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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:

image1 (1)

Pulled Chicken Tacos with Jicama, Avocado and Cilantro Salad:

image2 (1)

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup with Lemongrass and Red Curry:

image3

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!

Svetlana Legetic, founder and manager of Brightest Young Things (BYT), a blog dedicated to Washington, DC’s young & hip social scene, was just listed on GQ’s “50 Most Powerful People in Washington” issue hitting news stands next week.

As a 31-year-old hailing originally from Serbia, this former architect turned blogger has made a lasting impression on the city and changed The District for the better. From advertising to event planning, BYT just hosted it’s Fifth Annual NYE Event, as well as a plethora of other events in 2011 like The Greatest Holiday Party of All Time at The Kennedy Center, Vitamin Water Uncapped Live, and numerous sold-out events at The Newseum just to name a few.

When I first moved from Chicago to DC in 2006, I knew one person (my sister) and like most transplants, had no idea what DC might have to offer culturally besides a whole bunch of  embassies and museums. Coming from art school and a city with a rich music scene, at first glance DC seemed like a sleepy town for creative types, overrun with politicos, expert networkers, and power happy hours. A now defunct blog whose name I can’t recall was my go-to for all creative happenings until (surprise!) in true DC-never-here-for-long form, the blogger up and moved to New York City. Needless to say, I was pretty bummed out until I saw his goodbye post which suggested readers should follow another blog, Brightest Young Things, a new and fresh collection (and now driver) of goings-on around the city.

Now with three full-time staffers and almost 50 freelancers including up-and-coming writers, photographers, and designers, BYT even has its first office space. In my imagination, there’s probably a mini fridge packed with PBR somewhere in it too.

Join my live Q&A tweet chat with Svetlana Legetic on Tuesday, Jan 24 from 12-1pm EST via #BYTchat – where I’ll ask Svetlana all about blogging, entrepreneurship, event planning, bands, favorite bars, and how great it feels to be DC’s Powerful #42. Have a question for Svetlana? Tweet #BYTchat or post it below.

Ten days into 2012 and I already feel behind.

I’ve written three blog posts on 2012 resolutions that I’ve abandoned in three separate note-taking iPad apps I’ve been trying to adopt.

But, let’s look back for a moment.

2011 was an incredible year of growth for me. I married the bearded, opinionated man of my dreams in October, spent the last year carving out a social media and digital marketing position at a national trade association, and watched from afar as an EF5 multiple-vortex tornado took out a large chunk of my hometown in May. Emotionally torn, the devastation in Joplin motivated my sister and me to partner with Events for Good in organizing our first fundraiser, Red 4 Joplin, a red tie event at DC’s Union Station to benefit tornado victims.

All in all, I can honestly say that there was absolutely nothing bland or slow moving about my life in 2011.

But what about 2012, the year of the dragon? This year seems to hold so much promise after a challenging year for much of the world, so here’s what I’m personally resolving to do:

This will be the year I blog more.

DigitalConfetti was born from my desire to share my own journey building a community manager/digital marketing role from scratch at a national trade association. So many friends from the association community stepped up to offer advice and share their knowledge with me over the past year and many did so indirectly by blogging, contributing to Associations Now, or hosting incredible tweet chats and web shows. Seriously, if I had a question, I googled it and would most often find the top three posts were from someone within the community I already knew. And of course, big thanks to my sister KiKi L’Italien for being the social media power house that she is and for always being on speed dial.

I will host and participate in tweet chats more.

I will read more fiction despite the many, many books on business and religion currently vying for my attention.

I will learn another language, even if it is Hebrew. – I’m currently going through the conversion process and haven’t been as gung ho about my weekly Hebrew study, despite my annual resolution to learn a new language.

I will visit two new countries I’ve never visited before.

I will worry less and laugh more. Risk taking is part of our job as marketers and as humans in life. Fear, failure, the negative attitudes you might encounter from your boss, colleague, or stranger – maybe it’s like that old exercise of picturing a crowd naked to get over stage fright or just remembering that most of us are self-absorbed at heart (short attention spans) – just push “publish” and get on with it. In the words of Townes Van Zandt, “To live is to fly, all low and high.”

Happy New Year, Friends!

  1. Okay, so let’s get started! Q1) What motivated you both to write this book? #asaetech #humanize
  2. A1. The more I learned about social media, the more I realized the way we run our orgs is incompatible. #asaetech
  3. A1. We hear social media frustrations, and realized it was broader organizational issues getting in the way. #asaetech
  4. Q2) You discuss the importance of true, generative collaboration, not linear. “Generative” comes up a lot. Can u elaborate? #asaetech
  5. A2) the idea of being generative is pretty important and not a common word. About creating new, better value all the time. #asaetech
  6. A2) Not just more as in more product, more sales – but better, self-sustaining growth.
    #asaetech
  7. A2. Generative is about creation and growth and change. Always reinventing yourself. Developing. #asaetech
  8. A2. We argue our organizations need to be more generative. Growing, changing, developing. Humans just want to be a part of that #asaetech
  9. #asaetech What are your top tips for what EVERY corporate employee can do to help their company with social media?
  10. @briancarter ask for forgiveness, not permission. 🙂 #asaetech
  11. @briancarter one tip: convene more people to have open conversations about how social media is changing the org. itself #asaetech
  12. My friend BJ asked me: if you’re eager to drive change, but the org. is timid, how do you “push” them into a spurt of courage #asaetech
  13. @bobledrew $64K question – how do we encourage people to be OK w/ change, possibility of failure, criticism – wish I knew! #asaetech
  14. #asaetech is it that as staff move into higher Exec roles pressure closes opp to be Open as Leaders feel SM can expose them & the Org?
  15. @ewengel @bobledrew find what is working, do more of that. Social media successes can really help, I think. #asaetech
  16. @ewengel @bobledrew find what is working, do more of that. Social media successes can really help, I think. #asaetech
  17. My friend BJ asked me: if you’re eager to drive change, but the org. is timid, how do you “push” them into a spurt of courage #asaetech
  18. And control culture seems to stem from perpetual mistrust of Org staff and volunteers. Why only in SM? Drives me nuts to @ewengel. #asaetech
  19. @bobledrew $64K question – how do we encourage people to be OK w/ change, possibility of failure, criticism – wish I knew! #asaetech
  20. #asaetech is it that as staff move into higher Exec roles pressure closes opp to be Open as Leaders feel SM can expose them & the Org?
  21. @robertmbarnes exposure idea…you’re on to something – huge fears of transparency, just telling ppl the truth #asaetech
  22. Definition shifts are such hurdles to overcome – trying to change the meaning of growth from more to better #asaetech
  23. @ewengel People have to change and learn to be okay with change. I don’t know how much encouragement comes into that. #asaetech
  24. great question! RT @ewengel @bobledrew how do we encourage people to be OK w/ change, possibility of failure, criticism #asaetech
  25. @KyleeCoffman to be okay with change: people at the top need to give voice to their own failures. Make it okay to talk about #asaetech
  26. People will be okay with change if we stop calling it change – use just the verb not the noun. #asaetech
  27. @ewengel I think I”m trying to say: Some people are always going to be slow to embrace change until you prove change is good. #asaetech
  28. I don’t think it’s change people are uncomfortable with. It’s loss. #asaetech
  29. Observation: Being open is something most don’t get to practice at lower levels…when you move up, you’ve never worked that way. #asaetech
  30. @KyleeCoffman re: selling social internally: patience. Repetition. Concrete examples. Tie to existing metrics people value #asaetech
  31. Why not change? I know what @garrisonwynn would say- “no one wants to be a senior beginner” #asaetech
  32. Fear of losing face particularly in view of direct reports causes lack of Openness. Leadership requires self-awareness. #asaetech
  33. @adriennebryant “proceed until apprehended” is a cultural assumption we list for “open” organizations. #asaetech
  34. #humanize says #sm challenges are really organizational challenges. Once you’ve trained “the elephant” how do you motivate it? #asaetech
  35. motivating the elephant is about appealing to emotion. social media taps into our passions. #asaetech
  36. @maddiegrant I think that’s what makes a lot of people nervous about it–they’re not comfortable with passion & emotion #asaetech
  37. @maggielmcg agreed, but that still confuses me. Passion and emotion are human. We can’t help but have them. Why not in orgs? #asaetech
  38. As long as the Elephant is not in the door to Generative Org progress, it is OK if he sits quietly in the corner & we let him. #asaetech
  39. @adriennebryant is right. Remembering not all results are numbers, a lot of the “result” is qualitative and comes from feedback #asaetech
  40. I have a question: there’s a lot of “should” in here; most orgs don’t do should. Tips for staying optimistic/positive after “no”? #asaetech
  41. @maggielmcg A challenge is to get others in the system to want it, rather than being told they “should.” #asaetech
  42. @maggielmcg keep trying. Don’t ask for permission next time. #asaetech

My fellow friends and I felt so inspired by The Cocktail Party, we decided to start a DC Chapter of our own last week. We invite you to join The Cocktail Party DC Chapter on Facebook. Come post-turkey, we’ll be sipping on this Midnight Manhattan from Epicurious.

Ingredients:
– 1.5 oz cherry-infused Woodford Reserve Bourbon
– 1.5 oz cherry-infused Graham’s Six Grapes Port
– Ice cubes
To garnish: 3 spirits-soaked cherries
For the cherry-infused spirits:
– 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted
– 8 oz Woodford Reserve Bourbon
– 8 oz Graham’s Six Grapes Port
Put 1/2 cup of cherries into each of two clean jam jars. Top one jar with bourbon and the other with port, and store them in the fridge for a week. To serve, strain the alcohol (reserving the cherries) and combine the bourbon and port in a highball glass over ice (Plonk shakes it with ice and strains into a martini glass). Garnish with the spirits-soaked fruit. Serves 1.

Follow the cause via #occupymymartiniglass