The latest new gadget in our household is the Amazon Echo. “Alexa” has been a part of our lives for the last month. She lives in our kitchen, on the island next to the sippy cups and tissues. At first our one year old thought we were crazy, voice commanding the air, but now even our toddler seems to be okay with Alexa’s existence — or relatively unphased by our commands to the invisible person in the room. It was almost alarming how quickly Alexa became a staple – reminding me of the Spike Jonze’s movie Her about a man (in the future) who falls in love with his operating system.

Amazon Echo

We really had zero expectations for Echo, other than we figured it might be at worst another bluetooth speaker that was pretty easy to move around. As active Amazon Prime members, we got a pretty great discount on the Echo and received it relatively quickly. If you’re not up on what Amazon Echo is all about, it’s pretty much Siri for your house as well as a bluetooth speaker. It responds to voice commands, yet also comes with a remote. You also have to download the Amazon Echo mobile app to set it up and extend the features. So, here’s what I can share about Echo this first month:

Pros

  • Weather reports. Seeing as I have to dress a toddler every morning, I ask her daily what the weather is. It’s nice that I don’t have to chase down my phone in a three-story row house to do this.
  • Grocery list. At first, I was hesitant to abandon our GroceryIQ list (a native mobile app), but it works similarly. You can say, “Alexa, add hot sauce to the shopping list” and it appears in the Echo app and perfectly syncs with the app/list on my husband’s phone.
  • Music – This is a primary function of the Echo, however – this is also on the Con list. You can access Pandora playlists and if you upload your songs to Amazon, you can access your song library. The first 100 songs are free, but after that you have to pay an annual fee for Amazon to host your song library. I believe its $25 a year – a pretty reasonable price really. I’m holding out in hopes they may have a partnership with Spotify in the future, but it’s probably highly unlikely considering Amazon’s Prime Music services. Still, I’m a morning listener of NPR and it’s nice to listen to it without having to hunt down my phone.
  • Timer – setting a timer with a voice command is a really helpful function in the kitchen.
  • Calendar – Echo syncs with your Google calendars, which is great for the household. I can ask Alexa when my next appointment is or what my schedule looks like for the day. I haven’t tried to sync it to my Outlook calendar yet, but the functionality exists. How convenient would that be to set appointments? Another con here though because Alexa can’t SET appointments yet, she can only give you a summary of what’s already on your calendar.
  • Awesome customer service. My husband and I contacted support on a couple of items out of curiosity. We had asked Alexa to play, “Wheels on the Bus” for my daughter. Alexa heard, “Wheels on the Base.” Within hours, we received a personalized email by a support person with a great sense of humor. The support person laughed and said, “Thanks to you I’ve had ‘Wheels on the Bus’ stuck in my head all day long.” He assured us that Alexa is always learning. She’s learning our accents too, so when my Missouri drawl comes out, she’ll be used to it. Our nanny is also foreign, so it’s great that Alexa is used to her voice commands now too.
  • More in the works – future possibilities!
Here's a look at the Echo app home screen.

Here’s a look at the Echo app home screen

Cons

  • It has to be plugged in. It doesn’t hold a charge. You can’t take Alexa to the beach  and use her as a speaker. This is the #1 complaint I have.
  • You have to upload music to the Amazon library. (Complaint/concern mentioned above.)
  • Geolocation services – my sister (who also recently received her Echo) tried to find out what the closest food delivery service was and Alexa couldn’t help. Being able to provide more assistance via Google and geolocation would be a nice added feature.
  • She can’t read me my horoscope of the day. Same with answering random questions like, “When is Game of Thrones on?” or “When was the Declaration of Independence established?” I think this is largely because she can’t access Google. She will direct you to use Bing in the Echo app. Because having Echo in the kitchen is such a useful, central location, it would be great if she could provide easy recipes when prompted.

I would say the other main concern of anyone these days is privacy. It’s a little scary to think just how much data Amazon has on my household at this point. As all of us rely more and more on Google and Amazon these days, it’s hard not to worry about the what ifs of voluntarily giving away this kind of personal information freely to a service like Amazon.

Still, while Echo is still in its infancy, there’s a lot of promise here as we continue to see what technology (Apple HomeKit, anyone?) is developed for the home ecosystem.

smarties

I’ve been busy writing blog posts on content strategy after returning from the Intelligent Content Conference last week, so please visit the DelCor blog if you want to read about the incredible experience that was. We even have a content strategy white paper coming out any day now. Hearing from the Content Wrangler Scott Abel and Robert Rose at ICC was so inspiring. It left me more motivated than ever to return back to work and help associations with developing their content strategies and renew their focus on delivering quality content. If you aren’t reading these books, please go get them now:

It’s incredible what traveling can do. Everywhere I turned – from the continual rise of Uber to the new/now old Virgin safety video – I couldn’t help but notice real world examples of the experience economy all around me. So whether you’ve seen some of these or not, here are some examples of intelligent content at work over the last few years:

Virgin’s Safety Video:

Virgin already had a great safety video, but they took the stale video and safety information that most airlines have and that few passengers pay attention to and had it directed by a Hollywood production company. They employed talent from reality shows So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol. They also had a substantial social media campaign created around the video with the hashtag #vxsafetydance which encouraged others to upload their best freestyle moves. It encompasses the brand’s style and makes something dull suddenly informative and entertaining.

Another great example that was shared at the Intelligent Content Conference was Samsung’s phone manual that makes assembling a new phone so easy, your parents can figure it out:

What content does your organization have that could be revamped, jazzed up, or made easier on the member? It’s never too late to start small – focusing on one area of your website or one piece of content at a time.

I admit, before I became a working mom I enjoyed shopping. I enjoyed spending time online shopping, tooling around the grocery store, Target, Loehmann’s (before it closed), the little independent shops scattered throughout DC. I think any working mom who has a demanding job can fully relate with how impossible it is to find time for oneself in this first year of parenthood. Despite our Subscribe and Save Service to Amazon which is responsible for supplying so many things for our child and household needs, there were many days in this past year where I went without shampoo, without face moisturizer, and recycled outfits before venturing out into the world because I simply ran out and didn’t have the time, energy or capacity to go shopping.

There were a few times I would try to go shopping. One time I perfectly timed my shopping excursion with my daughter’s feeding and nap schedule so I could make the quick 25 min drive to a shop. I transferred my napping daughter from the car seat into the stroller, perused the aisles and was entering the family sized dressing room with the stroller when the dressing room door made the loudest creak of all door creaks and up awoke my baby. Trying to try on clothes with a screaming infant who then insists on crawling around the floor and putting hangers and dust in her mouth – well, it’s just a FANTASTIC shopping experience, let me tell you.

So, this is why I love this new box subscription trend. Here is a summary of the boxes I’ve tried and swear by:

StitchFix
My husband had spent a few months trying Trunk Club a couple years ago and I always hoped and prayed there would be such a thing for ladies like me who didn’t have time to buy new clothes. After seeing the incredible outfits my sister was wearing and receiving a Klout Perk which waved my styling fee for the first month (normally, your monthly styling fee is $20), I decided to give it a whirl. I had some incredible first few months with the service and then some not so incredible months. They send you five items (in my experience, usually a mix of shirts, skirts and/or dress, a pair of jeans, and an accessory of some kind.) You simply send back what you want in the pre-addressed envelope. While it was great I could fill out a survey and customize my profile, it really depended on the stylist (which rotates monthly) on whether the clothing items I received were a hit or miss. I finally hit the jackpot with an incredible stylist and requested to keep her styling me, which has proven to be great. I routinely find myself ONLY wearing my StitchFix stuff. It’s my style, it’s perfectly long for a tall person like me. It’s a wonder what having a stylist – even an anonymous one who only knows you by your social media profiles – can do for a person. It’s a great feeling to have clothes that fit. If you don’t want a monthly subscription, you can choose to get it every other month, which is definitely better on the wallet.

DollarShaveClub
My husband is responsible for signing us up for this one. They send you a razor and blades to begin with and then a new set of blades as frequently as you need them. I get a new set a month and it’s one less thing I have to worry about.

Blue Apron
We are on our second week of trying Blue Apron (thanks to our friends Jake and Ilana for giving us the first free week!) and it is quickly becoming an obsession. We have chosen to have the ingredients for three meals sent to us each week. You can list your ingredient preferences and typically you have three of five or six recipes to choose from each week. We get a new shipment on the same day every week. Most recipes say they take 20 mins, but a lot of the cooking methods or ingredients are new to me, so I would say it can take much longer than that. If you don’t have time to find new recipes and go buy all the ingredients routinely, this is really the way to go. Having pre-measured, quality ingredients ready to go and printed written and visual directions on quality card stock makes it easy to cook healthy, creative new recipes for your family.

Here are a few of the recipes we cooked over the past two weeks:

Pistachio-Crusted Catfish with Clementine Salad, Israeli Couscous and Roasted Fennel:

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Pulled Chicken Tacos with Jicama, Avocado and Cilantro Salad:

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Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup with Lemongrass and Red Curry:

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There are many more delivery services like Blue Apron (Hello Fresh and Plated, for example) out there that are running specials this month, so go out and try them if you can.

What boxed subscriptions have you tried and love? Please comment and let me know!

This was my first time attending the Gilbane Conference, the conference solely devoted to all things content related. Gilbane gathers technologists, marketers, consultants and usability experts from near and far and takes place over three days annually each year in Boston. As the website reads, “The Gilbane Conference is all about helping organizations apply content, web, mobile, and marketing technologies to increase engagement by improving the digital experiences of their customers, employees, and partners.”

There was a lot to takeaway from the conference this year. So, here’s a quick overview of what I learned:

You could barely sneeze [and that was a lot considering the bad head cold I had] without hearing omnichannel discussed in almost every session I attended. There was a lot of debate during the content marketing panel over what the definition of omnichannel is versus multi-channel. Omnichannel argues for a shift in thinking – arguing for the seamless customer/member experience. This idea takes marketing one step further than the older multi-channel viewpoint that focuses on the delivery of content via multiple channels – push notifications and blasts of content. Reminds me a lot of what user experience professionals are after, only from a content perspective. Omni hopes to understand the customer, his/her interests and location (whether online or in-person), and to deliver the right content to the customer via the right channel at the right moment. Not an easy feat.

Personalization is harder than you think. While we’re all eager to use the data we’re able to collect on site visitors, uniquely and accurately presenting targeted content continues to be a real struggle for even the biggest brands out there. There isn’t a magic wand (whether through a CMS and/or a marketing automation tool) that exists to perfectly target and execute content. Much of this effort still requires significant manual effort and time.

gilbane

My favorite session was the “Wearables and The Internet of Things” session where presenters Raimund Gross of SAP and Adam Buhler of DigitasLBi reviewed some the latest technologies they’ve tested and gave their predictions on tools to come. From insect cyborgs (neural implants in cockroaches) to discussion around universal wi-fi, this was a really fun session. Here are just a few nuggets from that session:

Wearables are still very much an extension of mobile devices. There is a unique intimacy that exists with a wearable that doesn’t exist with a mobile phone. A watch can take your pulse and communicate to its wearer via “Taptic” feedback in a way that your phone or glasses can’t. Buhler gave the example of getting directions via pulses on your wrist (reminded me of the way you might guide a horse when riding) that lets you know when to turn and in which direction, subtly. This is a form of communication that is new, the features are new, and that means the need and opportunity exists for a new form of content delivery and design.

Buhler predicts that we will hear from Apple in 2015 on what they’ve learned from Google Glass. Neither presenter thinks it will continue to exist for the public in its current form, but is a stepping-stone for improved products, especially for the workforce.

Discussion around virtual wallets took place. Will ApplePay and Google Wallet continue to achieve adoption? ApplePay, GoogleWallet, Venmo – lots happening around digital payment and the death of cash. [There’s a recent article in Bloomberg Businesweek I read this week – Cash is for Losers – that is worth the read.]

There is great buzz around Apple’s HomeKit that is launching at CES 2015. Get ready for your fridge to tell you when your milk has expired and for your lights to dim and thermostat to adjust when you casually voice command “It’s time for bed.”

All around, there is a lot to get excited about. What are your tech predictions for the coming year?

Okay, so it’s already March. It’s a good time to check in on the resolutions I created for myself in 2014, which I redefined this year. Resolutions should be fun according to Elizabeth Weaver Engel who inspired me through her Ignite session at ASAE Great Ideas last year to stop making boring resolutions (lose weight, blog more, play guitar more, etc.) and to start resolving to learn something new. According to Elizabeth Engel, she’s never broken a fun resolution (learning to play poker, belly dancing, riding a motorcycle) since she started making them years ago. She also stressed that those typical resolutions (blog more, lose weight, be a better mom, etc.) are actions you should be taking now if you truly desire them.

Inspired, I decided this year to embrace the cocktail. Hey, I couldn’t drink for 9 months while carrying Sadie and also got tired of having dinner parties where despite my best efforts at having a full bar, a key ingredient always seemed to be missing. The pros of learning a new cocktail recipe a month? We could slowly enhance our bar stock, learn a new cocktail recipe, keep the ole blog alive, and sip in splendor after the little one is fast asleep for the night. I also was realistic with myself that as a working new mom it was an easily achievable resolution.

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The resolution has stuck so far and my husband has happily gotten on board. In fact, I would say he’s really driving the resolution at this point with purchasing proper martini glasses, jiggers, shakers and stirrers, as well as the best alcohol each month for the mission.

January we started with the classic – The Martini. Since February is my husband’s birthday month and a wintery month, we chose one of our favorite cocktails The Manhattan. Upcoming blog posts on the two drinks to come!

What are you resolving to learn this year?

Do you have a good cocktail recipe you’d like me to feature?

 

 

It’s been two months and three weeks since she bolted into my life, my little darling Sadie Pearl. I’ve spent the last couple of months soaking in every moment of time with her before inevitably having to return to work a few weeks ago. The love I have for this little girl is beyond words, as any mother will tell you. Without further ado, the photo I took this morning of her:

1551475_10152236310091457_1671955824_nHere’s to the year 2014 and all of its promises!

Much love,
Kylee

Tomorrow I will be officially 38 weeks pregnant, two weeks away from my due date. I’m not sure if any of you moms out there have experienced anything like this, but time could not be dragging any slower at the moment. With most of my projects at work wrapping up or wrapped up, I’ve been sadly having to turn down upcoming speaking gigs, missing cool conferences, but am keeping busy by writing blog posts on user experience, mobile, and content management systems and hosting my web show. Check out the DelCor blog soon for those more spiffy blog posts.  But that’s only work-related stuff. As a person who is constantly busy, I’ve been finding the much coveted down time mildly unnerving, so I’ve decided to include my own list of items pregnant ladies can do while waiting for baby.

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Here are the other things one can do while waiting for a child to emerge:

-Wash baby clothes up to 6 months old. Resist the urge to keep washing clothes even older.

-Assemble the nursery. Hang the mobile. Stare for long periods of time around the room.

-Watch every movie at the theatre since everyone tells you you’ll never be able to do this again. Eat popcorn because you can. You’re pregnant and this gives you caloric freedom for a short window of time still.

-Hang out with old friends.

-Get your nails done while hanging out with old friends.

-Clean your house.

-Attend weddings (not as fun sans alcohol and uber pregnant).

-Research potential preschools for two years from now because yes, it’s that competitive and yes, you’re slightly crazy.

-Find your pediatrician.

-Attend hypno birthing classes. Debate with people you meet on the pros/cons of birthing choices these days. Useful cocktail conversation or annoying? You be the judge.

-Debate if you should have a birth plan or if the hospital staff will hate you. Decide to do one anyway and call it “Birth Preferences”.

-Visit all of your friends who have already delivered their babies and be jealous that their waiting is over.

-Tour the hospital or birthing center.

-Watch every single TV show known to man. Be thankful for Netflix originals.

-Pack your hospital bag.

-Read every baby and pregnancy book in English until you can’t wait to read something about not being pregnant.

-Read Lean In. Consider picking up a book of fiction and then decide that’s too much of a commitment. If the baby comes tomorrow, will you ever know what happens?

-Assemble all car seats. Same goes for the stroller. Monitors. Diaper station. You get the drill..

-Buy everything left off of your registry that you still need.

-Wonder how much longer you will have to wait. Decide it’s an eternity.

-Make check lists on your blog of things you’ve already done while endlessly waiting for baby to arrive.

What did you do while waiting for baby?

 

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