Category Archives: Wondermama 2.0

Why Twitter?

twitter-logoI’ve been wanting to put into words what I love about Twitter for a while now, but have found it difficult to articulate.  Particularly when faced with friends who aren’t engaged in any social media at all and stand there scratching their heads, I’m at a loss about where to begin and generally don’t even try.  But with all the media coverage about Twitter lately, I’ve felt more compelled to say my piece about it.  It started with Maureen Dowd’s snarky op-ed piece in the NYT in which she suddenly shifted in my mind (temporarily, I hope) from a witty, on-the-mark writer to a cranky, bitter older woman who’s ready to be permanently left behind by the younger generation.  This led to some excellent rebuttals, which ranged from serious to sublimely funny. I highly recommend you read all three of these articles.

Let me start by saying that I first joined Twitter sometime in 2007 and it was incredibly lame: there was almost no one there, which led to a complete lack of interesting conversation.  When prodded by my husband and our friend to rejoin last summer, I reinstated my account on a lark and found a very different world.  All of a sudden, tons of people were on Twitter and its existence made sense.  (I did the same thing with Facebook, by the way; social media is not necessarily a realm worthy of one’s early adoption.)  So I understand why people on Twitter who aren’t connected to friends who use it often would say they just don’t get it, because I was in that boat the first time around – it seemed really dumb.

Next, I will say that I probably use Twitter differently from a lot of people. I use it for three main purposes: 1) social interaction with friends; 2) sharing info links and resources, primarily relating to special needs topics and politics; 3) tracking breaking news (i.e., I get feeds from a lot of news sources such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Windy City, NBC Chicago, NPR Politics, Slate, and Barack Obama); this is where I get headlines throughout the day that keep me in touch with the world.

I keep my account private (no one can follow my “tweets” without my consent) and am very picky about who I follow.  Most of the people I follow are relatives (my husband, sister- and brother-in-law, cousins, and father are on Twitter), old school friends, newer friends, or those whose blogs I have followed for a long time.  This keeps my Twitter stream pretty intimate. I’m not in the market to grow my follower list.

Having ongoing mini-conversations with a group of friends on Twitter reminds me of 20th century party lines on telephones.  A few of us can reply to one friend’s comment or question at once and all see each other’s answers, which leads to further information, jokes, and comments.  At times, we pick up the line and everyone is talking at once and it’s so hard to follow we put it back down quietly.  Thankfully, there are a variety of Twitter applications that will show us an entire string of tweets so that we can catch up on a conversation.  I’m sure the folks on party lines would’ve appreciated that feature.

Sure, what we are talking about may not always be fascinating to the outside world, but do you enjoy having to listen to the person next to you on the airplane talking to her best friend about last night’s work party before take-off?  No, it’s irritating and trivial as all get out, unless you are on the other end of the line and you actually care about the person and are interested in what she’s saying.  As Matt pointed out, the things people complain about being so “boring” on Twitter are the exact same things we chat with our friends about on a phone call: where we had lunch, something funny one of the kids said, a frustration with a friend or relative, losing one’s lab coat on the first day of the phlebotomy program.  It’s the small successes and challenges of life that friends talk to each other about, no matter how we choose to communicate them.

Personally, I have gained huge value in getting a sense of the flow of other women’s lives.  Thanks to cell phones and smart phones, many of us can use Twitter from absolutely anywhere, even attaching a photo of something we want to share and sending it in mere seconds, which personalizes the interaction that much more and can’t be accomplished in a phone call.  I have friends near and far with whom I’m in contact throughout the day, every day.  I can tell you whose child didn’t sleep last night, who’s planning for her child’s 1st communion tomorrow (and the fact that they’re low on gin!), who is playing music at a cafe tonight, and whose husband is late getting home – again.  We know each other very well.  For me, as someone who has been through a major transition over the past couple of years and has been working like a crazy woman, it’s useful (“regulating”, as we’d say in the business) to be in contact with people who are keeping a different pace.  Over time, it has come to seem normal to me that people might be able to go to the grocery store in the middle of the day, write a blog post after preschool drop-off, or have a chance to read a book on a rainy afternoon before the grade school pick-up.  Sure, my fellow travellers are tired and busy and often stressed, with a few working long hours outside the home like I am, but I am also able to connect consistently to a different pace of life and it has had a positive effect on me.  I even attribute some of my desire for changes to my own routine and pace next year to the contact I have with woman doing other things with their days.  I see the full range of possibilities;  I don’t think that truly happens in any other way.

So to those curmudgeons who scowl and ask, “Why wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and call your friends?” I can only say that I do that, too, and I enjoy chatting with them.  But being able to pick up my cyberphone and find myself on a party line at any time of the day with funny, smart, and supportive friends?  That’s pretty great, too.

Giveaway!

I’m hosting an iPhone application giveaway over on Wondermama 2.0 – head on over and check it out!

New Spin-off: Wondermama 2.0

I am in the midst of a project to separate some of the content on The Wonderwheel.  Most exciting to me is the new professional blog that I am creating right now, and that will be unveiled after my fantastic design team has worked its magic over there.

But for tonight, I will share a very small spin-off blog called Wondermama 2.0, where I will post technology-related information for the busy mom.  For now there is old content from this blog up there, just to get it started.  It won’t be as active as the other two, but I hope to post a little something now and again over there.

(And I really like the new header!)

Enjoy!

Mama 2.0 is GEEKED OUT.

Okay, so I had something else to talk about today, but it is clear that I made a big mistake yesterday, so let’s clear that up first.  I accidentally wrote about my iPhone love the day before iTunes opened its new Applications store (yes: Music, Videos, Podcasts…and Applications).  Supposedly, we iPhone users weren’t going to be able to access these until tomorrow, but thanks to a tip from this blogger and some technical assistance from this husband, I have been able to geek out for hours today.  (Did I mention it’s Day 2 of 2 when the boys are both in camp this summer? And that Lyle came home and is napping while Baxter’s still at camp?)  Here is the info on how to do it today, if you are inclined to be at the head of the pack.

So here’s the thing.  We live in the future in a really big way.  I downloaded a ludicrous number of applications that range from incredibly useful to sublimely ridiculous…for free.  And they hardly took up any memory.  And if I don’t tell you about some of them, I am going to burst.  So the more serious post lined up for today?  You can come back and read that tomorrow, if you are so inclined.  But for now: technogeek time.

Highlights from the “incredibly useful” category:

* The new Contacts button on my home screen.  THANK YOU, Apple, for not making me go digging for that any longer!  Hiding that in the Phone category was just plain silly.  I love you to bits, but it just was.

* The If Found button that provides my phone number and a reward amount in case the phone gets lost.  I love that the icon is a dollar sign – what else would someone touch first if they found an iPhone just lying there?  “Hmm…what have we here?  Ooh, someone dropped their iPhone?  Aha – and maybe if I push this button I can get some cash, too!”

* The very nice Bank of America application that allows me to log securely into my bank so that I can check balances, transfer money, etc. when I’m away from the computer.  Which is quite useful for my business banking needs.

* Dial Zero: This application has a seemingly endless number of businesses to choose from or search for.  When you select one, it dials you – now, get this – straight to a human operator!  Of course, my grandparents don’t have an iPhone, but when I was staying with my grandmother, I spent a long time trying to find a human being for her to talk to at Medicaid about her prescriptions, and I just saw that I can select that company and be taken directly to a woman for her to rake over the coals next time.  Priceless!

* I’m impressed with Exposure, which links to my Flickr photo account, allowing me access to all of my photos with a nice, simple interface.

* There are some great new productivity applications for the phone as well.  I am currently trying out both Jott and EvernoteJott looks especially cool in that it takes voice recordings through the phone and transfers them into text for me.  And then I can organize them into my to do lists and files.  Whoa.  Both have potential to help with organizing my to do lists.  See what I mean about living in the future?  I just got this for FREE, Wonderfriends. (And by the way, these two applications are also on the web for free – check them out!)

Highlights from the Sublimely Ridiculous category:

* Multiple applications for Twitter.  I am trying out Twittelator and Twitterfic (which  is one I am familiar with).  Apparently you can set up Twittelator to send an all-points-bulletin to all of your contacts if you are ever in an emergency, which comes complete with your exact location.  Could be handy.

* Shazam! (They don’t put that exclamation point there, that’s all me.) When you open Shazam – seriously, listen to this one – you can hold your phone up near music that’s playing, and it will “listen” for a few moments, tell you the artist and song name, and then link you to iTunes or the music video if you wish.  You can also create an album of songs you capture on Shazam.  Huh?!  Oh, and I tried it – it works.

There are also a few I downloaded with next week’s solo flight with the boys in mind:  Moo, Phone Saber (makes lightsaber sounds when you move the phone – and of course shows one on screen, complete with color choices – !), JirboMatch, Yes/No (a simplified Magic 8 Ball!) and Finger Paint.

I should add that if I were willing to pay something for downloads, there would be infinitely more to choose from, but for now I have plenty of freebies to keep me busy.

iPhone users out there, tell me what you find in the iTunes Application store that is useful and/or ridiculous – I have equal respect for both!  I’m looking for your advice, insights, and suggestions.

iPhone Love

I’ve wanted to post about the wonders of my iPhone for about a year now, but I still find myself somewhat sheepish about the fact that I own one.  I want to say to everyone who sees it, “I’m running a business – it was a much-needed tax write-off last summer!!” as if anyone actually cares how I pulled it off.  However, I don’t hide it when I’m in groups like I did for the first few months (when just pulling it out of my bag attracted a large group of curious folks), but I do try to lay low with the thing.  At any rate, I decided to post about it because I realized two things recently:

1)  I’ve had it for a full year now, and I am still madly in love with it every single dingle day; and

2)  Now that the new one is coming out at a far more reasonable price, more people might be thinking about purchasing them, and therefore more interested in what I have to say about it.

So I won’t go on and on, but I’ll give you a few things that have made the biggest difference for me:

* Direct access to my personal and work email accounts anytime I want.  This is useful when stuck in traffic or waiting for a client, but especially excellent when I am traveling.

* Very easy key pad that pops up for typing.  People seem to be frightened of it, but believe me, you get used to typing on it within a few days, and the word prediction feature works very well for me.  I can write long emails, comment on blog posts, and send lengthy, grammatically correct text messages quickly and easily.  As I once wrote about, even a 6-year old can pick it up and start using text messaging well.

* The visual voicemail is just amazing.  I’m a big fan of the little numbers that show me how many voice mails and text messages I have, and I can choose which new message I want to listen to by touching that name or number. If I need to fast forward or rewind, I just move the little bar where I want to listen.  Actually, the whole phone/contacts feature is incredible to me.  Every bit of information in my MacBook’s Address Book is synched up with my iPhone, making it easy to make calls and look up addresses (which can be touched to pull up a map and directions to that location – and now there is a real GPS feature on the new ones).  I have also assigned my favorite photos of family and friends to their contact pages so that when they call I get to see their shiny, happy faces.

* It’s my iPod.  All of my music is on this thing.  And here’s a scenario for you from a drive to work (when I’m not carpooling): the iPhone is connected through the car stereo so that I can listen to whatever I want in the car.  I’m wearing my BlueTooth headset.  I’m jamming to music when all of a sudden, the music is turned down for me automatically because a call is coming in.  I touch my ear piece and answer the phone.  No sudden turning music down or off, or fumbling with the phone to answer.  That’s one smart piece of technology.  As soon as I hang up the call, my music comes back on. This never fails to amaze me.

* The camera on the iPhone is quite good.  I frequently take a shot of a child I’m working with doing something fabulous, and I zip it off to their parents via email in the middle of a therapy session.  As you might imagine, they love getting these.   I also love to send a cute shot to Matt or the grandparents seconds after I capture it.

The awesome thing about the iPhone is that it just keeps getting better.  Apple continues to roll out upgrades that I get automatically by synching it with my computer, and Google seems to be working overtime to make all of their super cool applications work on it.  On my iPhone home page, which I can now customize, I have added buttons for my Google Reader, for Google Talk, and my home/work Google Calendar.   And, of course, a direct link to The Wonderwheel.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, and there are plenty of features that I don’t even make use of on this device that I’m sure someone else would place at the top of her list. I briefly considered upgrading to the new phone being released this Friday, but there’s really no point.  I’m sure I could get used to a faster data speed right quick, but the current speed rarely causes problems.  I’m also not that interested in a more expensive monthly plan.  I do suspect that I’ll be ready to upgrade next summer when they come up with yet another version and I’ll be in a different financial position, but for now I am completely happy with the phenomenal little piece of technology that I’ve got.

Okay.  Thanks for letting me get that out of my system.