Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
In short: This science-based music service has actually helped me to find some focus in recent weeks. I highly recommend you give it a go, and, with a free trial, what is there to lose?
Lately, my already fragmented day has felt ultra-fragmented. Finding time to do deep thinking at work has been a challenge with weekly commutes to Vancouver, hiring new staff, developing new growth strategies, not to mention my giant personal list of things to do.
My friend Joe told me that Brain.fm uses science to determine what music will help you be more productive and focussed. For years I’ve listened to ambient streams from Soma.fm and figured it wouldn’t be much different. But hey, science wins once again.
I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my ability to focus and an increase in my output. I feel more efficient and I also feel more satisfied with my work once it’s completed. That is a double win!
If you need to really knuckle down and get some work done give Brain.fm a try with their five free sessions.
TL;DR: Moonlighter is an Action RPG done in a pixel art style reminiscent of early console games (e.g. NES). You play Will, a shopkeeper by day and dungeon crawling hero by night.
My pick this month is a great video game that has been tying up my evenings of late – Moonlighter.
There are two sides to playing the game, both equally engaging. The first is the classic “rogue-lite” gameplay of fighting dungeon denizens as you make your way deeper down, collecting loot, and eventually battling the big boss of the dungeon. Second is running your shop in the village and selling the loot you acquire on your dungeon journeys.
The dungeon crawling is fun as you move from room to room, dodging and weaving and striking as you clear enemies. As loot drops, your bag fills up pretty quickly. You then need to start making some hard decisions.
Do you drop some items you think are of lesser value, replacing them with rarer finds as you continue to push further down where there are even more valuable goodies, or do you use your special trinket (costing some coin) to portal your way out back to the safety of your shop to sell your hard-earned wares? If you are too greedy, push too far and eventually fall at the hands (or tentacles, etc) of the enemies then you lose (almost) everything you just acquired. This “push your luck” element really adds a nice adrenaline boost to your dungeon adventure.
The shopkeeper aspect is also great. It is necessary to fund your adventures, but also a game in itself. In order to maximize profits, you need to use supply and demand to your advantage. The trick is to find that perfect price point by paying close attention to customer reactions!
As customers wander your shop, they bring their items to the counter. As shop keeper, you have to ring up the sale within a certain time- or lose the sale and the item! Furthermore, some shoplifters will prowl around looking to nab something and run, forcing you to tackle them to retrieve your goods.
All this creates a chaotic, vibrant shop scenario where you bustling around handling sales, stocking shelves, and keeping your eyes open for ne’er-do-wells looking to run out with an expensive goody.
Overall, it’s a great game. I love how easy it is to jump back in where you left off. Despite how casual it feels, there is a lot of depth within the game and play time required to advance. Available on a number of platforms, I highly recommend you give it a try!
Aladdin (2019) 🎬
TL;DR: The new Aladdin is a fun and nostalgic recreation of the original that brightened my day.
This month I relived one of my favorite childhood movies – Aladdin! I grew up at exactly the right age for this generation of Disney classics (Aladdin, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast) to be a big part of my childhood. We had them all on VHS, meaning we watched them multiple times and would always sing along!
Now that I’ve grown up, I still have a soft spot for these wonderful movies. Last weekend I decided to see the new live-action Aladdin, and I went in with no expectations. It was awesome!!! The songs that were reenacted were very close to the original and were so much fun. I had a smile on my face the whole time and really loved those good ol’ feelings of nostalgia that came with it.
Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) was her old feisty self, but with an extra dimension added to her character. She is passionate about leading and connecting with the people of Agrabah- not just about finding her true love! ? Will Smith did a fantastic job of bringing personality to the Genie, while still honoring the original spirit of the character. Marwan Kenzari was the evil Jafar and his character felt as slimy as cartoon Jafar.
In terms of their choice for Aladdin, it was clear that there has never been a more perfect casting for a role. Mena Massoud was Aladdin incarnate, with the same playful and sweet demeanor. You just can’t help smile along with him.
Overall, this movie brought me great joy and I can’t wait to watch it again when it comes out on Netflix!
Catch 22 📖
TL;DR: An excellent interpretation of a classic book, no prior reading required.
As a big fan of the original book by Joseph Heller, I was hesitant to watch the latest Hollywood take on it. The book shows the pointlessness and absurdity of war (in this case World War 2) with a dark sense of humor that I wasn’t sure would convert well to a TV series.
Catch 22 centers around John Yossarian, a bombardier in WW2 based in Italy, and his constant and increasingly ridiculous attempts to avoid getting killed. His base is populated by an array of colorful characters (including Hugh Laurie as Major — de Coverley) who come and go, die or are captured in an increasingly satirical and absurdist depiction of warfare.
I was slow to warm up to the show, but ultimately the producers – who include George Clooney (and who also appears in two episodes as Lieutenant Scheisskopf) – have done an excellent job. It takes a while for the show to build and for the absurdity to take hold (much as it does in the book) but once it hits full swing, the book’s unique comedy style is captured nicely.
Although a fan of the book myself, no prior knowledge is required to enjoy this series.
Kale (the vegetable) 🌿
Long story short: Kale is awesome, you should eat it.
It’s spring-turning-into-summer here in beautiful Victoria, BC, and anyone with a garden or even a few pots on their patio can tell you that things are really growing.
Still, in my yard, the only thing quite ready for picking is green and leafy. To keep up with supply, I’ve had to get creative because salad can get boring after a while. Luckily, we have quite a variety of greens this year including arugula, butter lettuce, gai-lan, spinach, mustard, and, of course, kale.
Why of course kale? Well, it’s got to be the trendiest vegetable in the western world.
In the past few years, it has risen from the ground up, to true movie star status.
Farmers produced 60% more kale in 2012 compared to 2007, say Bloomberg Magazine. Prior to his spike, kale was merely a garnish for delis and buffet tables. But now you can get even the less common (and tastier) varieties at many supermarkets (lacinato/dino/black kale, red russian kale, purple kale…).
It’s hard to say exactly how kale made it big- there doesn’t appear to be anyone behind the movement. Though a PR agency did create this fake “American Kale Association” website, that may have generated a bit of buzz. My best guess is that kale found its way into the spotlight thanks to social media, celebrity endorsements, and its shocking nutritional panel.
When it comes down to it, kale is rather good for you. One cup of raw kale (67 grams) contains:
Vitamin A (206% of the DV), Vitamin K (684% of the DV), Vitamin C (134% of the DV), Calcium (9% of the DV), Potassium (9% of the DV), and Magnesium (6% of the DV).
It also contains significant amounts of iron, B vitamins, antioxidants, and other goodies! Further, since it’s really low in calories yet high in nutrients, it is ranked as one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
And now you can find kale in every form- chips, salad, juice, in skin cream, on t-shirts, tattoos, you name it.
While I wouldn’t recommend only eating kale, it’s a tasty addition to so many dishes. Pretty much anywhere you use spinach, you can sub it for kale. Minimalist Baker is a great food blog and a search for “kale” on their website comes up with many pages of delicious looking recipes (mhmmm creamy kale and spinach dip).
My favorite way to way to enjoy kale is in a smoothie. I always feel amazing after- great digestion & blood sugar levels- and I’ve come to crave the complex flavors.
Here is my go-to recipe:
1 fresh banana
1 frozen banana
1 handful of frozen mango or pineapple
1 orange, peeled & de-seeded if necessary (or ½ cup of orange juice)
1 tbs hemp hearts
As much kale (or other greens) you can fit in your blender- pack it down my friends
½ cup of water
Optional: a small chunk of ginger and turmeric
If you don’t have a high-speed blender, add the kale, fresh banana, orange, and water first, blend the crap out of it, and add the frozen stuff after. Add extra water as needed. Enjoy!
Recent studies find kale in the dirty dozen, so best to get your kale from your local farmer’s market. 😉
TL;DR: Shantaram is the (based on a true) story of an Australian convict who escapes prison and flees to Bombay, India in the 1980’s. After volunteering his first aid skills to serve the people of the slum he lived in, Linbaba (the protagonist) is taken into the high life of the Bombay mafia and all of the (mis)adventures that accompany it.
This month I’ve been re-reading my favorite novel, Shantaram. This 900-page epic has got it all; adventure, love, humor, mystery, suspense… You name it. Further, it was the inspiration for my own journey across India, and the accuracy to which it describes the country still rings true to this day.
The novel covers a wide variety of themes, my favorites being communication, compassion, and poverty. I resonate with Lin’s ability to quickly pick up on languages and I leveraged this skill during my travels through many countries. The “head-wiggle” is one of the notorious cultural phenomena that still is very apparent in many parts of India, and just as the book illustrates, understanding this form of communication is crucial to many social interactions.
Lin’s proclivity for criminality induces a perplexing state of cognitive dissonance within the reader. He is clearly a compassionate, empathetic, and overall good person, yet he makes his living through illegitimate means. We root for him, the anti-hero, and we justify his behavior by citing his good deeds and intentions. When he lands in trouble, we don’t scorn him for his actions, but instead flip the page, hoping he finds his way out.
The horrendous poverty that still plagues India to this day takes the spotlight for the first third of the book. The slums are described with such immaculate detail that the reader is pulled right into the middle of the chaos, engaged with every sense. The strong sense of community, tradition, respect, and honor within the slums draws empathy from the reader, and personally inspired me to donate to multiple charities involved with providing healthcare to the impoverished in India. You can find a cause that resonates with you at GiveIndia.org and 90% of your money is ensured to go directly to it.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: APRIL 30TH, 2019
Earlier this month, Victoria’s Appreciation Engine graduated as part of an elite group of growth-stage companies selected to be part of BC Tech’s HyperGrowth program.
HyperGrowth is an accelerator program provided by the BC Tech Association aimed at helping growth stage companies ($1M – $5M ARR) increase their revenue, grow their teams, strengthen their leadership strategy, expand into new markets, or attract funding.
“Our preparedness to scale our business has increased exponentially,” says Appreciation Engine Co-Founder and CMO Annabel Youens. “We’ve been able to identify gaps in our business we didn’t even know were there, addressed pricing issues, revamped our values, improved our customer success plan and put in place strategies to show scalable, repeatable business processes. The support and advice from our incredibly skilled mentors in the HyperGrowth program have been invaluable.”
This is the fourth cohort of graduates to go through the program. For six months, they are immersed in an intensive residency program that assists them in building comprehensive sales, marketing, and financial strategies through expert-led learning and work sessions and connecting them with world-class advisors, mentors, and executives from Vancouver’s leading tech companies.
“Appreciation Engine exhibits foundations and processes to scale their company. Upon entering HyperGrowth, the team realized that growth is a game of diminishing returns and they excelled at testing more to learn more, to better position themselves in the market,” says Nicole Parmar, lead growth mentor at BC Tech.
Appreciation Engine (AE) is a customer intelligence engine, making it easier for digital marketers to see how their customers dynamically change over time. It helps brands understand their customers better. The engine looks at what customers are doing in real-time across streaming services, social networks, e-commerce, and other online channels. Businesses who use AE’s proprietary system build trust with their customers, improve open rates, save marketing dollars, and drive revenue. AE: Dynamic Customer Insights for Smarter Marketing.
“We believe the future of digital marketing involves deepening relationships between brands and their customers,” says Youens. “In this future, customers will give personal information to brands they trust if, in return, they receive personalized content that makes their lives easier. Our technology supports that kind of relationship.”
NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Founders of Appreciation Engine, Jeff Mitchell and Annabel Youens are available for in-person and virtual media interviews from Victoria, BC. Please contact Odette Jacquet to schedule.
Mervyn Mabini Manager of Venture Programs from BC Tech Association is available for media interviews from Vancouver, BC. Please contact Mervyn directly to schedule with him.
BC Tech Association
Mervyn Mabini, MBA
Manager, Venture Programs
Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
In short: If you are a lover of books, you MUST visit Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon!
Powell’s Books came into my life digitally in 1998 when I worked at Abebooks. I spent many hours working with their staff to keep their books up-to-date on the site. In those early days teaching book store owners to use FTP and locate a file on their computers proved challenging, but we got there!
Powell’s is a third-generation family business run these days by Emily Powell and it’s the largest independent bookstore in the world. And no joke – Powell’s flagship store was WAY bigger than I even imagined and I pictured towering books and endless corridors of spines. In real life, there are color-coded areas of the store to help you navigate! I was directed to the Rose section and completely forgot the aisle number when I arrived because every row beckoned to me. Thank goodness there were so many info desks filled with lovely Powell’s team members.
Apart from the gigantic selection, I loved seeing people buying books, chatting about books, and plopped down reading books! I’m still smiling thinking about the teenage girl I saw engrossed by a book in the graphic novel section. A bookstore that encourages you to read on-the-spot is the best. Thank you Powell’s for sharing your vision.
My very restrained Powell’s purchases:
- For Me – Creative Quest by Questlove
- For my husband – Crowded Volume 1 by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt
- For my 6-year-old – Unicorn Creativity Book
TL;DR: Took me a few episodes to be won over, but totally a fan of Netflix’s new take on Ultraman (one of my favorite childhood series!).
I used to watch the various incarnations of the original Ultraman series as reruns when I was a kid. A Japanese superhero who can transform into a giant and fight other giant monsters is going to excite a lot of 9-year-olds.
The fights ended up being no-holds-barred type wrestling matches that take place in model-built cities that get absolutely demolished in the battle. Seeing those model buildings get crushed as Ultraman uses a suplex on some giant Godzilla type alien was amazing to watch.
So, I was definitely interested to see what Netflix was going to do with this series.
The series is not live action but it is animated in a very realistic 3D style. While this has put some people off, I did get used to it after a few episodes. I find that the style really captures the essence of the miniature models they used back in the day. The battle scenes are just as destructive, although in this version we don’t see Ultraman as a giant (yet). The choreography of the fights is excellent, though far more martial arts based. Still, very fun to watch! I also think they have (intentionally?) managed to capture some of the original corniness around the 60’s dialogue- especially the “bad guy” aliens.
The series starts off relatively tamely but gets increasingly dark as it progresses. Namely, the portrayal of an alien ghetto and the moral struggles faced by the main character around the killing of random aliens. It is slowly revealed that behind the Science Patrol (“the good guys”), there are some sinister motivations and characters. These interesting twists add a lot of depth to the show.
I really enjoyed the series, although it did take a few episodes to win me over. I look forward to watching another season now that they have laid the groundwork for the overall narrative.
Give it a fair chance (2-3 episodes) and you may like it as well!
Sony MDR-XB950BT Headphones
TL;DR: These headphones will blow your mind. I got them in red, just ’cause.
My unconventional pop culture pick this month is my headphones! I have the Sony MDR-XB950BT and they are one of my favorite belongings. That name is quite a mouthful, but we can break it down. MDR is their line of studio-quality headphones, BT is Bluetooth, and the XB is, of course, EXTRA BASS!!!
I love them so much. They really help me to get in the zone while I’m working, and make me feel like I’m in a whole other world by myself. Plus, with the in-headphone controls, there’s no need to constantly pull my phone out of my pocket!
I also use them at home when I want to have a dance party for one! This is where the Bluetooth/wireless feature comes in. Try any wireless headphones- once you taste the freedom you’ll never go back.
Another feature I love about them is that they are over-ear, rather than on-ear, so I can wear them all day without my ears feeling bad.
Here are some of my favorite bass-y albums to listen to with my beloved headphones: True by Avicii, Evolve by Imagine Dragons, Hot Fuss by the Killers, Art Angels by Grimes, and of course, any terrible 80’s guilty pleasure playlist (like this one). It’s loud enough that I can belt out any song and not have to listen to my own awful voice.
Better Oblivion Community Center (Self Titled)
TL;DR: Another classic album from the former Bright Eyes frontman.
Conor Oberst has had a remarkably consistent career in the decade or so that I’ve been following his music. From his Bright Eyes days in the 00’s, through his solo projects, to the revival of his pre-fame emo band, there’s not a bad album in there.
Better Oblivion Community Center is Oberst’s latest project, a collaboration with singer Phoebe Bridgers. Although I’m far less familiar with Bridgers’ work, her voice and songwriting provide an excellent partner to Oberst’s distinctive vocals.
The album opens with the sort of indie-folk that Oberst is known for, it quickly expands to encompass a wider sonic landscape. And while it would be misleading to say it covers uncharted musical ground for the duo, it does offer a nice variety of sounds from synth flourishes to the thoughtful prog of standout track “Big Black Heart.”
Crushing by Julia Jacklin
Long story short: Put this album on a few times and I guarantee you will catch yourself singing in the shower, car, you name it.
Crushing is the second album of Australian singer-songwriter, Julia Jacklin. Her music career really took off following the release of her first album in 2016. Despite this fame and fortune, I only discovered her music a few weeks ago, via our local university radio station.
I was driving home when her track “Pressure to Party“ came on. I remember wondering who the artist was, as it sounded like a mix of a few of my favorite musicians mashed together – think Sharon Van Etten meets Angel Olsen meets Feist. I made a mental note of the artist so I could look up more of her stuff later. I did just that, and listened to her two albums on repeat for a good while, before inevitably getting rather sick of them.
- Heartfelt indie-pop with a folky flavor
- It’s great to put on in the car and loudly sing along off key
- Most of the tracks have super catchy lyrics that will get stuck in your head
- It’s a very moody album, so a great choice if you have your own relationship challenges to dwell on!
Throw the album on and see what you think!
One of the biggest questions we get is “Where should I add social login to my website?” Don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. In this article, we go through the top 3 places to implement social login on your website: Newsletter Sign Up, Contests, and Gated Content.
Think About YOUR Customer and YOUR website
Depending on your website, different social login options and techniques will make the most sense for you.
It is important to put on your customers’ shoes and think about what works for them. You can also see what’s being done in your industry by scoping out your competitors.
Just remember to keep your target customers in mind as you read on. This should have the biggest influence on where you decide to add social login to your website.
Use Social Login for Newsletter Sign-up
Newsletters are an effective way to grow a list of leads that you can reach out to later. They are also an easy way to direct traffic to your website, blog or promotion. In fact, a 2016 study by Campaign Monitor found that for every $1 spent, email has an average $44 return on investment (ROI).
Customers love well-crafted emails because they can count on being notified when you release fresh content, announce a sale or run a competition.
Getting your Newsletter Sign-Up Call to Action Just Right
Finding the right call to action is super important, and there is no one-size-fits-all option. It is going to take some experimentation to find the perfect incentive.
Start by asking yourself: what do your customers actually want delivered to their inbox?
Then, consider what you can actually manage to provide. It builds trust with the consumer if you only promise what you truly will deliver.
Based on this, explain exactly what they can expect from you. If appropriate you can even state how often they should expect an email.
Here is an example of AE’s sign up form…feel free to subscribe of course! 😉
And don’t worry if you aren’t 100% sure about your newsletter CTA. Test something out and if it’s not converting much of your traffic, go back and try something different.
Tip: If you are looking for some ideas on how to word your newsletter signup form, check out this awesome blog post by Hubspot. Or if you need some design ideas, Canva has a bunch of great examples on this post.
Use Social Login For Your Next Contest
Contests are a fun way to engage with your fans and create buzz. Through a contest, you can get your customers to complete multiple social actions, boosting your social channels at the same time.
With a well thought out contest and an enticing prize, you should have no trouble getting fans to join in. Here’s an example.
Thievery Corporation ran a successful points-based contest to promote their album, Culture of Fear.
When fans used social login to register for the contest, they were automatically added into AE’s dashboard. This way, the band’s marketing team could effortlessly track what fans were doing.
Fans could then earn points by:
- Following the band on Facebook and Twitter
- Tweeting about the album or posting about it using their branded hashtag
- Listening to the new album on Last.FM
- Buying the new album
How to Manage a Social Media Contest
AE makes contests like this one easy. Everything gets tracked by the engine, making ranking entrants and picking the winner easy. If you want to learn more, you can read the full Thievery Corporation case study here.
If you already run contests (or want to give one a try), then it’s a no brainer to implement social login into your entry form!
Tip: Decide on your contest’s goal before getting started. Is it to promote a new product, engage with customers, or get site visitors? Try and pick one goal per campaign.
Using Social Login to Access Gated Content
Gated content is anything on a website that requires login to access. This creates a feeling of exclusivity whether or not there is a membership fee. And often, these areas are so useful for marketing and sales teams that it makes sense for access to be free.
Forum /Community Board with Social Login
Many artists have a forum on their website where top fans can chat with each other. Fans get to feel like they are part of a larger community and they get another opportunity to engage with the artist they love.
Creating a community based on your website gives you a lot more ownership than having, say, a page on Facebook. It’s easier to create an overall experience more in line with your brand and to lead fans to other parts of your website.
Social Login for a Members Only Zone
This is a part of your website that is only accessible to members. It can include pages that only members can view, for example, a members-only blog, or access to other exclusive content like behind-the-scenes videos.
This is a great option if you want to create a VIP experience for your customers. Moreover, you can share different kinds of content when you know everyone there is interested and engaged. It’s easy to manage this using social login, and AE’s social login will give you the greatest insight into how your members are interacting with your brand.
Tip: Your customers are already active on many social channels. If you want them to spend their valuable time on your site, you need to make it worth it. Facilitating a good members-only zone can be incredibly time-consuming. Make sure there is someone on your team actively tasked with keeping the energy going.
1# Tip for Getting People to Engage
If you want to get customers signing up for your newsletter or entering your contest, you need to provide the right incentive.
This comes down to knowing your target customer and clearly communicating the value. It may take a few experiments to hone down on the most effective incentives for your customer. Play around with it and get creative!
Make sure to be clear about what your customer will get (access to gated content, the chance to win a prize pack, etc.) and what they won’t get (bombarded by emails and spam).
It’s 2019 and people know that their data is valuable. So treat them with respect and give as much as you take!
Fill Up your Dashboard with Customers
With AE’s real-time customer data, you get to segment and target your fans with great precision. But none of that is possible until you have customers using your social login- that is after all, how AE works!
You know you are going to get a ton of really valuable insights. So, it’s worth putting the time in to think things through. No matter where you decide to add social login, you can look forward to these perks:
With AE you can keep track of who is signing up for your newsletter and use that list to create lookalike audiences in Facebook or Google ads! You won’t believe how much more effective your ad campaigns are.
Using social login in your contest means creating a big spike of awareness about your brand. Using AE’s social login means being able to manage all of the social channels and entrants from one dashboard. And, when the contest is done, you have all those fans to re-market to!
With robust hosting platforms like WordPress, it’s now easy for any website to store lists of members. The problem is, your members aren’t just going to be talking about your brand on your forum. To get the full customer picture, you need a service like AE that tracks their activity across social channels. That way, when you want to reach out with a campaign, you can do highly precise segmentation that takes advantage of automation.
Go get ‘em, tiger!
The world is your social login oyster: be creative and always keep your customer in mind.
If you are still stumped and need a helping hand, don’t hesitate to reach out! You can talk to a real human on our Marketing Team simply by clicking on the blue chat bubble.
Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
Love, Death & Robots
TL;DR: Love, Death & Robots is a new animated anthology series available on Netflix and has its roots in a concept developed by producers David Fincher and Tim Miller to reboot ‘Heavy Metal‘ for a new generation.
The series comprises 18 episodes by different creative teams from all over the world. Each has its own unique animation style and storyline. Episodes range from 10-20 minutes in length.
I collected a lot of Heavy Metal as a young adult and beyond, and really enjoy the classic animated movie (John Candy voicing Den!) so this was definitely right up my alley.
Some of the critiques I have seen so far say that the series appears to favor quantity over quality. I’m not sure I agree with that. Not that I think every episode was a masterpiece, but I like the fact that because there is so much there, you can choose yourself what to watch, when, and in what order.
In this way, it really did give me that Heavy Metal feel. You can curate your own experience, and what works for one person may not work for another. But at least there is more opportunity to appeal to a broader audience.
When I bought copies of Heavy Metal I would never read it from start to end in order. I would see what stories there were and take my own path. Sometimes I wouldn’t read one of the stories until months later. Some I re-read over and over.
My suggestion would be to check out the episode list, pick and choose what sounds interesting and take your own journey at your own pace.
In case you’re curious, here are 5 of my favorites from Season 1 (tough choice!):
– Three Robots
– Good Hunting
– Fish Night
1984 by George Orwell
TL;DR: 1984 is the ultimate dystopian novel which dives deep into topics such as the treatment of humanity, freedom, thought, language, perception of reality, and history.
My pop culture pick this month is the classic novel 1984 by George Orwell. I thought I knew what I was getting into and hooo boy, I was not ready. This book is intense.
The story is set in the year 1984, following decades of war that has redefined the world. A mysterious “Big Brother” leads the nation, and everyone is watched 24/7; words, actions, and even thoughts are monitored constantly. There’s propaganda, rations, and constant reports of a war that is happening with one of the other two continents (the world is now Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia). If anyone shows even the slightest hint of rebellious thought, they are severely punished (tortured) and eradicated.
The story follows Winston Smith in London, Oceania. He is an average worker who just goes about his routine every day. This all changes when he buys an illicit journal and starts to write out his thoughts…
1984 delves deep into many philosophical and psychological topics, one being the right to freedom of thought and speech. Since no one is allowed to own any physical records of anything (I’m talking newspapers, books, audio, etc.) and Big Brother is constantly rewriting history, it is impossible to know truth or to develop personal beliefs. The English language is also rewritten to be much more basic. Because, as the book explains, if people can’t express their complex emotions, then, eventually, they become more simple. There’s a lot more to unpack here, but the erasing of history and control using language is what struck me the most.
I was truly blown away by this book and every day since I’ve read it I’ve thought about freedom, and how our world is defined by our choices, individuality, history, and language. As I sit here listening to some nice music and writing my Pop Culture Pick, I imagine the consequences I would suffer in that world, for such small actions.
Octopath Traveller (Nintendo Switch)
TLDR; Classic JRPG action with unique graphics and 8 separate characters for you to try on and explore.
The Nintendo Switch is basically the perfect machine for JRPGs – play on the go, level up your characters, plug it in on the big screen, and continue your adventures. Octopath Traveller is a Switch exclusive from the folks that put out the Bravely Default games on the 3Ds (also well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre).
The game takes its name from the 8 different characters available for you to control, each with their own separate adventure within the game world. The most striking thing about the game is its unique graphical style – 2 dimensional character sprites on a 3D background – and it looks fantastic. Gameplay is pretty standard for a classic style JRPG, with an excellent battle system. Each of the eight characters has their own unique abilities in both battles and while adventuring, which provides plenty of reasons for exploration.
If I have one criticism, it’s that the story and missions can be a bit generic. But that’s to be expected with the complexity of maintaining 8 separate character arcs. With so much going on there is plenty to keep you entertained in this lovingly crafted retro-JRPG.
RuPaul’s Drag Race
Long story short: Costumes, make up, and theater make this series the best of “bad TV.”
I’m pretty careful about what I watch.
I usually wait for TV shows to be recommended to me by people who know me rather than by Netflix’s algorithms. I just have a million and one things to do (like everyone else), and I hate the idea of spending precious time in front of a screen.
But sometimes, you just want to be entertained. And, as I’m slowly learning, that’s okay! We all have our favorite “bad TV shows.”
For me, this is RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s a mishmash of many things I love and it doesn’t leave you with that tugging sensation to watching more, more, more as many shows do these days.
RuPaul’s Drag Race first aired in 2009 and is currently filming its 11th season. The host of the show, RuPaul, is probably the most well-known and influential drag queen in the United States.
Each season starts with around 14 contestants. Thanks to the wildly diverse and hilarious challenges, one contestant is eliminated each episode. Two are left remaining at the end of the season to compete in the final challenge and win the $100,000 cash prize.
Here’s what I love about it (and what you might too!):
Costume challenges: As an amateur sewist and someone who spent their teen years watching Project Runway, I love seeing what the contestants come up with under pressure.
Drag makeup: It’s so cool to see how makeup transforms each of the contestants’ faces differently. I’m a big fan of challenging gender norms and authentic self-expression.
Singing & dancing: Challenges often include theatrical elements, not to mention when the bottom of the tier contestants lipsync to save themselves from being eliminated.
Big personalities: The contestants are all so unique and throughout the season, you get to learn more about their lives and what brought them to drag.
All in all, it’s very entertaining and I recommend giving in a shot if any of the above appeals to you. If it’s your first drag race, don’t worry about starting with the very first season. In fact, I don’t recommend it- the show has come a long way in 10 years!
Well, as RuPaul would say, it’s time for me to “sashay away!” Until next month.
In this post, we meet Jennifer Tigner, a core member of AE’s development team. Keep reading to learn more about what brought her to AE and what keeps her around!
How long have you been working at AE?
I’ve been with AE since March 2018, when I was hired as an Intermediate Developer.
What inspired you to become a software developer?
After completing my Astronomy degree at UVic, I was on the job hunt constantly. I did a few amazing co-ops during my program (see the picture below!), but full-time jobs in Astronomy are quite scarce.
I remember sitting at home one day after another fruitless job search and realizing I was bored with where I was in life. So I decided to join a local club called Ladies Learning Code. I took an HTML workshop and found it really interesting. There were less than 10 members in Victoria’s meetup at the time and it was great to just get out and meet some new people!
This then led me to later take a coding boot camp that I found out about through the club. I, very spontaneously, quit my job, applied, and two months later I was in living Vancouver learning how to code!
What is your favorite part about working at AE?
I love the positive atmosphere when everyone is working together at the office. It is the right amount of fun that really encourages openness and professional growth. Because of this, I love coming into the office every day.
Another cool thing about AE is how much everyone loves music; we always have some great tunes going in the office! Everyone has different tastes and it’s fun and refreshing to have a mix going.
Describe a typical workday.
My typical workday is to come in a bit early, grab a coffee, and settle into my standing desk. Then I go through Monday, our online project management tool and task list. I check what I’ve scheduled for myself that day and read any new comments or questions from my co-workers. After that, I get started on coding. The rest of my day is mostly spent coding or designing my current project. Depending on the day, other tasks come up, such as meetings (just twice a week – a full team meeting and a developer meeting), code reviews, or even the occasional blog post.
What keeps you motivated at work?
Sometimes my motivation comes from the pure energy and encouragement in the office. Sometimes it comes from my excitement working on a new project: the beginning is always my favorite part! Motivation also comes from seeing a problem or question that I now know the answer to. It reminds me that I am continually learning and improving my skills. Lastly, I get motivated by seeing the product itself in action. It’s rewarding to know that our clients are using AE to create a better experience for their users.
What is the coolest project you’ve worked on?
Definitely the total revamp of the AE Connect page on our dashboard. Initially, the page was missing a lot of information, as we personally take our Enterprise clients through it. My goal was to update it so self-service customers could understand and use it without any hand-holding.
This project started with me taking the time to fully understand how AE works. I went through all the steps of setting up AE on a website and then translated that into instructions and an easy-to-follow UI for our new self-serve users. I am really proud of the result and every time I visit the page I get that sense of “wow, I created that!.” It’s a very satisfying feeling.
What is the top skill you’ve gained?
I think the best overall skill I have honed is how to properly debug code. While I’m still learning all the tricks, this skill has really leveled me up from junior to intermediate. It’s all about the problem-solving, rather than just the “how-to’s”. As a person who is a big fan of logic puzzles and sudoku, debugging code is perfect for me!
Learn more about Jenn and the rest of the AE Team here.
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton
In Short: Dalton uses magic realism and humor to lift up a challenging coming of age story.
Set in the 1980s in Brisbane, Australia, this novel explores the world of Eli Bell. Eli’s stepdad is a heroin dealer, his mum is in jail for dealing drugs, his older brother is mute, his dad is an obsessive-book-reading-alcoholic, and his babysitter is a notorious criminal. Eli lives in a very complicated world.
And while there is a lot of plot in Boy Swallows Universe, the beauty of this book is the writing. Dalton plays with magic realism and post-traumatic stress. Eli and his family lurch from crisis to crisis and without this imaginary quality to the writing, I think the novel would become too heavy. It would turn into one of those terrible true crime novels in the grocery store sale rack.
It’s also a funny coming of age story: Eli’s first love, his first complicated friendship, his developing relationship with his dad, all told with warmth and details that make you smile and remember your own teenage experience.
If you’re a fan of Gabriel García Márquez or Haruki Murakami you’ll enjoy this book immensely. And if you’re already thinking a couple seasons ahead like me, this would be a great novel for your summer canoe trip….
La Traviata (Pacific Opera Victoria)
TL;DR: La Traviata was truly an astounding experience – from the set to the story to the absolutely incredible performance of Lucia Cesaroni, who plays the protagonist, Violetta.
This month I went to the opera! La Traviata is the story of Violetta, a showgirl who loves to party and just live her best life.
Alfredo is desperately in love with Violetta and through some very convincing operatic singing, he convinces her to give him a chance. Cut scene to a few months later and they are both in love and have given up their partying ways.
No good story can have such a quick happy ending though! Cue drama.
Alfredo’s overbearing father meets Violetta and convinces her that she needs to end the relationship for the good of his family…But you’ll just have to go to the opera if you want to know what happens next!
The opera was set inside a spectacular home with a grand staircase and giant windows. Lights behind the windows enabled them to shift the scene convincingly from day to night. The elaborate and beautiful costumes were tailored to the 1920’s when this adaptation to the story is set.
The performers were all excellent, but Violetta, played by Lucia Cesaroni, was absolutely standout. Both her acting and her voice were nothing short of incredible. Her performance is what I will remember most from this magical night at the opera.
I’m heading to Italy next month so this Italian opera put on by the Pacific Opera Victoria was a great head start on that experience…
TLDR: This funny Netflix original series features multiple universes and a great track by Harry Nilsson.
Russian Doll is a one-off, eight-part comedy drama made for Netflix and starring Natasha Lyonne (formerly of Orange is the New Black). The plot involves a Groundhog Day type scenario with Lyonne reliving her 36th birthday over and over. Time paradoxes and parallel universe aspects provide a captivating storyline, and it’s all held together with great characters dialogue and acting by the show’s main characters.
The plot is superb with the kind of story that has you thinking about the characters and events long after the show has ended. It also prominently features a great Harry Nilsson song that’ll get stuck in your head and which you’ll associate with the show forever after.
Phases by Angel Olsen
Long story short: Phases is another great album by Angel Olsen.
Shoutout to Annabel for introducing me to this amazing artist! The two of us were driving back from a marketing session in Vancouver when she put on My Woman (2016). My ears immediately perked up, despite the long day of travel…who was this amazing singer?
A few months later and Phases is the only album left that I haven’t played to the point of nausea (yet). So in this month’s pop culture pick, I’m going to return the favor and introduce you to Angel!
Phases came out in 2017 and is Angel’s first compilation album. It is a collection of demos, B-sides, and cover songs recorded over the past 5 years. While you will notice the variety, Phases is still Angel through and through.
If you’ve listened to Burn Your Fire for No Witness (2016), you’ll notice “Only With You” and “All Right Now,” which were both bonus tracks. Oh and, the album’s three covers fit right in; Angel was made to cover Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher than the Rest.”
Understanding the difference between Brands and Members is crucial to getting the most out of AE. Keep reading to learn why!
What is a Member?
A new member is added to your dashboard every time someone signs into your website, signs up for your newsletter or enters into a contest using AE Connect.
Therefore, every person in your dashboard is a member.
Over time, AE collects relevant data about your members. This data grows as members engage in social media and connect more of their social media accounts (via social login).
The usefulness of AE depends on your members. You will be using your members as a jumping-off point for many of your business tasks, such as:
- Using segments and groups of members. For example, you can use AE to find members who watch a lot of DIY videos and target them specifically.
- Filtering members by specific types of data. One example of this is using AE to select your segment of members who have paid Spotify accounts.
- Creating micro-targeted ad campaigns. For instance, you can create a new ad audience with members who haven’t listened to your artist’s new album yet.
- Find your most engaged audience. Quickly sort your members to find those with the highest engagement score.
- Select members who opt in to your brands’ email newsletter. You can import new subscribers from AE to Mailchimp or Salesforce.
What is a Brand?
A brand can be a property that you own (like your own coffee shop) or a property that belongs to a competitor (your worst enemy’s coffee shop).
You are in charge of adding applicable brands to your dashboard. It does not happen automatically.
So if you were a record label, your brands would be the artists under your label as well as anything else you want to keep track of. This could be similar artists under other labels, potential sponsors, etc.
Here’s where it gets a bit muddy.
AE tracks key behaviors that your members exhibit against the brands you’ve put into Appreciation Engine.
For example, each time a fan uses the artist’s primary hashtag, that action is stored in AE.
Having up-to-date and complete lists of brands makes a big difference in terms of the value of the data.
Best Practices for Adding Brands
We want you to get the most out of every brand that you add. Here are a few recommendations to keep in mind whenever you add a new brand:
- Create brands for properties that you do not own. Create brands for your competitors, potential sponsors, partners, or any other key brands that interest your business.
- Add as much detail as you can for each brand. The more detail we have around a brand, the deeper Appreciation Engine’s tracking can go. The deeper the tracking, the better your data will be.
- Double-check that all the information you’ve added is correct. You don’t want to be tracking the wrong brand or a meaningless typo.
Hopefully, you have a better idea now of the differences between brands and members.
The ball is in your court!
Sign into your account or get started today!
What is an API and, more importantly, why should you care? This article will help you to understand APIs and how AE uses them to make cool stuff happen!
How do APIs work?
API stands for Application Programming Interface.
In plain English, APIs are messengers that relay information back and forth between different applications and servers.
In fact, each time you type a URL into your web browser, you are using an API.
For example, when you visit www.spotify.com, a request goes out to Spotify’s server (a.k.a. where all the data that makes up Spotify lives).
You are basically saying in code, “Yoohoo! Show me the Spotify website please!”
Once your browser has received a response from the server, it can display the page.
In this scenario, your browser is using Spotify’s API to relay information from Spotify’s server.
So thanks to APIs, applications and platforms are able to communicate with other applications and platforms. Hello Internet!
This is huge because a lot of existing software and tools rely on API’s every day to do their jobs…including AE.
When you first signed up, you may have wondered “How is AE able to funnel such awesome and useful data into the dashboard?”
Well, let’s break it down.
Let’s say you have a website for one of your emerging artists. You learn about how AE works and decide to integrate it into your site’s newsletter sign-up form.
Now, when a fan signs up, AE starts to track their artist related activity online and across social media.
APIs actually sit behind this entire process.
In this case, the newsletter sign-up form is an API that connects your website to AE’s dashboard.
And if the fan signed-up using their Twitter login, another API is in charge of getting in touch with Twitter and requesting data about the user. APIs like this one continue to request data regularly, enabling AE to provide real-time data!
Basically, APIs allow AE to gather key customer insights and pass them safely and securely to your dashboard. (Want even more detail about this process? Nerd out here.)
When you sign up for AE, one of the first things you will do is create an application for each social sign-in option you want to offer.
But, don’t worry, it’s actually rather simple. Plus, we have tips and help docs to guide you every step of the way!
We hope APIs make a little more sense now.
Learn more about how to get AE set up.
In Short: Season 5 of the Great British Sewing Bee airs February 12th, 2019. Tune in for a good laugh and to learn more about the world of sewing!
If you read my Pop Culture Picks with any regularity you might pick up on a theme here: my love of British reality shows made by the BBC.
This year’s Bee has a new host, Joe Lycett, a British comedian. I’m not too familiar with him but was sent this clip (NSFW) – ha! Season 5 sees Joe in the sewing trenches with the contestants, while Patrick Grant and Esme Young circle the sewists like great white sharks, literally picking at their stitches. Patrick loves a well-made garment and Esme loves some flair – they are such a perfect pairing.
I started watching the series when I took up sewing, hoping to pick up tips. But in fact, the show has taught me much more about the history of fashion and why garments are constructed in certain ways. If you have any interest in clothing you’ll come away with an appreciation for a well-made garment and most likely look a little closer at the clothes you purchase. Better yet, try your hand at making your own!
Joe Lycett posted this Season 5 trailer on his Twitter. Give it a watch if you aren’t already convinced!
TL;DR: Season 1 is great and Season 2 is even better!
I believe I have watched every iteration of Star Trek: the original series, the animated series, TNG…the list goes on. I’ve read novels set in the Star Trek universe. I’ve even attended a sci-fi convention and asked a question to an Enterprise series actor during a panel.
So, now that my credentials have been established, I’ll provide my opinion on the latest series. I’m going to (try to) avoid major spoilers and focus on a high-level impression.
The first season introduces us to the starship Discovery and is set 10 years prior to “Star Trek: The Original Series.” The season covers the original Klingon war against the United Federation of Planets, with the Discovery being the most important weapon on the Federation’s side.
They definitely hit the ground running and I was a big fan of their nod to aspects of the original series, including the mirror universe, Harry Mudd of tribbles fame, Spock’s father Sarek, and more.
The entirety of the season covered a single story arc, with none of the self-contained episode format used in most of the other series. I did like the storyline and I really enjoy Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham. Each episode was fast-paced and fun; they are not afraid to surprise!
Some aspects bothered me a little. For one it was a bit darker than I anticipated, although I think we were introduced to the story at a dark time (The Klingon War). For another, there was very little focus on the crew other than the 4 or 5 main characters. I’m used to being introduced to the bridge crew over the initial season but the story format and pacing did not really allow that.
Lastly, it’s not really as much of a “kid’s show” as the other series, F-bombs are dropped fairly frequently. I find this a little sad because I was a kid who fell in love with Star Trek during after-school afternoons and weeknight “prime-time” TV. I imagine this series may be hard for some parents to share with their kids.
Having said all of the above, season 2 actually appears to have taken some of this on board. We have a far more positive captain as a role model, none other than Captain Pike of the Enterprise! Although there is an overarching storyline again, this one looks like it will allow a bit more of the old school “away mission” type episodes. As a side effect of that, more time is being given to other members of the crew. We will also get to meet a young, pre-Kirk Spock.
I’m liking what I’m seeing in season 2 so far, it has all the aspects I liked from season 1 while addressing some of the issues.
Overall, I’m impressed with the quality of the show, and how fast the series has gotten up to speed. Something difficult to do in the post-20-something episode season era of the past.
There are already additional Star Trek projects in the works, such as a Patrick Stewart revisit of Picard and a Section 31 series. I’m all for it.
Some version of Star Trek has been there most of my life, so let’s keep it boldly going!
Mint by Alice Merton
TL;DR: Alice Merton’s debut album shows off her strong voice and radio-friendly beats.
This month, Spotify recommended to me a new release which I ended up really enjoying. Alice Merton’s new pop album Mint brings great beats and catchy lyrics. Her voice is confident but not overpowering.
Her debut song, “No Roots,” was released in 2016 and the world loved its deep bass and emphasis on the chorus. The song made the charts all over the world before making its way to the US, where it reached Gold status.
Mint is quite radio-friendly, with each song sounding like it could be a mainstream hit. “2 Kids” is one of my favorite songs on the album, as is “Homesick”. I like how her lyrics are relatable and easy to sing along to (great for me as I sometimes I have trouble making out the words when people sing!).
The album does get a bit repetitive near the end – I can tell there’s room for growth, which will bode well for her next album!
What you need to know: The Beyond Burger is a delicious way to reduce your carbon footprint. Keep reading to learn more!
The new Canada Food Guide was quietly released last month. To the people’s surprise, there were some pretty radical changes from the 2007 version. Not only did they do away with the traditional food groups and serving sizes, the government highly emphasizes the consumption of fruits, veggies, and plant-based proteins (the “dairy food group” is completely gone!).
This huge shift in the food guide is just one part of a greater movement. Companies are getting crazy innovative to bring us food that satisfies our cravings while minimizing harm. Lab-grown tuna anyone? Or how about some eggless scramble? Nah, I’ll just stick with my non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s.
My pick isn’t about any of those tantalizing treats though. It’s about the Beyond Burger- an epic, plant-based alternative to the traditional hamburger. Using ingredients like pea protein, coconut oil, and beet juice extract, the resulting burger “looks, cooks, and tastes” the same as a regular beef burger.
I tried a Beyond Burger for the first time a few months ago and was happily surprised. It was delicious and very, very convincing.
Caveat: I’ve been vegan for 5 years now, so I don’t think I’m a super trustworthy source. I actually find a lot of plant-based foods very similar to their animal alternatives. But a quick Google search will show you that I’m not the only one convinced by its meatiness!
Beyond Meat, the mad geniuses behind it all, state that it took them 7 years of prior research and testing before releasing the burger in 2013. They have now added Beyond Chicken, Beef, and Sausage to their line of meatless products.
- It is the first burger to be sold in the meat aisle at the supermarket in the US.
- Tyson Foods, the largest animal agriculture corporation in the U.S., owns a 5% stake in the company.
- When A&W Canada rolled out the Beyond Burger to chains nationwide in July 2018, it sold out completely in a matter of weeks!
The mission of Beyond Meat is to find a better way to feed the planet. They state on their website that “[b]y shifting from animal to plant-based meat, we can positively and significantly impact 4 growing issues attributed to livestock production and consumption: human health, climate change, natural resource depletion, and animal welfare.”
Economist and Forbes both declared 2019 year of the Vegan. I, for one, can’t wait to see even more food innovation in the next 11 months!