I have spent around a third of my life in Argentina, a third in the USA and a third in Spain. While I have friends from all over the world, most of my friends are from these three countries. And there is a very big difference in the tone of their social media commentaries. My American friends talk about their lives in a positive tone and are in love with innovation, with ways of making the world a better place. Occasionally, generally at election time, they speak about politics.

My Argentine and Spanish friends, on the other hand, share an obsession with local politics that makes reading most of their social media commentaries tedious and sad. I am so tired of their whining that at this point I am actively looking for ways to filter out of my social media for political commentary. Both countries suffer from similar problems, an inept and corrupt leadership that makes it hard for citizens to move on with their lives. The tone of the commentaries is always something like “I can’t believe that such and such politician would say or do such a crazy wrong thing”. Most of my friends are disgusted by all politicians and complain across party lines. In the case of Argentina there are still a few who love the Kirchner government while most by now hate it. In Spain there is a general sense of embarrassment for all politicians that is more realistic but the conversation about them never ends. There is always some new topic, lately it is the Barcenas corruption scandal.

People in Spain and Argentina never seem to come to the conclusion that their political class is just rotten and probably will always be like that, and that they can either emigrate or put up with it. They are like children of divorced parents whose only obsession is for their parents to get together again. And that they never will. But as children of divorced parents can overcome the trauma and thrive, so can citizens of these nations. Argentines, Spanish and citizens of all troubled nations (which all countries are to some extent) should learn to live well in their own countries in spite of their political classes, something that is actually very doable. But in order to do this they have to stop talking, commenting or getting involved in political discussion, and focus that energy instead on their families, friends and especially on their work. I can give you countless examples of Argentines and Spaniards who have done amazing work in spite of the crisis. The most striking example is Amancio Ortega who, working out of a little town in the northeast of Spain, La Coruña, has managed to become the third wealthiest man in the world (net worth estimated at $55 billion ahead of Warren Buffet) building Inditex. On a smaller scale, the same can be said about Marcos Galperin, an entrepreneur who is building Mercado Libre into a multi-billion dollar company from Buenos Aires, or my own company Fon, which we built in Madrid and is now the largest WiFi network in the world. And Spain has many more large and thriving companies that are ignoring the political impasse and moving on. Mango, the fashion retailer, is another example. And in other fields like the arts, movies, architecture, fashion, technology, science, many productive, creative and extremely smart Argentines and Spaniards have decided to focus on their expertise and are managing to thrive in spite of the negativity that surrounds them.

So my advice to friends who live in troubled countries is to ignore politics. To stop blaming their environment for their shortcomings and to move ahead in life never even mentioning Kirchner or Rajoy and other political “leaders”.

In the meantime as a favor to me, if you know of a way to filter political commentary in Spanish away from my Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter do let me know. I just want to know what my friends are up to, or what they are doing. Not what the Spanish and Argentine politicians are up to or doing, because their ability to screw up their countries out of ineptitude and/or greed is endless.

Recently there has been an increased focus on our barriers to multitasking. For example, imagine yourself driving as you receive a twitter update or an SMS on your cell phone. Without a driverless car, your eyes must be focused on the road with your hands on the steering wheel, not on your phone. And that’s just one case; the desire for visual and tactile independence is true for any situation where your attention is required elsewhere. In this sense, I am starting to see more and more options for programs to read information aloud.

The improvement in speech recognition and text-to-speech programs has transformed our interactions with smartphones. For example, the Samsung Galaxy SIII comes equipped with “Driving mode”: a service that announces incoming calls, reads inbound text messages and emails, and allows you to reply back orally. Furthermore, look at personal assistant services like Siri and Sherpa. These apps provide a way to essentially maintain an oral conversation with your mobile device, accessing data from the phone’s systems, apps and internet sites. I find these programs valuable; I rely on my mobile phone primarily as a source of news and updates from my social networks.

For this reason, some months ago I created an Android app called RadioMe. In September it was improved and renamed SpotRadio. It’s a radio that reads your social media feeds, so that you can receive your Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn updates by spoken word. I personally find it most useful on my bike trips, which are often long and well accompanied by a mix of music and personal news.

What’s more, in the market for social DJ apps I have a great competitor: The Social Radio. Its creator Roberto Gluck and I recently discussed the similarities and differences between our apps with the hope of improvement on both ends.

The Social Radio has many advantages – its default TTS program provides a more realistic, less robotic voice that changes between male and female. It recognizes two more languages than SpotRadio, one of which is Russian. The app has Android, iOS and web versions, while SpotRadio currently only supports Android. Its interface is simple like SpotRadio’s, and although it has less options for configuring frequency and duration of music and social news, it offers more choices for receiving Twitter news: you can listen to customized lists or trending topics as opposed to the full stream.

However, The Social Radio doesn’t read other social media networks- it’s only available for Twitter, whereas SpotRadio can integrate Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail and SMS. At the same time, the app consumes much more bandwidth than SpotRadio because the voices are synthesized on an external server, rather than on the device itself. Additionally, while SpotRadio keeps social media account information within the app, The Social Radio requires authorizing access to Twitter account every time the app is opened. SpotRadio provides your social news in written form, recognizes duplicate updates and won’t read the provider of the update if you prefer not to hear it- options unavailable in The Social Radio.

The Social Radio and SpotRadio are two new tools of many that offer the ability to receive spoken notifications from your handheld device. Whether accessing your Facebook updates or reading you an email, this auditory trend is convenient and increasingly relevant to multitaskers. In any case, it should take off even further as improvement in TTS and voice recognition technology continues.

If Kant said that you should lead your life thinking that if your behavior was adopted by all, society would continue to function normally, I would say that the new Categorical Imperative in a world of social media should be “live your life as if it was always publicly exposed”

Yes there is privacy and there are some intimate moments that most would appreciate that you keep private.  But there are some actions that are so obviously wrong should they be exposed that they are simply unethical. And thinking of social media is a good way to judge if anything was right or wrong. Something like, could I live with a video in Youtube of me at this moment? Or could this be a photo in my timeline? Or could somebody Tweet about me right now? Or could somebody write a Tumblr post about whatever it is that I am doing. That should be enough to help you decide if what you are doing is right or wrong.

As far as I am concerned I live my life as if my email was perennially hacked. Because sooner or later, it will be 🙂

I’m happy to announce that I’ve recently improved on a project of mine. An Android app I designed some time ago, RadioMe, has been upgraded to SpotRadio. I came up with the idea of a “social media DJ” while on a bike ride. I usually would listen to music, but I hated the thought of not knowing what was going on around me, of not being connected. I had to stop mid-bike ride to check e-mails and read Facebook/Twitter streams. RadioMe solved this problem, and SpotRadio makes it better.

SpotRadio is a social radio that plays your Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, LinkedIn, Google Reader and SMS so you LISTEN to it instead of looking at the screen. It allows you to be listening simultaneously to any music player on your phone, for example Spotify or Play Music. When you receive updates, SpotRadio turns the music down on these players, and turns it up again as soon as you’re up-to-date.

You can configure how frequently you want to be updated, and how many updates should be read during the “social break”. To make it easy, you only need to define the “music period” and the “update period” (e.g. ten minutes listening to music, then two minutes social updates, then back to music for ten minutes…). It’s perfect for when you ride your bike, drive around in your car or simply prefer to hear what’s going on rather than reading it.

The app is multilingual, so it can read updates in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and even in Japanese and Simplified Chinese. You just have to tell SpotRadio which languages to detect. If you get an incoming call, SpotRadio pauses automatically. You can configure the volume of the music/updates, whether you want SpotRadio to stop reading upon shaking, temporarily turn off certain providers, etc. Duplicate updates are automatically recognized and only one will be read. The notification bar at the top of your Android’s screen indicates whether SpotRadio is talking, downloading updates or waiting.

One really important aspect is the speech synthesis. The standard PICO TTS voice included in every Android device sounds like a robot from the 80’s with a cold. So if you want to use this app more comfortably, you should definitely install SVOX TTS from the Android Market- it sounds better and is quite cheap. I designed SpotRadio, and it was built by Alberto Alonso Ruibal.

Español / English

Subscribe to e-mail bulletin:
Recent Tweets