Category Archives: Technology

Unplugging Slightly

I got a new bike basket and bag (more about that later), which I love, but even though I pre-measured, it turns out that the bag isn’t quite big enough for my work laptop.

I suppose I could have returned the bag and basket and gone with the rear rack and pannier, but I decided to try something different: leaving my laptop at work. After all, we have a perfectly good family laptop, plus I have my iPad mini, which can easily go back and forth.

So far, it hasn’t been any real hardship. I do have to share the family laptop with other people, which means occasionally I have to ask to use it, but that’s OK!

Am I really using my electronics less because of this decision? Maybe not. I’m still in the habit of using my phone and iPad to obsessively check social media and play solitaire. And I hadn’t been using the laptop that much at home anyway.  But it is something different for me!


Living in the Future: Mobile Gift Cards

A while ago, I posted links to my SwagBucks and MyPoints accounts because I was trying to earn enough points to get gift cards to use for our family vacation. I didn’t make my goals in time for that, but I did recently get enough points to order some gift cards to use for school supplies and household items. So I’ll be getting a regular plastic gift card in the mail for Staples, but for Target the only option was an e-gift card.

Now, I’ve gotten e-gift cards for Amazon before, and of course you have to use them online. You can do that with Target as well. But Target also lets you use e-gift cards in-store, via mobile phone!

What you need: a smartphone, the Target app for your smartphone, and the card number and access number for the gift card.

The Target app will ask you to enter the card number and access number to load the card on your phone. When you get to the checkout counter, open the app, go to My Gift Cards, tap the button for that card, and have the cashier scan the bar code. That’s it! Well, I suppose you could have the same problem I did – my phone completely lost its wireless connection somewhere in the store, and I had to get it to reconnect first.

This will work for both e-gift cards (sent to you via email) and for physical cards. Just add the numbers from your physical cards to your phone, and you’ll always have them with you.  You can even send and receive gift cards by phone.

I’ve been using bar codes on my phone for airline tickets, bus tickets, event tickets, and now gift cards. This is hugely convenient, and I look forward to using this method more often.


No, Target didn’t pay me or give me anything for this post. Just a happy customer.

Healthy Habits

So, I’ve been working healthy habits for a while now, and one of the tools I use is Health Month. Health Month is a website where you can track your progress on various goals every day. It’s set up sort of like a game; you earn points, and you can lose life points if you don’t meet your goals each week, and you can assign yourself rewards and consequences for the end of the month.

So, for instance, for September my goals were:

  1. Write for at least 10 minutes 2 times per week.
  2. Walk at least 5 miles per week.
  3. Ride my bike at least 30 miles per week.
  4. Do yoga at least 1 day per week.

And I made a contract with myself that if I survived the month with at least one life point left, I would buy myself a new top. And if I didn’t have at least one life point left, I would donate $5 to charity (it occurs to me that I ought to make the two things more equal).

I didn’t meet all my goals every single time. But the system is flexible, and if you start losing life points you can heal yourself with fruit, or ask other people to heal you with their fruit.

And next month I’m adjusting my goals — I added meditation and weight training, and I cut back my biking and walking goals a bit.

I also started a team, because I have not tried that part of the game yet. It’s a team for Portlanders — if you want to join, it’s at You can try Health Month for free, as long as you do three or fewer rules. I did this for a couple of months before I decided to commit a little more — and it’s only $5 for the month to play more than three rules, AND you can easily request a sponsorship if you can’t afford that.

I like Health Month because it helps me with both fitness goals and mental health goals (by the way, I started my new medication, and have been feeling amazing for the most part). And it’s easy to track – just check a few boxes and/or fill in a few numbers every day. If I miss a day or several, it’s easy to go back and fill in the blanks.

And now I’ve got ten minutes of writing to check off for today!

Unplugging Details

About last night: no, I’m not unplugging completely and/or forever. I still plan on using the internet and even playing some games. So you’ll see me here and on Facebook and Twitter and wherever else I decide to be.

But I am going to limit my internet time. So, starting today I’m trying 30 minutes after work and 30 minutes in the evening (plus whatever time I scrounge in the morning and on breaks). I have the timer set RIGHT NOW. And I’m going to do this for a week and see how it goes. I suspect I’ll survive. And I’ll be ADDING all that good stuff like reading, exercise and meditation. I have plenty to read. I’m certain I won’t be bored.


Photo by Quinn Dombrowski from Flickr, used via CC BY-SA 2.0

Unplugging, for my brain’s sake

I think I might finally be figuring out how to deal with this anxiety and depression. It’s been a bad couple of days, in which I’ve wanted to hide under the desk, eat, sleep, etc. Today I was thinking that managing depression is almost a full time job itself. When I took those two weeks off and focused on getting myself better, I did get better, and it lasted for a while. But I can’t just take time off all the time, either.

I do, however, have time to spare. All of the time I spend messing around on the computer or (less frequently now) watching tv.

I can unplug and spend time with the family, read, meditate, exercise, do yoga – all the things that help me to feel better.

It’s not easy. I’ve gotten used to filling that time with games and witty internet banter and making excuses for doing it. But tonight, unplugging sounds good and feels good. I’ve been reading a book (yes, on the phone, but still), and I just came upstairs to bed early. The quiet feels good and is encouraging me to do more with it.

Facebook and Promoted Posts

I’ve seen posts by several people today who are concerned about Facebook charging people/businesses to get their posts seen by more people. Here’s my take.

I love Facebook. I use it to keep in touch with friends and family, plus I have Pages for this blog and another blog I occasionally still write on.

The Page for this blog allows me to have people Like TechnoEarthMama and then be notified via their Facebook news feeds when I post something new. And sometimes I post other links and comments to my TechnoEarthMama Page if I have something I want to share with readers.

Why don’t I just have people friend me on my personal Facebook account? Well, I want to keep it just that — personal. I do have Facebook friends whom I’ve never met in person, but in those cases we do have some kind of ongoing connection such that I’m OK with sharing family photos and personal updates with them.The Page allows me to have people I don’t really know just follow my blog.

Anyway, I’ve realized all along that when I post something, either via personal account or Page, not everyone on my friends/fans list will read it. Facebook says that on average, only 16% of your Page fans are actually seeing any given post. On my stats page for TechnoEarthMama, I see figures anywhere from 12-21%.

Why? There are a variety of reasons. First of all, it depends on how a user’s news feed is sorted. I keep mine sorted by Most Recent, which I feel allows me to see more posts. I don’t want Facebook to decide what my Top Stories should be, which is what you get if you leave your news feed sort on Top Stories. They have some kind of algorithm based on who/what you interact with the most that decides what to put at the top of your feed. And sometimes when I log in, my news feed just says “Sort” at the top – it doesn’t say whether it’s sorted by Top Stories or Most Recent – so I’m not sure which is in effect.  It’s gotten better about staying on Most Recent for me lately.

So, if you’re letting Facebook choose for you, you’re not necessarily seeing everything from all of your friends and all of the Pages you’ve Liked.

However, even if you have selected Most Recent, you probably don’t go back and read every single post since the last time you logged in. So that’s another reason why any given post only reaches about 16% of people — it’s just the timing. They didn’t read the news feed all the way back to wherever your post was.

And finally, even if a person is your friend or fan, they can choose to hide some or all of your posts from their news feed, and you will never know about it. That accounts for some of the non-views.

SO. The point here is that each and every one of your friends/fans does not necessarily see each and every one of your posts. It’s always been that way.  It’s the same on Twitter, and even in e-mail. People won’t necessarily read all of your emails, especially if they are promotional in some way.

Facebook is now offering to help some Pages with this. People managing Pages with over 400 Likes have been seeing a message asking them to pay extra to get that post in front of more viewers.

Facebook is NOT saying that you have to pay or they will restrict your views. They’re just offering to to put your post in a promoted position or in a rotation or something so that more people will see it. Everything else remains the same as it always has been.

Some people have alternate suggestions for making sure fans see your posts. For instance, if someone likes or comments on your posts fairly often, they are more likely to see your posts in their newsfeed.

The other suggestion is to ask fans to check their settings for your page to make sure posts will show up in their newsfeeds. Here’s how that works:

  1. Go to the Facebook Page you want to follow (for instance, TechnoEarthMama!).
  2. Hover the mouse over the button that says “Liked.” Most likely, nothing will happen.
  3. Move the mouse away and then hover over the button again. You should hopefully now see a menu with the options New List, Show In News Feed, and Unlike.
  4. Make sure that there is a check mark next to Show In News Feed. If there is no check mark, clicking should put one there.

The problem with these suggestions? First, you have to depend on your fans to do this themselves. Second, you can’t really tell them over Facebook to do this, because the people you need to tell are probably not seeing your posts! So you need to find another way to let them know.

Personally, I’ve had no issues with getting the updates I want to see. Today I checked several pages that I Liked recently (at the top of your profile/Timeline page, look for the word “Likes” and click on it) and they were all set to Show In News Feed already (I also found several pages in the list that I had NOT, in fact, Liked, but that’s another story). Your account may be the same. Or not.


Sources/For More Information

How To Make Sure You See My Facebook Posts by MeiLin Miranda

ADDED 6/6/12: Great post from Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom with examples of fuzzy/voodoo math used by Facebook.

New Web Stuff: Google+ and Empire Avenue

Google+ is all the rage today — it’s a new social networking service launched by Google, currently available by invitation only. Basically, you put all of your Google contacts into circles like Friends, Family, Business, etc., and then you can follow things people choose to share. Sound familiar? Like, Facebook? Yeah. Anyway, people can post directly on Google+, and they can also +1 things they like around the web, which will then appear in your Google+ stream. This is done either with a +1 button (see the bottom of this post for an example) or  by using a +1 browser extension. It’s just like a Facebook Like. Except it’s not Facebook, it’s Google. [OK, coming back to this again, it looks like the +1 things don’t appear in the main Stream, although they do appear on one’s profile. You can post links to the Stream, though, by copying and pasting the URL. Correct me if I’m wrong…]

Google+ seems to work smoothly and do what it’s advertised to do. I just don’t see any compelling reason for people to use it, given that most are already on Facebook. After all, there’s no FARMVILLE on Google+! Well, maybe that’s a good thing.

Oh, I did see one cool thing: If you delete a circle, the circle actually ROLLS OFF THE PAGE. Seriously.

If you’d like a Google+ invitation, I just saw a note on Google+ that they are shutting down invites for the night! But you can leave me a comment below, using your Gmail address as the email address, and I’ll send you an invite when they open up again. Don’t worry, no one will be able to see your email address besides me.

Empire Avenue has been around a little longer. I noticed it because a Twitter friend joined up and was auto-tweeting messages about it one day. It’s a social media stock market game/networking website. You can buy and sell stock in other people (or companies with social media accounts). You can try to increase your own share price by being active in social media (it tracks your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube activity) and by getting other people to buy more shares in you. You can also try to increase your net wealth by buying and selling the right stocks. It’s all free; you’re just dealing in virtual money (unless you want to put real money into it).

I’m not really sure what the point is (although there are explanations out there). But I’m having a little fun with it anyway, and it does keep me posting on Facebook and Twitter (and here, I get credit for posting here!).

If you’re interested in joining Empire Avenue, you can use my referral link if you would like to, which awards me 2,000 eaves (virtual currency). And if you’d like to buy shares in me, I’m KMCDADE.