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Are you familiar with Penny Forward โ€“ financial guidance for people who are blind?

Today I would like to talk about a really cool resource that I think everyone should know about, Penny Forward. I am passionate about finance and financial literacy and find it unfortunate that so many people who are blind struggle to understand and navigate this complex landscape. Penny Forward is a group devoted to trying to bridge that gap by providing accessible resources, and a community where people can connect with each other to discuss all things relating to finance. From the Penny Forward mission statement:

Penny Forwardโ€™s mission is to help blind people build the knowledge to confidently navigate the complicated landscape of personal finance through education, mentoring, and mutual support.

Mission statement found on Penny Forward’s About page

Penny Forward envisions a world where blind people have the financial knowledge and resources to confidently whether hard times, take advantage of rare opportunities, and more powerfully support causes they deeply care about.ย 

Penny Forward’s vision statement

I’ve really enjoyed participating in and interacting with the Penny Forward community. I’ve found that a variety of financial aspects are discussed: Accessibility of financial resources, information about understanding and establishing credit, information about Able accounts and how to take advantage of them, discussions around budgeting and budgeting apps, discussions for people who are new to investing, and much much more. I’ve found the community to be one built on respect and comprised of people with a desire to help one another.

In addition to the Penny Forward FaceBook group, Penny Forward has a vibrant podcast which covers an incredible amount of topics in a very easy-to-understand way. I also love that many of the podcasts focus on people with their own stories of success, success as defined by them whether that be purchasing a home, retiring, or anything else related in some way to finances. These stories help me to remember that success is really an individualized thing and that helps me better refine what success means to me personally.

If you would like to learn more about Penny Forward, the podcast, the community, or what it’s all about, check out the Penny Forward home page. I have found Penny Forward to be a fantastic community and resource and hope you will too.

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What is your favorite season?

I thought I’d ask a question in this blog post because I find it interesting to learn what peoples’ favorite seasons are and why. My favorite season happens to be fall. No, not because pumpkin spice everything makes an appearance — I actually don’t like pumpkin spice — but because everything feels somehow sharper, fresher, as if there’s an energy as nature prepares for winter. Fall is filled with so many characteristics that I love: The sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet as I walk outside, the crisp air that doesn’t seem to be able to make up its mind about whether to be cold or warm, the birds as they frantically seem to migrate south. Winters are cold here in Minnesota and it’s almost as if everything around me, the trees, the birds, even the people are united in a common desire to get ready for whatever’s coming.

As I sit outside composing this blog post, I can feel, somewhere deep within me, that fall is fast approaching. It’s not a chill in the air — it’s actually a balmy 72 degrees (f), 22 (C). I hear the crickets and other insects around me chirping, not a fast chirp as they do when the temperature starts to drop, but a louder chirp, as if they’re asking each other, “are you ready yet?” There’s a gentle breeze blowing, very gentle, but strong enough to stir the very first leaves that have begun falling from the trees in my yard. As I sense the fast approach of fall, I am filled both with excitement and sadness. Excitement because there are so many aspects of fall that I love, but sadness because it means that summer is slowly coming to an end. I think I feel it especially this year since this has been a summer of connection, connection with people and with a slowly normalizing world and I don’t want those things to end.

So, what is your favorite season? What about it makes it your favorite?

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Why is accessibility often referred to as A11y?

I remember the first time I came across the term ‘A11y’. I had just discovered Twitter and I noticed that very often, the word accessibility was being replaced with this a11y thing. I was very confused, I mean what the heck does A11y mean and how did it come to represent accessibility?

numeronyms

Numeronyms are something you may not have ever heard of, but you’ve probably come across them without realizing it. I found some great examples on the A11Y Project of numeronyms we frequently use, such as Y2K, 24/7, or even 911. These all contain numbers, but are synonymous with other phrases. We generally know that Y2K refers to the year 2000, that 24/7 means 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 911, at least in the US, means help! But how does accessibility fit into this? Accessibility is a long word and this can be problematic, especially in the old days of Twitter when tweets were limited to a maximum of 140 characters. When we look at the word ‘accessibility’, we find that there are eleven letters between the ‘a’ and the ‘y’. If we remove all those letters and substitute them with the number 11, we magically have A11y, clear as mud, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always clear and for many people, including yours truly, it’s confusing when first encountered. But, where space is at a premium, changing accessibility to A11y can be very useful. On Twitter — yeah I’m kind of addicted to Twitter — A11y is often used as a hashtag, a method for quickly finding Tweets related to a particular subject.

It’s A11y, NOT Ally!

I remember the first time I heard the term ‘ally’ in reference to accessibility, it was my first day at Deque Systems. I was super excited and honored to be part of Deque’s awesome team and even better for me, I joined just before Deque’s annual meeting and so I got to meet my co-workers in person. At that meeting, my boss at the time was distributing these ‘Ally’ stickers that we could proudly display on our laptops. I had no idea what ‘ally’ meant, but being the new guy, I didn’t want to ask what seemed like a really stupid question. Besides, I really wanted the sticker, I mean who doesn’t want a really cool shiny laptop sticker? And so I got my sticker, I put it on my laptop, and six months later, I finally figured out the mystery. Apparently, the number 1 looks like a lower case ‘l’. Having never read print though, this was totally not obvious to me. Once I understood that the number 1 and lower case ‘l’ look similar, this made total sense, but only because someone explained to this non-print reader that the number 1 and lower case ‘l’ look similar. Making this even more confusing, screen readers don’t pronounce the word ‘ally’ the same way. They probably should, but sometimes, they pronounce ‘ally’ as ‘alley’ as in a path between two buildings, and those are two very different words indeed. The point is, while A11y may be confusing, using the word ‘ally’ could exacerbate that confusion, especially for non-print readers. As an aside, I still have that sticker and think fondly of my wonderful time at Deque whenever I come across it. ๐Ÿ™‚

So, that’s the big mystery of how A11y came to represent accessibility. A11y is just one of many numeronyms, it’s just not one that people use every day and so it’s not readily apparent what it means. If you use ‘A11y, especially in presentations, try whenever possible to also use the word accessibility, so that others make the association. And if you use the word ‘ally’ for ‘A11y’, just know that this may be confusing for people who rely on screen readers, or who do not read print. Oh, and of course, if you use ‘ally’, be sure to follow it up with a shiny sticker, because laptop stickers are just awesome.

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Connections and reflections

For today’s blog entry, I wanted to try and find two words that could sum up my day and I learned that it’s not really that easy to sum up an entire day in just two words. The more I thought about it, the more difficult this became. The thing is, a lot of things happened in my day and I don’t think I truly realized that until I tried to sum it up. I spent time outside in my little vegetable garden, I attended meetings, did work stuff, met some co-workers for lunch, had a nice long chat with friends, had a game night with friends and family, exercised, ate some really incredible food, read articles on a variety of topics, received a package from a friend; How can that be summed up in just two words?

For me though, one of the things about my day which has kind of been thematic is connection. I had lots of opportunities today to just connect with others and I’m truly grateful for those opportunities. I connected with some people in person, others over FaceTime, a few over Zoom, and of course there’s always social media. The important thing is that with each connection, I got to be part of someone else’s world and had the opportunity to let them be part of mine, even if ever so briefly. Regardless of whatever form it may take, connection is such an important thing to me, it’s how I learn, it’s how I share, it’s how I grow. For me, connection is often my source for inspiration and motivation.

Today, we have more options than ever before to connect with others and yet as I think about my own life, especially over this past year, I think I connect with others less often than ever before. Oh sure, I frequently have text conversations with people, and I social media a lot (can that be a verb?) and I may even call a friend from time-to-time, but today I had an opportunity to connect with two friends, in different parts of the world. We chatted for hours and it was absolutely wonderful just to catch up with each other and to learn about what has transpired in each other’s lives since we last spoke. And while it was wonderful to catch up, I feel a little bad because it truly has been a while. I mean, connecting couldn’t be easier and it’s cheaper than ever before. And yet I know I don’t connect with people, really connect, with people as often as I probably should. So that’s something I’m going to definitely work on because while we have more asynchronous ways to connect than ever before, there’s nothing quite as awesome as just having a good ol’ conversation with friends.

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A high-level overview and comparison of Apple’s Fitness Plus and Peloton, from my perspective

In an effort to become more fit, I’ve been exploring a variety of apps and services and in this post, I thought I would provide a high-level comparison of two popular options: Apple Fitness Plus and Peloton. I should note that I do not currently own any Peloton equipment, so I’m specifically comparing their streaming class offering in this post.

As I wrote an in earlier post, I’m all about gamification as this is an incredible motivator for me. Applying this to exercise though has been a real challenge. My relationship with exercise is, well, it’s complicated. Actually it’s not really that complicated, it’s down-right adversarial. I hate exercising, I’ve never enjoyed it. I know people say that exercise makes them feel alive and wonderful, but as I sit here with my feet up after having completed back-to-back bike workouts in preparation for this post, I am not among that group. That said, I know exercise is important, and I know it’s essential if I am going to reach my fitness goals, not that knowing any of that helps me like exercise any better.

Apple Fitness Plus

I was really excited when I heard that Apple was launching their Fitness Plus service. Apple makes everything seem incredibly cool, and so I immediately wondered: Could they have somehow found a way to make that apply to exercise? In order to use Fitness Plus, you need both an iOS device and an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch part is the most important as without that, you can view the catalog of workouts, but can’t participate in any of them. Signing up is incredibly easy as Fitness Plus is just a tab in the Fitness app which is pre-installed with iOS. The really cool thing with Fitness Plus is that while I’m doing a workout, your metrics such as heart rate and Apple Watch rings progress (calorie burn, exercise minutes and stand minutes) are displayed on-screen. Fitness Plus also has something called the “burn bar” which allows me to see how I stack up against others who have recently completed the same workout. This can be either motivating or discouraging, but fortunately, it can be turned off. From an accessibility perspective, Apple has really done a great job with Fitness Plus. When an instructor wants to draw attention to a particular ring, such as the exercise ring, VoiceOver automatically reads the ring’s current progress. If the instructor wants to draw attention to heart rate, those numbers are also automatically announced. Most importantly, at least for me, VoiceOver reads when a timer starts and stops, along with the timer’s duration, timers are used in the workouts to time all-outs, or similar intervals. I am able to find whatever data I need on-screen, but having data automatically announced when the instructor is focusing on it is really convenient. Closed captioning is also available for many, if not all of the workouts. Unfortunately, audio description is not available, so if I’m not sure how to do a particular exercise, I’m kind of stuck. That said, many of the instructors try to be descriptive which definitely helps.

Peloton

Until very recently, I was under the impression that in order to use any of Peloton’s services, I would first need to own Peloton equipment such as their bike or treadmill. This is not true though as their streaming class offering does not require one to have Peloton equipment. Setup of the Peloton app was pretty straight-forward although I ran into a few accessibility issues during the setup process, most notably, I had a heck of a time checking the checkbox indicating that I agree with their terms of service.

Peloton offers both live and on-demand classes which is really neat. In theory, if someone wanted to exercise with me, we could agree to both attend the same live class. While in a class, I can see who else is in the class with me (there user names, not video or anything like that) and sometimes the instructors will shout out encouragement to a specific person. I love this because it provides the feel of being in an actual class. Peloton allows me to add friends and then it’s apparently possible to share workout histories with one another, in addition to participating in challenges. Since I have just very recently started trying Peloton, I do not currently have any friends on the app, so haven’t gotten to play with the friend-related features yet — I’m SteveOfMaine by the way, if anyone wants to add me. ๐Ÿ™‚

The other thing I like about Peloton is that while they offer fewer workout categories than Apple Fitness Plus, they have a more extensive library of classes, and as just mentioned, many are live. One additional feature that I particularly like is that classes can be scheduled right within the app. For me, my calendar is sacrosanct and if I schedule classes, I’m way more likely to hold myself accountable. Each class also has a difficulty rating and a brief plan of what to expect, in contrast, Apple Fitness Plus workouts are available “to all abilities with modification”, whatever the heck that really means. Peloton’s class description is more specific than Fitness Plus, and as someone who likes knowing what’s about to happen and when, I really appreciate that.

Summary

I’ve only written a high-level comparison of Apple Fitness Plus and Peloton. There are many features of both apps which I didn’t discuss and in the case of Peloton, probably many features I haven’t even discovered yet. In terms of Apple Fitness Plus: I love the very tight integration with Apple Watch, I love how VoiceOver automatically announces metrics and other data when it’s being focused on by the instructor, and I love that there are numerous workout categories available. In terms of Peloton: I love the social aspect of it, especially since I’m not brave enough to attend classes in person. In addition Peloton offers many challenges and the possibility to unlock achievements — can we say gamification? Also, with Peloton, I have a better idea of how difficult a class may be and also a clearer description of exactly what will be coming up in a class and when.

Ultimately I’m not sure which service will be best for me long-term, but I’m at least a little more excited about exercise than I was before discovering these services. As far as cost, both services are priced similarly with Apple Fitness Plus costing roughly $10/month and Peloton around $13/month. Fitness Plus is also part of Apple’s Apple One bundle and I believe Peloton has different pricing if you own their equipment.

As I’m still exploring both apps, I may have more information to share as I discover it. If there’s a particular aspect you’d like me to write more about, let me know and I will certainly do my best. On that note, I should probably publish this and get to bed, after all, I’m going to need to rest up for tomorrow’s workout. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Gabby’s last day at work.

Today was Gabby’s last day at work. For those who don’t know, Gabby is my daughter and in just ten days, she will be off to North Dakota State University where she plans to major in pediatric nursing. I’m super proud of her, she’s overcome a lot of medical and other challenges to get to this point and I know that she is going to make a fantastic pediatric nurse. Gabby’s passion for nursing really began because when she was going through her own medical issues, the pediatric nurses made such a difference in her life. And so today was her last day at work. She’s been working at two jobs and unlike so many kids today, has been saving her money for college. I’m super proud of her, but also a bit sad that in ten short days, she’ll be off to college and and whatever life holds in store for her.

And so while she prepares to journey forth and begin living the rest of her life, I need to start figuring out what comes next for mine. It truly is amazing just how fast time flies.

I know this blog entry is not very long, but today has been a day of reflection for me. And while I will certainly miss Gabby as she goes off to find her own path in life, I am very proud of the young woman she has become and I am excited to see how her life’s story will unfold.

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QWERKYWRITER, one of the coolest keyboards I’ve ever used

Steve holding the QWERKYWRITER keyboard
Steve holding the QWERKYWRITER keyboard

Inspired by the classic typewriter, the QWERKYWRITEr is one of the coolest and most interesting mechanical computer keyboards I’ve ever used. Now, I realize that some of my readers may never have used a good ol’ typewriter which is kind of sad. I mean they will never know the joy of erasing character by character, just hoping the correction ribbon hadn’t run out yet. They will never understand the feelings that come after typing a masterpiece only to realize that the latest few sentences were permanently inked on the roller because the paper had run out minutes earlier. Ah, but these were the norm for those of us who used typewriters back in the day and did we complain? … Yes, yes we did. . ๐Ÿ™‚

Typewriters weren’t all struggle though, they had many advantages that one just doesn’t find in most computer keyboards these days. For one thing, a typewriter was a solid, almost immoveable object. Generations of people might come and go, but the typewriter would remain where it was, impervious to it all. I used to drum my fingers on the edge of the typewriter while I pondered what I planned to write next, something that is challenging for me now that so many keyboards hardly have edges anymore. There was never any question as to whether a key was pressed hard enough or not because a hard click would signify success, almost as if the typewriter were saying, “Hey friend, I got you..”. And of course there was a certain gratification that could only be realized after hammering on the return key at the end of an angry letter or memo, as if that would truly help to emphasize the point. I found out that this isn’t very advisable with modern keyboards after I once hit the spacebar with a little too much vigor: The spacebar flew across the desk, a little plastic piece flew across the room, and I’m pretty sure the spring is still in orbit somewhere around the Moon.

When I first heard about the QWERKYWRITER, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. It wasn’t until I listened to a wonderful podcast demo by David Woodbridge that I decided that this was something I really just had to have. The QWERKYWRITER looks and feels like a typewriter. The case is made out of solid aluminum and while it’s much easier to transport than its namesake, it’s still very solid. On the top of the unit, toward the back, is what looks like the old paper trays that used to collect page after page of writing. This has been repurposed into a stand that can accommodate many tablets. On the sides of the unit, again toward the back, are roller knobs, one on each side. These even have the little grooves on them, just like the knobs that were used to roll paper in or out of the typewriter. Of course these too have been made modern and functional, one serves as a volume control wheel and the other as a scroll wheel. Along the right-hand edge of the unit is a rocker-switch, yep an honest-to-goodness rocker switch that is used to turn the unit on or off. The keycaps are also very solid-feeling with a gap between the cap and the metal platform beneath the key. In order to create a similar feel to the typewriter, German engineered Cherry MX “clicky” switchesย  are used creating an experience that is incredibly smooth, while retaining a solid click sound as each key is pressed. And oh my gosh! I almost forgot about the cast metal return macro bar which is found along the top left-hand edge of the unit. Yep, while this bar used to advance the paper in the typewriter, it’s a programmable key on the QWERKYWRITER that can be programmed to type up to fifteen characters. I have this programmed to type my name — just type Sawczyn a few times to see why it’s so incredibly handy to relegate this to a press of a lever.

Of course there are some differences between the modern QWERKYWRITER and a typewriter, there’s no 10-key number pad for instance. I know, I know, many people love their numpad, but the typewriter didn’t have one either, so if they had added it, it’d kind of be cheating. The QWERKYWRITER also supports bluetooth connectivity with up to three devices, and also USB connectivity. The QWERKYWRITER does not come with a dust cover, but if you really miss that, or if you just need to have a carrying case, wrist rest, or other accessory, they have plenty available.

Curious what the QWERKYWRITER, with its mechanical switches, return bar, and rocker-switch sounds like? I’ve made a brief recording.

Sound clip of the QWERKYWRITER as recorded by Steve

I really love this keyboard and truly appreciate having received it as a very unexpected gift. Not only is the typing experience absolutely fantastic and comfortable, but this keyboard brings back memories, memories of a time that unfortunately, many people will not be able to appreciate in quite the way I did. Sure the typewriter might be considered old fashioned these days, but for me, the typewriter opened up my entire world. The typewriter allowed me to produce documents that sighted people could read. The typewriter allowed me to write letters to friends and businesses, complete my own homework assignments independently, and so much more. Having a reminder of that on a device I get to use every day is incredibly powerful for me because it helps me realize that while technology continues to evolve, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the typewriter of yesterday.

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Day One, the app that has made journaling fun for me.

Today, I’d like to talk about Day one, a cross-platform journaling app that, for me, has made journaling a joy. Journaling is something I’ve done on and off throughout my life, but definitely not with any consistency. The one time I did journal regularly though was during a year I spent in Germany as an exchange student. I’m super glad I did as I was able to capture many fond memories of my time there; maybe a topic for future blog posts. Anyway, I was talking to a friend about that experience and he asked why, if I enjoyed it, didn’t I continue journaling regularly? I had all kinds of excuses: not enough time, I was too tired by the end of the day, and many more.. My friend told me about Day One and as he was so passionate about it, I decided to give it a try.

The thing I really love about Day One is that it’s really a lot more than a traditional journal. Sure it’s possible to write a journal entry, but it’s also possible to capture audio, video, and images. There are also multiple ways to submit content to Day one: the Day One app (iOs, Android, and Apple Watch), Email, the iOS share sheet, SMS text message, even IFTTT can be used. Being able to capture all of these things in a single app makes it much easier to journal life as it happens and that’s very powerful. In addition, Day One can gather data in the background such as your location, the current weather, what music you might happen to be listening to, and more. This extra data is added to a special section of the journal entry and while it might not always matter what kind of weather I’m experiencing or what music I might happen to be listening to, that extra data adds context that I probably wouldn’t have added on my own.

One of my favorite Day One features is On This Day, a feature that shows all entries that were made, well, on this day. I find that I use this feature every day before bed, just to see what I was up to on any given day, last year, two years ago, or even further back. I find it so interesting to read my perspective on things and then to think about how those perspectives have changed. This has been especially interesting as I look back at my life last year during the pandemic. Entries can also be searched by tag or location making it easy to find entries pertaining to a particular place or event.

I’m admittedly a bit of a privacy nut and the idea of entrusting private data to any app or service was initially incredibly terrifying to me. In addition, I didn’t want to invest significant time putting data into an app that I couldn’t get it back out of if needed. Day One has put my fears to rest on both counts. Day One Protects journals with biometric security, end-to-end encryption, and automatic backups with the ability to export data anytime. Day One is also extremely transparent about the cryptographic methods they use and have published papers on the subject. Finally, and most important to me, Day One is very accessible and any time I’ve found an issue, the team has gotten it fixed extremely quickly. There’s a reason they are an award-winning app and I think their commitment to accessibility helps with that.

I realize journaling isn’t everyone’s thing, but especially if it’s something you’ve never done, using Day One might make the process fun and enjoyable for you, just as it has for me. Day One is available in both a free and premium version, I think I used the free version for about an hour before deciding that the upgrade to premium was well worth it. For me, journaling has gone from something I thought I would dread doing, to something I look forward to doing and I credit Day One for making the entire process, from capturing memories to recalling them later, very easy and enjoyable.

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for me, it’s all about the audio

I’ve always loved recording and listening to audio, ever since I received a Fisher Price tape recorder as a child. Indeed while so many people capture their world in photos, I capture mine as much as possible in audio. And just like with photos and video, evolving technology has made it easier to capture audio more easily and in much higher quality.

Note, all of the clips in this post should be listened to while wearing headphones, you will not have the same effect if listening through speakers.

Virtual haircut

I’ll never forget the day I learned about binaural recording. Binaural recording is a technique which allows audio to be captured in more than just stereo, it’s recorded almost exactly as the listener hears it, with the audio surrounding the listener. Anyway, I first discovered this when a friend told me about this incredible video of a virtual barber shop. I listened to the video and was totally blown away by just how realistic everything sounded. For the first time, I felt like I was truly part of the audio scene, not just listening to it.

Virtual hair cut on YouTube

I was absolutely blown away. I immediately thought of all the things in life I wanted to record with that same level of audio quality. I no longer just wanted to listen to recordings, I wanted those recordings to transport me back to exactly where I was when they were made. And so I set out to figure out how I might be able to do this.

Hooke Verse

I soon discovered Hooke Verse, a bluetooth binaural recording headset. The way it works is very simple, the headset, which is like a pair of earbuds connected to each other with a wire connects to my phone via bluetooth. Each earbud has some additional microphones, so while I’m wearing them, audio is captured in the same way my ears would capture that same audio. In addition, the microphones allow me to hear what’s being recorded, so I can hear what’s going on while I’m recording. I received my Hooke Verse the day before leaving for a conference and so I decided to try and record the sounds of my flight getting ready to take off. The following is an excerpt of that first recording.

Excerpt of my first recording with Hooke Verse

Since acquiring Hooke Verse, I’ve made all kinds of recordings: Christmases, my children’s school concerts, audio while traveling, and so much more. It’s been wonderful to be able to listen to these recordings and to experience them exactly as they were originally recorded.

Sennheiser AMBEO

One thing that always bothers me is being dependent on a single solution, what happens if that solution goes away? And so I wanted to find another method for making binaural recordings. Eventually, I discovered another binaural headset, the Senheiser AMBEO. While somewhat similar in earbud-type design to Hooke Verse, the main difference with the AMBEO is that it is not bluetooth. As such I need to be tethered via cable to my phone while using it. One advantage though is that I can use it to record directly in multiple iOS applications. I decided to test the AMBEO by recording a rain shower at my house (yeah, going out in the rain with new technology somehow seemed like a good idea at the time). While I’m on my covered back stoop when this recording starts, I eventually walk into the rain; listening to the audio, see if you can tell the difference.

Recording in the rain with the AMBEO

I love binaural recording, I think it makes audio come to life in ways never before possible. Binaural recording can also be combined with video providing a truly immersive experience. I suspect this technology will only continue to improve and as someone who loves experiencing the world through audio, I’m excited to see what comes next.

Thank you for coming on this little audio adventure with me, I hope this has helped give you a taste of just how amazing capturing the world in audio can be.

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For me, streaks are such a powerful motivator and I have no idea why.

Originally, I was going to title this post, “My Thoughts On Streaking”, but at the last moment, I thought that just might seriously send the wrong message and draw the wrong kind of attention. :). But I do want to talk about streaks today because I’ve come to recognize that for me, they’re an incredible motivator and I’d really love to figure out why.

What do I mean by streak? You’ve probably come across them in apps that recognize you for using them consistently. For example, yesterday, I got a notification from WordPress recognizing my 6-day streak because I’ve posted to my blog consistently for the past six days. But these streaks are everywhere: My journaling app, Day One, shows my current streak which is based on my writing at least one entry per day. The app I use to help me manage weight loss, Lose It!, shows a streak based on the number of days I log all my meals. And these are just two examples, my phone and digital life are filled with many many more.

I think the first time I really started noticing and paying attention to streaks was with the old version of what is now called Swarm. Swarm is a check-in app that allows you to virtually “check in” to a location and share that check-in with your friends. I thought the idea behind this was cool because seeing the places that my friends were checking in to, gave me ideas on places I might want to visit. In fact, I’ve tried many restaurants and attended many events inspired by the check-ins of my friends. Swarm took this concept one step further though and made it possible for users to become a virtual mayor of a place if they had the most check-ins at that place. I absolutely loved this concept and collected many virtual mayorships; I was even the proud virtual mayor of a number of bus stops in Minneapolis at one point. And while these virtual mayorships didn’t have any real value, I was absolutely hooked by the gamification of it all. In fact, I was even a tiny bit sad when my little mayorship empire was overthrown after a job change no longer necessitated my visiting my usual bus stops.

And so I’m curious, is anyone else motivated by streaks? I mean I figure people must connect with them in some way as otherwise apps wouldn’t have them, and yet, I haven’t heard anyone really talking about this topic or the psychology behind it. So, what do you think, or what have your own experiences been with streaks? Let me know in the comments below. And with that, I better get this entry posted quickly, so that I hit my 7-day blogging streak. ๐Ÿ™‚