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The Perils of the Time Warner Sweepstakes

Rupert Murdoch withdrew his $80 billion bid for Time Warner recently, which may signal an end to a bidding war that Time Warner executives had considered aggressive, if not hostile. While Fox officials represented the offer as a fair and friendly offer of $85 per share, Time Warner viewed the offer in a much different light. Time Warner responded immediately to the offer from Murdoch with a straight forward letter of rejection from CEO Jeff Bewkes. The Murdoch deal for Time Warner Inc. would have dwarfed the current proposal to merge with Time Warner Cable, which was made an independent company shortly before the Comcast offer.

PUSHBACK FROM THE PEOPLE

According to the Consumer Federation of California website, only 11% of individuals polled actually approved of the Comcast merger proposal, while 56% were directly opposed. The Time Warner Inc. merger would have made Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox the primary overall market player, and probably the controlling entity within the comprehensive content industry. In addition, it would have also put Fox is a position to manipulate the Comcast Time Warner cable conglomerate. When big players make a move to take control of what the common people are allowed to access, the people pick up on the progression immediately.

CONTROLLING THE MARKETPLACE

Market leverage is what the entire perceptive sweepstakes have been about. In markets such as California, the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger could result in less consumer alternatives, not to mention the impact on the local cable companies in metro areas like San Francisco that may ultimately need to raise rates that may cause customer migration. Instead of a merger, what consumers need is more content providers. There are really only two types of markets. Those two natural enemies are competitive markets or cooperative markets. Highly-leverage corporate behemoths can wield power in a manner that forces a competitive market into a quasi-monopoly cooperative, which means that ultimately the consumer will be paying well in excess of the product value. Comcast has proven that result for nearly 40 years in terms of high cable rates and less-than-spectacular service. Neither merger would mean well for the consumer.

INFORMATION CHOICE IN THE INFORMATION AGE

We are clearly in the information age in contemporary communications, and having very few major corporate players in the information delivery industry puts too much power in the hands of a few who may already be conspiring with the government to completely hand over the Internet to the common carrier systems. In return, the industry will make sure that information the government wants suppressed will stay suppressed. This co-oped power agreement can easily become a First Amendment issue. We are already seeing this dynamic in broadcast news and television. The next step will be gaining complete control of who can communicate through the Internet via implementation of the corporate media oligarchs as the information police.

Suppressed information and rewritten history have become major concerns for citizen journalists since the ability to communicate online became available to common people. Broadband technology has now allowed individuals to implement personal videos into the mix creating a firestorm that many governments and corporations would like to extinguish. We are just around the corner from the FCC decision, which will be decided by former primary cable industry lobbyist and now Chairman of the FCC Tom Wheeler. In addition, Congress will need to approve any cable conglomerate merger. The question is, can the powers-that-be put the genie back in the bottle even with policing authority?

Mobile:

Tech That’s Making Mobility Issues Moot

Technology is supposed to make your life easier, and it’s never more important than when someone has mobility issues. Via technology, “simply” getting around is getting easier and easier, but not without one big hurdle: Money. The reality is that you can pay as much for mobility technology as you can imagine, but a high price doesn’t necessarily correlate to high quality. Spend wisely and still maximize your investment.

For example, a Rollator can make a dramatic difference in how easily a person can get around. It’s been dubbed as the perfect accoutrement to summer, allowing for easier walks in the park and for visits with loved ones on summer vacation. Plus, it doesn’t come with an exorbitantly high price tag. Along with the Rollator, there are a few other mobile-minded gadgets to consider before the cool weather sets in.

The real mobile readiness

Many people have heard of “mobile readiness,” which means more people are using mobile devices (like smartphones) to go online than desktop devices. However, real mobile readiness is using technology to increase your own mobility. Word prediction programs are (thankfully) improving at a fast speed. The autocorrect feature on your phone might still come up with some embarrassing faux pas, but it’s still allowing users who have challenges with finger flexibility and mobility, whether from severe arthritis or damaged/missing limbs or digits, to communicate more effectively.

Speech recognition programs are also improving, which turns spoken words into a readable format. By talking in a normal to the user voice, speech systems can pinpoint errors, self-correct and allow for anyone who can speak to create fast, flawless documents. The latest technology considers breath stamina and voice idiosyncrasies, too.

Mobile on the rise

There are switch keyboards designed for those who struggle with standard mouse and keyboard models. By adding a switch, this gadget can be managed via virtually any part of the body from a kick to a mouth puff or even a blink of the eye. Simply being close to the switch can activate it, and every command is tied back to a computer. This means independent use of computers for those who otherwise don’t have access.

Likewise, pointing systems or devices are ideal for anyone who doesn’t have the coordination or ability to use a mouse. There are trackballs or clicking devices which can be custom designed to suit a person’s unique needs. Consider external touchpads, handheld point devices, or a joystick. Mobility optimization is more possible than ever, assuming you have the right tech on your side.

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last update: December 18, 2014

Social:

4 Times You Should Use Social Media for Shopping

Social media sites like Facebook are really pushing the business side of things, hoping to turn SM into a platform for shopping and not just sharing cat memes. However, some industries are doing quite well with social media positioning while others are lagging behind. As a consumer, what’s important for you is figuring out when using social media for purchases is in your favor and when it’s not. It all depends on what you’re looking for and the shopping experience you want.

For example, perusing real estate agents social media sites can give you a more in-depth glimpse of properties available. It’s often easier to navigate than many websites and it’s an avenue to ask questions without feeling pressured into a sales pitch. However, shopping for real estate isn’t the only time when using SM is in your favor. Check out these other industries where social media and shopping makes the perfect match.

1. Boutique retailers

Yes, every business owner should be able to drum up a gorgeous and user friendly website but that isn’t always the case. Using sites like Etsy has revolutionized how boutiques and artisans connect with their audience. As long as you get the one of a kind, quality product you’re after, does it really matter how it happens? Seek out boutique-minded SM platforms for the best options.

2. Restaurants

This is especially helpful if you’re planning your outings in a new city. It’s great to check out a restaurant’s menu online, but if you want to see what the specials are, if there are any events coming up or more photos of what the venue is really like, depend on social media. Plus, you’ll get impromptu reviews from genuine customers.

3. For state of the art technology

Whether it’s a drone or the latest home automation gadget from a startup, not all businesses are big enough (yet) to warrant a full website. In fact, some tech-heavy startups are focusing solely on one or two devices. Instead of building a website for just a couple of offerings, they use social media. Additionally, their audience is often younger and more dependent on social media, so this platform just makes sense.

4. Car shopping

There’s only so much you can tell about a dealer’s inventory from their website. Head to their social media site for more pictures (or to request them) and to connect online without having to deal with a pitch.

No matter what the industry, it’s worth visiting their social media page to see if there’s more (different) information.

Social:

How Twitter Ruined Communication

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There’s a time and place for nearly every social media platform, but as one of the Top 5 most popular SM sites, Twitter’s influence has spread far beyond what anyone imagined. What can you do in just a few characters? It became a challenge that social media users were committed to mastering. Unfortunately, practice really does make perfect and that kind of brevity has become common in everyday speech and other written communication platforms.

Then there’s the hashtag, which has spread not just to written communication but speech as well. Hashtag annoying. What started as a way to promote trends has become a noun in itself, and some younger generations don’t see the pound sign as anything beyond a Twitter-related device. Even though Twitter’s earnings are holding stable (and it’s in no danger of being overthrown right now), maybe there’s a reason why it’s not as solid as it used to be.

Lazy communicators

People, particularly in younger generations, have seemed to develop a fear of talking in person and talking on the phone. It’s why when a crush actually calls you it’s a huge deal or why it’s so common to see people hunched over their phones at restaurants. The recent experiment of one restaurant revealed that while service has remained the same in recent years, people are taking longer at restaurants because they’re wrapped up in their phones and apps.

Everyone needs to check in on numerous SM platforms, food photos need to be snapped, and hashtags need to be used so they can show their on trend. While Twitter certainly isn’t the only SM platform making communication in general subpar, the requirement to shorten words and keep them brief is destroying the quality of written communication. Using “u” instead of “you” might be necessary on Twitter, but it’s not being used just about everywhere.

The demise of the English language

While there are still many people who understand brevities like “u” aren’t actually proper English words, there are some people who consider it valid. If you grew up in the era of Twitter and have been using “u” and hashtags ever since you can remember, why wouldn’t it seem appropriate? English teachers everywhere are #smh, but it’s a very real and sad phenomenon.

If there’s an avenue to doing things easier and with less time, humans will take it. Twitter, of course, can’t be blamed for the general falling apart of communication and the English language. It’s a symptom, not the cause.

Science:

4 Tech Rules for Your Workout

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You want to look like a terminator at the gym because of your perfectly toned body, not because of all the wires poking out from your ears and armbands. Sometimes technology can be a great way to optimize your workout, but sometimes it can distract you from doing your best. How can you strike a balance and use tech wisely at the gym? It’s time to set a few rules.

It doesn’t matter if you prefer a crossfit gym, big box gym or the local hole in the wall boxing gym to get your sweat on. No type of workout is going to be beneficial if you’re too distracted to make the sessions count. Consider adding these rules to your next workout, right up there with your personal water goals and getting in those BCAAs.

1. Do cardio at least once per week with no iPod

However you get in your cardio (treadmill, running outside, elliptical, row machine, etc.), if you’re dependent on having music blasting in your ear, shake things up. Try at least one day per week with no music. Your body will start to respond to other stimuli and you’ll get a break from your addiction. Long-term learning to do cardio by natural outside influences (such as passing cars) or your heartbeat can help improve your workout because the “pace” is always difference.

2. Leave your phone in the locker

If your excuse is that your music is on your phone, get a separate mp3 player with no Wi-Fi access. You’re going to check that text, email or Facebook notification and it’s going to interrupt your workout. It can also distract you as you rush through your last 10 minutes to reply. Unless you’re expecting a true emergency call, it can wait for an hour.

3. Take calories counters, etc. with a grain of salt

Even the most high tech heart rate monitors and calorie counters might potentially be off. They can be used occasionally as a general measurement, but they’re not your workout bible. Instead, rely on how you feel, how out of breath you are and manual heart rate checks.

4. Take out the ear buds

Like at the airport, some people use ear buds as a way to tell people, “Don’t talk to me.” Sometimes you need total alone time at the gym, but if you do this non-stop you’re missing out on something big: the supportive community at your fingertips. You can learn a lot from your fellow gym rats.

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Social:

Why Certifications Matter

A piece of paper really is just a piece of paper…until it’s more. Such is the case with degrees, certifications and licensing. No matter what industry you’re in, there are probably a smattering of certifications you can collect, but this doesn’t work like Pokemon. There are options that can truly advance your career, and there are ones that do nothing but waste your hard-earned cash. As a consumer, knowing which certifications are a “must” before choosing a service or product is important, but you also need to know which ones are just fluff.

Unfortunately, this is going to take some research on your part. Just because a company ticks off a seemingly endless list of certifications doesn’t mean anything. The good news is that they do the triaging for you, so start by considering which certification they list first. Is it renowned in the industry, is it required, and/or is it exclusive? If so, then that’s the sign of a company that care.

Vetting out the white noise

Whether you’re thinking about getting a certification yourself, stocking a product that may or may not be certified, or you’re shopping around for the most reliable product/service, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all that white noise. A reputable company won’t just list the certifications, but also provide background information on them including why they’re important. Otherwise, it’s just tacking on a bunch of useless letters after a moniker (what use is “John Smith, MD” is no one knew what MD stood for?).

However, just like when you hire a new worker, you shouldn’t trust any company blindly. Go to the certification official site for yourself, check it out and see just what kind of things are required in order to get certified. In some instances, it’s as meaningless as attending a webinar. In others (like with Microsoft) it can be nearly as daunting as getting a new degree.

From a products standpoint

If it’s products you’re considering, certification is even more important. Whether you’re shopping for a product that’s been certified as green by a certain organization or you’re looking for UL certification for compliancy, this added information is just as crucial as the safety ratings and product reviews. It’s a cheat sheet to ensure you’re getting the best product for the best price.

A certification can tell you a lot about a person or product, or virtually nothing at all. Cross-check, and you won’t just educate yourself but pinpoint the prime choice for you.

Mobile:

Seal the Deal with These 3 Contract Apps

Employment, free-lance, and confidentiality contracts are invaluable tools for businesses that want to thrive while making sure they’re adequately protected. Contract negotiations and signature collection can be a cumbersome yet necessary process before you work with new partners, employees, and freelancers.

Don’t be tempted to skip these procedures, because they can protect you against unpleasant and potentially costly legal repercussions. Here are three apps that can make the contract building and exchange process easier.

1. Shake

The power of the Shake app comes in its pre-set templates, which are designed to help business owners with a variety of tasks. You can choose from basic categories, such as “Buy/Sell,” “Rent/Land,” “Loan,” or “Freelance/Hire” to start building a contract right away.

Next, you fill in the blanks that address the parties, scope of the project, and payment amounts. The documents can be signed digitally on your touchscreen, and then sent to the respective parties, so they can add their signatures to the document.

You can manage multiple contracts from this single app, which ties in with your mobile contacts for easy sharing. This is one of the most user-friendly apps available for contract building.

2. DocuSign

The DocuSign mobile app is designed for businesses that wish to upload custom contracts and collect signatures. You can sync multiple cloud services with DocuSign and pull contracts from several sources, including DropBox, Box.com, Google Drive, and Evernote.

This is a great feature for teams who need to collaborate, share, and manage contracts across cloud systems. You can also use DocuSign templates as a framework for future contracts.

DocuSign is an excellent option for companies that work in enterprise organizations, since your IT department can use strict MDM processes to control workflows and security.

3. EchoSign

EchoSign is a service provided by Adobe. It allows you to upload custom contracts, create editable fields, define signature areas, and send the document out to multiple recipients.

This app syncs with Salesforce, which makes it a great addition to your retail workflow. You can view a contract’s status at any moment, with detailed auditing information, so that you know when recipients have viewed, signed, or declined a contract.

Like DocuSign, this app solution was built with enterprise organization needs in mind.

Contracts play a vital role in daily business operations, and they can protect your company from business litigation and liability. You should work closely with a legal professional as you craft contract documents.

Then you can deploy the contracts with mobile apps to collect signatures with ease.

Lifestyle:

Choosing the Bus over a Train or Plane

commercialbus

Bus lines have suffered for many years over misconceptions on the convenience and safety of traveling the highways. The truth is very different from the false perception, especially during the past decade. All bus line companies have done due diligence in reevaluating their customer service, along with upgrading their dependability and enjoyment factors. It is still true that many factors impact an inter-city bus trip. All customers must be considered and stops are scheduled in a way that addresses all traveler needs. But in metropolitan areas, using the bus makes excellent sense when all options are considered. An excellent example is taking a Washington DC to NYC bus trip.

Economics of Choosing Highways over Airways

Flying to a destination can seem to be the most feasible and quickest manner of transporting between cities, but that may not exactly the case. Using a Washington DC to New York City travel plan, it takes just over an hour to get to New York from Washington after takeoff. Depending on the airline and date chosen to take the trip, flight tickets are approximately $175 and upwards to $500 depending on the class. Baggage expense must also be considered in the cost of travel. Traveling by bus is easily a bargain in this choice. In addition, when considering time spent awaiting a flight or unloading at the destination, bus trips to close destinations often take a similar amount of time.

Comparing the Bus and Train

Buses have historically been infamous for delayed arrivals according to the timetable, a rap which flights have also endured. Trains such as Amtrak are usually much closer to accurate because the Federal Railway Administration requires railroad companies to explain in detail exactly why an Amtrak train cannot meet the arrival timetable. Amtrak is a private passenger train company that uses other company rail systems for a fee, so the hosting railway company must comply with the federal regulations for their access charges. Train dispatchers regularly hold freight trains or long periods to allow Amtrak right of way priority. For punctuality, the train would appear to be a better travel choice, but trains still run late and can rarely gain back the lost time. Using DC to New York as an example again, the price of an Amtrak ticket is approximately $100, while a bus ticket is considerably less.

Comfort and Enjoyment

The purpose of the trip can make a big difference. Those who are along for the ride and traveling for entertainment purposes the bus can still be a fun experience. While trains offer more mobility while in transit, such as being able to walk around, many bus line companies have focused directly on improving the entire dynamic of traveling by highway, especially among the newer and smaller bus transportation companies. Many bus transport companies actually sell trip and tour packages with specific destinations along the route. These offerings have become very popular for those looking for a short enjoyable inexpensive vacation trip.

Safety

While air terminals are well documented as overly concerned with safety in the skies, bus lines are no less concerned with potential safety problems. Public bus stations in major cities are also notorious for attracting undesirable types, but many of the newer highway transit companies maintain small independent terminal that allow for greater control over customer safety both on the road and in the terminal. Bus line transportation is clearly on the business incline and are becoming more popular every day.

 

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