I read an interesting article about a service in Japan where men are paid just to listen.
The service provides people the ability to rent an “ossan” or “old man” for about $10 per hour.
Renting an ossan allows you to either schedule a phone conversation, or to meet in a public place, such as a cafe or park. There are strict rules governing any rental, such as no touching.
The men who are “rented” are typically middle aged – the idea being that someone who is older may have more life experiences and wisdom.
While I wonder about the liability of running a similar kind of business here in the U.S., one of many concerns, I do love the concept in its pure form.
Sometimes we all just need someone to listen to us. Talking often allows us to sort through our own problems. And you will likely receive a different type of response from people you know or family members than you would from someone you do not know – who could give you more unbiased perspectives.
The added benefit of hiring someone to listen to you, even if it is just temporary, is that a commercial transaction is going to “feel” different for you. You may be more likely to speak freely, which could help you achieve a better resolution or feel better after the conversation is over. Of course, if you did not feel comfortable talking to a complete stranger in the first place, you would not look for such a service, let alone hire one.
Some of the examples of how a company like this could help people in the U.S. are:
- Schedule to meet an elderly person in the park to walk with them and listen to them talk about their life
- Talk with teenagers who do not want to share their problems with their parents, but need an adult to listen
- Talk with men or women who have jobs that often place them in solitary situations
- Listen to college students looking to share career aspirations
- Listen to people who are experiencing a difficult or exciting event, and have no one to share it with
- Provide a fake friend (rent-a-friend), family member, or companion (rent-a-date or rent-a-man) for various occasions such as weddings, funerals and parties.
When interviewed about the “ossan” business he started, Takanobu Nishimoto has some interesting observations:
- He never knows what exactly people are going to ask for or talk about when they rent him, which is both scary and interesting
- He has had many emotional experiences, including being asked to visit sick people in the hospital, and announce a marriage
- He has debated shutting the service down, but finds he enjoys the social connections and needs the renters as much as they need him
The business in Japan has generated over 1,500 clients, with 60 percent as repeat customers. 70 percent of the clientele are women. Though social isolation has been a noted problem in Japan, most of the clients do not fit into that category.
Given our growing “gig” culture, and the benefits a service like this could provide, it could be a disruptor of sorts.
If anyone wants to start this type of business with me, I have some ideas on services, fee structure, terms and other aspects to this type of a business. I’ve also got a few domains in mind, as well as one purchased. If so, let me know via e-mail: michael [at] hackmer [dot] com.
People are looking for Medium invites. And I wonder, why?
There was an interesting post in GIGAOM entitled “Of editors and algorithms: Evan Williams on the future of media and Medium’s role in it” a few days ago.
From reading the article, other interviews and checking Medium out, I get the idea that Medium is trying to be a whole bunch of things simultaneously, everything from a blogger platform to an online magazine – with an algorithmic based system that parses through all the content that gets submitted and finds the most relevant or best items for people to consume. There also are editors who serve as gatekeepers to help bring the highest tier of content to the surface.
So, what really is the point of Medium? Don’t we have all of these things already?
What’s more, people today are far more driven by channels and themes. In television, we have cooking networks, trash tv, HGTV, Catholic TV, and the list goes on. The same exists in print and digital media. Or have we forgotten that YouTube brings things like Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager and hundreds of thousands of content creations from all over the world that we would not have normally seen through mass media?
The only way a new content platform can work successfully is if you give a person the ability to filter that content by a channel. That does not seem to exist yet in Medium.
However, even with channels in place, you still end up trying to become all things to all people. Isn’t that why we have network television? Or the Huffington Post?
Unless the content in Medium can somehow be made contextually relevant to what we are doing, where we are, where we are going or even what our mood is at a given moment in time (either because we share such data or its inferred by an activity we are engaged in) – it wont create enough of a habit to generate sustained readership. It will end up being just more noise in a crowded and noisy space.
Gravy has come along way since it was born as timeRAZOR. The company that makes the hyperlocal event app which allows people to discover things going on near where they work, live or plan to be, has gone through more changes than just its name. With the development and launch of web portal (see below) and better geo-searching within a specific location, stronger channels and the growing improvement of pulling in social trends related to event listings and event venues, Gravy has achieved a higher level of sophistication and power for the user to find events of interest.
These changes also translate well for businesses seeking to tap into consumers who are looking for things to do. By connecting their mobile app to deals and special events, such as movie releases, Gravy is becoming a stronger option for retailers and companies in the entertainment industry who are interested in driving paying traffic to their sales and events.
For the purpose of this blog post, I will focus mainly on the new web portal and location search, and follow-up with an update on Gravy’s benefit to retailers (including events and movie releases) in a broader piece on apps retailers can use to increase their engagement.
Gravy’s New Web Portal Delivers
The launch of the new web portal this year is something Gravy fans have been eagerly anticipating. While the mobile app is a great discovery tool for when you are on the move, a majority of people still search for activities and events using their computer, either at home or at work.
With the FindGravy.com portal, people can easily identify events based on locations and moods, just like they can in app. What’s more, by logging in (the easiest way is to connect through Facebook), you can save events to your account, share them socially and add them to your calendar.
What’s more, by clicking a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, you can start to build a better feed of events that FindGravy.com will serve you. If you do this consistently throughout the different moods, it should greatly improve the kinds of events you want to see. Gravy has the largest database of events in the US (I assume that also would mean the world, but that’s my pro-America bias showing), so this process should connect you with a wide array of exciting things to discover.
This brings me to the event listings on FindGravy.com. They are incredibly robust. To the rleft is an example of a Latin American Salsa Making event taking place in Washington, DC. The event description pulls in a great image, the ability to buy tickets, as well as all the key ways you need to promote the event. Gravy even includes the option to create a Facebook event. And if you have synced your Gravy account with Facebook, this process is extremely easy. Within the mobile app version, you can tap to text an event to friends.
Overall, the descriptions in the new web portal give people searching for compelling things to do a great display with easy-to-use tools to rope in friends. It helps to make Gravy more of a complete solution for people looking to be active.
Discovering Events In The Gravy App Based On Location And The Map
A few quick words on the new location search features in the Gravy app.
With the original versions you had to pre-load your home and work locations. Later you were able to add a third area. But the structure of the app made it hard to intuitively get there. Now, with the latest redesign, a person can discover what’s going on using a range.
With markers that indicate what kind of mood or activity, you can adjust the map to better find things around you based on your location or an entered location, which is done simply at the top of the screen. This is a really great improvement to the app, and the user experience.
You can still access the drop down by tapping on the address that appears on the top, as well as change your mood by tapping on the moods on the upper-far-right on the screen.
Overall, the changes keep coming from Gravy, both in the app and on the website. In just the last year the company has processed over 100 million events, and made over 300 million recommendations. But there is more to come. As Gravy continues to add new features and functionality, it will end up being the social app of choice for millions of people to find things to do based on how they feel and what they have explored previously.
If you have an event to add to Gravy’s database, click to submit a local event.
Do not forget to download the app for your phone and check out Gravy’s new website at: www.findgravy.com
North Korea, the clandestine and isolated regime located in between China and South Korea, has one thing in common with timeRAZOR: Neither give in when it comes to a launch!
Of course, North Korea launched a long-range missile to try and put a satellite into orbit (so they say), whereas timeRAZOR launched a “Never Miss Out” application designed to cure people’s FOMO (fear of missing out), satisfy the craving behind YOLO (you only live once), and make everyone as famous as J-LO. Well… Maybe not the last part…
So, even though they are both incredibly focused, driven, and don’t take “NO” for an answer when their leadership teams want to do something, here are the top 5 ways timeRAZOR is NOT like a North Korean missile launch.
5. timeRAZOR’s product did not break apart and plunge into the ocean a few minutes after launch.
4. timeRAZOR has established powerful business partnerships with companies to fill its app with exclusive offers. In fact, timeRAZOR wants to expand their relationships with major brands (click here for brand info). North Korean missile launches? Not so much.
3. timeRAZOR has the largest aggregated database of events, sports, entertainment and nightlife activities in the country, so they can always find something to do. North Korean missile launches come only once every few years, and its pretty much an invitation only event.
2. North Korean missile launches do not come with real-time traffic alerts that tell you when you need to leave so you won’t be late and miss out.
And the number 1 way timeRAZOR is NOT like a North Korean Missile Launch…
1. timeRAZOR fans are excited when timeRAZOR sends them interesting events close to where they live, work and plan to be – so it is easy for them to discover new things to do. And let’s face it… Nobody in the world wants North Korea to send them a missile.
Key takeaways – Get the free timeRAZOR app now for your iPhone and Android and avoid the North Korean missile.
timeRAZOR, a new concept being developed by Blue Canopy and mysbx / GovWin founder Jeff White (@Jeff_White1347) and SEO / online marketing expert Victoria Clark (@NotVicki), is building towards a launch. While I am under a total information lock-down, an early glimpse of what is in the works is extremely exciting.
One way to get an early scoop of what timeRAZOR is all about (apart from reading news updates in this space) is to sign up at: http://timerazor.com/s37jv.
You also can stay informed about the company through their daily tweets @time_Razor.
This post originally appears in the govWin.com blog section at: http://govwin.com/node/73572
The 2010 Gov 2.0 Summit in Washington, DC, brought together a high-caliber collection of thought leaders from the federal government, tech industry, SIs, the business community and others.
The conference’s overarching theme was that it is not enough for the government to simply unleash stagnant or trapped data to the masses, but rather harnessing the power of technology to improve and transform what government already does.
Here is a breakdown of some of the key points that were delivered at Gov 2.0:
@Carl Malamud, Founder and President of Public.Resource.Org, identified several examples of IT waste, including instances in which data was actually being transported by car instead of shared electronically. Malamud sees a need for bulk data standards and a serious “national scanning initiative” to digitize data. Malamud had perhaps the line of the conference when he said, “If we can put a man on the moon, surely we can launch the @LibraryCongress into cyberspace.”
@Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation talked about how Gov 2.0 is not just about unlocking data. Otherwise, the government spends time and resources releasing census information on wild horses instead of mining safety reports. The key is for government to focus on releasing data that improves its ability to be critically assessed and improve efficiency. Lastly, Miller stressed the need for citizens to be engaged to help make #gov20 a reality.
Living up to the ideal of transforming government, Todd Park, CTO of Health and Human Service (HHS), discussed his department’s efforts to open data, including its support for
Health2Challenge and HHS’ implementation of the “blue button initiative” which will allow VA and Medicare recipients to download health data from medical providers and hospitals.
Todd Park, CTO, HHS, talks with Tim O’Reilly about how he was persuaded to work in government.
@TimOReilly moderated a session between Aneesh Chopra, Federal Chief Technology Officer of the United States and Vivek Kundra, Chief Information Officer of the United States. Chopra talked about how the government has an infrastructure challenge to satisfy the growth of mobile technology, and the need to double spectrum as part of the solution. Kundra talked about cloud computing and the need to “speed up the democratization of data.” Both proudly unveiled the launch of challenge.gov, an open contest forum for citizens to develop solutions to various government challenges.
BrightScope’s @mikealfred presented one of the most compelling cases on how a persistent pursuit of government data can fuel an innovative business model. By obtaining
data from the Department of Labor, SEC, Census Bureau, EEOC and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, BrightScope is able to provide 401K ratings and financial intelligence, which leads to greater efficiency in the 401K plan market.
On the whole, Gov 2.0 seems to be evolving. The consensus from the sessions and discussions with attendees like David Stephenson (@Data4All), Jack Dangermond @ESRI and others was that Gov 2.0 is now more about identifying opportunities, being innovative when tackling challenges and taking action.