Archive for the ‘technology and the future’ Category

Screenshot of Brownie Points from the App Store

Screenshot of Brownie Points from the App Store

As much as I love my local coffee shops, it’s beyond me to ever remember to bring my loyalty cards along. Or if I do, either myself or the cashier forgets to ask to get it punched or stamped.

Today, I popped into Caffe Rosso on 11th in Calgary to find a new screen sitting in front of the register. It said “Brownie Points” at the top. Turns out they’ve just launched their Brownie Points program today. You can either grab a card or download the app. Either gives you your own QR code (finally a useful use of QR codes!). You scan the QR code through the little camera on the screen, it brings up your account and records your purchase.

Easy peazy!

And… I was their first Brownie Points customer :). That should earn me some extra brownie points!

The app is free to download and available in the app store. Currently, it looks like it’s only available for iPhone and iPad. Good thing you can still grab a card with your own QR code if you’re not an Apple user!

As of today, Caffe Rosso is the only Calgary business using the app.

Brownie Points is a Canadian company located out of St John’s, NL. Check them out at

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Brownie Points other than having just downloaded the app and used it in my favourite coffee shop. I also have no affiliation with my favourite coffee shop other than the fact that I love their coffee (and breakfast sandwiches and gigantic chocolate oatmeal cookies) and can often be seen in the window typing away at my laptop.

Original iPhone + iPhone 3G + iPhone 4

Original iPhone + iPhone 3G + iPhone 4 (Photo credit: Yutaka Tsutano)

Apple picking. It’s not just with that tree in your backyard anymore.

I was at the gym last night peddling away on one of the recumbents when a news story about a new trend in iPhone stealing popped on the screen. It’s one that’s gaining traction in the US. Has it happened here yet? Not sure, but it could.

Apple Picking. As in, mugging you for your phone while you’re on it. The report said women were often the target. The older, the better. We’re often unaware of our surroundings when we’re lost in conversation or in text. Stolen iPhones can be sold for as much as $300 according to a nameless and faceless source during the story.

A few tips for keeping your phone in your hands:

  1.  Put it away. We’ve survived plenty fine in the world before cell phones. Save your texting and you’re talking for a time when you’re out of that big open public space.
  2. Get yourself a hands free, wireless set. Then you can continue on your merry way with smart phone in a zipped up pocket somewhere and still have your conversation.
  3. Don’t keep your phone on the table at a restaurant. Another easy walk-n-snatch opportunity. Take that photo of your food and then… put it away. Your dining companion is sure to thank you too. If you’re on call, set it to vibrate and keep it in your lap.
  4. Have a backup and don’t store important information or access to it on your primary phone.

Taking photos from your iPhone or iPad, talking, texting… what are other day-to-day behaviours that would make it easy for a thief to make off with our gadgets?


Working remotely, often my only means of face-to-face communication with my coworkers is of the online type. We’ve been using Skype for the longest time, but often had problems with the clarity of the call. At first, we chalked it up to our internet connections. But, then it kept happening. With different people, in different cities. Maybe not so much the internet connection?

Sometimes old habits die hard. But sometimes, when a more clear (literally in this case) alternative comes along, jumping ship is pretty easy to do. Google Hangout. Like Skype, it’s free to use and it’s got an app for that. Unlike Skype, it’s also free to host a video chat with up to 10 people. In Skype land, at least one of you had to subscribe to the group video chat feature.

I’m sure there other bonuses still to using Skype (like the super cheap calling to landlines feature that I still use instead of long distance on my mobile), but when it comes to video chat, it just seems to be the call quality winner.


Have you noticed how ridiculous it is that we’ve got a distracted driving law? It’s not ridiculous to want to stop people from chatting on their phones, texting, checking their emails, shaving, putting on their mascara, etc. while driving, but what is ridiculous is we’ve come so far down this road that our own government’s got to impose a law to protect us from ourselves. When did it become okay for us not to pay attention?

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but over the last few months I’ve found myself getting annoyed at the very behaviours I used to model… keeping my cell phone on the table while out for coffee with someone, live tweeting an event, checking for emails or texts or messages so periodically I couldn’t even keep track of the amount of times I would look at my iPhone in a day…

Back in November, I was out with a few of the Calgary yelpers at Craft. We had all pulled out our phones at one point or another, so I decided to impose a no phone rule for 30 minutes. If anyone so much as looked at their phones during that time, they had to buy us all dessert. Ten minutes in, guess who lost at her own game?

It’s not just our phones. It’s the fact that many of us find our self-worth at the mall, we make ourselves feel better by letting out a snarky comment instead of pointing that same finger right back at ourselves, or we find ways not to fix our own problems by dismissing them with a phrase like, “Oh, such a first world problem!” It may be a first world problem, but the fact that we then don’t follow-up with any action to correct it is a slippery slope.

It’s still way too early to tell what kind of impact this new wave of communication will have on us, we’re the ones experimenting with it. But I’ve taken my head out of the sand and I don’t think I want to stick it back in. I feel like it’s irresponsible of us to go forth with so much gusto without examining the impacts it has on our lives. Are we satisfied being friend collectors, having many surface relationships (which in turn are another great way to ensure we don’t ever have to dive too deep)? Or are we consciously finding the balance between these online connections and the deep, personal connections we ultimately need to find happiness and satisfaction in our lives? Some of us do the latter quite well. But the majority of us? Well, I think the existence of The Distracted Driving Law says it all.

Scavenger hunts have always been an amusing way to spend a day (I even did one at my sixth birthday party). But with the advent of social media, they’re taking on an entirely new twist. Even Pearl Jam hopped on the hunt train. I’m not sure we hit 5.9 Million tweets globally, but we certainly took over Twitter today in Calgary as participants in Tweets For Eats YYC tweeted in photos, took good-natured jabs at one another online and raised the profile for a Calgary charity as we descended upon the city. It’s yet another avenue of online successfully meeting offline… and all participants and spectators having a blast in the mean time. Today was, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve had at a fundraising event in a long time.

Let me start out with a little run down of the day. I was on a team with Margot from The Costume Shoppe and her friend Karen. We met for a morning picker upper at Chiasso and then headed on over to Melrose to join the couple dozen people already stationed outside waiting for the doors to open and check-in to begin (not to mention the free breakfast sandwiches, yogurt and fruit Melrose had waiting to fuel us up). The hunt didn’t start until 11, but at 945 the doors opened wide and we rushed in to get our forms all filled in and wait for the much-anticipated hunt list.

We ride bareback on Team Silvester

At 11 on the nose, the list was handed out. There were over 200 items consisting of sponsored items recognizing the hunt sponsors, physical items (as in we had to bring these back with us), photograph items (send in a picture) and unique items (only one team could win each one!). Most teams were out the door lickety-split. Not us. We took our time and perused the entire list, sorting out what we wanted to find and splitting it up by neighbourhood or location. From there, we hopped in the car and off we went!

The hunt could take you from just a block or two from the start point all the way out to Elbow Falls. We concentrated on covering as many items as possible in as small an area as possible. This meant restraining ourselves to downtown, Inglewood and… where else but The Costume Shoppe!

I had no idea the day was going to go by so quickly! Part of that was thanks to my awesome teammates, I couldn’t have asked for two better ladies to spend the day with. We had a hoot and had a similar approach to the hunt! The other, well, there were just so many places to try to visit and items to get. We got a little creative with a couple of the clues, like having our team crawl underneath a truck bed instead of a real bed and finding a paper clip in place of a “trombone” (Hint: it’s the French word for paperclip). I was also introduced to a couple of places in the city I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, like this garage filled and decorated with bottle caps!

We didn't do it... I swear!

The day ended at 400pm back at Melrose to tally points, have some much-needed food and drink, listen to some tunes and await the winner of the grand prize of 4 iPads! Three recounts later, we had our winners. The Four Pink Ladies!

Check out the #t4e stream to read all the Twitter updates and photos from the day.

Congrats John S, Mike B, Mike and Ally S on a hunt well done. Can’t wait for next year!