Categories
Musings Technology

3 reasons to be more positive on social media

Positivity is like the childhood best friend that we all take for granted: always there to catch us, always overlooked. It is interesting that most people easily extol the virtues of staying optimistic and upbeat, yet so much of social media is dominated by complaints and negativity. A recent article published in the MIT Technology Review sparked a reflection on this, and I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone, especially social media influencers, needs to be more proactive in promoting more positive engagement on social media. Here’s why…

1. Negative emotions stay with us for a longer time.

I took a course in Positive Psychology a while back and another on Coursera earlier this year, and one of the key concepts that struck me was ‘negativity bias’. Negativity bias is the notion that negative encounters have a greater impact on us than positive encounters. If you were to have one positive experience and one negative experience in one day, for instance, the negative one tends to ‘stick’ with you longer. Recall the times when one bad encounter just made the day suck overall — that’s what the positive psychologists are talking about.

As Jacob Burak discusses in this Aeon article, this bias has evolutionary origins but doesn’t serve us as well now that we no longer encounter the threats we used to:

“Of all the cognitive biases, the negative bias might have the most influence over our lives. Yet times have changed. No longer are we roaming the savannah, braving the harsh retribution of nature and a life on the move. The instinct that protected us through most of the years of our evolution is now often a drag – threatening our intimate relationships and destabilising our teams at work.”

If we’re always adopting a fight-or-flight response to the experiences that we have, and if we focus so greatly on negative encounters, we can often be paralysed by them or behave reactively instead of proactively. This defensive stance can hardly be conducive for our personal growth and the growth of our relationships.

While it is clear that negativity has a role to play in ensuring a realistic and grounded approach to the problems that we face (as Burak discusses in the last few paragraphs of his article), I hardly think that we need to actively seek it out, given our default inclination towards it. In other words: Yes, we need to confront the negatives in our lives to ensure that we’re not blindly optimistic, but our nature takes care of that for us anyway. Let’s not be shackled by them, but practice the practical wisdom to balance negative and positive consciously.

2. Positive emotions support individual growth and development, and resilience.

One of the first readings that students of Dr Barbara L. Fredrickson’s Positive Psychology course on Coursera encounter is her article entitled, ‘The Value of Positive Emotions’. (I strongly recommend it to everyone.) It’s an eye-opening piece that sheds light on how positive emotions are basically life-giving.

“Instead of solving problems of immediate survival, positive emotions solve problems concerning personal growth and development. Experiencing a positive emotion leads to states of mind and to modes of behavior that indirectly prepare an individual for later hard times.” (p. 332)

Dr Fredrickson coined the ‘Broaden and Build Theory’, which basically states that positive emotions broaden a person’s mindset (and attitude) and build a person’s internal resources for future challenges (see also The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions by Dr Barbara L. Fredrickson). While focusing on negative emotions promotes convergent perspectives that lead to myopic worldviews (I’m sure we know of some complainers who are completely resistant to seeing the silver lining, and we’ve all been there at some point!), positive emotions allow us to appreciate possibilities, exercise creativity, and take a more integrative perspective. When you’re in that zone, you’ll be able to see more than one way out of a bad situation and, interestingly enough, your positive experiences may be amplified.

3. Our social networks can amplify the impact of messages. This is especially so for influencers.

The MIT Technology Review article that sparked this reflection discussed a concept called the ‘Majority Illusion’ that was discovered by Kristina Lerman and her peers from the University of Southern California (original article here). The theory basically states that our networks can give the illusion that a certain phenomenon or attribute is more common than it actually is thanks to the influence of certain better-connected peers in our networks. Since some people are more well-connected than others, any information these people disseminate will have greater reach. This greater reach translates into greater transference of the information they share and hence can “skew the view from the ground”.* Just think of how some Twitter influencers’ tweets go viral through RTs and MTs thanks to the sheer number of followers they have.

“For a start, it shows how some content can spread globally while other similar content does not—the key is to start with a small number of well-connected early adopters fooling the rest of the network into thinking it is common.”

In turn, this means that if you have a certain degree of influence, what you choose to share can have greater ramifications than you intend. As the authors of the MIT Review article wrote:

“That might seem harmless when it comes to memes on Reddit or videos on YouTube. But it can have more insidious effects too. “Under some conditions, even a minority opinion can appear to be extremely popular locally,” say Lerman and co. That might explain how extreme views can sometimes spread so easily.”

Why even bother?

If we consider the implications of the 3 reasons together, it becomes clear that it’s good to stop and think before we post on social media. I often think about how a sour encounter with someone can put a downer on my day and amplify this on social media where (i) the encounter reaches more people, and (ii) the encounter lives for a much much longer time.

Since we all are predisposed with a negativity bias, yet positive emotions tend to be more conducive for our growth, and the majority illusion implies that our social networks can skew the gravity of certain ideas, isn’t it important for us to exercise more intention when we post? This is especially so if we have influence in our circles. Let us be more proactive in shaping the content that we and our peers encounter, and promote that which is life-giving.

In the words of dear Uncle Ben:

With great power, comes great responsibility.

gandhi-quote

Further reads:

Everything You Need to Know About Facebook’s Controversial Emotion Experiment — Wired

The Science of Positivity in Social Media — Buffer

Image Credits:

‘Sunrise’ by Susanne Nilson (Flickr)

Categories
Curated Listen Technology

5 podcasts to get you started

Getting into podcasts can have a pretty steep curve and I never thought to listen to them to fill the long drives that make up a regular day in my life. Back in 2013, a good friend of mine recommended RadioLab and I was hooked. Podcasts are now a staple in my daily drives and I cannot get over how amazing they can be. If you love listening to stories, just as I do, then podcasts may be just what the doctor ordered for your commutes.

Real-Life Stories

RadioLab | Antibodies Part 1: CRISPR

This episode is a great example of what podcast producers can creatively use the medium. You may not think that a podcast episode on genetic modification would be interesting, but RadioLab shows that they’re veterans at this game because some of the audial illustrations of DNA is really amazing. It happens within the first 3 minutes of the podcast — super interesting.

Serial | Episode 1: The Alibi

Serial took the podcasting world by storm by being innovative both in its format and its storytelling techniques. The narrative (a true story, by the way) is so immersive that you’re taken on the investigative journey alongside host, Sarah Koenig. If you haven’t heard of this podcast that inspired a really enthusiastic reddit community, you need to listen to this episode now.

Contemporary Issues

Reply All | #18: Silence and Respect

Reply All covers pretty much anything to do with the Internet, which is… digital-anything! This episode is about how some things that are posted on social media go viral — and the after-effects of that. If you’ve heard about the Lindsay Stone situation, this is the podcast for you.

Radio Dramas

The Truth | The One About the Dead Dog

The Truth | Don’t Touch a Thing

Radio dramas have enjoyed a special place in my heart since I wrote and co-produced one in school. There’s something powerful and immersive about relying completely on sounds to tell a story. These 2 radio dramas were particularly memorable for me, especially Don’t Touch a Thing, which is reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s short stories.

Talkshows

Good Life Project | Brain Hacking: How to turbocharge your noggin

Podcasts with talkshow-formats are pretty common and Jonathan Fields’ podcast is one of the best I’ve come across on life, in general. There’s a huge variety of topics to choose from by a common thread runs through them — they’re all meant to help you enrich your life in some way or other.

Categories
Technology

How to read books on your iPad

 

Read ebooks on your ipad-2

I am a bookworm of the digital variety. You know, the kind that gets super hyped up on ebook apps. The kind that recommends these apps at the slightest hint of a kindred spirit:

 

So imagine my glee when, a couple of day after the Twitter exchange, one of my best girlfriends asked for some advice on reading ebooks on the iPad. To say I jumped at the opportunity to evangelise… may be an understatement.

Here are 3 ways you can start reading books on the iPad:

  1. Borrow them from the library
  2. Buy them from an online retailer like Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble
  3. Download a free ebook from one of the above retailers or a repository like Project Gutenberg

 

#1 – My library is pretty awesome

If you’re not sure if your library has an ebook catalog, you can:

  • Google “your library name” AND ebooks
  • Download the OverDrive app and find your library through that
  • Check out the directory on overdrive.com

If your library does have an ebook catalog, do a little dance, then proceed to load up its OverDrive site in Safari on your iPad. (Safari is far more reliable for this than Google Chrome, in my experience, and I haven’t had any problems loading the ebook source files in the ebook apps via Safari.)

Let’s get started: Decide which ebook reader you’d like to use.

on-my-ipad

There are tons of ebook readers on the market, but the two that are really good for library ebooks are OverDrive and Adobe Digital Editions (ADE).

If you need some help in making a decision, here are some comparisons you may find relevant:

  • Control over reading experience: OverDrive allows you to tweak pretty much all the aspects of your ebook reading experience — the margins, font, line spacing, columns, background color, etc. ADE only allows you to select background colors, margins, and fonts.
  • Highlights: ADE has a highlighting function if you want to take note of some choice quotes. OverDrive doesn’t have this.
  • Option to ‘return’ books: You can return ebooks from the OverDrive iOS app, but not from the ADE app. This may be a factor if you don’t want to log in on your desktop, and your library isn’t too generous with the number of ebooks you can loan.
  • Audiobook support: OverDrive supports audiobooks, but ADE does not.

I have tried both and prefer the latter. Although OverDrive affords you greater control over how things look, I’ve found that the books seem to look better on ADE. Which seems counterintuitive. But that’s my humble opinion.

Phew. Still with me?

 

Good news: The hard part is over.

Things are pretty easy after selecting your app and authorising it with your Adobe account. (Don’t have one? Register one here!)

Log in with your library account → Run a search for the book of your choice→ Download the book from your Bookshelf (that’s on the right of your screen).

You should then be prompted to open the .acsm file (that’s the source file). You now have the choice to load it in OverDrive or some other ebook app.

ebooks-3

That’s it. Really.

 

#2 and #3 – I want my own copy, thank you!

If you are interested in downloading ebooks for keeps, you can either purchase it from a retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or download a free ebook.

 

Once you have access to the downloadable file, you have a couple of options:

  1. Sync it via the Cloud — apps like the Kindle and Nook do this easily.
  1. Access the file from the website via Safari on iOS and open it in iBooks or one of the other ebook apps.
  1. Sideload the file by saving it in a cloud drive like Dropbox, then accessing the file through the iOS app and opening it in your favourite ebook reader.  (This is my preferred way to sideload but you can, of course, drop the file into the app via iTunes too.)

 

There are so many options available for anyone interested in moving to ebooks. I hope this was useful for anyone looking to begin on the iPad! If you have questions about any of the apps mentioned, drop me a tweet or leave a comment below and let’s have a conversation 🙂

Categories
Technology

3 apps that will change the way you manage projects

If there’s one thing that keeps me going through the mundane day-to-day, it’s Discovery. I love discovering new stuff, figuring out how they’re meant to work, and exploring how they can work with other stuff. These days, most of my discoveries have to do with apps and most of my exploration has to do with workflows. Because, hey, if you can let the system do the boring work, why not?

In my little experiments to determine the best workflow, I’ve stumbled upon a great combination of apps for managing projects, teaching Project-based learning (PBL), or mentoring groups.

In the deluge of apps upon apps, these 3 work like a dream combination:

Moxtra + Pocket + Google Drive = Magic

(I’ve been using this to mentor project groups, but it’ll work really well if you’re part of a group too!)

The 3 apps tackle 4 common complaints in project management:

  1. I’m drowning in research! (a.k.a. organising all the rich content out there)
  2. We have about a thousand versions of work to keep track of because we keep emailing newer versions of the same document
  3. We can’t meet because so-and-so is sick/out of town/in a different timezone
  4. We communicate on WhatsApp, do the work on Microsoft, minutes are so passé, my email inbox has 5000 unread messages and most of them are one-liners, blah blah blah (a.k.a. I need my project(s) to live in one place!)

#1 – I’m drowning in research!

One of the best things about learning today is that there’s easy access to a whole treasure trove of information. But that’s a double-edged sword because you can easily get lost in all those words and hyperlinks and citations…

Pocket is one of my all-time favorite Read Later apps, and I particularly like it for projects because of the tagging feature. You can easily label each article/page with all relevant tags and it’s really easy to find them again when you need them.

Plus, saving websites is super easy:

  • When you come across a website you like, just copy the URL and open the Pocket app and voila! there’s a prompt to ask if you would like to save it; or
  • The Save to Pocket browser extension is so well integrated that you don’t even have to leave the webpage to save it. You can even tag the page straightaway!

I could go on and on about how wonderful Pocket is, but I’ll save that for another post.

#2 – We have about 1000 copies of the same document!

Project v.1Project Draft v.1.1Project v.2.1.2Project Final v.3000

Familiar?

When it comes to co-editing documents, few solutions are as easy to use as Google Drive. The seamless integration of Google’s suite of productivity apps and the handy and intuitive comments feature makes this the default collaborative platform for many people I know. You have full control over privacy and editing rights, and there’s even a feature for peoples’ edits to be marked as Suggestions. I thought that was nice.

Google Drive is also great for people juggling multiple projects because you can sort and color-code everything into folders; Drive documents can easily be sent as attachments in Gmail; Google Sheets is pretty powerful for a free spreadsheet app… I could go on.

Only catch is: tables don’t render properly in the iOS app, which makes editing a pain on the iPad. And I love tables, so…

Many of my students no longer work on Word documents when it comes to project submissions. They work together on the same Google Doc, edit that, then download it in whichever format they require. The formatting for exported documents is so much better now, so there are few issues with this process.

#3 – It sucks that not everyone can be here

#4 – I need my projects to live in one place

Projects often involve various documents and countless conversations, and it’s tough to keep track of everything if your documents are in Dropbox, your chats are in WhatsApp, and other details are in your inbox.

Collaborative apps like Slack and Moxtra are great for this purpose. I like both for team collaboration, but I’ll focus on Moxtra as that’s what I’ve been using in my groups. Here are some features of the app that I’ve found useful:

  • The Record function to record meetings and real-time annotations on documents so absent team members can watch the meeting at their own convenience;
  • A complete suite of annotation functions on the web app (the mobile apps are slightly more limited, but still comprehensive) make it easy to markup shared documents for future reference (you can’t edit the actual document, as far as I know);
  • You don’t have to open a video conferencing app like Skype or Google Hangouts because they have their own VC function called ‘Meet’;
  • The Binders concept is especially useful for teachers mentoring multiple projects;
  • To-Dos are great to keep track of deadlines and tasks.

There are a couple of downsides: namely, the austerity of the chat function, and the limited number of integrations compared to Slack.

Workflow in action

How does this combination actually work? I’ve primarily been using it in the classroom and this is how the process typically occurs:

  1. Collaborate on document (Google Drive)
  2. Upload for checks (Moxtra)
  3. Consult, Meet, Annotate (Moxtra)
  4. Setting of tasks/deadlines (Moxtra)
  5. Research, Archive, Tag (Pocket)
  6. Repeat

I imagine that it’ll work in much the same way if you’re managing a project outside the classroom context too. Doesn’t that work like a dream?

 

Categories
Curated Listen Technology

Pitstop: Slack’s amazing podcast

https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/207836853/stream?client_id=3cQaPshpEeLqMsNFAUw1Q?plead=please-dont-download-this-or-our-lawyers-wont-let-us-host-audio

Thought of jumping on the podcast bandwagon? The good people of Slack have teamed up with Pacific Content to shed some light on Podcasting 101 in this episode.

I really like how punchy the editing is for this podcast series. It’s easily the most polished one I have on my playlist.

image
Categories
Musings Technology

I am not an Apple evangelist.

Neither am I an Apple apologist. But I think many Apple critics have gotten it wrong.

We knew a lot of things about September 9:

We knew that this event was going to introduce the new iPhones. (We knew there would be 2.)

We knew – ok, hoped – that Tim Cook would talk about the iWatch. (We now know that it’s not called that.)

We knew that it was going to be HUGE. (Flint Center = where the original Mac was announced = iconic venue. And hello! U2 is going to be there!)

We also knew that people were going to take the piss out of the iPhone specs.

And they did.

Categories
Technology

Overdrive Media Console: Free ebooks? Sign me up!

I am a bookworm. My childhood hero was the eponymous character of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. She loved books, she had super powers, and she had a sense of justice — she was my hero.

But I digress.

Despite my love of books, I’m not one of those bibliophiles that MUST have a physical book (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Yes, I love the smell of new books and the feel of them in my hands, but sometimes the books get too heavy (I’ve dropped enough books on my face while reading in bed), or the smells get overwhelming, or sometimes I just want to be able to carry a clutch AND have my book with me.

If you are like me and you
  1. Love books
  2. Love the selection that the library offers
  3. Find the hygiene of library books somewhat worrying (Have you ever thought about where they’ve been?! No? Where do you bring them?)
  4. Have an iPhone or android device (or both)

Then you should check out Overdrive Media Console. All you need is an adobe account and a membership to a library with a decent ebook selection.

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What is this Overdrive thingamajig?

Overdrive is basically the goto app that libraries use for their ebook lending collection. It allows users to download library books and read them on whatever device their have. You can save your library on the app itself so the lending collection is easily accessible. I could go on and on but I’d just lose you…

so here’s a handy list of reasons why I love Overdrive:

  • I can use it across platforms. As an Android and iOS geek, I’m forever toting around an iPad, an iPhone and my android wherever I go and I like that I can access my ebook regardless of which device I happen to have with me.
  • Overdrive One. This is one of their newer features that is just so friggin cool. It’s basically a feature that saves your last read page on a cloud of sorts. So I can read till The third paragraph of Chapter 3 on my Android, then resume from the exact same page on my iPad. How friggin cool is that? I’ve been using this app for years and dreaming of this feature for even longer. Completely psyched to have it now. Psyched!!
  • No fines. The local library has made quite a fortune from my fines over the years. Now that’s a thing of the past. ‘Nuf said.
  • Books are definitely free seeing as they’re from a library and all.

There’s only one reason why Overdrive isn’t the answer to all my reading needs:

  • It still hurts when my iPad falls on my face while I’m reading. Worse, in fact, than a book!

Other features that may tempt you to try this app:

  • Page change with volume keys
  • User can adjust the line spacing
  • User-determined fonts (face and size)
  • User-controlled margins
  • Sharing function (Email, Facebook, Goodreads)

Download Overdrive here (iOS) or here (Android).