Could digital help bring back spontaneity?


Water cooler chats in the office this week led to the question: what’s your favourite celebrity quote? While some colleagues liked “I’m kind of a big deal” and “If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody, come sit next to me”, my favourite quote remains the same as when I first set up my Facebook profile back in 2008 – John Lennon’s “Life’s what happens while you’re busy making plans”. It resonates because it’s true. Days packed with tasks – like researching breaks away – feel wasted, and they fill me with dread.

At the moment, My Lovely Husband (MLH) is poring over our iPad in search of the perfect birthday weekend for me. It’s very sweet. But, as I’ve just told him: “It’s very annoying.” I’m demanding, I know. But if you take heed of my favourite John Lennon quote – why should we be busy making plans? Let’s just bloody do it!

Last year I wrote a blog about going on a digital diet – which, by the way, I totally failed doing. One blog follower got in touch to say it inspired them to go on a digital diet, too. I’ve since been in touch with her and she failed, too.

Since we’re not in the dark ages, and we can’t go back to the days of our parents’ spontaneity – for their honeymoon, my mum and dad toured Wales in a white van with a mattress in the back, so they could stop where and when they liked. Today, they would be pulled over by the police and asked to “move along” from their suspicious roadside camp – times have changed, so I’m moving on from a digital diet, and proposing the opposite. Can digital bring back spontaneity? I’ve scoured the digital universe to found some apps to help procrastinators procrastinate no more. Choose a place, choose a date, turn up and use these:

  1. Fill your time in more than 37 cities with Utrip – in minutes, you have a comprehensive day-by-day itinerary, complete with maps.
  2. Make last minute dinner reservations in London with Uncover.
  3. Discover the best experiences and activities with Peek – it uses geolocation technology and allows users to select by category.
  4. Find attractions with Eventseeker – it brings you a culture fix by pinpointing specific exhibitions, concerts, food festivals, and shows that are worth your while.
  5. If you’re forgetful, and you’re going to somewhere without, god forbid, the internet, save your activity suggestions to Pocket and search offline.

MLH is still searching for my birthday weekend retreat, meanwhile, I’ve packed our bags and I’m waiting by the door.

Christmas: it’s not too late to shop


‘Tis the season to shop ‘til you drop. Britain’s John Lewis’ #MontyThePenguin  has made grown men weep whilst Debenhams’ #FoundIt campaign has all but failed.  We are all managing our manic tick as best we can, but if you’re like me, you continue to flick on your phone to monitor online trackers, only to discover that no, in fact the present due to arrive on Friday, still hasn’t – even after paying an extortionate Prime Speedy Amazing Delivery service.

Let’s start a shopping revolution

Britain’s ‘Black Friday’ shopping surge saw retail sales grow at their fastest pace for nearly 27 years, CBI figures showed on 19 December. The survey found 71 per cent of firms reported sales volumes up on a year ago, the highest since January 1988. If only we could all change how we shop.  What a revolution that would be. My husband notoriously buys my present on Christmas Eve each year, so he always gets the best possible deal ­­– romantic, I know. Like him, I’ve tried to shun online (apart from where absolutely necessary) and I like to think I’ve injected my earnings back into the high-street revenue cycle.

You’ll be just fine

I’ve written before of having a digital detox in regards to education, (Stop MOOCING around) but how about a Christmas shopping revolution. Consider this; it’s not too late, I think you’ll find the shops are open.  In fact the shops are open later and longer.  You just have to rid yourself of the panic, and you’ll be just fine.

What I’m not going to do

I have a set of rebellious statements for you:  I’m not going to give out cards with glitter on them anymore.  I’m going to buy perfectly nice mince pies rather than bake them.  I’m going to buy one present for my loved ones and no stocking fillers.  I’m going to avoid the magnetic pull of shopping on the iPad for ‘just in case’.  Most of all, I’m going to be calm and I’m going to ignore the inner nervous pulse that I have forgotten something or someone.

What are you going to do for the next five days, don’t tell me it’s to shop ’til you drop, please?

Picture citation: SimplyPanda Presents, CC BY-SA 2.0

Review: Pocket app


Hands in pockets, looking sheepish – I’ve only just downloaded the Pocket app.

I’ll tell you upfront what this post is about so that you can skim and be on your merry way. It’s about Pocket.  A fairly new app – to me ­– not to the market ­– which has revolutionised my train journey. I apologise in advance for the jerkiness of this post, but I simply have to start with the Alanis Morissette lyrics:

“’cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

And later on:

“’cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is playing the piano

Followed by:

“’cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is hailing a taxi cab

Now, look at all the stuff you can do with one hand in your pocket. Well – as Alanis says –  ‘high five’ to that. With the app you can put stuff – articles, videos and posts ­– in your virtual pocket and save it for later. You can even view your stuff offline.

I like stuff.  I like to read stuff.  I hate waiting for stuff to load or download.  So this is the perfect save-it-for-later app, and 12 million other registered users agree.

So, why have I only just learnt about Pocket?!

Firstly, I’ve been living in a parallel universe where people bookmark stuff (and always forget to search for that same bookmark five minutes later).

Secondly, the parallel universe that I live in also encourages you to colourfully flag your emails, to ‘check later’ – which I almost never do.

And finally (the sensible answer) – I was put in someone’s pocket and saved for later! I checked out my blog referral stats and along with all of the usual suspects, Pocket was high up there.

So far users have saved more than 1 billion items and it’s integrated with more than 500 apps.

Let’s do a final homage to the virtual Pocket with another quote – it’s an oldie but it’s a goodie.  The late Steve Jobs announced the iPod as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put:

“1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Discounting the snotty tissue, don’t the best things come from out of your Pocket?  I think so.

Picture citation: Andreas Nilsson Tie and Pocket-Handkerchief CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Stop MOOCing around


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Picture citation: iPad telephony Per Olof Forsberg, CCBY