen growth in delivery, but I think [because of COVID-19,] we probably jumped forward a couple of years in terms of the adoption curve of delivery. That permanently changes the [design] of restaurants.”

In other words, chain restaurants are investing in the higher-margin, higher-demand drive-through instead of dining rooms. (And Burger King is anything but alone in this regard—as we detailed in a recent feature, this trend is happening across the industry.) Other features, such as curbside pickup, only complement the drive-through, because they lure some cars out of the drive-through line. The longer a line of cars gets, the less likely a customer is to pull in.

Additionally, Burger King will be introducing other ways to get your food, such as a series of lockers protected with an ever-changing code. You can place your order in the app, park, grab your food, and drive off—all without ever coming face-to-face with a cashier.

“What we’re trying to accomplish here is to provide options,” says Rapha Abreu, vice president and global head of design at Restaurant Brands International. “What we tried to explore was . . . different service modes that can adapt to each person’s needs.”

Along those lines, the two designs here aren’t necessarily the only two Burger King layouts you’ll see in the future. Instead, their ideas will be swapped in and out modularly. It’s possible that a two-story Burger King could exist without a dining room, for instance, or that the smallest-footprint store wouldn’t have a drive-up in dense urban markets. For starters, Burger King will be opening pilot stores in Miami, Latin America, and the Caribbean to further test their ideas and confirm build costs before scaling.

As for when your local Burger King will get a makeover, the chain currently has 7 000 stores around the US. It builds a few hundred a year and retrofits a few hundred a year (nearly all Burger Kings are franchised, with individual owners footing the bill for cyclical upgrades). So while this new design is right around the corner, it could be several years before the Burger King on your corner actually looks different.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com

09.03.20

Here’s what Facebook’s latest “Update to Our Terms” message is all about

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Many Facebook users this week had their user experience briefly interrupted by a pop-up message warning them of a forthcoming change to the platform’s terms of service.

“Effective October 1, 2020, section 3.2 of our Terms of Service will be updated to include: ‘We also can remove or restrict access to your content, services or information if we determine that doing so is reasonably necessary to avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts to Facebook.’”

The message was unusual, to say the least, as Facebook doesn’t typically slide into your timeline to let you know about one specific change it’s making to the volumes and volumes of rules that users agree to but never read. Unless you speak legalese, the message was also a bit cryptic. What kind of “regulatory impacts” is the world’s largest social networking service expecting?

The message has sparked speculation that Facebook is ramping up efforts to remove or censor objectionable content, or otherwise curtail the free exchange of ideas in advance of the US election. Such chatter is understandable given that Facebook is not especially well trusted when it comes to issues such as transparency and data privacy, so we thought we’d try to parse what’s happening. Here’s what we know:

WHY DID FACEBOOK SEND THIS MESSAGE?
Facebook is currently fighting a high-stakes legal battle in Australia, where lawmakers have proposed a rule that would allow news publishers to demand payment from social media companies for the content shared on their platforms in some situations. Facebook definitely does not want that—in a blog post Monday, it even threatened to prevent Australian users from sharing news on Facebook if the proposal becomes law.

But this TOS change is about more than Australia. If lawmakers are successful there, other countries could conceivably replicate the model, prompting a fundamental shift in the economic dynamics of user-generated sites where content is shared freely in exchange for eyeballs, clicks, and taps.

Reached for comment about the TOS change, a Facebook spokesperson said, “This global update provides more flexibility for us to change our services, including in Australia, to continue to operate and support our users in response to potential regulation or legal action.”

SO THIS AFFECTS USERS OUTSIDE OF AUSTRALIA TOO?
Yup. It’s global.

HOW BIG A CHANGE IS THIS?

The language of the update is broad, but it doesn’t appear to mark a major shift in what Facebook has the power to do, according to Mason Kortz, a clinical instructor at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic.

“Essentially what Facebook is saying is, ‘If governments try to make us responsible for certain types of content—including compensating content creators, as the proposed Australian regulations would do—we’re just going to delete the content instead,’” Kortz told Fast Company in an email. “This is a sweeping statement, but I don’t know if it’s a material change in Facebook’s power.”

He goes on to note that Facebook’s terms could already be reasonably interpreted to mean that it can arbitrarily remove content. And Facebook is, of course, a for-profit company that can set its own content guidelines.

WHAT DOES THIS REALLY MEAN FOR USERS?
It’s hard to predict how the fight in Australia, or regulatory fights elsewhere, will play out in the long run, but Facebook clearly wants us to think that this type of regulation will negatively impact the user experience.

“I think the plan here is rally their users against potential regulation, making potential regulators out to be the ‘bad guys,’” Kortz says. “Of course, this message is directed at governments as well: If you regulate us, we’re going to take our ball and go home.”

Virtual reality art exhibition allows couples to create digital babies

BY Fast Company < 1 MINUTE READ

Couples who want children of their own got a brief taste of parenthood by creating their own “digital babies” during a virtual reality art exhibit in the Netherlands.

Visitors were able to select the baby’s character traits, physical appearance and other features by answering questions on a computer tablet.

They sat in sofas in a futuristic room with soft lighting and flowing drapes, which was all part of an installation called “IVFX: posthuman parenting in hybrid reality,” created by Dutch visual artist Victorine van Alphen.

“I had lots of deep, personal conversations that inspired me,” Van Alphen said, including with people who wanted to have children but couldn’t, someone who had lost a child and neighbours considering artificial insemination.

“There were lots of beautiful, inspiring conversations, anecdotes and background discussions that formed this strange, futuristic project,” she said. “I kind of gave myself the ‘mission impossible’ to create a presence in virtual reality.”

Among the question was whether you would allow your artificial creation to reproduce.

“It’s definitely smart,” said Jennifer van Exel, discussing the options with her partner Frouke Engel.

Their choices were then used to form a computer generated infant – a pulsating pink creature in an incubator, which squealed and had a red glowing heartbeat.

“I don’t know if you can say it has a head. I am not sure other people will be able to relate to it,” said van Exel, peering at the new life form through 3D goggles while singing a lullaby.

“We’re the parents, so obviously we created it and you want to be compassionate and loving, but it’s nothing human so it’s really hard to actually relate to it.”

09.01.20

Here’s why Nestlé is buying a peanut-allergy company for $2.6B

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

Nestlé is shelling out an estimated U$2.6 billion to buy a biopharmaceutical company best known for its peanut-allergy treatment.

Aimmune Therapeutics’ Palforzia is the first and only Food and Drug Administration-approved “treatment to help reduce the frequency and severity of allergic reaction to peanuts, including anaphylaxis, in children aged 4 through 17.”

The deal, announced Monday morning, marks Nestlé Health Science’s deeper foray into that industry. That division of the Swiss food and drink giant was founded in 2011 and today has more than 5,000 employees in 66 countries.

To date, Nestlé has invested $473 million in Aimmune, giving the Swiss company an equity ownership stake of approximately 25.6%. The first investment in the pharma firm was $145 million in November 2016.

Peanuts are one of the most common causes of severe allergy attacks, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nestlé puts the number of peanut-allergy sufferers at 240 million worldwide.

“This transaction brings together Nestlé’s nutritional science leadership with one of the most innovative companies in food allergy treatment,” Nestlé Health Science CEO Greg Behar said in a written statement. “Together we will be able to offer a wide range of solutions that can transform the lives of people suffering from food allergies around the world.”

Aimmune’s stock was $34.23, up $21.63 or 171.67%, in early-morning trading, while Nestlé’s was US$120.98, up 53 cents or 0.44%.

Nestlé’s portfolio includes of Nescafé, Gerber, KitKat, Poland Spring, Smarties, Toll House, Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine, Coffee-Mate, Häagen-Dazs, Alpo, Fancy Feast, and Purina. Among its nutritional-science brands are Boost, Optifast, Resource ThickenUp, and Modulen.

Nestlé sold its U.S. candy division—known for Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Nestlé Crunch, SweeTarts, and Nerds—to Luxembourg’s Ferrero in 2018 for an estimated $2.8 billion.

Brisbane, California-based Aimmune was founded in 2011 as Allergen Research Corp. In 2015, the company changed its name.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com

This top resume tips will serve you through the good and bad times of job hunting

BY Fast Company 4 MINUTE READ

If you’re currently on the hunt for a new role, you’ve probably read the same old résumé tips over and over again. “Focus on a clear structure.” “Keep it short and snappy.” “Focus on results, not responsibilities.”

But I’ve worked in recruitment for years. Often, candidates follow all of the advice above, but fail to pick up on the single most important résumé tip of all time: Tailor your résumé to your target role.

If you want to persuade recruiters to give you an interview, ensuring your résumé matches the role you’re applying for is the most important key to success.

Here I’ll lay out why it is a golden résumé tip and more importantly, how you can ensure your résumé makes the cut.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT 
Put yourself in the minds of recruiters and hiring managers for a second. With dozens and sometimes hundreds of applications to scour through, they don’t have time to waste on unsuitable applicants. And if a recruiter fails to find a suitable candidate for a job, their reputation can be tarnished.

Their first task is to pinpoint which candidates have the correct combination of experience, skills, and knowledge for the specificity of the job they’re hiring for. It’s those lucky applicants who’ll be invited for a face-to-face interview. Any irrelevant or generic résumés are quickly tossed in their trash folder.

What does this mean for you? Well, if the role you’re applying for requires experience of managing bespoke technology projects and using CMS-based web platforms, you need to ensure your résumé immediately makes it clear that you’ve got exactly that, ideally in the time of a 30-second read.

Every company has a different vision and work culture. Likewise, every single job comes with varied requirements in terms of skills, qualifications, and experience. Tailoring your résumé to the employer and job enables you to present your experience in a way that instantly showcases your suitability for the role. By making your relevant capabilities obvious, you’re essentially spoon-feeding recruiters the information they need in order to invite you in for an interview.

Personalising your résumé for the specific role you’re applying for is a golden opportunity to prove to employers that you want their job and only their job, despite how you really feel. Remember, no one wants to hire someone who would be happy with a run-of-the-mill job.

These tips will help you through the process of tailoring your résumé.

CONDUCT THOROUGH RESEARCH
Take some time to understand what the employer is looking for. Before you do anything else, browse the company’s website, blogs, and social media profiles to gain a feel for their goals and working culture, as well as their clients, current endeavors, and upcoming projects. This type of information will help you to tailor your tone to allow a broader understanding of how your skills and experience can benefit the company.

Next, grab a pen and paper and pull up the job posting. After carefully reading the entire role description, go back and make a thorough list of the specific requirements, including everything from skills and character attributes, to experience and industry knowledge. Moreover, take a look through the duties and responsibilities section. Have you carried out similar tasks before? If so, add them to your list for the position.

CONNECT THE DOTS AND PRIORITIZE
Read through your list and check off any of the points that link to your skills, experiences, or past responsibilities. Now that you know exactly what relevant qualities you have to offer the employer, it’s time to prioritise.

Evaluate yourself according to the following. First, what hard skills and industry knowledge does the employer request right off the bat? From there, take a look at which qualifications and experience the employer specifically asks for. Lastly, review your own list of qualifications and mark off the ones that aren’t priorities to the employer.

Ultimately, your résumé should reflect the needs of the employer. Whatever you decipher is most important to them should be listed high up on your application, such as in your professional summary or your core skills list, which will promote your suitability in a brief glance.

Anything that is a lower priority can be incorporated into your previous role descriptions. Soft skills normally fall into this bracket. For instance, your target employer states they are seeking candidates who are comfortable working on a team. Rather than merely stating that you’re a team player, emphasise any collaborative or group projects you’ve carried out in your work experience section. 

CUT THE IRRELEVANT
Once you’ve created an initial draft, reread your résumé with a critical eye.

As a recruiter, I’d much rather read a more in-depth overview of your recent and more relevant job, than a lengthy paragraph on your vaguely relevant internship from a decade ago. Sure, it’s important to showcase your career path and progression, but usually, it’s best to cut older roles to only a line or two and prioritise space for your more relevant and senior experience.

The same goes with hobbies, side projects, and extracurricular activities. If you decide to include them, ask yourself this, “Does this point showcase the relevant skills and abilities needed to carry out the role?” If the answer is no, hit the delete button. Your cooking hobby or animal shelter volunteer work may well be a big part of your life, but they’re not going to add to your candidacy as a senior marketer in the legal sector.

Tweaking your résumé for each job may be more time-consuming than firing out the same application for multiple roles, but it’s a crucial step towards job-hunting success. A well-researched, highly personalized, and fit-for-the-purpose résumé will supercharge the response rate from employers and lead you to the job you truly want.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com

08.31.20

Merge app brings a new hope for SA as the new ‘it’ platform for entrepreneurs and investors

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Business partners Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate are inventors of the innovative Merge app. Now one of South Africa’s leading web-based platforms for entrepreneurs and investors to meet online, the app aims to create a more robust SME economy and develop infrastructure for businesses to thrive.

Developing countries such as South Africa have long battled a vast disparity between the finance available and amount demanded by the SME sector. To rectify this, Merge’s “Tinder for businesses” approach connects aspiring or existing business owners with available investors in their country or across the globe. Essentially, they are opening up the investor market to all sectors of society, and breaking down the exclusivity of angel networks and other incubator platforms.

Fast Company SA first caught up with the duo back in April, when the world shifted into the virtual sphere amid global coronavirus lockdown regulations. Since then, the app has seen a surge in users and ventures, as individuals from all spheres seek other avenues of income.

Just short off 1000 connections made in the last two months alone, Merge proves there is still hope in the investor and start-up landscape – and building a thriving business is just a few clicks away.

More recently, we chatted to them about the growth and expansion of Merge, their future plans and why the app is a beacon of hope in world’s current uncertainty. Here’s what they had to say:

What is the investor landscape like in South Africa currently, in the midst of Covid-19?
The cornerstone of any economy relies on small business growth and investment, and Covid-19 has hit these two sectors harder than anywhere else. On the Macro side, VC’s have had less capital to pool together to create their funds, which in turn, has decreased the size of their investments and the amount of investments made. Individuals on the other hand have pulled their investments in markets as a result of the global recession, and have followed suit from the VC’s. However, to our surprise what we have seen on our platform has completely countered the above logic. Since April we have seen a 200% growth in investors joining Merge, which suggests that there is still hope for us out there as people are clearly looking to invest into startups. It could be because they are looking to diversify, or find alternate high growth investments to recover their losses. In addition to this, and even more astonishing, is the fact that Merge has also shown a 200% growth in the amount of connections made on the platform between Entrepreneurs and Investors. This really drives home the fact investors are looking to support small businesses. All of this ultimately highlights Merge as a silver lining amongst the current startup and investor climate, as Entrepreneurs and Investors are successfully using our platform as the place to find investment or investment opportunities.

When we first caught up with you in April, Merge was quite new on the market. How has the platform fared since then, especially in light of the current situation?
In all honestly we’ve exceeded our expectations, even if Covid-19 wasn’t a thing. Our growth has taken us by surprise and really emphasizes the effectiveness of the platform.

Since April, our entrepreneurs have grown from 311 to 1413, investors have gone from 112 to 327, Merges between entrepreneurs and investors have gone from 233 to 723. On the partnership side, we have also shown explosive growth. We recently partnered with Workshop17 to have branding throughout their spaces, as well as integrate Merge on their dashboard. This will allow all their members to access the platform and assist them in finding investment.

In addition, all Merge users will receive a discounted membership rate at all Workshop17 spaces. We have also formalised partnerships with WhiteSpaceX, Aspenfiy and Silicon Valley Business School. There are 3 Venture Capital companies that we are working with to provide investment deals, and are always looking for more companies to work with that we can help.

When we caught up the last time, you also planned to expand the app with various features such a Think Tank and other educational elements. Is this still on the cards?
Yes, definitely! We’ve made some strong movements towards implementing productivity and education elements by partnering with industry leaders Aspenify and Silicon Valley Business School. We are also looking to add some really innovative features that are going to improve the functionality, and will address some of the biggest socio-economic issues that linger in society today.

We are also busy formulating a transaction functionality that has the proper due diligence needed so that individuals who would like to invest into startups can do so on the platform, bringing the entire experience full circle.

For the full interview, visit the Fast Company DigiMag here: https://bit.ly/3jwarbW


Content published in partnership with Merge.

08.28.20

Here’s why the CEO of TikTok just quit after 3 months

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

TikTok isn’t having a good 2020 (but hey, who is?). For months, the social media app has been under a sustained attack from the Trump administration over its alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The app has had similar troubles in India, where it’s been banned. And as of today, TikTok’s troubles have only increased because it just lost its American CEO, Kevin Mayer.

Mayer had only been on the job for three months when he resigned from the company on Thursday. When he joined, it was a big coup for the company. Mayer is a highly respected American business leader who previously worked for Disney and was one of the driving forces behind Disney’s acquisitions of Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm. His last feat at Disney was launching Disney Plus, which has been a resounding success.

It would have been interesting to see what Mayer could have done with what is becoming one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. But, as of today, we’ll never know. So why did Mayer quit? It comes down to the changing political landscape, which is not leaning in TikTok’s favor. As The Financial Times reports, Mayer told TikTok employees the following:

“In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for. Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company.”

Mayer went on to explain that “I understand that the role that I signed up for — including running TikTok globally — will look very different as a result of the US administration’s action to push for a sell off of the US business.”

As for who leads TikTok from here, that’s unknown. In the interim, the company’s current general manager, Vanessa Pappas, will take over the duties of running TikTok while the search for a new CEO goes on.

15 hacks to make homeschooling easier

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

As the fall semester kicks off, many parents are trying to figure out how to work from home while also managing their kids’ virtual classes. It’s a tall order. To make life a little more tolerable for the whole family, it’s a good time to rethink your space and look for ways to reorganize.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to break the bank. We reached out to Kaci Malloy, Ikea’s senior sales leader for children’s products, for some simple hacks. Malloy’s job involves learning about kids’ psychology, behavior, and development, then designing spaces that allow them to work and play—even more important during the pandemic. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” she says. “Every home, family, and school setup is different. There’s not a right or wrong answer, so pick ideas that work for you.”


NOT EVERY KID NEEDS THEIR OWN DESK

Many parents feel pressure to buy desks for their children, but that can be hard if money or space is tight. Malloy says kids don’t necessarily need a desk to thrive academically. In fact, some may actually do better working from the kitchen table, and it’s okay to changes things up throughout the day. Younger kids, for instance, might work at the dining room table while parents make lunch or on the floor while the parents work at their desk.

Kids will need a way to move their supplies around throughout the day. To make it feel more like their own, kids can decorate their “homework cart” with stickers. “It’s very important for kids to feel involved with creating their learning environment,” says Malloy. “That’s what happens in their classroom: They often get to decorate their cubby or desk. It gives them a bit of independence.”

Malloy also recommends getting a folding mattress so that kids can read or work in unconventional spaces. Schools often have bean bags or padded areas, and this can mimic that experience. You could even pair it with a laptop support cushion so kids can do Zoom calls or homework on the floor. “Then you can fold it up at the end of the day and put it away,” says Malloy.


ENCOURAGE KIDS’ FIDGETING

Kids, like adults, actually focus better when they’re able to fidget. So, as unintuitive as it is, it makes sense to create a setup that facilitates their impulse to move, rather than represses it. A swivel chair does the trick. But you don’t necessarily need a whole new chair. You could put a step stool under a regular chair, which provides support and lets them tap their feet while they’re working. “A little bit of physical engagement helps their brain engage,” Malloy says. She notes that pillows also go a long way in making dining room chairs more kid-friendly.


OLDER KIDS NEED INDEPENDENCE

While younger kids might enjoy the extra time with parents, older ones would generally prefer to be with friends. While that’s not necessarily possible during a pandemic, parents can help teens create a space that gives them some measure of independence.

One popular solution is a loft bed.These help create a personalised workspace under the bed that feels more private, even if they’re sharing a room. “They have to be driving the setup or else they aren’t going to engage with it,” says Malloy. “And they might not say it, but they are hyper-aware of what their friends and classmates are seeing in the Zoom calls. So they need to curate the space behind them.”


SEPARATE WORK FROM PLAY

One of the problems with blending home and school spaces is that kids don’t have an easy way to switch off when they’re done with their work. Malloy says anything that allows kids to keep their schoolwork out of sight at the end of the day can be helpful.That has wheels so kids can store their things in the drawer and then slide it out of sight. Cleverly, the box can also become a table if a child is sitting on the floor. “Anything you can do to quickly put a lid on work is good,” says Malloy. “So you can quickly transition into family time.”


ENCOURAGE PLAY AT HOME

It’s a stressful time, and Malloy says one important antidote is to create more play at home. This doesn’t necessarily mean dressing up or playing tag: Young kids, in particular, love mimicking adults. Try to find ways to bring kids into everyday tasks; for instance pulling up a step stool lets your kids help you “cook” dinner. To make it even more fun, consider buying a kids’ cookbook. “Now is a good time to remember that to a child, anything can be play,” says Malloy.

But there are plenty of other things you can do to make everyday life more like a game. You could set up a whiteboard in a common area to play games, draw pictures, or write notes. 

“Play is essential for creating happy families and happy homes,” says Malloy. “It’s also how they naturally learn. But you’d be surprised by how creating a playful environment can relieve adults’ nerves, too.”

08.27.20

3 slick tools to help you stop opening so many browser tabs

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Sometimes it’s all too easy to get lost in your web browser while trying to get work done.

Once you’ve buried yourself under dozens of browser tabs, you’re constantly having to pick through them all to find your way back to Gmail or Google Docs. Or instead of trying to track down the sites you’ve already got open, you just open them again in a new tab, creating even more clutter.

As they say in infomercials, there’s a better way. By making some changes to your web browser, you can more easily access the websites you use most and cut down on tab overload. Here are a few things to try:

TURN WEBSITES INTO WEB APPS
Instead of loading your favorite websites as browser tabs, consider converting them into “apps” that mimic the behavior of desktop programs.

These web apps will launch in their own separate window, without the address bar, bookmarks, and other menu clutter you’d normally get in your browser. Best of all, you can launch them straight from the Windows taskbar or Start menu, or from the dock in macOS, so you don’t have to go fishing for them in a sea of browser tabs. I use this trick for Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Keep, Chrome Remote Desktop, Airtable, and the free Photoshop alternative Pixlr E, and it has fundamentally changed my workflow.

Here’s how to turn a website into an app in Chrome:

Click the vertical “…” menu button while visiting the site you want to convert.
Head to “More tools” and select “Create shortcut.”
Make sure to check off “Open as window,” then select “OK.”

Creating web apps in Microsoft Edge is slightly easier:

Click the “…” menu button on the site you want to convert.
Select “Apps,” select “Install site as an app,” then click “Install.”

If you’re using Windows, the new app will appear in the Start menu under “Recently Added.” You can then drag it to your pinned apps section in the Start menu, or add it to the Windows taskbar by right-clicking the app while it’s open.

If you’re on a Mac, the new app will automatically show up in your dock. Drag it anywhere on the dock to keep it there permanently.

Sidekick’s sidebar makes it easy to find your essential work apps.

ADD AN APP LAUNCHER WITH SIDEKICK
Sidekick is an alternative web browser that makes web apps easier to access. It offers a persistent left-hand sidebar—hence the name—where you can pin icons for Gmail, Slack, Google Docs, Trello, Mailchimp, Notion, and dozens of other popular web services. Essentially, it’s an app dock for your browser, letting you load your favorite sites without having to open them as browser tabs. (The browser itself is based on Chromium, the same open-source code that Google uses for Chrome, so it also supports all the same browser extensions.)

After installing Sidekick, you can add new apps by hitting the “+” icon in the sidebar. To make the sidebar smaller to fit more apps on the screen, click the gear icon, then adjust the “sidebar size” slider.

Sidekick also uses your browser history to provide shortcuts within each web app. Right-clicking the Google Docs icon, for instance, brings up a list of recent documents to launch. Right-clicking on Trello lets you jump into recent cards or boards. And for those websites you do open as browser tabs, Sidekick will remember them, so you can close the browser without losing your progress.

Sidekick is free to use, but an $8-per-month Pro subscription is required if you want to have multiple workspaces with their own app docks, such as one for personal apps and another for work.

With Workona, you can divvy your essential web apps into workspaces.

SORT APPS INTO WORKSPACES WITH WORKONA
If switching to a new browser seems too extreme, you can still use a browser extension to keep your tabs under control. Workona is an extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge that organizes tabs into “workspaces” that you can view and search through from a single menu. It’s an alternative to splitting up your tabs into separate windows for different tasks.

Installing the extension adds a permanent Workona tab to the left side of your browser. From there you can view all of your workspaces, move tabs between them, and add separate bookmarks for each workspace. You handle all of this by dragging and dropping your tabs around.

Workona’s menu also has an app dock, where you can add popular web apps. Once an app is in the dock, you can click on it to bring up shortcuts, such as a list of recent documents in Google Drive or links to your boards in Trello. You can also access these shortcuts through Workona’s search bar.

Best of all, Workona is great at remembering what you’re doing. If you pin a tab in your web browser, it will make that tab available in all of its workspaces. That means you can pin sites such as Gmail or Slack and never lose track of them. The extension will also save any tabs you’ve opened after closing the browser and will sync them across devices so you can pick up where you left off from anywhere.

Workona is free to use, but you’re limited to 10 workspaces without a $6-per-month Pro subscription.


Article published on fastcompany.com

08.26.20

The Future of eSports in a COVID World

BY Fast Company 7 MINUTE READ

What if you took a video game with an obsessively cultish following and made it the basis for a reality TV show? 

That’s what Electronic Arts, the video game publishing behemoth, recently did with one of its most popular titles, The Sims, a game that first became a phenomenon over 20 years ago when it gave players the ability to build and personalize worlds and populate them with characters who act and behave much like we do. 

The result was The Sims Spark’d, which debuted on TBS’s Eleague Friday night lineup and BuzzFeed‘s Multiplayer YouTube channel last month in a four-episode series. The show felt much like Lego Masters or The Great British Baking Show, complete with a host—American Idol finalist Rayvon Owen—a set of judges, and Sims fanatics and YouTube influencers (an ethnically diverse mix of mostly females) who were divvied up into groups and forced to come up with story lines and create characters and worlds under extreme time constraints and other limitations. (And, of course, get along with each other.)

The show makes the most of The Sims‘ contemporary approach to things like same-sex marriage and gender customization (you can create a Sim with any tone of voice, gait, and physique, regardless of what sex the character is), giving it an extremely relevant feel.  

Spark’d was a kind of Hail Mary pass for EA, whose foray into esports has run more along the lines of taking first-person shooter games like Counter-Strike and turning them into hours-long competitions geared to entertain (and really only make sense to) players of the game. Those shows, which air on platforms like Twitch as well as Eleague, are not only lengthy, but they’re based on the sports broadcast model. Commentators analyze game play as it unfolds, and viewers get a sense of the players and their backstory, but the real drama is simply the game.

But with The Sims Spark’d, the show didn’t look to mimic a basketball or football game, but TV—more specifically, the tried-and-true format of reality TV—where every nanosecond of programming is milked for maximum emotion and conflict. It was also unique in that its primary goal wasn’t to drive interest back to the video game (though that is a happy byproduct), it was simply to entertain.  

“Everybody for 20 years has been going after the same audience,” says Todd Sitrin, SVP and general manager of EA’s Competitive Gaming Entertainment team. “That’s males, hardcore video-game players who play strategy games, who play shooter games and hang out on digital channels. What we’re focused on is not just doing that but opening it up to an untapped audience. If you just look outside of the esports industry, there are so many different types of inspirations that have nothing to do with sports.” 

Indeed. According to TBS, The Sims Spark’d reached over 4 million people for its entire run, reaching an average of 769,000 people during Friday night premiere airings on Eleague. It drew more viewers between the ages of 18 and 34 than any other Eleague show on TBS so far this year, and it garnered the second-highest percentage of female viewers compared to all other Eleague shows that aired on TBS this year.  

But the show’s success is not only paving the way for another season of Spark’d. It has validated and accelerated EA’s overall approach to esports, which has become much broader in recent months. Going forward, Sitrin said that while half of the company’s gaming broadcasts will be in the more traditional vein of esports programming, a quarter will be esports games layered with a more entertainment-oriented component. For example, EA just announced that one of its biggest esports franchises, Madden NFL 21, whose latest edition launches next month, will feature a tournament series called Derwin James vs. The World, in which the NFL superstar (who also happens to be one of the world’s greatest Madden players) will face off in game play against a different celebrity, musical artist, or athlete each week.

The remaining quarter of Sitrin’s division will be dedicated to shows like The Sims Spark’d, where the main objective is to entertain an audience that goes well beyond the world of gaming. This is a major pivot from the company’s former ratio, which was 90% traditional eports programming and 10% “everything else,” Sitrin says.

He adds that all five of the titles in EA’s Competitive Gaming Entertainment division—which was recently renamed to reflect the company’s new mission—will be receiving the Hollywood treatment. That means that FIFA, Madden, Apex Legends, The Sims, and FIFA Online 4 (the brand’s Asian version) “has at least one, if not two different ways we’re trying to innovate,” he says. “It’s a pretty dramatic shift.”  

THINKING OUTSIDE THE XBOX 

The origins for The Sims Spark’d date back to last year, when Sitrin tasked his team with coming up with a competitive game around The Sims—hardly an intuitive idea, given that The Sims involves neither guns nor an athletic contest nor any other inherently competitive strand of DNA. Though it does have an obsessive following: More than 200 million copies of the game have been sold.

“It doesn’t have strong, directive game play,” Sitrin says. “Meaning, ‘Here’s a specific objective, see if you can accomplish it.’ Yet the audience playing The Sims was kind of on the side, sort of forming in small groups and making their own little challenges. I think that was an inspiration.

“Then we’d been talking at a senior level about needing to broaden the audience, needing to make it more accessible, needing to innovate. So we put two and two together and said, ‘Wait, there’s kind of a desire by the community to add more competition—or add any competition. There’s a model here to help innovate and open up a different market.”

The idea was to make a shorter-length show (compared to those grueling esports tournaments) that would be more appealing to Gen Z and millennials, as well as one that would draw in more females and members of the non-gaming world.

But when Sitrin shared the concept around EA, people “would just look at me like, ‘What are you even talking about?’ It was just rooted in the fact that things had been done for so long—for 20 years plus—in a certain way. The idea that it could be broader just hadn’t occurred to a lot of people. So we take a lot of pride in being able to reimagine what the term ‘esports’ even means.” 

EA brought on reality-TV producers, including Allison Tom and Richard Hall (The Amazing Race, Ex on the Beach), and the show was filmed last December. Then COVID-19 hit. Suddenly, more people were at home, glued to their couches, looking for something to watch. Meanwhile, sports leagues were shut down, as were Hollywood productions, leaving more air time for other sorts of entertainment. And more celebrities and other talent were available for work. 

Sitrin saw even more of an opportunity and ripped up his plan for his team’s fiscal year, shifting more emphasis to games infused with a strong entertainment value. “We accelerated this transformation to say, ‘Okay, we can open up this market. We can become more accessible if we broaden our distribution. So let’s leverage TV more because it’s available. Let’s leverage celebrity more because that’s available. And let’s take our games that are accessible and push even harder on that front. 

“We were on a fiscal calendar that starts on April 1. We rewrote it. And the way we rewrote it was to say, Okay, we still want to do authentic esports broadcasts, because there is an audience there. But we can open it up and think about it sort of like a marketing funnel. At the very top, you have celebrity-oriented, fun entertainment. Then in the middle you have sort of a combination, a mixture of professional esports or competitive gaming players and celebrities. Then you have a more intense form of competition if people choose.”  

Hence Derwin James vs. the World.

Last spring’s FIFA Stay and Play Cup, a celebrity-driven tournament (to benefit GlobalGiving’s coronavirus relief fund) that brought together 20 of the top soccer leagues across Europe, each of whom was represented by an actual player on the team. When the tournament aired over five days on ESPN last April, it had a total U.S. viewership of 3.8 million. 

THE QUESTION OF CONVERGENCE

The Sims Spark’d fit into TBS’s own shift to broaden its ELeague Friday night programming block to include shows that go beyond those aimed at hardcore gamers.

The show Super Punch, for example, is more about “the culture of gaming,” says Craig Barry, chief content officer for Turner Sports. As for Spark’d, he says, “It really fell into this opportunity where there would be a cultural gaming franchise that really fit perfectly on a linear platform on TBS. Even more importantly, unlike a lot of other IP that we partner with or play with, it needed less native digital support.

“It was kind of a made-for-TV show with a very diverse cast. It was really kind of topical and culturally relevant in the way it was produced and executed. It played well to that casual gaming fan.” 

Barry says that the challenge when migrating a video game to a non-digital platform is to find that “sweet spot” in which both the serious gamer and the casual or even non-gamer are appeased. “We understand the obligation we have to the native digital space. And we understand the obligation we have to the casual gaming fan. It’s finding that balance that makes it work.” 

Then the ultimate question is: “Is there conversion? Can we convert the native digital audience to a linear platform?” 

The answer to that? “To some degree,” he says, though he adds that Eleague has brought 14 million viewers to TBS who had never before consumed video content on a TV platform.

ADAPTING TO COVID-19

EA’s own dilemma at the moment is how to move forward with the next season of Spark’d in the middle of a pandemic. “One of the challenges we have is that the first season was shot in December when we could bring people together in a room,” says Sitrin. “We can’t do that right now.

“So we’re ideating on how to do a Sims competition in a COVID world where everyone is sitting at home . . . . I think you’ll see something different until we have the ability to bring people together.” 

Whatever it looks like, the new series will have a bigger marketing push (last season’s was limited somewhat because the deal with Turner came together just a month before the show debuted) and will offer more branding opportunities. “Think about if you were making a female-oriented product,” Sitrin says. “You would have zero ability to reach a video-game audience through esports. Now all of a sudden there’s an interest level there because we’re opening up to a new audience. This means other people will come in and want to work with us.

“If you have eyeballs watching, people will pay for that audience.” 


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