In one of our earlier posts we talked about the way Melaleuca.com uses YouTube to promote a lifestyle of green living. In so many words, green living consists of doing everyday things that benefit the environment.
When it comes to designing an environmentally friendly home, there are really two parts. First, is the construction design itself. Is your home outfitted with energy-efficient windows and doors? Is it well insulated to cut down on energy costs? Was it constructed using recycled materials?
Many of us end up purchasing and living in homes that were built long before we showed up, without our input. We can choose to do an eco-friendly remodel, but that can be very expensive. However, there are ways we can re-design our existing home to help protect the environment without breaking the bank.
Here are a few, relatively inexpensive tips for designing a green home:
1. Recycling. Whether you live in a community that provides recycling pick-up or you have to pay for the service/so it yourself, one great thing you can do is set up a recycling station or stations in your house. Head to a hardware or office supply store to pick up a few blue bins for just a few bucks. Place these bins in areas where you throw away a lot of recyclable material. Office spaces are great because of all the paper waste, and kitchens are ideal due to the cardboard cereal boxes, plastic milk cartons, etc. By getting in the habit of recycling as much as you can at home, you will be doing your part to help keep the environment clean.
2. Lowering your thermostat. There are “smart thermostats” these days, but you don’t really need one to help the environment. By manually lowering your thermostat a few degrees in the winter and raising it a few degrees in the summer, you will save quite a bit of energy—which is great for Mother Earth but also for your wallet.
3. Reusable shopping bags. Buy a few of these bags, which nowadays are made from recycled material, and keep a few in your car. There’s no need to use plastic bags at the grocery store. They’re flimsy, anyway.
4. Avoid chemicals. Do a quick check of all the household products you have, from cleaners to soaps. Get rid of stuff that contains toxic chemical like bleach and sulphates, which when washed down the drain can damage waterways and harm the environment.
A coffee grinder that only works when the lid is on. An electrical plug that only fits into an outlet one way. Fire doors that stay unlocked in an emergency.
Lots of everyday objects are designed to prevent errors — saving clumsy and forgetful humans from our own mistakes or protecting us from worst-case scenarios. Sometimes designers make it impossible for us to mess up, other times they build in a backup plan for when we inevitably do. But regardless, the solution is baked right into the design.
This concept has a lot of names: defensive design, foolproof, mistake proof, fail-safe. None is as delightful as the Japanese poka-yoke.
The idea of the poka-yoke (which means literally, “avoiding mistakes”) is to design something in such a way that you couldn’t mess it up even if you tried. For example, most standard USB cables can only be plugged into a computer the correct way. Not to say you would never attempt to plug it in upside down, but if you do, it simply won’t fit. On the other hand, it’s easy to reverse the + and – ends of a battery when you replace them in your TV remote. The remote’s design provides other clues about the correct way to insert the batteries (like icons), but it’s still physically possible to mess it up. Not so with the USB cable. It only fits one way, by design.
Many consumer coffee grinders are another example of a design that physically prevents you from messing up. Even if you wanted to, you could NOT chop your fingers on the blade, because the “on” switch for the grinder is triggered by closing the lid (as opposed to a blender, which leaves its blades easily accessible to stray fingers).
Foolproof design can also save your life. The mechanical diver’s watch is designed with a bezel that spins in only one direction. It functions as a simple timer that a diver can use to know how much oxygen is left in the tank.
If the ring were to get bumped, changing its setting, having it show less time might be inconvenient, but its going the other way and showing that you have more time than you do might kill you. You don’t even need to know how it works. It just works.
Foolproof measures can be found throughout web design (although perhaps without the life-saving part). Ever fill out an online form incorrectly and only found out because you could not progress to the next step? That’s a conscious decision by a designer to prevent an error. In this case, from Yahoo, it’s even a chance to insert a little humor:
Sometimes, design cannot prevent you from messing up (we humans somehow always figure out a way to do things wrong). But it can still make it harder for you to do the wrong thing. This type of design is not exactly foolproof — more like fool-resistant.
Child-resistant safety caps on medicine bottles, for example, keep kids from accidentally overdosing. A water dispenser that makes you push an extra button or pull up a lever to dispense hot water makes it harder for you to accidentally scald yourself. Neither of these designs are as foolproof as the coffee grinder. But they do put an additional step between you (or your child) and disaster.
We see these features quite often on our computers. Most of us are familiar with the “Are you sure?” messages before you empty the Trash or the “Do you want to…” before you replace a file with another one by the same name. These alerts certainly don’t prevent us from making a mistake (in fact, we probably ignore them most of the time), but their purpose is to slow us down.
Designers have also come up with more elaborate confirmation steps. For instance, Gmail will detect whether you’ve used the word “attached” in an email you’ve written and, if you try to send it without an attachment, will ask you if you meant to include one. Github, a popular website used by software developers to collaborate on code, forces you to type the full name of the project in order to delete it.
Most of these examples work by forcing your attention to the task at hand, breaking your autopilot behavior and make you really consider what you are about to do. Design details don’t make it impossible to screw up, but they certainly make it a little bit harder.
Still other designs revolve around keeping your information secure. Your computer may prompt you for a login if you’ve left it idle for a few minutes, preventing someone else from seeing or stealing sensitive information. Smartphones often do the same thing, requiring a passcode to re-enter. Some web browsers will prevent you from downloading certain files, and your computer’s operating system may ask you if you are SURE you want to open a program you got from the internet. Connect a smartphone to a new computer and it may ask you to confirm that this computer can be trusted. These security measures don’t prevent you from doing dangerous things, but try to prevent a potential horrible outcome due to careless mistakes.
Let’s say it’s too late to prevent the error: the mistake has occurred, the failure has happened. What now? This is where fail-safe design comes in. Fail-safe design prevents failure from becoming absolute catastrophe.
In some cases, it’s the system (or environment) that has failed. In the event of a fire, fire doors are required by law to fail unlocked, so that people can escape a burning building. On the other hand, if you need to protect state secrets or cash in a bank vault, you’d probably want a fail-secure system for those doors, which would fail locked.
Circuit breakers cut the power if an electrical current gets too high. Elevators have brakes and other fail-safe systems that engage if the cable breaks or power goes out, keeping the elevator from plummeting to its passengers’ death.
In other instances, it’s our own human error that the fail-safe system is designed for. SawStop is a table-saw safety technology that automatically shuts off a spinning saw blade if it comes in contact with flesh. The blade has a sensor that can detect whether it’s a piece of wood or your finger, using the same property (electrical conductivity) that makes a touch screen sensitive to your bare fingers but not to your gloves. In less than one thousandth of a second, the saw blade will shut off, giving you in the worst case only a small nick (rather than removing your thumb). Don’t believe this could work so fast? Watch this video:
Some industrial paper cutters are designed to shut off if they detect motion nearby (presumably a hand getting too close to the blade). Similarly, many automatic garage doors will stop closing if they sense something, or someone, in the way.
Another well-known fail-safe measure is the dead man’s switch. The dead man’s switch kicks in when a human in charge lets go of the controls — or dies, as the name implies. In the event of an accident (say, a train operator has a heart attack), the dead man’s switch can prevent harm to all the passengers by stopping the train.
The dead man’s switch is also a common device in lawn mowers and other equipment that require you to continually hold down a lever or handle to operate. As soon as you let go, the motor stops. U.S. law actually specifies that all walk-behind lawn mowers come equipped with such a switch that stops the blade within 3 seconds of a user releasing her grip.
In software, absolute catastrophe often means losing your work, your files, that long heartfelt email you worked so hard on. So many fail-safe designs revolve around letting you undo actions or automatically saving work in the background as you go along. Auto-saving Google Docs are a vast improvement over other word-processing programs that can lose hours of work with a single crash or loss of power. Web browsers like Chrome can restore all your tabs if you accidentally close a window (even if you’d rather declare tab bankruptcy).
Finally, we have the last-ditch, eleventh-hour design solution to keep you safe from the worst of the worst: The backup.
A backup parachute is perhaps the most dramatic of all backup devices, but many things in the real world are designed to have similar built-in redundancies. Cars have two sets of brake circuits (not to mention a spare tire). Airplanes have multiple redundant control systems. Emergency stairwells have lights that work on battery power if the building’s electricity goes out. On computers, backing up your photos or making a copy of a file before editing it is just common sense.
In the end, nothing humans build or even touch will ever be free from error. Luckily, designers work tirelessly to save us from our mistakes. And in many cases, we don’t have to know how the poka-yoke works. It just works.
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YouTube continues to grow like crazy, and it looks like it will be the king of video sharing indefinitely. Here are five trends that are emerging on YouTube:
1. Cooking. More and more people are tossing their printed cookbooks out and turning to YouTube instead. The advantage of watching a video over reading a book are clear: You can see the recipe in action, and you get a better sense of the process because it is visual. There are a lot of great cooking channels managed by large companies and networks, but sometimes the best advice and instruction comes from a random individual user.
2. Auto repair. Before YouTube, there was really no convenient way to watch someone else replace a thermostat or filter. You either had to know someone or just pay a fortune to have a mechanic do it for you. Now, you can watch all sorts of informative and helpful auto-repair videos on YouTube. You can even search for problems related specifically to your make and model. Even if you are not mechanically inclined, you can save yourself a ton of money.
3. Green living. More and more people are becoming environmentally aware, and there are a lot of YouTube videos to prove it. You can learn how to install your won solar panels, discover tips on reducing your carbon footprint, or just watch stunning footage that will help you appreciate the beauty of mother earth. Companies like Melaleuca.com are tapping into the eco-friendly movement by introducing people to green consumer products.
4. Magic. You can learn a lot of cool illusions from card tricks to disappearing coins. If you have a party to attend or put on and you are in charge of last-minute entertainment, you can learn a trick or two to wow your friends. It’s easy and it only takes a few minutes.
5. Fitness. From running to yoga, there are all sorts of videos on YoutUbe dedicated to the world of physical health and exercise. Some users are even gaining a huge following by sharing their workout clothing hauls.
One of the reasons YouTube has become one of the most popular social media platforms is because you can watch whatever you want to for free. There is so much content on YouTube that it’s no surprise that much of it is really, really stupid. But we still click and watch the stupid stuff because, hey, it doesn’t cost anything.
But now, if you really want to, you can pay Google—which owns YouTube—to keep watching all of that garbage.
So why would anyone want to pay for something they can have for free? In the case of YouTube Red, why would someone pay $9.99 a month to watch their favorite videos when, up until now, there was no charge for doing so? The answer: those annoying, ever-present ads.
Yes, it seems that there is a big enough market of people who are willing to fork over a Hamilton every month so they don’t have to wait 30, 15, or even 5 seconds while an advertisement runs. There are other benefits to YouTube Red, the monthly subscription that starts tomorrow. Among them are the ability to save a video so you can play it back later offline; enhancements for gamers; and exclusive, original content for paid subscribers only.
But really, it’s all about being able to jump to and watch your favorite music video, fail compilation, or cat video without having to sit through an ad. That brings up the question: Is it really worth $120 a year to get rid of ads?
Everyone up until now has enjoyed YouTube for free. So why would you pay for it just to save a few seconds of watching a Geico commercial? Are we as a society really that impatient now? We already pay for ad-free services like Netflix. If YouTube Red takes off, does his mark the end of Internet advertisements as we know it?
Ever since the invention of the DVR, we have rejoiced at being able to skip over TV commercial breaks. But those ad blocks lasted several minutes. YouTube ads are relatively short and painless in comparison. But the fact that YouTube Red rolls out tomorrow is proof that we still hate commercials enough as an entertainment-viewing society to be willing to fork over our hard-earned money to rid ourselves of the burden of ads.
It’s no shock that teenagers are crazy about social media and the Internet in general. It appears that young people are becoming more and more dependent on smartphones and other devices.
The Pew Research Study recently conducted a study about the ways teens use the internet and social media, and the results are pretty crazy. Here are eight crazy statistics from that study:
1. Nearly a quarter of teenagers say they are online “almost constantly.” That’s not surprising, considering the ease with which anybody can hop in the Internet, what with portable computers, aka smartphones.
2. Only 8 percent of teens do not use the Internet on at least a daily basis. While 92 percent say they check in online at least once a day, 56 percent do so more than once a day.
3. Nearly 90 percent of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 said that they’ve got a cell phone. Ninety percent of those teens use their phones for texting. Even if you take away the messages they can get from Facebook and other messaging apps, teens on average exchange 30 texts a day.
4. Over 90 percent of teenagers have access to the Internet on their personal phones. Of those kids, nearly 95 percent use their phones to check the Internet at least once a day.
5. Almost three out of every four teens said that they use at least two social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
6. The most popular networks among teens surveyed in the study are, in order, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Google+.
7. While girls are more into social media platforms that are visually oriented, like Instagram and Pinterest, boys are more into online video games.
8. Richer teens are more likely to use snapchat; poorer teens are more likely to use Facebook.
Using social media platforms to grow your business is not a trend. In fact, it hasn’t been a trend for a long time. It’s the new way of doing things, and organizations that embrace this fact have an advantage over those who don’t.
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