Blog piece: It’s MuniMobile Monday: Mobile Ticketing Is Here!

by Staci Morrison

Monday, November 16, 2015

Graphic of white iPhone with red screen and Muni worm logo with "mobile" underneath and a Muni bus, fog and Sutro Tower on the right.

Happy MuniMobile Monday! We are excited to announce the launch of MuniMobile, our new app that allows you to purchase Muni bus, rail and cable car tickets right from your phone.

This morning, we officially launched the app at Powell Station, a key transportation hub with Muni Metro, the F Line and Cable Cars all passing nearby. For downtown visitors, our friends at the San Francisco Travel Visitor Information Center were also on hand to offer their expertise on how to get to the best spots within our 7×7 miles via Muni.

Muni has long been a popular subject of transit apps in the city, but MuniMobile combines NextMuni arrival information and ticketing.

The MuniMobile app is available in the iPhone App Store and on Google Play for Android. To make sure you find the official one, note the full Muni worm in the app thumbnail and that “MuniMobile” is one word.

Once you download the app, you’re all set to purchase your tickets and get on your way. Remember to activate the ticket when you board or enter a paid area. Your phone is your fare — be ready to show the active MuniMobile screen as your proof of payment.

As the name implies, MuniMobile is specific for the Muni transit system. Mobile tickets work through visual validation by SFMTA staff so to board or enter metro faregates, flash your phone screen to the vehicle operator or station agent. With visual validation there’s no tapping at the gate.

For the full scoop, FAQs on how the app works and how to use it, head over to sfmta.com/munimobile.

Help us transition Muni successfully into the app age and begin using MuniMobile today! Then share how it works for you. This is a pilot program so your feedback is in integral part of evaluation and further development. This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

"How to use MuniMobile" brochures "Download the app today, It's as easey as...Buy, Select and purchase the fare type you want. Use, Activate the ticket when you are ready to ride. Show, Flash your screen showing the active ticket as you board. sfmta.com/munimobile"
SFMTA Ambassadors greeted Muni riders to provide tips and answer questions this morning to announce the new app.

 

Written for publication on Moving SF, SFMTA blog. 

Blog piece: Sweet Potato Pancakes? Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

*Archive re-post! From my now retired personal blog, The Unconventional Newlywed, which was published from 2012-2018.

And now for another lesson in newlywed bliss: don’t spend an hour and a half trying a new recipe unless you’re sure your husband actually likes the main ingredient. This is how I found out Alex doesn’t like sweet potatoes. 


Ah, the sweet potato. The charming poster child for our modern paleolithic folk, the healthy, trendier fancy. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, with Pinterest recipes aplenty, it’s a sure crowd pleaser for the health-conscious family. Right?

Well.

There are some deceitful traps in today’s blogorific recipe culture. And, I fell into two of them with my attempt to make sweet potatoes into something alluring for the husband and I.

First trap: THOSE DAMNED KITCHEN TOOLS!

So, here’s the recipe I was trying to mimic. I like it because it looks easy – not even pretty – easy. Looks easy. Isn’t.

Louisiana Sweet Potato pancakes from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/louisiana-sweet-potato-pancakes/

As it turns out with these pesky, beta-carotene rich rooty vegetables, they are a prickly pain in the ass to mush up. I boiled my sweet potato browns (yes, that’s a pun) for some 20 minutes and thought I was in the clear to mush freely.

Then, I found out I don’t have a masher.

Then I found out raw-ish the center was not mashable anyway.

Then I began to hack at the vegetable, trying to forcefully coax it into mashedness.

Then!

I remembered blenders are good at this. Alas, the wee blender I have was no match for such a task. Nightmares of sizzling and smoke danced in my head and I quickly quit.

At the point I was tempted to take my own photo, but it was not attractive. Thanks, lickthebowlgood.blogspot.com for showing me up.

The rest of the recipe turned out surprisingly well, considering the unwanted chunks. However, all my failed mashing, chopping and aggressive blending turned this “10 minute” prep into an hour.

Flour on my nose and decorating my shirt, I managed to fry up a pile of nutmeg-scented beauties. I also managed to realize the recipe makes 24 pancakes and I was making breakfast only for myself, Alex and my sister.

People eat nine pancakes each, right?

Noticing Alex eyeing my Pisa-like tower of potato hotcakes, I offered, oh-so generously, “do you want some?”

Shrugging and looking nonchalantly at his coffee, he responds, “maybe I’ll taste one. I don’t like sweet potatoes.”

What?! As if these orange frisbees hadn’t damaged my ego enough.

Second trap: Pinterest and food porn don’t work on all husbands. 

If you’re married to the stubborn “I like Uncrustables!” type, sweet potato pancakes just can’t compete. Some of us care about the vitamins and minerals we put into our bodies, some of us prefer to marry  healthier spouses and life a vitamin-enriched life by proxy.

Lesson learned.

I’d like to blame Pinterest, modern kitchen appliances and Internet recipes for luring me – yet again – down the rabbit hole of modern wifehood expectations, where I stand unable to defend myself with just a cast iron skillet and wooden spoon in hand.

Also, it helps to ask Alex directly, if he likes a food before I try to make it. Talking about it to his family, then to our friends, then to myself, with him in earshot doesn’t count.

Marriage, communication, go figure. 

Blog piece: Marriage is a Dirty Kitchen

*Archive re-post! From my now retired personal blog, The Unconventional Newlywed, which was published from 2012-2018.

Similar to the hidden fact that a new marriage should require the wife and husband to live together, I am convinced there is another hidden truth for adapting to life with a man. A cluttery, dish-dirtying, throw-my-wet-towel-on-the-bed boyish sort of man. But when will I learn it?!

Before we were engaged, I heard many a person warn me that finances would be the thorniest issue about newlywed life. About married life. People are liars, that’s the hardest part about life in general.

The worst part about newlywed life is keeping a clean apartment.

Keeping this space tidy has caused many a passionate disagreement around here. It is enough to make me feel genuinely neurotic. Like I am recently uncovering a latent case of obsessive compulsive disorder and my darling new husband has no sympathy for this disease. Current fiancees, be forewarned. In my case, I simply thought a tidy workspace and constantly clean kitchen were signs of an organized and efficient person. Apparently, not everyone agrees.

Oh the humanity! Get them out of there before something awful grows.

The decreased size of our apartment has magnified the effect of the dirty dish. A pile of plates in the sink are a Pisa tower of soggy dinner filth, threatening to direct wafts of watery spaghetti sauce in the direction of my breakfast toast. How’s a girl to read the morning news with that thought tickling her peripheral vision?

To make matters worse, I attempted to make them better. 

Our chalkboard is used for organizing, note writing, etc. Now it also shows the kitchen cleaning duties for each day. In more than one colored chalk because that means it’s fun! Of course, before I took to scribbling my clean dictatorship about the house, I asked Alex’s opinion. He, in typical dirty boy fashion, nodded and mumbled something inaudibly. This is where a good wife would probably infer something empathetic, but I inferred reluctant guilt at being a dirty boy and pranced into chore assignment with gusto. 

Is it because my handwriting is so terrible?

So far, Alex has not adhered to the rules of my game. Apparently imposing OCD onto another by rules of daily chores is not effective? I have tried to give him a couple days leeway but I cannot bring myself to ignore a dirty kitchen for very long…it truly makes me angry.

Uh oh. Neurosis. 

How do other couples solve this? To be an organized graduate student and keep a schedule of early shifts at Starbucks, afternoon classes and evening homework, organization must exist, right? Where is that elusive balance of happy home and clean home? 

Perhaps I need a boy’s opinion. A tidy boy’s opinion? Or at least some tips on that reverse psychology, I’m getting desperate here.

 

 

 

 

Long form original content: The Last Word on Books Will Be Written in Ink

The Last Word on Books Will Be Written in Ink

People say they smell funny. They are too heavy. They will probably make you drowsy. And if you are not careful, they will take over your home, spilling their anti- environmental propaganda into every room.

Such are today’s insults to the printed book. Why read books when you can spend your time looking at more exciting things, such as the star-studded, action-packed Hollywood version of a story? Dazzling technologic gadgets are the medium of the future. Anyone with an affinity for those clunky old- fashioned paper collections are perceived anchors to the past, slowing our progress toward innovation by preventing us from going warp speed ahead.

It is easy to assume the book is quickly losing its value in society. Electronic reading devices such as the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook condense thousands of pages into one handy screen. iPads and iPods play audio versions of novels. Meanwhile, the book continues to be printed in the same form as it always has been, absorbing the scorn of critics arguing it is a waste of resources and outdated by the time it reaches a bookshelf. Today’s youngsters read more Facebook status updates than pages in a novel. True as that may be, more books are published today than ever before – over 550,000 were published in 2009 alone. Whether or not they are actively read, books show no signs of going quietly into oblivion.

The enduring value of books rests heavily on the often hidden and undervalued world of independent and second-hand book shops. “I like the smell of older books, there is something in the pages that is comforting,” explains Tina, a senior at University of Massachusetts Boston studying economics. She prefers to browse at Brookline Booksmith, an independently-owned bookstore that sells new and used books. “Some days I can come and spend an hour browsing. Maybe I buy a book, maybe not, but I always find one that is interesting and read a bit from it.” She splits her time between the new book selection and used books, preferring the second-hand variety for its smell, price and the “sense of personality” that an old book has over a newly published one.

There is much to be appreciated in the business of old-fashioned book selling. Unlike the commercial bookstore chains, independent book sellers have the appeal of being just that- independent. They have moxie. They have history. They have loyalty to their trade. Most noteworthy, they have an immense determination to stick to an ink and paper industry against rising popularity of online media corporations that offer more publications at lower prices.

This month, Brookline Booksmith celebrates its 50th anniversary. Without the support of local old book lovers like Tina, Booksmith would not have made it to this point. In 1994, a Barnes & Noble opened down the street – not three blocks from Booksmith. Unable to compete with the prices and selection of Barnes & Noble, Booksmith’s profit fell flat for several years. Yet with the rise of Amazon in the 1990s, it was Barnes & Noble that struggled to keep pace, while Booksmith nimbly recalibrated its business model around the Brookline community. By 2009, Barnes & Noble closed its doors and Booksmith continued to welcome more local bibliophiles.

The dedicated small business owner has a motivation the corporate stores will never match: a fundamental, undying love for books. Sandra, the manager of Raven Used Books in Boston explains her theory.

“Printed books offer each person the same experience, whereas an electronic copy may vary according to the device on which it is read. No two people will have the same experience, as they would by reading the same copy of a book.”

The materialistic quality of the printed word is a tangible reminder of an experience, be it an imagination-arousing journey into Neverland or mentally exhausting lesson on quantum physics. Each book shows its signs of longevity, nuances of past owners from dog-eared pages to personalized inscriptions. Ownership of a book is interactive, engagingly tactile. Especially true for used books, each of which has passed through different hands or countries, faithfully telling the same story to each new owner. Joshua, a worker at Raven Used Books described, “These things are nearly alive, being surrounded by them makes me feel that, at any moment, they’ll come at me like in a bad horror film.” A glimpse behind the checkout counter at Raven and the sentiment is understood. Countless cardboard boxes swell with unsorted books. Piles upon piles of other text, sorted and queued for a spot on the shelf, clamor for floor space. “We have a steady flow of buying and selling,” Joshua explains, without a hint of irony. In the non- chain bookstore scene, Raven Used Books appears the opposite of many other bookstores, especially those specializing in second-hand books. Raven Used Books began in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2005. It was so successful a second location was opened in Boston in 2010.

“These things are nearly alive, being surrounded by them makes me feel that, at any moment, they’ll come at me like in a bad horror film.”

The newer location, tucked into a small basement-style space welcomes visitors with a sense of intimacy that betrays the cheap horror film vibe felt by Joshua. The entire store is the size of a small studio apartment. Ample light filters down through the street- level windows. This place could be the cozy living room of a close, very well-read friend. Wooden shelves stretch from the hardwood floors to the ceiling, leaving a space large enough to fit a potted plant, the leaves of which dangle languorously onto the titles below it.

“I come here to bury my head in a book, to get away for awhile,” says Christy, a student of nursing at Simmons College. She uses one of the few step stools in the shop as a seat so she can peruse a nearly pristine second-hand copy of English Romantic Poetry: An Anthology. “I actually just finished a Masters in English Literature before I decided to get into nursing. But, I love being surrounded books, always have.”

On other shelves, books are stacked horizontally, systematically, filling all available space between the topmost shelf and ceiling. Upon close inspection, eerie lifelike energy emanates from these objects, their protruding spines seem to challenge probing eyes of visitors and threaten a collective avalanche upon the head of the browser who disturbs their fragile balance.

The caretakers of these printed souls are a uniquely cultivated, albeit modest, group. Understandably protective of their industry, they are quick to extol the virtues of reading. Raven’s manager, Sandra is one such character. It is almost possible to see her brain sifting through an internal Dewey Decimal-like categorization of the information found on shelves crowding her tiny bookstore as she carefully chooses the next words she will speak. “People come in here with no idea what they want and ask me for a recommendation. There was once a woman who said she wanted a book for her sister as a gift. Twenty minutes of discussion later, I found out she actually wanted to book for herself, to help her sort out trouble she was having with her father.”

It is no wonder places like Raven Used Books are thriving while the Borders Books chain fades from memory. There is a built-in expertise in the staff of a store that specializes in the dissemination of hand-picked knowledge. A personification of broad or niche interests, the bookshop owner is personally responsible for providing well-tended exploring grounds for his or her visitors. Each book is an intellectual investment. With limited space and nearly limitless books, every title that garners a spot on the shelf has to offer an experience that can translate into mutual, economic value for the bookstore and customer.

Despite the stale aroma of old paper – a symptom of the trade – and a suspiciously haphazard heaping of books onto every surface, much consideration goes into the collection and organization of an independent shop. “It’s analogous to reading a print edition of a newspaper as opposed to going online,” explains John Carroll, media analyst and professor of contemporary mass communication at Boston University. “You have all these accidental encounters with things you had no idea you were interested in and wind up walking out of the used book store with something you never would have looked for on Amazon.” Online readers are notorious for jumping from article to article, bouncing in and out of websites at their discretion, blithely unaware of information outside their usual awareness.

Boston is one of the few American cities with a healthy variety of independently owned and second-hand book stores. Within a five mile radius of the downtown area, there are 10 indie bookshops. American independence and the American publishing industry cross paths in Massachusetts. The early American printer Isaiah Thomas traces the first printer in the United States of America to Cambridge in 1639. “As soon as they had made provisions that were necessary for their existence in this land, which was then rude wilderness,” he writes in his History of Printing in America, referring to the first New England settlers, “their next objects were the establishment of schools and a printing press.” Traditionally, Boston emphasizes a progression of learning and preservation of historical facts and events.

Brattle Book Shop, Boston’s best-known used book store embodies the Americana spirit of traditional publishing. Founded in 1825, the shop is one of the oldest antiquarian book shops in the United States.

Quietly tucked into side street downtown, Brattle Book Shop’s unassuming exterior betrays the 250,000 titles packed inside its three story location. Books sprawl in all directions, stacked on tables, into every inch of bookshelves reaching to the 10-foot ceilings. Instead of a cozy living room feel, the interior of Brattle is as outdated and simple as the exterior of the old building in which it is housed. Here, the focus is books. They fill the rows of shelves, titles ranging from World War II to cocktail party etiquette. Century- old leather bound volumes share shelves with decades young paperbacks. A marble staircase leads to the topmost floor, the gem of Brattle, a sanctuary of rare publications and collector items.

“Brattle offers more variety than commercial bookstores,” says manager Zach Marconi. “Sellers of new books tend not to survive because it is an inefficient way of selling books. Yes, they have a large inventory, but it consists of all the same titles.” Competition for shops like Brattle come more from self-publishing online through companies like Amazon and publishing “on demand” than from commercial bookstores. Such publishing alternatives bypass publication companies, a terrific bargain for authors but a method that may exclude bookstores while threatening the uniqueness of indie shops’ offbeat publications. “Today, people are buying more books than ever, but from different means,” Marconi explains. His sentiment is supported by a 2009 study conducted by Bowker, a leading source of bibliographic information. Self-published books saw an increase of nearly 600,000 titles between 2006-2008, while traditionally published books remained at a steady 400,000.

People no longer turn to bookstores for specific books. Individual titles, particular excerpts, quotes, chapters can be found more readily online. “Any commodity can be divided and sold for its attributes,” said Marconi. The book and chapters included. Customers returning to shops like Booksmith, Raven or Brattle are in search of something greater than a stripped down source of data.

Marc, a self-proclaimed “bookstore troll” visits shops like Brattle to glimpse the past or discover a book that is interesting for its aesthetics. “As a photographer, I am drawn to the visual aspect of books. How they are designed, the typeface, et cetera. Occasionally I will find a print or an edition of some random book that will give me an idea for a project, or one that is visually very unusual. A lot of new books printed today are almost cookie

cutter, they just don’t have the richness of an older book that almost feels handmade.” Businesses in the trade of antique and used products are a place to treasure hunt, a haven for the wandering browser. Countless small pieces of our collective past are scattered, waiting to be discovered behind leather bound covers and faded jackets.

“Books are being revived as an object of beauty”

Today the Internet is the publication à la mode. Neither books nor newspapers can compete with the instantaneity of blogs, web-based publications or even Twitter if they are in the business of providing new information. Instead, books today are finding value in being the opposite of the Internet – bragging age and oftentimes, inaccuracy. “Books are being revived as an object of beauty,” says Brattle Book Shop employee Ellen Arnstein. “There is an incredible multifaceted value to books. If not for the intellectual element, there’s demand for the rare, unreproducible artistic elements.” Famously, the 1911 eleventh edition of Encyclopedia Britannica is nearly propaganda in many British-biased entries. It boasts medical, scientific and geographic inaccuracies, attitudes on society that are no longer relevant but will live forever as reminders of the past. Therein lies the value of the old book. Encyclopedia Britannica recently announced the end of print editions of its encyclopedias, citing a steady decline in demand for modern volumes. However, the coveted early editions will only increase in value as they age, becoming unique artifacts for generations.

Whether it is to adapt, to reclaim faded glory or to delay the inevitable, books and their bookshop refuge are evolving. It is an oversimplification to assume books are going the way of the compact disc and vinyl record before it. There is a better chance of finding a second-hand book store in Boston than a second-hand record store.

Factors threatening the tradition of buying books for learning or leisure multiply with the release of each new Internet-equipped technology. Information bombards us on every media, around every corner, vying for precious free time previously spent reading. When information is accessible and free through the Internet, it becomes harder to rationalize the purchase of another book. Perhaps, it may not be the book that is losing a foothold in our technology fixated culture – it may that we no longer cultivate the time and undistracted mind reading demands. If so, there may be no better cure than an good old- fashioned paperback.

John Keats could have been referring to the evolution of the book when writing his famous Endymion, a poem that has survived two centuries in no small part due to foresightful bookkeepers of yore:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases;
it will never Pass into nothingness;
but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

– John Keats, 1818

Blog piece: Want to Win a Piece of History? Snap & Share #MuniHeritage This Week!

*Re-posted from original piece on MovingSF

by Staci Morrison
Monday, September 21, 2015

Colorful street scene of Chinatown in 1972 with a maroon and yellow Muni bus crossing the street.

For the fourth annual Muni Heritage Weekend taking place Sept. 26-27, the SFMTA is kicking off a photo contest to capture Muni’s history in motion through the eyes of photography-minded riders.

Here’s how to participate:

  1. Snap a photo that captures the essence of #MuniHeritage
  2. Share it on social media (FacebookTwitter or Instagram) now through Sunday (remember the hashtag!)
  3. Five lucky history lovers will win a limited edition poster photo reprint from the SFMTA Photo Archive and be mentioned here on the SFMTA blog!

Muni’s most photogenic vehicles will grace the streets this weekend at Market Street Railway Museum and along The Embarcadero – and they’re ready for their close-ups.

Share a favorite image from the “galleries on wheels” — buses installed with vintage photographs. Or show off the sweet skyline view aboard one of the famous 1934 open-air boat trams from Blackpool, England. If you chance upon one of Muni’s newly christened hybrid electric trolley coaches in action for the first time this weekend that works, too.

After snapping your picture-perfect #MuniHeritage scene, be sure to share the photo via TwitterInstagram or Facebook to enter the contest. Tag the SFMTA, and your post may be re-shared, too.

Five winners will be selected at random for prizes but all images may be featured in a contest roundup, so get out there and get creative!

Colorful historic streetcars in yellow, green and orange, sit on The Embarcadero with a blue sky overhead.

San Francisco provides the beautiful backdrop, SFMTA provides the vintage vehicles – all that’s missing is you (and the #MuniHeritage hashtag).

The contest opens today and closes upon conclusion of Muni Heritage Weekend on September 27. Full details outlined here. Muni Heritage Weekend runs from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on September 26-27 at Market Street Railway in front of the Ferry Building.

For more information on Muni Heritage Weekend sights and rides, visit the event webpage.

And remember Saturday, September 26, is also the start of another wave of Muni Forward service increases so it will be a weekend of extra vehicles both new and old out serving the public and vying for that perfect shot.

Market Street, west of New Montgomery, in the first half of the 20th century.
Enter the contest to win a limited edition poster reprint of this photo or another historic gem from our archive.

Blog piece: Art Buses on the Street Mark the Start of Muni Art Week

Re-posted from original piece on MovingSF

Monday, September 28, 2015
by Staci Morrison

Artwork by Reynaldo R. Cayetano Jr
Artwork like this piece by Reynaldo R. Cayetano Jr. will grace the streets aboard Muni buses starting this week.

After many months of preparation, public participation and creative development, today Muni Art makes its citywide public debut. Through grants and collaboration from San Francisco Beautiful, this project supports local artists while beautifying commutes around the city.

SFMTA’s dressed-to-impress art buses hit the streets in tandem with the systemwide improvements of Muni Forward, also kicking off this week.

Because more service is literally a beautiful thing.

Actually, it is 50 beautiful things. That’s how many buses now boast the handiwork of artists Ariel Dunitz-Johnson, Phillip Hua, Reynaldo R. Cayeteno Jr., Andria Lo and Todd Berman. This elite collection of creatives rose to the top of over 130 Bay Area artists vying for a Muni bus to call their own. For their efforts, each artist was granted the full interior advertising space in 10 buses to replace with their designs.

Artwork by Andria Lo
Artist Andria Lo honors the beauty and enriching presence of San Francisco’s urban gardens and greening with her project An Urban Garden Portrait.

Each work captures the spirit of San Francisco, translating it into interior car panels so it could ride alongside passengers, the vast landscapes of the City by the Bay bottled into a Muni bus.

Another goal of the project was to spread the dressed buses throughout the City so as many riders as possible would have the opportunity to commute in a moving art gallery. You won’t see the artwork until you step aboard, so if you catch one of these lucky vehicles, share your find using #SFMuniArt. Art will be in place through the end of the year.

In the meantime, stay tuned to the SFMTA blog as we celebrate the many other ways and places art plus transportation dazzle in San Francisco. Each day this week we’ll feature examples of art to be seen, experienced or visited through Muni.

Research piece: LBS for LGBT? Consideration of Grindr as a Political Mobilizer for Equality in 2012 Election Year.

Grinder-location-based-application

Applications for LBS have been around for years, though the market for mobile LBS is recently gaining momentum. For example, Foursquare, the largest LBS company, attracted 21 million of its 25 million worldwide users in the past two years (“About,” 2012; Van Grove, 2012). Foursquare offers users a database of businesses in a given area, so they can “check in” to the business or restaurant they are visiting. Check-ins allow Foursquare users to crowd source tips or insights on specific businesses from other users, and track the places their friends visit. A similar service is Yelp which brings the Yelp! community of user reviewers mobile, syncing photos, tips and check ins with the main online website. Google has also joined the fray, overlaying Zagat business reviews into Google Maps for a now well-know mobile service called “local guides” within Google Maps.

The LBS market is growing as mobile phone users become more comfortable adding location services into their daily routine. However, it is still an evolving market, flowing with demand and innovation. In 2010, Mashable declared startup business Neer as the most practical of the top five location-based services, a leader for its simplicity. Today, the business is defunct.

Considering the volatility of evolving consumer technology, public relations professionals representing LBS companies must keep several unique characteristics in mind. The greatest PR asset within the industry is access to specific audiences and key behavior information. Users provide basic information such as age, city, gender upon sign-up. They then begin using the location-based functions to specify shopping, dining or entertainment preferences. After regular use, all this LBS data coalesce to provide PR and marketing teams with a cohesive profile of its users. Likewise, the connections between users provide another layer of insight to psychographics and attitudes. This convergence of social networks and LBS does two things for communication professionals in the industry: opportunity to use user data to form partnerships with local businesses and potential for personalized, two way, even realtime, interaction with customers.

Partnerships increase the clout of LBS companies, giving them a “real world” presence and linking an online influence to an enhanced offline experience for users. Foursquare has partnered with American Express to provide discounts to Foursquare users at local businesses, and modernizing the AMEX image for younger demographics. This has also benefited local business in both online and offline contexts, bolstering direct sales and boosting online reputation.

Greater personalization depends on regular data from users and responsibility from the LBS company. PR representatives must be prepared to handle concerns about privacy and how LBS companies are securing the data they collect. There are legal issues with data collection from users under age 13; PR representatives must be familiar with these statutes and how to address them to users or the media. One LBS company, Skout, had to shut down it’s teen community after it service was implicated in several rape charges.

Broadcasting one’s location to the world strikes many people as unsettling. Facebook Places, the mobile LBS application for Facebook, failed to rival Foursquare’s explosion of growth because it was perceived to encourage stalking and unwanted behavior tracking. It is of extreme importance that companies are promoting policies to protect users and that PR professionals convey this fact clearly and openly. Perception may trump technical superiority if the public doesn’t feel it can trust an LBS company.

One company that has found unique success in the LBS market despite these challenges is Grindr. Grindr is a social networking service for gay men. Tuning into the dating scene has been tricky for other LBS companies, in large part due to women’s unwillingness to broadcast their location, fearing they will appear too vulnerable. So far, gay men do not have the same concerns, embracing the capability to broadcast and receive these personal details. Although the company bills itself as the “largest and most popular all-male location-based social network” it’s four million users pales in comparison to mainstream, general interest networks like Foursquare.

Still, four million users is significant in the dating LBS scene, especially one focused on a very specific demographic. Grindr’s success lead to the creation of an application for lesbians (Qrushr), and one for straight users (Blendr) to respond to community demand. However, neither Qrushr nor Blendr have had the widespread adoption of Grindr yet. Part of the allure of Grindr was its acute identification with its user base – it met a need that no other business was addressing. Grindr CEO, Joel Simkhai, is openly gay, and created the company to facilitate how gay, curious and bisexual men connect and socialize. Though much of Grindr’s users found the application through word of mouth, savvy PR has also played a part in bringing this company into the attention of mainstream public. For example, Grindr is struggling secure adoption by women, even on Qrushr and Blendr, so the PR team is altering its messaging. Grindr can be an application for straight women to find gay friends who share their interests or may be in the same mall shopping.

But for Grindr, the core of business is the gay community. Simkhai feels a responsibility to use Grindr as a platform for awareness as well as socializing. During the 2012 presidential campaign, Grindr became a platform of social change through the campaign, “Grindr for Equality.” “We must elect not only a president but representatives and senators who are supportive of our community and our equality,” said Simkhai. He knew that all users of Grindr were of legal voting age because of the requirements of the application. Using other user-specific information, Grindr delivered hundred of tailored messages to encourage users to politically support gay rights. For example, users in Minnesota were alerted to Amendment 1, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and encouraged to contact their local representatives.

Successful mobile LBS applications offer companies – and their PR representatives – direct access to a community that can be mobilized to promote a cause or ideal. Grindr is just scratching the surface, but it is possible this tight-knit group of four million was instrumental in voting down Minnesota’s Amendment 1, as well as legalizing gay marriage in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Grindr can capitalize upon these milestones to increase political mobilization, inspiring gay rights activism within the other 191 countries of its users.

Once people embrace a platform in the LBS space, invaluable business and PR outreach opportunities emerge. The future of LBS is engagement, as is the future of new media overall. In LBS, the privacy and adoption stakes are higher but the impact will be more focused, and potentially, more lasting.

 

Sources

“About.” Foursquare. Retrieved from https://foursquare.com/about/.

“Foursquare + AMEX.” American Express. Retrieved from https://sync.americanexpress.com/foursquare/Index?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.

Goldberg, S. (2010, Aug. 19) New Facebook feature raises more privacy concerns. CNN Tech. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/social.media/08/19/facebook.places.privacy/index.html.

“Grindr for Equality.” Grindr. Retrieved from http://grindr.com/blog/grindr-for-equality-election-2012.

“Learn More.” Grinder. Retrieved from http://grindr.com/learn-more.

“Mobile positioning.” PC Mag Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,1237,t=location-based+services&i=47145,00.asp.

Pan, J. (2012, Sept. 8). Grindr CEO: 100 Percent of My Audience Does Not Have Equality. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2012/09/08/grindr-ceo-equality/.

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Blog piece: “What’s it like to be married?”

*Archive re-post! From my now retired personal blog, The Unconventional Newlywed, which was published from 2012-2018.

The other day, a coworker friend asked me if anything changed after I got married.

You’d think after being the oldest person in graduate school, I’d become accustomed to this question. But, it has been a few months since then and my brain has since aged exponentially (due to the oldness).

As a result, this question completed voided my mind of understanding and I was dumbfounded.

What has changed? Changed, like…my name? I just couldn’t think of anything big that is different in life now, that was not so different with that other last name I had, oh whenever that was.

Just two years in, I act like a tenured ball and chain. 

It’s just that once you get over the baffling sloppiness of living with a man, life resumes as before. There are times both your names fit into the same addressee line on bills,  and that whole M-R-S concoction is unsettlingly old-sounding, but these things settle quietly atop life as it always was.

Okay…that’s not entirely true.

For example, today I woke up early and went to the gym. Then I returned home and ate two donuts. Had a cup of coffee, then ate a chocolate chip cookie.

Single girls don’t do that shit. 
Girl, if you had my husband, you could have the whole baker’s dozen.

Alex is forever reminding me how great I look, even as the second Krispy Kreme donut enters my mouth and spills frosted sugar chunks all over my stupidly smiling face.

EXACTLY.
There are more serious changes, too.

My least favorite is finding the leeway between “nagging” and “doting,” aiming to err to the former in attempt to perpetuate myself as The Pants-Wearer. I almost always fail.

 

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Being called nagging is among the worst things to do to a wife, yet what is my retaliation? I am legally, contractually obliged to grin and bear it.

There are books aplenty reminding women that they are not supposed to fly off the handle at their inevitably ridiculous husbands. Instead, we are to learn to channel the seething irritation into baking or how to master the elegant quip.

Marriage is an endless game of strategy.  Monopoly that never concludes.

It’s a test of the wits and the pride. Similar to how going to graduate school made me wonder if I ever deserved any degree, marriage makes you question your self-worth.

Sure, you were the shit in your early twenties. Probably were a nice piece of intellectual curiosity in college (see what I did there?).

But then, you got engaged. You said, “Hey, this person, this guy/gal/thing is a KEEPER! The One.”

Now, take a moment and pull yourself aside to say goodbye to those rollicking days of whimsy and adventure that fed your ego and inflated your sense of personal uniqueness.

Yes, you are still you, you are special, blah, blah, blah.

Fascinating or insipid as you may be, your marriage will not add value to yourself, and it does not remove value. It will, however, make you share everything. Including your reputation and your perception of what’s worth your time, with your partner.

You will have to work harder to stay in touch with your individuality. 

It’s a daily exercise. It makes you stronger if you remember to do it regularly. Just do it a few extra times if you’ve got a soft spot (or a couple pounds of soft spots?) for donuts.

Other than that, life is exactly the same as before but with better company built in…for better or worse.

And look at how happy people are when they take the plunge. The Mr. & Mrs. Morrison, April 2011.

 

 

 

 

Blog piece: The Real Game of Life

*Archive re-post! From my now retired personal blog, The Unconventional Newlywed, which was published from 2012-2018.

Do you want to know why it is hard to be married and a broke graduate student these days? Because America is a mean place to live.

We can all blame this guy:

Don’t be fooled by his gentle, grandfatherly appearance. He is a ruthless hope killer who represses the weak and bolsters the rich. HE IS THE MAN. Damn the man! 

This week I learned how to play Monopoly. Have you ever played Monopoly – the real way? All of my childhood I thought the game was an endless loop about the board, trying to avoid jail and roll doubles every time.

There is money exchanging in the real game. A little economy between players. Who knew?!

I didn’t. Alex taught me (chalk up another point for the husband).

Here’s the catch – the game of Monopoly is just as is sounds. A quest for MONOPOLY.

It is unethical! Illegal!

Especially with only two players, it is inevitable that one player will dominate the board slowly driving the other into defaulting on mortgages and selling little plastic kidneys just to pay for utilities.

Is this America or what? And the game is not even ashamed. Official rules of the game state, winning is not only amassing wealth but making all other players bankrupt.

Look at pretentious old gramps, sneering at your common man-ness.

This game is bad for mental health. Unless your a trust fund baby zooming through life on your daddy’s little tin race car, you’re doomed to an existence of overextended credit.

That said, 3 out of the 4 games Alex & I have played I bankrupted Alex. It’s a terrible thing to watch your partner sink into unresolvable debt while your piles of $500 bills lay watching in ennui.

The view from the wealthy side of the game.

‘Murica. The land where you don’t lend your neighbor money cause you want him to be tortured by the mob in attempt to draw loan repayment from his blood. Fuck yeah. Now I buy a hotel.

Speaking of the greatness of American commercialism, have you all seen this commercial?

It hurts my heart. And not in the way that Prilosec can fix.
Some days, the relentless pursuit of mindless wealth makes me want to quit life and turn back into a monkey.

Other days, I play Monopoly, kick Alex’s ass and think,

“My, what a terrific guy this Alex is.  He lets me win Monopoly without pouting! He is not threatened by any potential or existing successes of mine. He supports me going to school full-time while he works crazy hours. Hmm, he even job hunts for me.”

 “He’s OK with me being the breadwinner.”

Then, I get stressed out by all the pressure and have to leave the game to eat a slice of pumpkin pie. Then I return to give Alex a hug and feel less stressed and a bit more inspired.

As much as I don’t want to be part of our ubercapitalistic society, is it comforting to know that someone around here truly thinks I can succeed in this rat race.