New Home Screen, New Me?

One of the largest changes I’ve made during quarantine relates to my phone. I’ve always been an iPhone guy, and that hasn’t changed, but I’m trying to take advantage of widgets in iOS to help me become a better version of myself. This could mean being more mindful (and/or meditating more), tracking my mood, keeping a journal, and reading more often.

I do all of my fitness tracking via Apple Watch and I have no complaints there. I’ve closed all 3 rings for over 400 consecutive days (this is a straight-up brag, not a humblebrag) so I decided to change my relationship with my phone so that it mirrored how I use my watch.

I don’t waste time on my watch.

I glance at the time.
I record workouts.
I reply to texts or Microsoft Teams messages.

It’s essentially a very utilitarian device, albeit one that looks great and reminds me to breathe every so often. 😉 I was hoping I could transfer this type of experience to my phone.

Prior to the pandemic I might’ve flicked open my phone to check Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram only to realize later that 10 minutes had evaporated and I was angry at some idiot on the internet, or comparing myself to a neighbor, or jealous that a professional influencer was skinnier, more attractive, and more successful than me. It was your textbook hedonic treadmill and I was gladly climbing onto it myself and tiring myself out many times a day. I knew I wanted to change and I thought some technological changes could affect personal change.

I’m using a few new apps to help me along the way and, as I mentioned in the beginning, relying on widgets as my window in to these ecosystems and experiences.

First I setup the widget for an app I’ve been using for some time now, Moodnotes. Moodnotes is great for reminding you to track how you feel, categorize your emotions, and think deeper about how your mood may have been influenced by this state. I’d been relying on alerts to get me in to the app but I turned those off in favor of the cartoon smiley seen on the screenshot of my current Home Screen. Nothing like a little positive reinforcement!

Second I resurrected an app I used several years ago, Day One, to help kickstart my daily journaling habit. The widget for Day One includes a “Streak” view which motivates me to write a journal entry each day. The new Day One app makes it much easier to add a photo (with time stamp) which ends up being a great trigger for me to record the good, new, and interesting thing that happen each day. If I took a picture it must have a story, right? Day One also has a premium subscription option but I’m still using the free version for now and it’s working great!

Third I polled Twitter for app options to help track habits. Folks I trust recommended Streaks which I bought in a bundle with two other apps by the same developer for $7.99. The widget I use to access the app is infinitely customizable (and you can change the app icon color if you’re into that sort of thing) and includes timers for certain tasks I want to do – 10 minutes each of reading and meditation. For the meditation tracking Streaks actually relies on Apple Health data so regardless of whether I use Headspace or Tap In (my two main meditation apps) the streak gets extended and recorded.

I’ve also got two additional habits I’m trying to make stick – not drinking on weekdays, and not eating dessert. I figure curbing alcohol and sugar are noble tasks made harder during a pandemic so I’ll take whatever help Streaks can provide. Thus far it’s been a mixed bag with my not-drinking much easier to do than not eating desserts. Midnight snacking, late grazing, and plain old mindless munching are all too easy to do.

So now I’m reading, writing, meditating, and tracking my mood more often – though not quite daily – but what about the rest of my Home Screen? I added a very simple app/widget called Moon that displays the current phase of the moon in the widget. I find the photorealistic moon very beautiful and calming, and most quality watches & clocks show moon phase, and what is my phone if not a secondary clock when I’m not twisting my wrist? The Moon just adds an air of sophistication, class, and adulthood to what had been, and still is sometimes, a big toy.

And just today I finally went all-widget on my Home Screen and added a new weather app, Hello Weather, that is free and taps through to radar or forecast, all powered by Dark Sky. It’s pretty great so far and means I get glanceable info that I can park at the top of my phone screen where it’s hard to reach to tap anyhow. It’s a win-win.

Mainly the widget layout means I have to be much more mindful – or just more willing to swipe down or right – to get to brain-and-time-sink social apps. If I don’t see it on that first screen I’ve got to go searching for it. The things I can see are all things I’ve decided I want to do more/better. They ultimately serve as a measure of whether that day has been productive in the sense of accomplishing life-affirming, spiritual tasks. That might sound cheesy but it’s the choice I’m trying to manifest in my life by virtue of the way I use my phone.

I’ll let you know how the actual habit cultivation turns out long-term but in the past few months, since around mid-February when I got Streaks and did my first Home Screen widgets, I’ve garnered a few streaks in the teens. That may not sound like a lot but I’m very pleased with things. I also find that when I mindlessly swipe to open my phone I’m confronted with all of the good things I could be doing – reading, writing, meditating – which has led me down the path towards actually completing a book or writing a journal numerous times.

I also just love seeing the smiling face of Moodnotes and the moon phase. They make me smile.

If I’m being philosophical about the devices it’s because I’ve had time to consider why and how I use them. I decided I want to use them for self-improvement and now I’m learning to live with the consequences of that decision. So far that’s been calmer, more meaningful, and mindful experiences.

Here’s to hoping those things continue.

Klout Perks & Me

Over the weekend I received my second Klout Perks package: a paperback copy of Stephen King’s Bag of Bones (either from publisher Simon & Schuster or A&E who are adapting the book for TV).

I’ll do a few “unboxing” pictures, a disclosure and then some thoughts.






Per the third photo, here is the Influencer Code of Ethics:

  • Klout will never sell or give away your contact info.
  • Yay!

  • participating (or not participating) will not change your Klout Score.
  • As it should be, otherwise it’s payola.

  • You are receiving the product because you are influential and have authority on topics related to the product. You are welcome to tell the world you love the product or say nothing at all.
  • A lot to unpack here. First, it’s nice to know I have “Klout” but I wish I was told what topic(s) were used to screen me. I don’t think my love of Muppets or Atlanta (as reported by the +K I receive through the Klout site) are the drivers here.

    As for telling folks: what if I HATE the book, the show, or BOTH?

  • If you decide to talk about the product, we will ask you to disclose that you received a sample (
  • Great news for transparency here and I’ve been totally up front.

My disclosure/caveat is this: my employer has utilized Klout in the past. I did not work directly on those campaigns but I have met with some of their team.

I’m being a bit facetious when I say I don’t know why I was picked for this Klout Perk.

First, I signed up to receive it when offered via email and second, I’m sure it has much more to do with my blogging/tweeting about TV than my middling membership in Goodreads.

Did the perk work? Is it sufficiently targeted?

I’m blogging this aren’t I? 😉

Seriously though, this is the 2nd perk I’ve received (out of 5 offered) and it feels like the first true “hit” both in terms of targeting and I terms of successful conversion.

I’ve only ever read one King novel and I rarely, if ever, watch A&E but the barriers to entry and cost to sample are low so I’m likely to read and watch – at least for a chapter and episode, respectively.

I won’t mention the other offers that were emailed to me or the other offer I chose not to blog/tweet about, but I’m curious: is a 20% conversion rate bad?

Judge it as I’ve blogged it: is Klout good, bad or indifferent?

I’d love to read your comments.

Until then I’ve got some reading/TiVo’ing to do.

Aside: the entirety of this post was written/photographed via iPad which is a first for me.

My little piece of the Fiesta Movement

As an initial caveat, I’d like to start off by saying that I am not an “Agent” of Ford’s Fiesta Movement, I’m just someone who has seen the promotion/activation/campaign and been pretty impressed by the use of social media.

Here’s the second caveat: I’m an avowed Mimobot nut. Check the archives. Ever since I got my first Mimobot at SXSW earlier this year I’ve been obsessed with amassing a larger collection.

So when I saw that Mimoco had created a Mimobot specifically for the Fiesta Movement, I knew I had to own one.

Wanna see how it was designed/developed? There’s a video for that!

Enter eBay and the very nice (and prompt) Rigel Celeste. She runs a tight ship: courteous, friendly and quick to mail items once the PayPal went through. I gave her five-star feedback for the sale and a follow on Twitter, since she seems so cool.

Of course, I was helped out in the process by clusterflock. Great eBay buying advice.

Here’s what I got for my efforts:

Ford Fiesta Mimobot

Cute, isn’t it?

It came loaded with four pictures of the Ford Fiesta but was otherwise empty. I believe it was given to Rigel at a Fiesta Movement event, but she already had one.

Still, as a giveaway it’s pretty clever, especially since the Fiesta has a USB port. You should check out Stammy’s extensive Fiesta coverage, from an agent’s perspective if that’s your bag. He’s a local Atlantan and technology blogger.

I promise not to get all gushy and weird about any future eBay conquests (no, I don’t actually) but if you know of a source for any of the HBO promotional Mimobots, I’m all ears.

Until next time!

Georgia (Beer) On My Mind

I <3 beer.
Which is to say I love beer.
Would marry it if that didn’t violate my current nuptial status.

I’ve even just had a nice jolt of dopamine by hitting the “save draft” button while editing this very entry.

Clearly, I’m in desperate need of Mmmm, Beer [hear Homer say it: mp3].

What got my beer tooth tingling was a particularly tasty cask ale – Saint Arnold Elissa IPA – that I drank at Ginger Man in Austin, TX during SXSWi. The beer got me thinking about cask ales and drinking good beers regularly (apart from the all-too-seldom Monday Night and the stash in the beer fridge) at places local, knowledgeable, inviting and well-stocked.

My normal haunts have rotating selections – places like Taco Mac, Varner’s and Smyrna World of Beverages – but I feel like I’m doing a disservice to beer-drinking by not branching out enough.

So after checking out the cask situation in the local two things happened:

  1. I did the whole 5 Favorite Beers on Facebook
  2. Garrett emailed me about the grand opening of Hop City Craft Beer & Wine at the new 5 Season Westside this Thursday, April 2.

So now I have a conundrum. Go drink some free beer and eat some free food at a beer establishment on Thursday (and hang out with some very cool, like-minded folks) or do I go the Social Media Club Atlanta meeting at Manuel’s and do the same thing in a different venue with different folks?

I know, I know. Rough life, huh?

I think I’m leaning heavily towards the grand opening, only because I saw some of the Social Media Club folks in Austin and I’d like to sample the new wares/digs over Manuel’s (which I already know/love).

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some new sites and tools I’m using in my beer quest:

  • Beer Counter for iPhone
  • Worked like a charm @ SXSWi and I managed my (over)indulgences.

  • 97 Bottles
  • A beer rating social network that ties in nicely to OpenID and my other social accounts. I’ve been looking to jump ship from RateBeer to BeerAdvocate for some time (damn you, locked-in ratings!) but I’m giving this the old college try.

  • BJCP Styles for iPhone
  • No self-respecting beer snob should leave home without a copy of the rules.

Since I’m cobbling together a big beer post, it’d be great if folks wanted to vote in the AJC/Evening Edge’s 2009 Beer Bracket Final Four for the best IPA. It’s down to the Final Four and Atlanta’s own Sweetwater IPA is in the running, having already captured the judges’ votes and looking for a win amongst readers.

And if you’ve got a few seconds more in your day to devote to beer-related clicking, take Monday Night Brewery’s survey [via JohnMcNicholas].

Until Thursday, drink a beer for me.

I might as well jump on in, since everyone else has, regarding the new “social” makeover of

I’m not one to talk about my day job here, but I have a little bit of experience in the social media space, just don’t call me an “expert”, “maven” or “guru”. I start hearing Carly Simon when people bandie about those terms.

Other folks – Dave Armano, Buzz Marketing Daily, Remco Kroes, Dale Larson – and media outlets – AdAge, MediaPost, AdRants – have done the best job of recapping and providing thorough insight, so I’ll just ask a few questions.

  1. What was the goal of this campaign? Conversion to Facebook friends? Gross number of “tweets”? YouTube video views? Publicity/Press?
  2. My guess is the last one. I think the rest is just gravy and not the point of taking your entire brand to a “crowdsourced” model.

  3. Will the redesign affect sales and should it be judged against such a “hard” metric?
  4. I don’t think anyone bought Skittles as a result of this stunt, and that’s how I view this: a flash in the pan and not something that’s a part of social media strategy

  5. What am I supposed to learn/glean/experience from the redesign?
  6. That some folks really dig Skittles enough to blog/tweet/photograph Skittles? That Skittles has a branded YouTube channel? (Big woop! Who doesn’t? That they don’t have their own Twitter account and encourage the use of a lame web-based feedback form.

I can’t believe I’m saying this actually, but where is Skittles in this conversation? What do they want of their customers? What are their expectations?

Do they want us to buy more? Eat more? Tweet/blog more?

Where is the connection to a contest or sweeps where I get free Skittles if I take “x” action, where “x” is something social?

Where is Skittles telling us how much it loves us/hates us/is ambivalent towards us?

I’m really baffled by the long-term prospects of Skittles in the social space and I’d love for them to prove me wrong.

They’re not a Zappos or Dell or H&R Block (sorry for all the Twitter examples) or any number of companies who use social media to energize, engage, converse and grow with their customers.

This stunt by seems like a thought experiment taken to its illogical conclusion. It says, “we’re going to hold up a mirror to all this social stuff, but don’t look behind the curtain.”

I suppose people who like this sort of thing – and maybe even Skittles themselves – would say that it’s really the customers who were always at the heart of the brand.

I say that what would really make me involved, make me buy Skittles, eat Skittles and regularly tweet Skittles, was knowing that I was really involved in their brand and not just a sideshow act in a social media circus tent.

But what do I know? I’m blogging Skittles where before I wouldn’t have. But I’m still disappointed.

Comments welcome and encouraged. Tell me how/when/where/why I’m wrong.