Trending December 2023 # Why Square Buying Design Shop 80/20 Matters # Suggested January 2024 # Top 21 Popular

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News made rounds earlier today that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s another startup, Square, just snapped up design shop 80/20. Square makes an awesome iPhone and Android payment solution based on a credit card dongle and it recently teamed up with Starbucks on micro-payments.

Headquartered in New York, 80/20 is renowned for its design work on user interfaces. They did a dashboard for the electric vehicle company Better Place and a sexy fitness-tracking watch for Google’s subsidiary Motorola.

Here’s why Square and 80/20 are a natural fit, why the deal makes in a greater scheme of things and why you should care…

Examples like RIM’s acquisition of UI experts Astonishing Tribe and Square’s acquisition of 80/20 indicate that design is finally becoming a strategically important asset for both Silicon Valley’s up and coming startups and established names in tech.

Those of us who have been around for awhile remember times when Apple was the sole technology firm obsessed with design. That said, it’s kinda nice the industry is acknowledging the trend Apple set decades ago.

Here’s a dashboard 80/20 designed for Better Place.

Another one.

Nice work!

The stuff looks clean and easy on the eyes, just as you’d expect car dashboards to be.

The New York Times takes note of the acquisition from the design standpoint:

Designers have become a hot commodity in Silicon Valley as tech companies realize that the way their products look and the way that people interact with them is just as important as the underlying software — a lesson learned in part from Apple.

Lately, pitches from new start-ups are likely to include words like elegant, beautiful and intuitive. These are also common words in the vocabulary of Square’s co-founder and chief executive, Jack Dorsey.

80/20 wrote on its homepage something along the same lines:

In every project, we’ve started with the belief that the best design gets out of the user’s way and that you can craft unforgettable user experiences by keeping things simple and obsessing over the details.

This sounds a lot like Apple’s and Jony Ive’s philosophy epitomized in design getting out of the way so products appear almost as if undesigned. Here’s Ive laying it all out for us in Objectified, a documentary film by director Gary Hustwit.

By the way, that Germang guy is industrial designer Dieter Rams, whose work (he designed iconic products for Braun) and 10 principles of design inspired much of Ive’s work.

Your key takeaway from that clip:

When we are designing a product, we look at the various attributes of a product. Some of those attributes are the materials it is made from and the form that is connected to that material.

Other issues is physically how do you connect to the product. For example in iPhone, everything defers to the display.

A lot of what we seem to be doing in a product like that is getting design out of the way. With that sort of reason, it feels almost inevitable, almost undesigned and it feels almost, like of course it is that way. Why would it be any other way?

Too many companies still don’t get it.

They hire designers only out of belief that design is how it looks, whereas it really isn’t.

Design is how it works.

And technology alone is not enough.

Here’s a a nice Steve Jobs quote from the 2003 New York Times article titled “The Guts of a New Machine”:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

He nailed it, didn’t he?

I’m bewildered that so many companies still don’t get what design is all about.

That’s why Square’s acquisition of 80/20 matters: it sends a warning to competitors that those who take design superficially or treat it as an annoyance are going to be left behind.

With design tools now readily available to everyone, not just Apple, the industry is finally coming to a realization that consumers are increasingly paying attention to how their devices work.

So let’s not pretend only the looks set apart Apple’s products from competition when it’s the entire package and how people interact with the product.

App design also matters just as much, as Gannon Burgett effectively explained by highlighting the design elements and choices we see in apps these days.

I was there decades ago.

Then, in 2001 Apple released OS X and I bought my Titanium PowerBook G4, installed OS X v10.0 Cheetah and never looked back.

What’s your story?

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Why Consistent Customer Service Matters And How To Achieve It

Good service once earns one happy customer. Consistently good service builds a satisfied, loyal customer base.

Unfortunately, unless you’re a sole proprietor doing everything in your business, you can’t control how your customer service teams work at every moment. How do you make sure customers get a consistent, positive experience every time they interact with you?

Customer service needs to be at the heart of your business. It’s not something that’s limited only to the customer service team. Your company culture and the heart of everything you do need to revolve around serving your customers as well as possible.

This blog post explores 2 case studies – which highlight the dos and don’ts of customer service in 2023. But first, how can you lay the groundwork that makes it simple and rewarding for your employees to provide good service every time?

Building strong customer relationships

Before you can develop a framework for how you provide service, you need to understand what makes service good in the first place. What makes one customer walk away satisfied while another goes on to write a bad review about you?

The elements of good customer service are as follows:

Focusing on customer value

Making the experience hassle-free

Meeting or exceeding customer expectations

Download our Individual Member Resource – Customer persona guide and template

Access the Customer persona guide and template

Customer value

At the heart of good customer service is a strong focus on the value you’re providing the person you’re serving. This is the first element you need to embed into your customer service team and other business teams. Your business exists to give your customers what they need and to help them gain value from it. If they’re not getting value from you, they won’t return to or recommend you.

Customer service revolves around value provision because this team has the unique responsibility of helping people make use of what they have. Often, customers initiate contact with your employees only when they have questions, concerns, or problems that they can’t sort out on their own. In order to foster a strong relationship with every customer, you need to build your team that always operates with customer value in mind.

From the first interaction to aftersales service, customers should always be receiving service that’s valuable in that time and that specific situation. If they’re asking about how a product you offer would fit into their need, value to them is giving them honest feedback from a place of product knowledge. If they have a problem, value to that customer is a knowledgeable employee walking them through the steps to solve their problem and continue using the product to the fullest.

Although the specific value you provide at a certain moment will vary, everyone interacting with customers should understand the basics of how to identify the value they need and provide it.

Hassle-free experience

Valuable service means little when the method of receiving service is inconvenient for the customer. If, for example, a customer must wait on hold for 30 minutes just to speak with a customer service agent on the phone, they’ll be far less satisfied with the experience even if they get the resolution they were seeking.

Customers that are passed around to multiple different people, who have to wait a long time for service, or who have to contact your company multiple times for an answer are less satisfied. Do whatever you can in your power to make it as simple as possible for customers to get in touch and reach a resolution.

Some of this is related to the knowledge and understanding of the employees providing service. If your company keeps information segregated by departments, it will naturally take longer for a customer to reach a resolution if they bring their issue to the wrong person. All employees should have a base level of product or service knowledge, with continuous learning.

Technology has made it simpler to reduce hassle today. For phone service, you can create a single queue system that updates people on their position in the queue. Or, even better is to give customers an option to hang up and get placed in a call-back queue, relieving them of the burden of sitting on the phone waiting. Properly utilized CRM systems also make it easier to access specific customer information to get up to speed when someone brings up an issue.

Meeting or exceeding expectations

Every time someone contacts you, your team needs to provide over and above what they expect. The bare minimum should be a satisfactory experience where all the customer’s needs are met. A gold standard for your team would be to exceed customer expectations by providing them better service than they expected to receive.

This means different things for different companies and industries. Your job is to identify the expectations of the customer and then do your best to fulfill them.

Case study: Amazon customer service

Amazon is one of the few companies in the world that’s known specifically for their excellent customer service. They’ve managed to achieve this by being what they refer to as “customer-obsessed”. From the top-down, the whole company operates with a customer-centric mentality.

If you contact Amazon customer service, you can expect to get excellent service. There are far more compliments than complaints. Many times, the company goes beyond expectations to replace, refund, or otherwise compensate customers when mistakes occur, even if it’s not the company’s fault.

Amazon has only managed to achieve this level of consistently excellent service because they place a high value on providing incredible service. Because of their core belief in customer value, they have built a whole company culture around the idea that their customers deserve the best in everything, including customer service. The result? An army of loyal Amazon customers who order again and again.

Case study: Comcast customer service

On the opposite end of the spectrum sits Comcast. This company regularly makes it into lists of the worst companies for customer service in the US, usually topping it. Year after year they’ve failed to improve their service, continually providing a dissatisfactory experience. There are a number of complaints made about Comcast customer service itself, rather than the telecom services provided.

After pledging $300million to improve its customer service, the company has seen some improvements. While it’s no longer featured on the lists of worst companies in the US, there’s a lot more room for improvement if they want long-term, loyal customers.

Building consistency

How do you build a system that makes sure your business is more like Amazon and less like Comcast? Good customer service and consistency are teachable. Develop a system that makes it simple for employees to provide good service and easy to monitor how well service is being done.

You will build consistency by developing a customer service system that makes it excessively simple for your employees to provide excellent service. This can be accomplished with a few essential steps.

1. Identifying central needs

How can your employees meet the needs of customers if they don’t know what your customers need? You can’t predict what every customer needs before they reach out, but you can understand generally what they expect and prepare your employees for all those situations ahead of time.

Surveys and rating systems are useful in tracking this or learning about customer expectations. By asking people who contact you online or over the phone what their purpose or general need is, you can get an idea over time about what people tend to contact you for.

It takes time to dig up customer needs. Sometimes the obvious answers are not the right answers. Even the customers themselves don’t always know the exact need they have when they make contact. But, when you take the time to study customer needs, you’ll be able to uncover the real motives that drove the person to reach out and seek help from your company.

This is a job that can be outsourced to a professional third-party consultancy if you’re looking for unbiased results or if you don’t have the resources to dedicate to it yourself.

2. Setting up a process

After you’ve determined the central needs of your customers, you need to create a customer service process that helps them sort out their needs as efficiently as possible. From the customer’s perspective, inefficient customer service is poor service, no matter how much money or time it saves your budget.

Your process should be multi-faceted, encompassing all the different methods of service, including:

Phone service

Email service

Live chat

Front-line service

Point of sale service

Personal contact service

However you interact with customers and provide service, the best practices for doing so should be included in your process. No one should fall through the gaps because of poor planning.

In your process, you should lay out the steps that an employee needs to follow to provide the customer service experience you’re trying to give. This will likely look different for each company, as your customer needs, company culture, and service vision will be unique.

Your process should be thorough, but teachable. You shouldn’t dictate everything your employees say or do with a script, but you need to establish guidelines that anyone can learn to follow. Whether that means a step by step method for addressing each customer or a loose guideline for interactions, the process should make it possible for customers to get a similar experience from any customer service agent.

3. Implementation

Once a process is established, it’s time to train your employees and get them up to speed on your new way of approaching customer service. Implementation should be a long, thoughtful process. No matter how good the process is, poor implementation can ruin your good intentions.

Each employee should be evaluated to uncover their strengths and weaknesses. Some employees may already be providing a high level of service while others may not be. You don’t want to accidentally reduce the quality of service from your strong employees; all you want is to re-direct them to make sure they’re following the expected guidelines.

Some employees are better at certain aspects of service than others. For example, while one may be very friendly and empathetic, another could be a great problem solver or salesperson. Nurture these strengths and help each employee apply them to your new process, sharing their skills with others whenever possible. Wherever they’re weaker at providing service, help to compensate with extra training and direction.

Training is surprisingly effective for customer service. The more your employees at all levels understand your company, your products/services, and the value they’re providing to a customer, the better they can serve that customer. By taking the time to train employees and give them the right tools to deliver quality service, you’re investing in better service standards and stronger long-term customer relationships.

4. Regular evaluation & re-training

Employees who are trained once are not done being trained forever. Re-training helps to keep employees in the loop as to what the priorities of the company are, any new updates to products/services offered, and how to properly approach customers in a service role. Simple refresher courses are useful for keeping every employee at a consistent level of service without overburdening them.

Additionally, studies show that within one hour, people tend to forget 50% of the information they were presented, and up to 90% within a week. Retraining is necessary to reinforce anything that may have been forgotten in previous training sessions.

The goal of re-training is to make it second-nature to provide great customer service. Each employee should be so familiar with the customer service process and the preferred experience that they do it naturally without having to reference the written guidelines.

To make sure your employees are reaching the standard you desire in the first place, you need to set up a system to help evaluate your staff. Evaluations can be done at regular intervals or consistently throughout the year. Evaluations should look at how an employee performs over a period of time to develop a realistic picture of their skill, rather than watching closely on a single day. Based on evaluations, re-training can be targeted to improve specific areas where an employee is lagging behind.

Consistent customer service

There is no cut-and-paste formula for developing consistency in your customer service. However, these strategies and pointers should help you to understand what you need to do and the path forward. The actual service you provide will be unique to you, but the steps to formulate and develop that service can be borrowed from other companies before you.

For consistency of service to last, you have to build up the right way. Whether you’re a small or large company, start at the beginning with understanding what good service looks like in your context and how your customers want to be served. As long as you’re addressing these core concerns in every interaction, you’ll be on the right track.

Why Instagram Alt Text Matters (And How To Use It)

Learn how to add Instagram alt text to your posts, plus best practices to keep your content accessible and searchable.

Are you using Instagram alt text? If not, you should be.

Alt text, or “alternative text” on Instagram, is an important tool for increasing accessibility and improving user experience. And it’s especially important when it comes to reaching new audiences. It’s also important for Instagram’s own algorithm, which uses alt text to understand what a post is about.

In this article, we’ll explain why Instagram alt text matters, how you can use it effectively, and what you need to know to get started.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a fitness influencer used to grow from 0 to 600,000+ followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.

What is Instagram alt text?

Instagram alt text is a short description used to explain the content of an Instagram post. This could be a photo, video, carousel post, or Instagram Story. It’s often referred to as “alternative text.” It’s displayed when an image is slow or fails to load, or is read by screen readers.

Although Instagram creates automatic alt text for posts, the generated text is not always reflective of the image. That’s why it’s important to add your own Instagram alt text.

Why is Instagram alt text important?

Instagram alt text is important because it improves accessibility on the platform.

Instagram users with visual impairments or other disabilities may use screen readers that read aloud text descriptions of on-screen images. Providing alt text for Instagram posts ensures that your content is accessible to these users and also makes sure that their experience isn’t compromised.

According to the WHO, there are 1 billion people worldwide who have moderate to severe visual impairments. So, it’s safe to assume people in your audience benefit from Instagram alt text.

Aside from boosting accessibility, adding Instagram alt text can also help improve the performance of your Instagram posts through SEO.

Instagram’s algorithm takes into account the words you use in your posts when deciding which ones to show in people’s feeds. Including keywords related to your post in a descriptive Instagram alt text can help Instagram’s algorithm recognize your post as relevant. Then, your post will likely be served to more relevant users.

Learn more about Instagram SEO here.

How to add alt text to your Instagram posts

If you want to add Instagram alt text to your posts, either new or old, follow these steps.

How to add Instagram alt text to new posts

To add Instagram alt text to new Instagram posts, start by launching the Instagram app on your phone. Follow your usual process for selecting and editing your photo, but pause before you publish.

On the next page, tap Write Alt Text.

You’ll now be able to write your Instagram alt text.

If you’re uploading your image on a desktop, simply move through the post-creation process, and choose Accessibility on the last screen.

How to add Instagram alt text to existing posts

To do this, find the Instagram post and tap the three dots in the top-right corner of your screen.

Select Edit from the pop-up menu.

At the bottom of your Instagram post, there’ll be an Edit Alt Text link.

If you’re using a desktop computer, follow the same steps, but choose Accessibility on the final screen.

How to write great alt text for Instagram

If you’re new to writing Instagram alt text, or just want to make sure you’re doing it right, here are the best practices to follow. We’ll also include some alt text on Instagram examples to help you get started.

Be clear but descriptive

The purpose of Instagram alt text is to accurately describe the image you are posting. Make sure that the alt text you write provides enough detail to help the user understand what’s in your Instagram post.

For example, alt text that simply says “a photo of a dog” doesn’t give much information. It’s better to provide more detail, such as “black labrador guide dog with orange harness sitting in front of orange tree in fall.”

Similarly, this image could read “women on surfboard.” But, a more accurate description would be “woman in orange bathing suit crouches down on surfboard as she rides a wave.”

Remember, Instagram alt text is primarily used for accessibility. Think about how someone who can’t see the image would experience it, and use that as a guide when writing your own alt text. Add detail about any important features or context in the photo to provide an accurate description of the image.

Be concise

The best alt text for Instagram accurately describes the image you’re posting, without being too long or cluttered.

Instagram allows for up to 100 characters of alt text. And some screen readers also cut off the content at 125 characters. So make sure your text is concise, as well as descriptive.

For example, when writing alt text for illustrations or art, it’s tempting to include a lot of detail. But, try to break down the most important elements into shorter phrases and words. That way Instagram users can still get the gist of what’s in the image if they are using a screen reader.

In this image, in-concise alt text would read “illustration of earth deity casting spells with crystal ball while orange and black butterflies fly around it. on its head is a tv with a wolf’s face and a dessert in the background.” While this alt text is descriptive, it is too long and bulky. It also makes assumptions about the art, which could cause confusion for the viewer.

A better version would include only the most necessary elements to accurately capture the essence of the image such as “Earth deity with crystal ball and TV on head showing wolf face.”

If you do feel you need more room to describe the image, consider adding a photo ID in the caption. More on this below.

Keep your alt text relevant

This one should be obvious, but unfortunately, Instagram alt text is often filled with random hashtags or irrelevant jokes. Relevance matters here and writing an irrelevant Instagram alt text can be quite confusing for the platform and could eventually backfire on you.

Be sure to write Instagram alt text that is authentic and relevant to the image or video being shown. For example, this is an image of a pug with a basketball. It is not NBA legend Stephen Curry.

Accurate Instagram alt text here could read: “fawn colored pug holding orange basketball with one paw”.

Use photo IDs

Some Instagram users choose to use photo IDs, as well as Instagram alt text, to offer a more complete description of their posts.

Instagram photo IDs are shorter descriptions placed at the end of Instagram captions. They provide an additional layer of information for screen-reading programs to identify an Instagram post.

Note: Instagram alt text and Instagram photo IDs are two separate forms of alternative text. They should be used in conjunction with each other as much as possible.

The benefit of Instagram photo IDs is that you have more room to include additional details that Instagram alt text cannot accommodate.

Feel free to get creative here. Instagram photo IDs can include:

Additional context to the Instagram post

Descriptive details of the image

A more creative story-telling approach (optional)

If you’re using a carousel, be sure to provide an ID for each individual post.

Note: Image IDs and alt text should be distinct. Do not copy and paste the same text for both.

Describe text in images

If your Instagram post includes text as part of an image, be sure to include it in your Instagram alt text. Words in an image cannot be read by screen readers and other assistive technologies, so it needs to be included in an alternative way.

Alt text for this image could read: “tweet showing @hootsuite account asking “Am I testing new Instagram features or are they testing me?”

Avoid filler words

The best alt text for Instagram posts will provide useful information without being too wordy.

If a description is too long, uses difficult vocabulary, or has irrelevant information, it will be hard to follow for screen readers. Search engines will also have trouble determining what it is about.

Similarly, avoid phrases like “picture of”, “video of”, or “photo of” and instead focus on describing the scene. Users already know Instagram is a visual platform, so there’s no need to reiterate.

For example, alt text like”photo of mountains at sunset” for this picture doesn’t offer valuable context. “Snow-topped craggy mountains splashed with orange light at sunset” is better.

Your audience likely knows that your Instagram post is either a photo or a video. So don’t waste their time with filler words that don’t describe the content itself.

Include keywords (sparingly)

Keywords can be an effective way to boost your Instagram SEO, but excessive use of keywords can be detrimental. Instagram alt text like “Instagram mountains photo Instagram sunset picture Instagram” is not only disjointed and impractical, but it’s also a sign of keyword stuffing.

Instead, use keywords only when they fit naturally into your alt text. For example, beauty blogger @haircarewithsmoya focuses on posts about hair care, fashion, and beauty. While those keywords might not fit into every post she makes, there may be creative ways to include them, even if partially.

In this post, alt text could read: “somya sits on white carved char in the sunset, her healthy long hair flows behind her.”

In this post, the alt text might read: “somya strikes a fashion pose in a long leopard print dress.”

Don’t be repetitive

Finally, be sure to avoid repeating information that is already explicitly stated in the Instagram post. Captions are always read aloud by screen readers, so there isn’t any benefit to including the same phrasing in your alt text.

For example, if the Instagram post includes a caption describing what is pictured, there’s no need to use that description verbatim as alt text. Instead, try to be creative and come up with an alternate description of what is being shown in the image or video.

Frequently asked questions about Instagram alt text What is alt text on Instagram?

Instagram alt text is the written description of an Instagram post’s images or videos. It helps screen readers and search engines identify the content of your Instagram posts. It is also known as alternative text. By adding Instagram alt text, Instagram users can make their content more accessible and searchable.

How to see alt text on Instagram? Can you add alt text to an Instagram story?

No, there is currently no way to add Instagram alt text to Instagram stories. You can, however, make Instagram content more accessible by adding captions to your stories. Or, try adding transcripts for longer videos. Turn on Instagram captions using the Captions sticker function, or use apps like Cliptomatic and Caption This.

How does alt text work on Instagram?

Alt text on Instagram is an accessibility feature that makes Instagram content accessible to those who are visually impaired. Instagram alt text is added to each post and describes the content in a way that can be read out loud by a screen reader.

How to use alt text on Instagram?

You can add alt text to Instagram posts through the Instagram app:

Open up Instagram and select your post from either Instagram Feed or Instagram Story.

Select the Edit option at the top of your screen and then select Alt Text. Here you can enter a description of your Instagram content that will be read out loud by a screen reader.

You can also add alt text to new Instagram posts by selecting the Advanced Settings option when you create a new Instagram post.

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Homekit Weekly: Why Homekit Secure Video Matters For Smart Home Privacy

After I reviewed the eufyCam 2 and Netatmo cameras, I got several emails asking why I am so passionate about HomeKit Secure Video when it has had a somewhat of a buggy/slow rollout. Rather than respond to each person individually, I thought it would be better to write about why HomeKit Secure Video matters, and why I think it’s a fundamental part of the HomeKit experience. Before you invest in a home camera platform, you need to consider long term security.

HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.

What is HomeKit Secure Video?

HomeKit Secure Video was announced at WWDC 2023. Apple, known for its commitment to privacy, began allowing HomeKit enabled cameras to build in support for using iCloud storage for video storage/playback. It requires a 200GB iCloud storage plan to support one camera and a 2TB storage plan to support up to five cameras. You must have a Home Hub set up to make it all work. You can use the HomePod, Apple TV, or an iPad as a Home Hub.

By storing your camera recordings in iCloud, you can trust that only you will have access to them. In my house, we have eufyCameras on the outside and a Netatmo camera on the inside. All of these cameras are HomeKit Secure Video compatible.

While I’d never put a camera in a bedroom area, I still consider all camera footage something that only I should be able to access. If you are using a company that stores all your footage in the cloud, how do you verify that no one has accessed it? Only footage that has end to end encryption tied to it can give you that peace of mind. As we saw in 2023, Ring had to fire employees that had improperly accessed cameras.

According to The Intercept, Ring’s engineers and executives have “highly privileged access” to live camera feeds from customers’ devices. This includes both doorbells facing the outside world, as well as cameras inside a person’s home. A team tasked with annotating video to aid in object recognition captured “people kissing, firing guns, and stealing.” [Update: According to Ring, annotation is only conducted on “publicly shared Ring videos.”] U.S. employees specifically had access to a video portal intended for technical support that reportedly allowed “unfiltered, round-the-clock live feeds from some customer cameras.” What’s surprising is how this support tool was apparently not restricted to only employees that dealt with customers.

Ring has disputed some of the claims, but the damage was done in my eyes. I will only allow cameras in my house that use end to end encryption. I don’t want to have to hope companies have strict security and auditing of customer cameras. I want the system to be designed where they don’t need high protection for customer camera footage because they don’t even have access to it. HomeKit Secure Video is to home video footage as iMessage is to messaging. It’s secure from the ground up, and it should be the expectation for all consumers.

Why HomeKit Secure Video matters

As our world becomes more connected, it’s even more important to consider the security of your data from the beginning. In a few decades, there will no longer be homes vs. smart homes. All homes will be smart homes. By starting with a secure foundation, customers can know that they can have all the benefits of modern conveniences while knowing their privacy is still intact.

As you think about putting devices in your home that can hear and see you, consider the companies that are making these products. What are their business models? What is their track record of protecting customer privacy? Is privacy at the core of what the company values? In my experience, the only major tech company that cares deeply about your privacy is Apple, and that is why I believe HomeKit Secure Video is a fundamental part of the smart home experience.

Here are a few cameras that support HomeKit Secure Video at the moment:

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New World Ingame Shop – What We Know

New World ingame shop – What we know

What we know on the New World in game shop.

One of the norms of MMOs in this day and age is the guarantee that they will come with an in-game store. Amazon Games is no different, with the New World in-game shop offering players plenty of cosmetic items. Here is what we know if going to be featured in the in-game shop, and to answer to old drama regarding is New World pay to win?

New World ingame store

The New World ingame shop’s purpose is to be an optional way to support Amazon Games on New World. The core of the shop will sell transmog, which you can activate by going into an individual character slot and changing its appearance. We are not too sure exactly how much content they are going to put on the New World in-game store, but it seems that there might be quite a few options the more and more the game ages.

While getting store exclusive outfits, Amazon Games did post a blog detailing their store in some detail back in May. One of the things they mentioned is that some of the outfits are going to be store exclusive slight tweaks to outfits already in the game. That way there are a few varieties you can get by doing things in-game, which should detract from that sense of accomplishment.

Moreso, the New World in-game shop features other cosmetics like weapon skins, emotes, company crests (guild logos) and furniture for player housing. There does seem to be store exclusive guild crest icons, especially since there are three guild crest icons locked behind the New World pre order too.   

Is New World pay to win?

There was a big debacle over New World being pay to win back in May. During an NDA test, New World seemed to imply that they nerfed rested XP, instead offering ways to get more XP if you got items from the New World ingame shop going live at the game’s launch. Of course, someone broke NDA, because it was very paid to win, causing YouTubers like KiraTV to pick up on it.

New World was once called out for being pay to win by many, with Kira highlighting the red flags of the in-game shop back in Alpha.

The aftermath of the video and the leak enraged fans worldwide. It meant that Amazon Games was forced to issues statements regarding the debacle. Since then, a tonne has changed and has no reference to pay for convenience New World in-game shop transactions. It will more than likely change at some point when the game is fairly aged. We can easily speculate that microtransactions like boosts getting implemented, or things like server changes, which has been a standard cash shop option for decades at this point.

Back in July, Amazon Games spoke to Eurogamer about the New World in-game store. They definitely heard the feedback, but may still eye up the quality of life improvement transactions in the future. You can make the judgement for yourself when it gets to that point.

When we know more about what is coming in the New World in-game store, we will update the article.

Yume Wo Katare Restaurant Porter Square Cambridge

Nightlife: Yume Wo Katare Ramen, and dreams, on the menu at Porter Square restaurant

According to Yume Wo Katare, it serves twice as many noodles as other ramen shops. Photos by Alexandra Wimley (COM’17)

Japanese ramen is popular for its hearty broth, chewy noodles, and delicious toppings. But can it help you achieve your dreams?

Tsuyoshi Nishioka thinks so. He’s the owner and chef behind Yume Wo Katare, the tiny ramen shop that opened in Cambridge’s Porter Square in 2012. The restaurant’s philosophy: ramen is a path to realizing your dreams—if you can finish the huge bowl of ramen served there, you can do anything you set your mind to. Judging by the restaurant’s long lines, Nishioka is not the only one buying into the idea.

The restaurant’s name means “tell your dream,” and customers are encouraged to do that after finishing their ramen. Yes, it’s an interactive experience, and no, not everyone is brave enough to share a dream with a roomful of strangers. Have trouble articulating your dreams or want to learn more? Attend workshops, led by Chef Nishioka every Monday night, when the restaurant is closed for dining, to help identify and realize your dreams.

Those too shy to express their dreams still have plenty of reason to stop by: jiro-style ramen (hard to find in the United States), known for its rich, gravy-like tonkotsu (pork bone) and shoyu (soy sauce) broth topped with bean sprouts, cabbage, and garlic, and its fatty slices of pork, is served. Nishioka perfected his jiro ramen at his five ramen shops in Japan, which he sold to open a ramen shop in the United States. He arrived knowing no English, but Yume Wo Katare was a hit from the beginning, not just with the area’s Japanese community, but with all ramen lovers.

We visited on a Friday night, and despite the 28 degrees outside, there was a long line (our wait was about 30 minutes). Expect to wait whatever the time of year. Nishioka believes waiting heightens the experience. The host came out to ask how many in each party, and told us the pork bones were really fresh so tonight’s broth was particularly good, making our mouths water.

There’s no lingering at Yume Wo Katare: it was time to order before we even sat down. Until recently, there were only two main options: ramen with two pieces of pork ($12) and buta ramen, with five pieces ($14). After choosing, you decide on the small or the regular (same price). But take note: portions are large, and you’re likely to leave very full regardless of the portion (extra noodles are $1 and extra pork fat is free).

We ordered two small ramens and snagged the only open seats, at a communal table. With a seat at the bar, you can watch Chef Nishioka work his magic, stirring enormous pots of broth and noodles like a wizard over his cauldron. That said, there is plenty to marvel at from any seat: on the walls are a large papier-mâché elephant head, hand-drawn comics of Buta ramen trying his darnedest to finish a bowl of ramen, and framed dreams written by customers, many in Japanese. You can have your own dream framed in the restaurant—for $10, it can be up there for a month, for $10,000, up to 10 years.

A few minutes after we sat, we were served a steaming mountain of cabbage, bean sprouts, fresh minced garlic, abura (pork fat), big chunks of pork, house-made noodles, and broth. The rich, meaty broth warmed our frozen bodies from the inside out. The chewy noodles and crunchy vegetables provided texture, and the tender pork was packed with flavor. We ate until we were absolutely stuffed.

The other four people at our table were the only customers besides us brave enough to tell their dreams. One woman said her long-term dream was to live to 103 so she could see three different centuries, and her short-term dream was to be able to do a pull-up. An electrical engineer’s dreams: learning a fun dance to do with his girlfriend (short-term) and writing an iPhone app to help color-blind electrical engineers determine the color-based value of a resistor (long-term).

We nervously stood when our turn came. My dinner companion’s: learn how to operate a drone (short-term) and become a professional photojournalist (long-term). I announced that mine were to learn how to fry tofu perfectly (short-term) and become a journalist for a cool, arty magazine (long-term).

“Can we hang out?” the host jokingly asked my friend after she shared her drone dream.

The final event of the night was the customary judging of customers’ ramen-eating capacities. Each is given a verbal rating based on ability to finish the food. When the host examined my dinner companion’s impressively empty bowl, she yelled, “Everyone…she got a perfect!” This elicited cheers from around the restaurant.

I still had broth and noodles in my bowl and received a slightly embarrassing “almost.” I left Yume Wo Katare with a new short-term dream: to finish an entire bowl of ramen the next time so I can earn that coveted “perfect.”

Yume Wo Katare, 1923 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, is cash only; hours vary—find the monthly schedule here, call 617-714-4008, or send a Facebook message; closed Sundays. The restaurant is closed Monday nights, but classes on telling your dreams are held from 7 to 9 p.m. Take an MBTA Green Line trolley inbound to Park Street and transfer to the Red Line outbound to Porter.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston nightlife venues of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

Kylie Obermeier can be reached at [email protected]; follow her on Twitter at @kylikobermeier.

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