Archives for October, 2011

Man (or woman) and machine

I don’t have the new iPhone, so I haven’t personally experienced Siri. But from what I read, she can be pretty hilarious, much like iPhone’s autocorrect. Which made me think: Is high-tech always the best solution?

Man (or woman) and machine

Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPhone 4, although the autocorrect is often perplexing. Why would I want to type “u’s” instead of “us”? I don’t know either, but that’s what my iPhone thinks. I tried using the Voice Command feature, but it requires you to say things in a very specific way. I never got around to learning the lingo.

I also appreciate how technology can simplify certain tasks or improve accessibility. When my father became too arthritic to type anymore, he relied on voice recognition software to keep writing. But it was always riddled with mistakes.

In my work, I frequently have my recorded interviews typed out by human transcriptionists. There was a time when I thought I’d be able to save that expense by using voice recognition software instead. But the technology isn’t there yet. Many programs have to be adjusted to the speaker, so good luck adapting it to multiple voices and accents.

What’s more, I’m not sure I will ever want to replace a human with a machine. If my transcriptionist can’t understand a word, she puts it in red so I know she’s unsure. That way, I’ll know to question whether a source said “maniac” or “cardiac.” I’m sure some technology will flag that for you, but I still think a human can be more discerning.

Maybe that’s the biggest reason of all why I don’t see myself going all-automated any time soon. I like hiring people who deliver a service I need. They make my life easier. I help them make a living. And we make human connections I could never make with a machine.

Positive perspectives in communication

I’m a big believer in thinking positive. It works pretty well in life, because most of the time negative thinking won’t change anything anyway. You might as well be happy.

Positive perspectives in communications

 

But what about professional communications and content? Are there times when going negative pays off?

I guess some people think so, because negativity abounds. Political attack ads and articles. Digs at the competition in marketing. Angry bloggers. Cranky tweeters. We’ve all seen them.

It seems to work, at least for some people. After all, negative campaign ads can deliver victories. Bloggers and tweeters with a bad attitude and a bone to pick garner multitudes of fans.

Frankly, I don’t get it. I mean, we can all have our days. I certainly can. And relentless cheeriness can be as annoying as consistent crankiness. Not every voice of opposition is a bad thing. Sometimes it needs to be heard.

But when I see ads, brands or personalities that are nothing but negative, I quickly tune them out. I don’t want to hear how terrible everyone or everything else is. Tell me what’s good about your product or your brand or your life.

In a world that sometimes seems perpetually petulant, plenty of people are going to focus on the negative.

So if you really want to make a point, why not accentuate the positive? It may seem like you have to work harder to be heard above the din of complaints. But I think you’ll stand out for one simple reason: Most people would rather be happy than not.

Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor

When opportunity knocks, are you ready to open the door? Even more important, are you listening for its arrival in the first place?

Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor

You know as well as I do that the world moves fast. Really fast. An opportunity can come and go before you’ve even realized it was there.

Other opportunities can be right in front of us, for the longest time, before we see them. Hopefully we do eventually — and have the good sense to jump at them.

Then there are the opportunities you ask for. You can’t pass those up, either. Maybe you have to go to them, put yourself out there. But it doesn’t make them any less valuable.

Whether the opportunity comes to you or you go to it, you have to be willing to let it into your life and go where it takes you, without hesitation. As Stephen Sondheim wrote, “opportunity is not a lengthy visitor.” When it’s there, you have to make the most of it.

The key is to recognize an opportunity when it’s at your door. Be open to it, even if it doesn’t look quite the way you expected it might.

Sometimes, those opportunities are the most exciting of all.

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