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Tech Thursday: Earth Day

23 April

As you may know, Earth Day was yesterday. In honor of the holiday, we thought it’d be cool to discuss ways that we can all be a bit more environmentally conscious in terms of technology. From going paperless, energy efficiency, and recycling old computers/accessories, we hope you find some ideas for celebrating Earth Day everyday!

And here is part deux (we got disconnected temporarily):

Dude’s Guide To Pinterest: Part 1

22 April

Pinterest is one of those wildly popular websites we find ourselves explaining to people. Most people think it’s for women only so we thought we’d have our token male, John, look at the site and report back. For the next few weeks, John will delve deeper and deeper into Pinterest in an attempt to explain it to everyone but in particular a certain half of the population. Starting this week, Breaking Even Communications takes a look at social media through a guy’s perspective in this blog series.

Manterest: Part 1

“I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.” — The Dude, The Big Lebowski

I’m a pretty standard-issue guy. I like a lot of guy things, including fried meat, the outdoors, Quentin Tarantino, and violent hockey games.  I’ve used a nail gun once. But I don’t change my own oil, and I’ve never had to kill a water buffalo with my bare hands in order to shelter in its body cavity.

So on the scale of manliness, with Teddy Roosevelt as most manly and Ryan Seacrest being the least, I’m somewhere in the middle. Maybe I’m Toby McGuire.

parksandrec-ron-prettydarkhairedwomen

I’m sure I’m not the only man who doesn’t get Pinterest, the wildly popular virtual pinboard that I assume is run by a midwestern HR manager named Karen whose other interests include inspirational posters, sweatshirts embroidered with teddy bears, and that God-awful Greek yogurt (seriously, what is up with Greek yogurt—it’s like a mildly flavored kindergarten paste you can eat, but probably shouldn’t).

I understand Pinterest as much as I understand scrapbooking, which is to say, not at all.

However, a lot of people, unlike me, do seem to get it. And I mean, a lot.

According to Pew Research Center, a whopping 28 percent of adult internet users are whiling away the hour re-pinning organic pomegranate smoothie recipes, how-to guides on how to bedazzle your kitten, and photos of places they’ll visit if Karen from HR ever gets back to them with their vacation request.

Take a look at Pinterest’s demographics, and maybe this explains why I feel the same way looking at a Pinterest page as I do when I’m trapped in a Hobby Lobby or a Payless.

Pew tells us that in 2014, 42 percent of Pinterest users were female, compared to 13 percent that are men (and that’s a substantial jump from just 8 percent a year before). Other stats:

  • 32 percent are white, non-Hispanic
  • 34 percent are aged 18-29
  • 30 percent live in rural area

What was most surprising to me, though was this stat: The largest percentile, 34 percent, reported an annual income of more than $75,000.

So if you’re a rich, white, female millennial, you’ve found your online neighborhood. Welcome to Pinterest. But guess what? I’m crashing your party.

To truly understand Pinterest, you must become Pinterest. Or rather, you have to sign up, which is rather easy. You just need an email address or a Facebook account. Pinterest asks for your first and last name and your age. I gave them my first name, and let them know that I’m way too old to be doing this.

Then I got this screen:

P1

Fair enough. I dig creative ideas.

Next, I get a screen to help me generate “ideas,” and I was a bit surprised by Pinterest’s bot’s suggestions, because Pinterest went full-on Teddy Roosevelt. Woodworking, fishing, Harleys, industrial design, survival skills and … beards? Well, they can’t all be winners.

P2
So, I picked four out of five suggestions:

  • Pranks (I have a childish sense of humor, derp);
  • Parenting (because I am one);
  • Astronomy, (because space is the amaz-o-craz);
  • Photography (because that’s a thing I used to do).

I also saw a lot of suggestions which confused me and made me feel a little uneasy, like when you bite into a slice of pizza that you didn’t know had onion on it. Pokemon, Beyonce, and something called “Adriana Lima.” None of these things interest me. (Well, maybe Beyonce does a little.)

I picked a couple for myself: Electric and custom guitars (guitars are plain awesome; everyone like guitars).

I also chose Ford Mustang. I’ve owned two Mustangs, and I have a soft spot for my first one. (I called her Ol’ Blue, and may she be riding upon Heaven’s open road as I write this. God, I miss her.)

I set up my first pin board, and my first pinned image—a beautiful Fender Telecaster with a charcoal transparent finish, Maple Fretboard, and a somewhat unusual selection of pickups (humbuckers on the bridge! a strat middle pickup!).

And then I promptly forgot I had a Pinterest account for two weeks.

(Next week, will John remember he has a Pinterest account? Spoiler: Yes and no.)

“Chunky Yet Funky”: Thoughts on Productivity and My Writing Style

17 April

Chunking” is the idea that when performing recall tasks, like a 40 number sequence, people are better able to remember if they group or “chunk” the sequences together. This is how, to my bank account’s dismay, I unintentionally memorized my credit card number and can now buy things online without having it on hand.

This blog post is not, however, about psychological theories on how humans process information. It is about a different “chunking”- the kind that productivity gurus write about.

chunkyyetfunky

This brand of “chunking” means performing similar tasks in bulk, while your brain is in a certain gear. For example, when we’re working on Breaking Even’s blog, chunking is one of the greatest tools ever. In the morning, I like to get all my writing tasks done- that’s when my brain is at it’s peak. A lot of times this is just stream of consciousness writing (we have pre-determined blog topics set out a month in advance). Later on (in the day, week, etc), my brain will eventually shift into an editing gear. At this point in time, I go back and touch up whatever my brain produced in round one (this involves a lot of word-weeding, or translating things from my language to something more readable). Finding relevant articles is also a “chunking” activity, as is headline generation and image ideas.

Blogging is a pretty simple job to “chunk,” but it translates well into many different areas. As a younger kid, I used chunking while doing chores. When cleaning cars, I’d do all the vacuuming first, then go back and clean the inside with Armor All. It just made more sense to do it this way than to clean one car out, and then the other. It’s similar to building web sites. Rather than building one complete page (writing, add pictures, add forms and plugins), then the next complete page, and so on, chunking just seems to work better. This means writing all (or most) of the content, bulk re-sizing and uploading pictures, creating forms as needed, and so on. That way, things are getting built up together, and you aren’t constantly shifting mental gears (something I personally am terrible at).

No matter who you are, your brain will be in different gears at different points. I read this article last year when I was having issues with writer’s block that offered an interesting explanation. When you are relaxed and generally zen-like, your brain is better suited to creative tasks. On the other hand, if you’re feeling pressured or stressed, that creative flow gets cut off (this is what happened to me). When you get into a mental “fight or flight” zone, your time is better spent researching, outlining, editing, or formatting rather than idea generating or writing.

Chunking can also simply mean dedicating a set amount of time to each task on your to-do list. Once we started using Toggl this January, it became easy to see how much time each task was taking us as we performed it, and it made it easier to go back in the archived time logs and see how long we actually spent on certain tasks. Starting a half hour timer and committing to incremental chunks of distraction free time to each task definitely boosts productivity- especially in this day and age where it’s common to have at least a dozen tabs open at once in your browser.

What areas of your life- work or otherwise- could you be chunking?

 

Tech Thursday: Splitsville

16 April

In this week’s episode: Foursquare splits into two apps, Google+ splits up different kinds of content, businesses we know try to do too much. When to add on, when to split, and when you should keep doing what’s working!

Plus, some really fun plant-related analogies and Kassie is really excited about the new Mad Max.

Who’s Eating This?

14 April

Kassie was recently telling me about the website that seems to no longer exist called “Pick the Perp”. You pick who you think was charged with a particular crime. Here’s an example:

picktheperpscreenshot

 

Now in some cases, it seems obvious… until a little old lady is charged with being a serial killer.

Point is, we have a stereotype in our heads of who is our customer but sometimes it pays to do actual research on who our customer is.

We decided to bring back this game, if only very briefly about a much less controversial topic: food. So we went on Instagram, grabbed a photo and you guess who took it.

What: Root Beer Float

rootbeerfloat

 

whodranktherootbeer

 

Who drank the root beer float?

What: Home cooked meat, potatoes, and salad

healthyeating

whoatemeatandpotatoes

 

What: Chocolate cake

chocolatecake

 

whoatethechocolatecake

So here are the answers:

Root Beer Float: A

Meat and Potatoes: C

Chocolate Cake: A

Now besides being a silly exercise, can this teach us anything?

1) Context helps. So the meat and potatoes on a glass coffee table? That may have pointed us to the fashion blogger looking person. :) Understanding the context people are in (friendships, where they live, what kind of coffee table they have) helps us understand when our customers choose us. Important to understand context because it can help us pick out future customers… or maybe even working with another company on a cross promotional opportunity if we have the same customers.

2) Look at clues… but only if they are helpful. In one of the examples above, I kept the hashtags. (To be fair, not sure how easy it is to read them.) In two of them, I kept in the handles in. You had the most information in example one (root beer float) and the least in chocolate cake. Was the one with more information easier to guess? If you thrive on information and it helps you make better choices, use it. If it paralyzes you, don’t.

3) Don’t assume. I’m betting you got one of these wrong (I would have if I hadn’t created it). We can make assumptions: that overweight woman isn’t interested in clean eating, that older man wouldn’t attend our computer class, etc. But sometimes our assumptions can keep us from truly reaching our potential with our businesses… and helping people we could be helping.

Anyway, we thought this would be a fun exercise. Can you pick out your customers from a lineup? What helps you do so? What are you assuming wrong that you want to correct?