Double Take

Taking a second look at life experiences

Archive for the tag “commentary”

Say goodbye to fraternities and sororities (if you live in Berkeley, CA)

The Berkeley City Council voted to change its municipal code to reflect new gender neutral names. This will eliminate all masculine and feminine pronouns.

Some changes are obvious and already elicit a ho-hum instead of a really??? :

OLD: Fireman               NEW: Firefighter

OLD: Repairman           NEW: Repairers

Not so obvious is this one:

OLD: Manhole              NEW: Maintenancehole (I don’t know why, but this word just sounds gross).

Also scheduled for the update are the words fraternity and sorority.

They will be changed to….wait, I bet you’ve already thought of this one, yes? 

Here is the ‘newspeak’:

“collegiate Greek system residence”

Did you ace it? 

Sorry, but this one went over the top for me.

The city will spend $600 to update the law, but there’s no telling how much it will cost in human (can we still say that?) time and effort to make the changes.

I’m also just wondering what other concerns were on the docket on the days they spent discussing this item, since it was first raised as a topic in March. (Not that it concerns me that much, I don’t even live there)

If you have a lot of free time on your hands, you can read the law here.

(when you click on the link, if you want to go straight to the list of actual words that will be changed, scroll to page 8).

Ruth Schapira 

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Brave new “bot”world starts in California

Is this a ‘natural’ bot?

“Morning Brew” enters my Inbox every morning, and gives me just what I want: short blurbs about what’s going on in the world so I actually feel that I am able to keep up.

It’s a somewhat edgy deal, with short quips and funny takes on the news of the day, with a readership of people presumably like them….mostly 30-somethings (I read somewhere that millennials don’t like to be called millennials, so I am being accommodating).

The style is quick, to the point, and never disappoints.

By the time I finish my last sip of coffee, I am news-satiated.

You’ll notice that I didn’t provide a link to the site. That’s because every single day I am asked to refer a friend. There are all sorts of perks for doing that, “free” mugs, T-shirts, and more things I don’t need or want.

The more socially savvy you are, the more those perks add up. Can you imagine all the tweets, posts, and shares? (see below)

It’s annoying but I don’t blame them. I’m sure it works (see below).

Because I don’t want to feel guilty about never providing a link to anyone, and since I like it so much and wanted you to know about it, you can read it here.

So, my intention is not for you to sign up but just for you to see what I mean about their edgy style.

Of course, if you do want to sign up, you can do that there, or here .

So, obviously their perks do work for many, many other 30-something people (who get to be an “Insider”), because already, they’ve spun off a new line extension, called “Emerging Tech Brew” —- these 30-somethings are just so darn intimidating aren’t they?

[yes, I subscribed to that too, but am reconsidering because I just don’t want to drink that much coffee].

Back to the point of this blog. (I did have my coffee today, promise).

This blurb in the Tech Brew caught my eye:

As of 10 days ago, all online bots in California are required by law to declare they’re not human.

You can read that again. I did.

So, of course I had to unpack that. Ha! I was wondering exactly how and when the bot would declare that to me?

Would it be in the very beginning of the relationship?

What would people way older than me think about this? Would they even know what a ‘bot’ is? Just what would be their experience with a pop-up chat box anyhow? Interesting to think about.

I clicked on the link to read more. There were some definitions of ‘bot’. ‘online’ ‘online platform’ and ‘person’.

Here’s the definition of person (note, all the words in bold are my choice).

(d) “Person” means a natural person, corporation, limited liability company, partnership, joint venture, association, estate, trust, government, governmental subdivision or agency, or other legal entity or any combination thereof.
So, what would an unnatural person be like? Too much makeup? Not easygoing? Not into sustainability? 
I am not sure I want to think of combinations right now.
Here’s the law (again, just note what I bolded, no other explanation needed):
 (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to use a bot to communicate or interact with another person in California online, with the intent to mislead the other person about its artificial identity for the purpose of knowingly deceiving the person about the content of the communication in order to incentivize a purchase or sale of goods or services in a commercial transaction or to influence a vote in an election. A person using a bot shall not be liable under this section if the person discloses that it is a bot.

I leave the rest to your good sense of humor. Have a laugh, or two.

All I know is that the next time I interact with a bot, I want to know what its intentions are.

(But I didn’t say that, a bot did).

Ruth Schapira 

Is that amount okay?

yes-no

I always hit the bright green button robotically and agree to the purchase. I’m sure we all do. Why would we subject ourselves to the conflicted series of thoughts we would have if we actually considered the question?

“Hmmm, I don’t know, now that you mention it, I’m not sure about the amount. Maybe it should it be less? Do I really need to buy these things? Am I happy with my purchase…? Do you think you should have charged me less…is that why you’re asking? Am I missing out on a sale tomorrow…maybe I should wait before buying all these things?”

Here’s my chance to bag the whole thing, refuse to consume yet more goods, and run for the hills. But no, I’m a compliant consumer,  so I click the inviting green button that seems to wink at me, and go on my way.

Still, wouldn’t it be more honest to ask me “Do you confirm this purchase?” Then I could click either yes or no and be saved from the option of entering into a meaningless analytic dialogue with myself that in the end, wouldn’t matter anyway.

I Said Social Media Marketing Bugs Me, But This Just Makes Me Laugh

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The Special Sweetness of the Once-A-Year Holiday Party

holidaycandle

Do you dread or anticipate the obligatory company holiday party?

I’m surprised by how much I look forward to attending my husband’s holiday party every year. Here’s my list of some of the reasons for why I enjoy this experience so much:

  • It’s not really a holiday party, but a festive meal served for about 4o people, family style, which encourages interaction and discussions about the food. The food is absolutely delicious! (envision sautéed garlicky spinach on top of crostini; a light caesar salad with shaved parmesan, light sacchetti  pasta, filled with ricotta cheese and white truffles in a white sauce garnished with slivered almonds; lemon-infused salmon with a lightly crumbed topping; and then tiramisu on large platters, adorned with lightly filled miniature cannolis. Are you with me yet? Do you need to read the rest??)
  • There’s something special for me in checking in with everyone to see how they’ve fared over a year’s time, since we don’t see each other socially. That might be perceived as a negative, but for me, it’s having defined boundaries for a different type of relationship.
  • Hearing about their children’s accomplishments, and sharing their pride in the details about their stage of life, gives my own memories a boost as I think about my own children and where they are in life.
  • Conversations started a year ago, seem to build upon themselves a year later. It’s not like starting all over…but instead a way to delve deeper into subjects every time you meet. Over the years, the connections get just a little more solidified, and that process is fun to experience.

So, have you attended a holiday party yet? Do you love the experience or dread it? Please share  here!

 

photo courtesy of Creative Commons. http://www.torange.us 

How to tell if you’re asking good questions

spoonfeeding

by Ruth Schapira

Why can’t most media types ask thought-provoking questions?

I imagine that there must be some sort of training in reporter/host school that teaches its students to ask proper questions that engage both the viewer and participant. So why do I hear all types of reporters asking the most mundane questions, spoon-feeding their subject?

Where are the questions that instill a sense of wonder; an opportunity to gain something new from the interaction? Why is it that almost every time I hear a reporter or host ask someone a question I feel the questions are elementary and useless. I gain nothing. Seriously, is it any wonder that there is a problem today with students’ capacity to think? 

Invariably the questions are a version of these options:

  • So, how happy are you now that you’ve won……..(on a scale of 1 – 10?)
  • Please tell us how confident you feel after ……..(quite confident actually) 
  • So, how disappointed are you now that …………..(I wasn’t that disappointed until you mentioned it…..)
  • How proud are you of your son? (really, what would someone possibly say in response?)
  • How much do you love your new neighborhood? (well, actually our neighbors are really quite nasty….) 

These questions spoon-feed the subject. Asking questions that provide the answers wastes my time and insults my intelligence. We’ve gotten used to canned questions and answers, compromising everyone’s ability to think critically.  If I was a lawyer, I’d say that these questions ‘lead the witness’. So, let’s not pretend that we’re gaining new insight when we listen to these interviews.

What if different questions were asked? What if people were actually asked to think? See how these similar but altered questions might have a different response:

  • So, how are you feeling right about now? 
  • Please tell us about this experience…..
  • Share how this moment is affecting you…..
  • What is your reaction to this? 

Which interview would engage you? Which answers would grip you right away? Which ones would make the subject and the viewer think just a little bit more? Which ones would tell a better story?

 

Confession: I’m a Halloween Humbug

Happy?

Happy?

I don’t get it.

If Halloween is really Happy what’s with all the images of scary pumpkins, witches, goblins, ghosts, and ghouls?

This does not make for a Happy Holiday for me. Maybe because Halloween comes on the heels of starting the new school year in September, but that’s only part of it. The other part is that Halloween’s celebration of death-like imagery (skeletons, graveyards, blood-thirsty things, devils and more) just doesn’t appeal to my Jewish sensibility of revering life.

After years of reaping the candy rewards as a child, without so much as a second thought about any spooky connections that made that experience enjoyable, Halloween and I became only polite acquaintances once I became a parent.

It was a holiday I tolerated, because my kids were part of American culture. I gave out candy at my door, but hated the consistent door-bell ringing that peppered the few hours we had to ourselves after a day at work.

But every time I saw skeletons hanging from trees, ghosts posted by doorways, and front lawns turned into graveyards, I decided to back off from the holiday’s ghoulish behavior. Once my kids were old enough to get their candy fix in the proper way, by buying it—not by opening a bag at someone’s door, I’ve separated from it entirely.

Not even my fond memories of my mother’s creative home-made costumes can save my opinion of the Hallowed holiday now. Mind you, I am not judging your participation. I’m Happy if you’re Happy.…even if my version of Happy doesn’t involve gory costumed characters or spooky-looking carved pumpkins.

 

Why I Don’t Like Customer Satisfaction Surveys

hmm...

Do you have some spare time to fill out a survey? How about to post your opinion online?

Customer Satisfaction. That’s what most consumer companies would like you to believe they’re interested in.

The idea of garnering customer’s opinions permeates every area of our functional society. Everyone wants to know what you think of them and how they did. Whether you’ve accessed an app, completed a course or cruise, or even serviced your car, you’ve been asked to rate your experience. But as a customer, I’m totally dissatisfied with the way this goes.

Our impressions count. There are people who write the surveys you take. Then there are more people whose job it is to read and analyze what you write. Then still more people who write reports based on the analysis those other people provided.  Then, there are those who craft marketing campaigns and advertisements based on what the reports said. And still more people who discuss what you think of the conclusions reached by the reports.

And of course, everyone weighs in on the ways in which the bottom line and your future purchases will be impacted by all of this.

It’s a splendid circle of customer gratification and fulfillment.  So, are you satisfied? How did they do? Do you feel important?

Tracking Your Satisfaction  

Companies hope you’ve been satisfied, and diligently chase you down until you finally relent and rate their service.  They hope you think they will be hanging on your every word.

You might be asked to complete a primate survey (every time I’ve taken one of those monkey surveys I actually feel like a primate in need of constant reinforcement. This has to do with that annoying bar on top showing me how much I’ve completed and how much more is left to go before I get my banana).

Or you might be asked to post a review online. If you feel particularly flushed with excess time you might decide to do that, especially if you want your opinion to come up in a Google search for your name.

Or you might even be asked to use your personal social media account to “Like” the company that, believe it or not, was actually paid to deliver the service they gave you, getting additional unpaid advertising revenue from your ability to give a thumbs-up vote of affirmation.

This whole process just makes me feel like I’m being used.

Especially when I’m told how to rate said business or service.  For example, on a cruise we took several years ago, staffers told all travelers, in very obvious and frontal ways, to rate them a 10.  More recently, I read a request posted at the car dealership to rate the service all 10’s. A sign at the cashier’s desk said that a rating less than that would do irreparable harm to the dealer’s standing.

(Note to dealer, the place where customers have to shell out considerable cash is probably not the best place to make such a request.  Maybe posting the request at the free coffee machine would garner better results.) 

So, what is a consumer to do?

You might find new ways to make the feedback you’re giving more personal. If so, I’d love to hear about them.

One way I’ve circumvented the impersonal system is by writing e-mails directly to the manager in charge, containing specific feedback and mentioning staffers by name.  Instead of the time it takes to read through endless questions, checking boxes and circles, these personal notes actually take me less time to complete. In almost all cases, I’ve received a welcomed response in return.

Will doing this make a huge difference anywhere to anyone except me?

No, but it does make me feel a lot less like a cog in the circular consumer machine.

 

What will you actually be doing if you get this job?

Does anyone read classified ads anymore?

Help Wanted? The need is pretty clear. The job description? Not so much.

by Ruth Schapira

Some people read obituaries. Me, I like to read job announcements; always have.

Years ago, reading the (generation alert) “Help Wanted” classified ad section in newspapers was an enjoyable pastime for me. The larger the paper the better, and perusing those tiny boxes in The Sunday New York Times gave me some sort of satisfaction. There were just so many ads crammed on the page. I would feel content and optimistic about the many opportunities displayed within those pages. So many people could be changing their lives. 

There were ads upon ads worth of reading, positions ranging from Accounting Clerks to Elevator Operators. And no wonder. Classified sections usually have 40% more print packed into the page than other pages do. How do I know this?  I googled it, and found it on a specs page for the New York Times. The New York Times offers employers, recruiters, human resource professionals, headhunters and executive search firms (really, aren’t there just so many people doing the hiring?) 10 columns of newsprint while most pages contain 6 columns.

So, now I read job announcements online, and the experience is confining. Scrolling can’t be compared to the expansive world of occupational choice arrayed before you, within four fully opened newspaper pages, containing 20 columns of text.  But I still gain something from the online experience. I keep current with keywords, jargon and buzzwords (not all the same thing?), I know what opportunities there are for fields that interest me, and I keep up to date with industry changes.

Some of the job postings make me laugh. Some make me cringe. One job description for a Testing Administrator required “cleaning out trash containers and turning off all lights before exiting the building in the evening”.

And then today, there was this, which I had to share with you. Ready? This is an excerpt of what I read, for real:

Actively seeking a Project Manager or Sr Project Manager with experience in a Medical Communications/ Publication Planning environment. As Project Manager you will be responsible for managing publication planning projects in a medical communications/publication planning environment. 

Huh? So, my question is, what will you be doing if you get this job?

Nonprofits: Please Stop Sending Me Mailing Labels!

Did George like receiving mail?

Did George like receiving mail?

by Ruth Schapira

We can’t throw them out and we do love seeing our name in print—in every font imaginable, as long as it fits comfortably in a 2″ long space. So, that’s why personalized mailing labels are overfilling my desk drawer. It’s a thing you can never give away. Why do I need to have a permanent relationship with sticky pieces of paper? That’s it, first it’s these labels that I’m having to save and now the US postal service stamps that don’t expire. They both want to cozy up and make a home for themselves here forever.

I know there’s no way, even if I sent 10 letters a day, that I would use up even a fraction of the self-adhesives sitting there, reminding me that I haven’t sent a letter in a very, very long time—in what seems like forever. There are more mailing labels than you can imagine, representing all kinds of animate and inanimate objects: flowers, wreaths, candles, menorahs, baseballs, dinosaurs, stricken animals, sad children. It’s as if you did a search on Google for ‘Images that get people to feel awfully guilty and sentimental so they’ll donate to your cause’ and these are the ones that you’d find.

There was an ethical question that I heard on a radio talk show years ago: “Do I have to donate to a cause because I received personalized mailing labels from them? I do use the labels, (any guesses as to the age of the caller?) so shouldn’t I make a donation?”

“No. You didn’t ask for them, so you’re not obligated. You can use them or throw them out.”

Aren’t non-profits strapped for cash? Every time I get a sheet of these shiny things, I feel like calling up the organization and asking them why they’re wasting precious resources sending me things that will (if I was a self-respecting clutter buster) end up in the trash? Why not just save the expense and put those dollars into the operating budget? In fact, you can forget the labels entirely, and I’ll even up my donation in honor of your prudent spending.

What I’m wondering is, who is actually mailing all of these letters with personalized labels? Not the people I know. Otherwise my mailbox would be filled with hand-written envelopes, adorned with personalized cutesy mailing labels, and displaying an actual stamp in the right hand corner. Instead the mail I get is sorely missing any evidence of human contact, which is why we call it junk, while online platforms nicely call it SPAM (reminding us instead of edible things in cans). What I receive in my post box usually ends up in the recycling bag.

When’s the last time a friend of yours said “I’ll send it to you” that made you think that you’d receive a letter? Since we all know the amount of first class mail we’ve been sending has dropped precipitously (this has been documented in wikipedia, which is why we know it’s true), what’s the deal here? Why the mailing labels for mail no one is sending? Is there some secret DIY site where people are coming with kitschy creative ideas for how to use those 2″ labels?

Wait, here’s a novel idea to make the post office feel a lot better: instead of counting and reporting my diminished mail output, why not track those organizations sending mailing labels instead? I’d bet those numbers sure have picked up. And you can even send me the results of your survey, but only if you’ve attached a personalized label. I won’t want to open anything else.

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