Sending thoughtful messages to people we care about can build bridges and connections in these charged political times. This Valentine’s Day, even if you don’t have time to handcraft a letter, get those messages out with virtual valentines. Using your iPhone’s Camera Roll, web browser, and apps, there are plenty of ways to send personalized and creative sentiments.
Send a vintage valentine with Google Images
Hop onto Google Images and run a search for vintage valentines. To make sure there are no copyright restrictions on the image, click Tools and filter by Labeled for Reuse. Find an image that you like, and save it to your device. Email or text the image to a friend on Valentine’s Day, or post it on social media and tag a few favorite followers. This can be a fun, retro way to brighten someone’s day. If posting on social media, I always try to give image credit where credit is due.
Customize a photo with a personal note
Easy apps like Word Swag or Pic Collage are awesome for sprucing up photos. There are valentine templates available on Pic Collage. Choose a template and insert your photo, text and/or stickers. Save to Camera Role, and then send along to a friend!
Include extra special iMessage stickers in your next text
Texting friends on Valentine’s Day? Make it extra special with themed iMessage stickers. From iMessage, click the App Store icon to see featured apps for iMessage. Apple’s featured category, Let’s Stick Together, has plenty of heartfelt choices to choose from.
How cute is this cuddly bear in Forever Friends Stickers by Neon Play?
Recently I was approached to help a family find phone apps for their adult son with special needs. I reached out to the developer community and discovered multiple apps and suggestions to help make digital communication easier. Here are some of their ideas for simple phone apps:
Favorites tab on iOS phone app
The first tab on the iPhone’s phone app is called Favorites. Adding contacts to Favorites enables a picture-based view of each contact, along with an info button with one-tap access to their text, phone, FaceTime or email. Taking a few minutes to set up a user’s Favorites can provide instant access to communication.
EasyPhone connects contacts to a friendly face, and was designed especially to help people with cognitive challenges navigate the phone successfully. This app was recommended by Bridging Apps, a comprehensive website featuring apps for people with disabilities.
Large keyboard and readable text makes this phone easy to use without glasses. Available in 30 languages, Koala Phone links to other apps like camera and flashlight but uses its large text and icon interface. More information at http://www.koalaphone.com.
Designed by parents especially for kids, Kidofon is made to simplify phone use for young users in order to reach family members in case of an emergency. Picture-based icons are activated at the touch of a finger.
Kindoma offers video chat features to keep families connected. Designed with young users in mind, Kindoma has two apps for drawing and storytelling. Kindoma was recommended as a potential fit for any user seeking creative and friendly ways to communicate with family.
We just returned from an overseas trip, and I want to share how our family used the iPhone as a travel helper. With certain apps and settings in place, it was easy to navigate, communicate and prepare for our adventure. Here are our top 10 iPhone tips for family travel:
1) Adjust settings to avoid international cell phone charges
I wanted to ensure that having our iPhones didn’t accidentally incur huge overseas data rates. Before we left the house, all family members opened their iPhone Settings app and turned airplane mode on, and cell data off. When we arrived at our destination, we left airplane mode on but enabled Wi-Fi. This allowed us to use hotel Wi-Fi for connectivity without activating the local cellular network.
We had one person with an international data plan for phone use while away from the hotel. Everyone else kept airplane mode on, cell data off, and used hotel Wi-Fi for connectivity.
2) Set the World Clock with home and away destinations
Jet lag can be a challenge, especially with kids. Knowing what time it was back home helped us plan sleep and wake times during the first few days in a new time zone.
3) Use the alarm to wake up during jet lag
Our first local outing was to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers tour near London. Our bus was leaving early and we certainly didn’t want to miss it. We relied on the iPhone’s alarm to wake us up, and it worked great (although we were so excited I think most of us were awake well before the alarm!).
4) Open Google Maps for navigation assistance
While driving a rental car in Wales, we learned that some castles can be hard to find. With my husband’s iPhone (he’s the one with the international data plan) we used Google Maps to analyze our location and find the correct routes. Using Google Maps is effective for double checking locations and routes in real time, especially when road signs are in Welsh.
5) Check weather apps for rain
Winter travel requires the right gear. Checking the iPhone’s Weather app (or Yahoo Weather) helped us determine the hour-by-hour forecast for our location. If rain was in the forecast for the day, then we knew to pack umbrellas and raincoats.
6) Browse Safari for museum or attraction open hours
We were traveling over the winter holidays, including Christmas and New Years. We needed to find out if certain museums and attractions were open during the times we wanted to visit. It was helpful to open Safari and check their websites in advance so we could plan our visits accordingly.
7) Download digital camera apps to transfer pictures
This was my first trip using a Nikon digital camera. I did not need to rely on my iPhone for pictures. Instead, I carried around an actual camera. My Nikon works with an app called SnapBridge that uses bluetooth to communicate between the camera and the iPhone. This app enabled me to pull any pictures I needed from my camera onto my iPhone.
8) Activate AirDrop to share photos between family members
A daughter’s eye view can be quite different from a mom’s eye view. Both of my daughters enjoyed taking photos during the trip, and it was interesting to see the difference in our perspectives. I would line up a shot based on landscape, and they tended to zoom in more closely on subject. Looking through their photos at the end of the day offered a bright and lively point of view on our shared experiences. If I wanted a photo of theirs, we could share files easily via AirDrop.
To access AirDrop on an iPhone, simply swipe up from the bottom of any screen.
9) Check Khan Academy for information on historic sites
I like art museums. But some museums can be boring if you don’t have context. Before our last two big trips, we searched Khan Academy for information about our destinations. I downloaded the Khan Academy app so we could play art history videos from Khan Academy on Apple TV. This was especially helpful for learning about Tate Britain, home of Ophelia and The Lady of Shalott. When we finally arrived to the Tate in person, my daughters were connected to the experience because they learned about those paintings in advance of the visit.
10) Connect with friends over Instagram, email, or WhatsApp to share adventures
We enjoyed sharing special moments with friends and family back home. Thanks to WhatsApp, we were able to wish our cousin a happy birthday. Thanks to Instagram, we were able to pick our favorite photos and post them to friends. Thanks to email, we were able to communicate status and highlights with grandparents and close family. Making positive connections with people we care about added to the enrichment of the trip.
Bonus #11) Add a passcode to feel more secure in case of loss or theft
I was worried that at some point in the trip I’d lose my iPhone. In the event it fell into a villain’s hands, I wanted to keep my data secure. Adding a passcode helped me feel a little bit better about keeping my information safe.
To add a passcode, go to Settings, and then Touch ID and Passcode.
I tend to associate smartphone use with the potential to overstimulate the brain. So I was pleased to learn about new features that support a healthy lifestyle, like a good night’s sleep. The new iPhone Bedtime Clock in iOS 10 provides a peaceful and consistent tool for scheduling sleep. Are you ready to get some rest? Let’s clock in and create a customized bedtime routine.
Open the iPhone Bedtime Clock
From the iPhone home screen, select the Clock app. On the bottom menu bar (if you have iOS 10) select Bedtime, which is between Alarm and Stopwatch.
Set sleep preferences
Follow the prompts to input your desired amount of sleep, in addition to preferred sleep and wake times. These times can be adjusted at a later date by clicking Options.
Set notification preferences
Choose reminder intervals and notification sounds that best suit your preferences. For example, I like to be reminded about bedtime about an hour before I actually want to fall asleep. This gives me enough time to finish my current activity and get ready for bed. I also want the sound to be light, peaceful and optimistic. For this, I chose the “first light” audio tone.
Adjust options as necessary
If you would like to adjust the days of the week to initiate a bedtime routine, along with reminder intervals or wake up sounds, just tap Options on the Bedtime clock display. To reset sleep and/or wake times, simply drag your finger around the clock circle.
The number one tip for healthy sleep habits from the National Sleep Foundation is to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. By setting your bedtime on Apple’s Clock, now all you need to do is follow through. After receiving the bedtime reminder from your iPhone, tune into your PJs and have a good night!
I saw the richest mom-with-app on the cover of Forbes magazine while browsing through an airport bookshop this summer. Intrigued, I purchased the reading material for my next flight. By the end of the day, I joined millions of others who downloaded Kim Kardashian’s app to my iPhone. Let’s see what it takes, I thought, to play the game of fame.
According to the Forbes article, the app called Kim Kardashian Hollywood is a remake of a preexisting app called Stardom. Glu Mobile, the company who made Stardom, approached Kim with the opportunity to rebrand the app. She went for it, and according to her remarks at the BlogHer16 keynote, she really enjoys the creative process of bringing app ideas to life.
Sometimes I get so caught up in what’s educational for my kids, that I forget about what’s conversational for my kids. Hot mainstream topics, like the Kardashians, can be interesting to talk about with young teens. Instead of ignoring these types of media choices, I’d rather learn more about what makes them so popular, and then debate the findings with my girls.
Playing the app myself, I was faced with making choices about clothes, photo shoots, meeting with agents, and decisions about whether to attend a party or go to work. Within 30 minutes, I had over a dozen family discussion points. That does not include tidbits the girls found, like whether to make the game character be snarky or apologetic.
Before getting carried away with our characters, we stopped the clock and had mother-daughter conversations based on the following questions:
What do you think about skipping work responsibilities to be more famous?
What is snark? Why would a snarky comment be valuable in the game?
What are your favorite clothes in the game? Do you feel they are appropriate? Why or why not?
Why do you think the app is so popular?
If you made the game, how would you change the app?
What do you think are the pros and cons of being famous? Would you want to be famous? Why or why not?
Before long, we forgot about the app and resumed our regular summer routines. No one in the family wanted to sacrifice their chore money for virtual clothes. And that was fine with me. But meanwhile, we got to benefit from some girl talk by playing Hollywood for a day.
If you haven’t guessed by now, one of my favorite apps for moms is the BlogHer.com website, network, conference, and mobile app! As I prepare to host the Resume Building Open Lab at BlogHer16, I created this checklist to outline 10 steps for building your best resume. Read along or come join the fun!
Resume Building Checklist
1. Track your work
Did you know that LinkedIn offers diverse categories to input your experience, such as volunteer work, languages, and certifications? You don’t have to be in the formal workforce to actively build a professional profile. Professional experience can be gained by managing projects, writing, speaking, or volunteering in your community. Keep track of what you do!
2. Proofread your resume
Have you had another person read your resume? If you don’t have another person around, have you read your resume backwards? Despite many opinions on the ideal resume, one universal truth is that resumes cannot have typos.
3. Choose a format that is easy to update
Whether your resume is created from an online tool, or from an app, or with a graphic template, or from a text document, one of the most important tasks is to ensure that the resume meets the needs of the job opening. This means a resume may require several iterations during a job search. Choose a tool you can update easily to get those submissions flowing.
4. Use strong action words
When describing work experience, do the phrases start with strong action words? To find out, print your resume and underline each action word. Then search Best Action Words For Resume and click through the results to get more ideas. I like the word lists from Time and Forbes.
5. Quantify accomplishments
Look at the two phrases below (from an article in Forbes) and choose which phrase sounds better. The second example is stronger because it provides evidence to underscore accomplishments. Reread your resume and quantify accomplishments where possible.
1) Managed a budget to plan large-scale events for students
2) Managed $12,000 budget to plan large-scale events for 2,500 students
6. Identify keywords by reading job descriptions carefully
Reading job descriptions is essential preparation for writing a focused resume. Does the work experience in your resume address the job description requirements? Or, have you stepped back and thought about your main sets of skills? Are you applying for jobs that match your strengths?
7. Understand applicant tracking systems
Some companies manage resume submissions electronically with software called applicant tracking systems. By understanding how these systems work, you’ll gain more confidence about the best way to create a resume. Simple formatting, accurate keywords, and no PDFs seem to be standard suggestions for resumes that make it through applicant tracking systems. For more tips, read this article from CIO Magazine.
8. Keep filenames organized
Applying to different companies may require optimizing your resume for each submission. Keep filenames organized by establishing a naming convention for each resume version. I keep a master version, and then save iterations with name_date_company in the filename.
9. Secure references
What good is a great resume if you don’t have a great reference? How can you prove that you did great work? Keep in touch with people you’ve worked for, and remember to wrap up projects with exit interviews, mutual LinkedIn endorsements, and reference requests.
10. Don’t get overwhelmed
Diving into resume writing will stir up hundreds of tools and resources. Try not to get paralyzed in the process. Different sources may offer different opinions on the rules of resume writing. Ease up, and chart the course that gives you the most confidence.
Reach out if you’d like some moral support during the process. Networking is a key part of the game! — @LorraineAkemann
If you are thinking about your next career step, join me at #BlogHer16 on Friday August 5th for the Resume Building Open Lab.
BlogHer Open Labs are hands-on round table sessions where attendees share expertise on specific topics. I will be leading the Open Lab for Resume Building, and near me will be experts available for WordPress, Google Analytics, and Email Marketing. BlogHer Open Labs are a great place to get individual questions answered. Be sure to come and check them out!
For my lab, feel free to bring your latest resume or thoughts about career goals, and we can take it from there. Can’t make it to the Open Lab? No problem, just reach out on social media (@LorraineAkemann) and I’ll be happy to connect at another time. Here is a list of subjects we’ll be ready to address:
Let’s get into the nitty gritty and read your resume together. Having an objective person review your resume can help prioritize the most compelling content, scan for typos, and give the boost of confidence needed to get that resume out into circulation!
Dates, indentations, margins, grammar and headings: elements like these can be the reason why resume writing is such an overbearing process! Let’s face it together. I’ll have some reference books and samples on hand so we can make sensible decisions on whether that section needed a semicolon or a period!
Resume creation tools are becoming more dynamic and visual as our world continues to shift online. Although I prefer the easy accessibility of Google Docs (always simple to update), other options like Canva or Visual CV provide templates and tools for a graphically designed layout. The good news is that plenty of options exist to get your resume experiment started.
Building Blocks (with LinkedIn)
What content will you use for work experience and education when your life has been so diverse? My favorite tool for tracking experience over time has been LinkedIn. There are sections of LinkedIn that cover volunteer work, autonomous projects, certifications and awards. Even if you’ve taken a break from the formal workforce, LinkedIn still provides ways to keep your profile up to date.
Creating a resume is a process which involves several iterations. Adding a skill, tweaking an action verb, or adjusting the format can be an ongoing process. Keep your files organized to ensure version control. I create folders in Google Drive and save each iteration with the exact date in the filename.
As job searches progress, past work references may be needed for potential employers. Do you have people in mind who can provide those references? Are they prepared to receive calls and inquiries to give testimonials about your work? Make sure these contacts are well prepared. A great way to do this is to specifically request a reference after every major project you complete, and then find a reason to keep in touch with that person every few months.
Planning for your next career move involves proactive steps to stay connected to others. This includes having a “yes” mindset (“you bet, let’s do lunch!”), securing references, endorsing others, and attending meetups, conferences or networking events. It’s not always easy to step out into the limelight, but keeping your network in motion is a huge part of uncovering new opportunities.
Luckily, we’ll be in the right place to jump start this type of networking. BlogHer is my number one resource for personal and professional development. Follow everyone you meet, tweet about sessions you find valuable, create new content for your blog, share and learn best practices, and meet new, mutually supportive people.
Going alone? Me too. Let’s meet up!
Having worked in corporate America prior to having children, I firmly believe that women should have every opportunity to return to the workforce with confidence. Motherhood, entrepreneurship, blogging and community-building enabled me to find my own professional voice while building a diverse set of leadership skills. The more active I become, the more work opportunities I find.
Let’s lead the charge for workforce confidence at #BlogHer 16. I can’t wait to meet you!
As a mom of teen girls, why should I care about the apps hipsters are using on their mobile phones? I guess I care because knowing what’s current gives me context while talking with my own kids.
So I started thinking about which apps are popular in contemporary culture and turned my notes into this list. From music and photography to money and transportation, let’s check out what’s deemed necessary by today’s modern youth.
Instagram, VSCO and Google Photos are three apps making an impact on how photos are taken, altered, shared and managed. I use Instagram and have enjoyed posting creative scenes since I opened the account. Using Instagram helps me notice unique moments I can archive in the handy grid view of a microblog.
VSCO seems to take mobile photography to a whole new level. It feels like a virtual photo gallery for the world’s creatives, and offers a wide number of editing tools that my daughter appreciated when I introduced the app to her.
Google Photos backs up all of the photos on your phone upon downloading and opening the app. Features like albums, collages, animations and movies are easily accessible and in some cases automated. As a person who likes to determine the exact file structure of my data, I’m not sure how comfortable I feel with all of the automation just yet. But automation seems to be the way things are done nowadays, so I plan to give it a shot.
I’ve heard references to SoundCloud and Hype Machine as apps for listening to music. SoundCloud is a free app to discover and share favorite tunes, and Hype Machine scans the blogsphere to fuel music listings. Both apps are social, enabling likes, favorites and connections. With only a limited amount of time spent on each app, I’ve already diversified my music interests and look forward to hearing more.
Snapchat’s popularity continues to grow, and has surpassed Instagram as the most popular messaging app per a survey released in early 2016. Why is Snapchat so appealing? This video explains how its in-the-moment platform creates authenticity among users, and the absence of follower metrics actually decreases anxiety. After so many years of Facebook-like obsession, maybe Snapchat feels refreshing?
With apps like Venmo, physical cash wallets may become extinct! Payment apps let people split the bill with a simple swipe or tap. Sign up, add your bank account, pay and collect with friends.
The questions surrounding these seamless transactions involve security and privacy, and it sounds like the FTC may be investigating Venmo as we speak. But I doubt a single investigation will fend off the rapid adoption of digital payments. Too much convenience has been realized by leaving cash at home. Here is a summary of more apps for mobile payments, plus their pros and cons.
Need a lift? Touch a button and your ride awaits. The driver knows exactly where to find you based on the geolocated phone in your hand. Apps make this process so easy that using a human voice to call a cab feels like ancient history. Uber and Lyft are the tools of choice, and even employ drivers with free time to be the ride-givers. These companies have not only transformed how to get from point A to point B, they also uncovered crowdsourced economic options for suppliers. What a world!
I need to watch out before doing more research on hipsters or else I’ll feel like a college student again. The coolest apps seem to be the ones that help social situations flow smoothly. Let’s go out! (Uber). Let’s connect! (Snapchat). Let’s listen to cool stuff! (SoundCloud). Let’s post a great moment! (Instagram). Let’s engage with each other. Maybe interacting with a smartphone isn’t so anti-social after all.
As information in the digital age continues to proliferate, keeping track of the news can be a challenge. Which topics are common knowledge? Everything from pop culture to world events are discussed in small talk, and sometimes small talk is necessary to fuel a lunch conversation, work conversation, or visit with friends.
TV News is Gruesome! 📺
As a mother, I often find myself caught up in managing school events or family activities, without much time for digesting the world’s news. On days when I’m motivated to turn on the news, I quickly turn it off due to the gruesome nature of killings and kidnappings covered by local newscasters. Mainstream news coverage is rarely appropriate for youngsters charging around the household.
The Skimm is Appropriate! 😀
Last year a close friend recommended an email newsletter called The Skimm. It’s a free subscription delivered to inboxes everyday. At first I was skeptical because the headlines seemed cheeky and unrelated to the news content. After learning how to best skim The Skimm, I quickly bypassed the headlines in favor of succinctly presented content. Within minutes of reading The Skimm, I was aware of global events, national conversations, and cultural milestones.
The Skimm is also an App! 📱
The Skimm is now available in app format and features a calendar called Skimm Ahead. In addition to providing news recaps, the app jumps forward to give a heads-up about what’s noteworthy in the future. I specifically like to know when a major sporting event is about to happen so I can share this with my daughters who love sports. In addition, it’s nice to know when something fun like the Met Gala is about to take place. This gives me a reason to connect with my oldest daughter over celebrity fashions.
The Skimm Works Well for Moms of Teens 🙋
This testimonial may come off sounding trite, but I assure you that every conversation starter I can have with a young teen is a bonus. As peer groups continue to influence each other, being in the know is helpful to moms who want to keep fun conversations flowing with their kids.
Skimm Ahead is available via a subscription service for $2.99 per month, with the first month free. I am not affiliated in any way with The Skimm – I’m just a happy customer. I am also happy because they use emoji to kick off every calendar event. Love that! ❤️
If you regularly read articles on the internet, chances are you’ve come across a post published on Medium. I view Medium as a long form adaptation of social media for people with a lot to say. The question is, will Medium replace traditional blogs, or will it enable bloggers to embrace another form of publishing and syndication? I’d like to think it strengthens traditional blogs by providing new outlets for content.
What is Medium?
Medium is a writing platform with streamlined editing tools (headers, images and text) combined with integrated social linkages for liking articles and following their authors. Whether viewed from the desktop or mobile app, Medium is a clean interface without advertisements cluttering the sidebars. Traditional blogs can be overwhelmed with advertisements, and Medium provides a refreshing view where white space is welcome.
What I Like
Medium comes pre-loaded with Twitter and Facebook integration so you don’t have to start a social profile from scratch. Connections on Twitter who are also on Medium become part of your network with a simple toggle in settings. If it took years to build up a Twitter following, no need to restart those efforts since the followers come along with you, if you wish.
Personal accounts + branded publications
Medium can accommodate personal accounts and branded accounts in a really slick way. I set up Medium under my own name. However, I was wondering what to do about a branded account for my blog. I discovered that the best place for my blog’s brand would not be a separately managed account (requiring separate email and login), but as a new “publication” created from my account. Publications are Medium pages with their own URL, and are associated with the editor (account owner) who created the page. Stories can be added to the publication by clicking the 3-dot icon at the bottom of each post.
Clean and functional writing interface
The Medium writing editor is so appealing that it’s starting to replace my tendency to draft posts in Google Drive. The editing interface slashes superfluous formatting choices and boldly leaves the basics in place, such as titles, subheadings, links, images, videos, embeds, and lists. In a world of too many choices, this less-is-more approach becomes all I need.
One of my favorite recent quotes is from a BlogHer editor who mentions how “writing begets writing”. We need to start somewhere, and the key is to just get started. Medium offers a private workspace while ideas are taking shape. Drafts can be circulated through a Share link viewable only to those who have the link. Posts can be marked unlisted until you are ready to make them public. With these options, Medium can be used for thinking, archiving, and idea generation in addition to being used as a public writing platform.
Reading what others are writing
Medium articles, which are emailed to me in a Daily Digest, have a thoughtful and introspective tone, sometimes bordering on provocative. With a glance at the top stories I can see which subjects are gaining popularity and observe about how catchy headlines are constructed. If Medium can keep its depth without turning into a Buzzfeed, it feels like a democratic environment where writers can learn and grow.
What I’m Still Learning
Today, Medium reminds me a little of the App Store: tons of content without a clear view on how content gets featured. I understand that sharing special sauce can be proprietary company information, but it would be nice to know if tagging, for example, makes much difference to a post’s visibility. Also, how much content does a follower see, and does follower count make any difference to the popularity of a post? This is an ongoing experiment for me and I plan to share more as I learn more.
There are stunning images on Medium that span the entire page view. There are also image grids to support multiple photos in a single section of the post. Medium’s Help Center explains how to format these images and embed them in your posts.
Letters to publication followers
There is a feature for publications called Letters, and it’s a way for the editors to reach out directly to followers. I have not used this feature, but like the idea of a mail list function that doesn’t require separate mail list management. Will Letters help build more connections? Will Letters be interpreted as spam? Here is what Medium says:
“Letters have the potential to provide what blogs used to through RSS subscriptions. With this, we’ve now made Publications truly a place for people to follow your work and get updates on your ideas, thoughts, and stories. We’d love for you to try it and let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Seamless connections to other channels
If publishing on Medium becomes just another item on the to-do list, traditional bloggers may be deterred from taking on more work. With the help of publishing APIs and IFTTT (if this then that) Recipes, integrating Medium into a blogging routine can become a seamless task. From a preliminary look, there are already 269 ways to connect to Medium through IFTTT: https://ifttt.com/medium.