Life hacks are small bits of advice that resolve a problem or just make life a bit more manageable. The best part is that most of these hacks are shared through social media.
Some hacks go viral, like this summer’s YouTube watermelon-cutting videos. The short videos showed us how to cut a watermelon into easy to eat strips instead of messy wedges.
(In case you’re curious: Cut the melon in half lengthwise, place on cutting board flat side down, cut into 1-2 inch strips lengthwise, then repeat cut across, pull out a square and enjoy.)
Last year it was all about figuring out how to break free from a zip tie.
(Use teeth to pull as tight as possible, move the connector in the space between palms, using as much force as possible thrust your forearms against your hipbones.)
There are many more that populate my newsfeed and Twitter accounts.
Life hacks are help us solve important problems, too. Prior to the ability for people to self-publish on YouTube, Pinterest and Facebook, we all had a few tricks up our sleeves that would make life easier. Each of us has a clever way to use resources.
When I have a problem, I now consult the social media hive-mind, and the answers are often surprising and, more importantly, they work. Dent in your refrigerator? Clean it, heat it with a hairdryer, then spray it with an air duster (liquid carbon dioxide). Repeat until dent disappears.
Life hacks aren’t just about solving problems. You can consult social media for creative ideas. Figure out a creative way to hide your garbage cans by building a tiny shed. Or make the perfect favors for your kids’ Halloween party by dyeing pudding green, putting it in clear cups, sprinkling cookies on top, and drawing a Frankenstein face on the outside.
You’re learning to do it yourself because you have access to a worldwide support system of creativity.
My favorite life hack is the camera phone. Every day I take photos of important information. Business cards, presentation slides at a meeting for my kids’ school, a meeting agenda, bills and receipts, and, my favorite, the grocery list my wife writes on the whiteboard on our refrigerator.
If I see something on the board, I take a quick pic and head to the store. It’s also really great for those old family recipes on stained and wrinkled index cards. Don’t write down the ingredients. Take a pic and go shopping.
Life hacks work best when you share the best of them. When you let people know that every Post-it note should be considered a keyboard duster, or that you can put a plastic lazy Susan in your refrigerator, you might be improving someone’s life.
Now it’s your turn. Send me your best life hacks.
Tweet them to me at @adamearn or share them in the comments section below. Working together, we save ourselves time and aggravation and, in the process, we’re a little more connected.
A new academic year kicks off tomorrow for most schools in Northeast Ohio.
You’re probably scrambling to get everyone ready. But while you’re out buying clothes, backpacks and school supplies, be sure to add “mobile apps” to your supply list.
Don’t worry. Most of these apps are free, safe and easy-to-use.
Here’s a list of some of useful apps for making it through another school year:
For some schools in our area, Drund is a must-have app for staying in touch with teachers, parents and students, and for getting important notices about events and other information from your school.
Although not specifically designed for school districts, Drund has found a niche in the education market. School leaders can create community broadcasts; teachers can send private messages to parents; and boosters can manage fundraisers and events.
The reason why Drund works for education as a social media platform is in its simplicity and privacy. They won’t sell your data, but schools have to be willing to pay for their members (e.g., parents, students) to use the site.
Think of it this way: Drund is not Facebook or Twitter. It’s more of a private, controlled version of the bigger social media apps.
Keeping tabs on your kids’ assignments is usually not a big deal, thanks to those elementary school, parent-teacher “communication” folders. But if your kids are like mine, those folders don’t always make it home (and sometimes disappear forever).
Some teachers are ditching these folders for Remind. The app connects parents and students with teachers to get daily updates on homework, tests and other classroom-related information.
Remind also opens up additional communication channels. Teachers are able to initiate safe, two-way conversations with individual students or parents.
Formerly Remind 101, the app is free and easy to use, and available on Android and Apple devices.
This app is for the procrastinating student in your family, or for the alpha students often selected as leaders on the dreaded “group” assignment. Although not created exclusively for the education industry, Taskworld is a useful app for managing assignments and collaborating on group projects.
Taskworld offers a free version that includes most of the same features you’ll find with the paid app. Students can add new members to a group project, create task lists and gauge the amount of time it takes to complete an assignment.
Project members can add files using Google Drive, DropBox and other file management systems. The dashboard feature provides a quick snapshot of projects for up-to-the-second progress reports.
There are far too many good education-management and productivity apps to list here. Check with friends and other parents to find useful apps, and to figure out how to use the ones your kids and teachers already are using.
Documentary filmmakers David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg need your money.
They’re using a popular crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and social media to raise funds to make a documentary about the life of Bill Nye “The Science Guy.”
According to entrepreneur.com, crowdfunding is the process of raising money to fund special projects through many donors (i.e., crowd) using an online platform.
Alvarado and Sussberg initially asked for $650,000 when they launched their campaign in July. Many science-friendly donors and Nye fans were quick to respond, pledging amounts ranging from $5 to $10,000.
The project is flush with pledges totaling a little over $800,000. And the best part: Those pledges came from more than 16,000 backers. This social media community, or “crowd,” came together to fund Alvarado and Sussberg’s project because they found something of value in it.
In my best Nye impersonation: “That’s cool!”
What makes the Nye project even more interesting from a crowdfunding perspective is that it is now the most successful online fundraising campaigns for documentary film project.
Crowdfunded projects usually have a limited timetable for raising money (e.g., 90 days), and the fees and rules for raising that money are different for each platform. Because of this limited time frame, developers are encouraged to use social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to drive potential funders to their “campaign” home page.
Campaigns provide details in the form of text and images, but the most successful usually include a video. It’s the equivalent of a short infomercial.
Alvarado and Sussberg’s infomercial is entertaining, informative and persuasive (it made me want to pledge a few bucks). Their introduction to the project and Bill Nye (who is clearly being a good sport about the whole thing) is clever and interesting, and they provide a quick overview of the project.
Donors pledge money and, in return, they often receive some sort of reward for their donation. I once backed the recording of an album by a band managed by one of my former students, and got two signed copies of the band’s CD for my donation.
Nye documentary donors can receive a bow tie for their dog or a custom Bill Nye coffee mug for a pledge at the $35 level. For $100, donors can get a signed copy of one of Bill Nye’s children’s books, and their name in the film credits, among other goodies.
Although Kickstarter focuses on funding for music, theater, games, comics and other arts-related projects, platforms like GoFundMe and Indiegogo allow developers to raise funds for charity (raising money for medical bills) and educational projects (creating a learning center in the Appalachian Mountains).
Some platforms, such as Crowdfunder, focus on raising investment dollars, regardless of the business. In essence, they’re connecting entrepreneurs with donors who want a stake in the business.
Whether you’re making the next big-budget film, need funds for an art-related project, or looking for help with medical bills, crowdfunding lets you take your idea and need to the masses.
On Dec. 26, 1919, famous baseball slugger George Herman “Babe” Ruth was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees.
Few people outside the Red Sox and Yankee organizations knew about the trade. Fans didn’t hear about the move until the Yankees announced it Jan. 5, 1920.
Did you catch that?
Nearly two weeks passed from the day the trade was finalized until the news appeared in reputable media outlets such as the Boston Globe.
News of losing the prized slugger was met with dismay by some Red Sox fans, and ambivalence by others. The fact is, even if Red Sox fans wanted to complain about the loss, or Yankees fans wanted to gloat about their gain, there were very view venues in which to do so.
The only way Red Sox fans could protest the trade was by refusing to buy game tickets, and refusing to publicly support their beloved team.
Fast-forward almost a century later and the Ruth deal would have certainly made headlines days before the trade. There would have been leaks, speculation, critics and commentators offering opinions and rumors.
In 2015, social media fans and followers would have spread news of the trade. Considering what we know of the “Bambino’s” colorful past, he would have been a social media favorite.
Of course, wild speculation about trades and other news in sports, whether amateur or professional, can quickly turn from rumors to facts in the eyes of the social media community.
Case in point: the New York Mets’ Wilmer Flores trade.
Joel Sherman, baseball columnist for the New York Post, tweeted “Deal with #Brewers is done pending physicals. Gomez to #Mets.”
This was quickly followed by a tweet from Andy Martino, sports writer for the New York Daily News, which read “Sources: Gomez for Flores and Wheeler.”
This news activated the social media sports community and a firestorm erupted. At some point during the game, Flores became emotional after hearing news of his trade to the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s not unusual for players to be traded midgame, especially near the trading deadline. But Flores remained in the game, and many commentators and fans questioned why he was still playing if he had been traded.
Flores was never traded. Sure, a trade was discussed, and apparently a person with knowledge of the trade shared the tip with Sherman, Martino or someone else in the media. But when reputable journalists such as Sherman and Martino report these trades as fact, fans and followers also will treat the information as fact and share it with the world.
In 2015, news of the Ruth trade wouldn’t have lasted two seconds, let alone two weeks before going viral on social media. While it’s not the first time and certainly not the last that social media will get it wrong, the Flores story is a cautionary tale.
Whether it’s in print, on TV or radio, or on social media, the burden is always on the journalist to get the story right rather than reporting it first.
Social media photo tip: If you’re going to break the law, don’t take pictures or videos to share with the world.
Why? (Yes, I have to answer this question).
These pictures could be used against you in a court of law, or worse.
What’s worse than a court of law? The worldwide social media community has a court of its own. It’s the global court of public opinion – albeit amplified by our ability to quickly like, favorite, share and comment on purported criminal acts before someone has even been officially charged with a crime.
Innocent until proven guilty does not exist in social media. You’re guilty if the mob wielding social media pitchforks and torches says you’re guilty.
If you give the mob a photo as evidence of your guilt, sentencing is instantaneous.
This new social media court of public opinion is fueled, in part, by the combination of three important ingredients:
1. The proliferation of cameras and recording devices.
2. The ease of sharing content with a public audience.
3. Stupid people who post dumb pictures and videos.
The sheer amount of cameras and video devices at our disposal is staggering. I just did a quick count of cameras in the Earnheardt house. I found 14. There’s probably one or two I don’t know about.
Two decades ago most of us were using film in our cameras. We didn’t worry about the ease of access to our images. We took pictures, developed them (my favorite was the drive-thru Foto Hut), and reviewed pictures we wanted to share while being careful not to leave fingerprints on the gloss.
Some of the pictures ended up in a photo album. The rest ended up in a shoebox in the back of a closet.
With mobile devices, we take photos and post them for the world to see in a matter of seconds.
Walter Palmer, an America dentist, probably wishes this was 1995, and that the picture taken of him and Cecil the Lion was in a shoebox.
By now you’ve heard Cecil’s plight.
Cecil was one of Zimbabwe’s most-popular lions being studied by a group of Oxford University researchers. The lion was living in a protected zone and was purportedly lured, with meat, into an open hunting area.
According to reports, Palmer paid $50,000 to hunt a lion, not necessarily Cecil. Palmer purportedly shot Cecil with a bow and arrow, tracked it for two days, and ultimately killed it with a rifle.
Then, someone took a picture of Palmer with his prized kill.
That picture, and Cecil’s story, subsequently went viral on social media. The social media mob was quick to sentence Palmer for killing Cecil. PETA, for example, tweeted that Palmer should be “extradited, charged and preferably hanged.”
It was the world v. Walter Palmer.
Of course, Palmer probably would have framed that picture and hung it on his trophy wall at home, not necessarily his Facebook wall.
Hopefully, some people learned an important lesson from all of this. Taking pictures of potentially criminal acts is a bad idea (because they will end up on social media).
Oh, and killing endangered animals is bad, too.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor of communication studies the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA where he also directs the graduate program in professional communication. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers on social media and society.