How ‘Green’ Are Your Spending Habits?

I work in a home office, so I am acutely aware of the comings-and-goings of my neighborhood. On some days, I literally see trucks from the same delivery companies arrive several times. And, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve even had different drivers knock on my door on the same day!

Ever wonder where all the boxes protecting those packages go? You should read this article from The New York Times, “E-commerce: Convenience Built on a Mountain of Cardboard.” It’s a rather sobering account of how our $350 billion annual online shopping habit is straining landfills. Sure, many communities have gotten far better at recycling. But we need to balance better ways to minimize packaging, while keeping items from being damaged in transit. Or, maybe we should just get better at reusing what we already have?

Hey Slack, Not Bad for a Two-Year-Old

It’s been two years since Slack, a messaging service meant for business teams, publicly (officially) launched its product with about 17,000 users. Now, it has amassed an audience of approximately 2.3 million people—who use it to exchange a whopping 1.5 billion messages on a monthly basis. It receives subscription revenue for approximately 675,000 of those “seats,” which translates into more than $64 million in annual recurring revenue.

For perspective, Apple’s streaming music service has roughly 11  million subscribers. Slack’s milestone is nothing to sneeze at, especially considering it had 2 million users at its last formal count from December.

I know this courtesy of some factoids the company’s public relations team sent me Friday. I cover the company as part of my Fortune beat. (Also, a disclosure, both Fortune and my other employer, GreenBiz, make use of Slack to communicate.)

The entire infographic is below. You can download your own copy here.


Slack Year 2 Infographic 2x (2) (1)

Are You A Digital Activist Or ‘Slacktivist’?

Social networks and mobile apps are keeping online Americans engaged on an ongoing basis with charitable and environmental organizations than in the past—when involvement was defined by year-end giving.
Approximately 64 percent of those surveyed by marketing agency Cone Communications said that a “like” or a “follow” usually led to their more active involvement with a non-profit organization in the form of volunteering, donations or information “sharing.”
Personally, that’s my biggest takeaway from a research study I’m reading early this Wednesday afternoon (over a sushi lunch)—the 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study (registration required to download it, sorry). The sample included 1,212 adults at least 18 years old (583 men and 629 women). Aside from the stat I’ve already cited, there are other intriguing stats, such as:
  • 35 percent of those surveyed had made a donation using online methods (which is actually not as high as some of the other data points suggest it should be); still it marks a shift from “traditional” methods, such as writing a check.
  • Slightly fewer (32 percent) watched a video with an overly environmental or social slant (same as the above).
  • Millennials and Hispanics were the most engaged when it came to using social and mobile technologies to learn about specific corporate social, environmental or sustainability practices.
What sort of content captures people’s attention? Surprisingly (although nice for someone like me), the written word comes out slightly ahead, followed by videos and images of the cause in question. A caveat: respondents who fell into the Millennial age bracket were also interested in games and quizzes that enhanced their knowledge of a particular issue.
“Digital engagement around social and environmental issues allows everyone to be an activist, a philanthropist and a hero,” said Alison DaSilva, Cone’s executive vice president, in a statement about the data. “The challenge for organizations is to convert that click of a button into a powerful gateway for deeper impact.”

Will Wearables Be Part of Professional Dress Code?

Enough is enough! Those of you who actually know me in “real life” know that I’ve been super busy, both personally and professionally. And now, I have some of my time back, so I will pledge (yet again) to be better about updating this column.

Today’s item is a shameless self-plug for my column from my exciting daily assignment, curating and writing the Data Sheet for Fortune magazine — dedicated to the “business of technology.”

Much of the buzz I’m hearing this fall regards wearable technology, various gadgets such as a fitness bands or smart watches or eyewear (ala Google Glass).

These devices collect data about your heart rate or how far you’ve walked or the average time between intervals in your exercise routines. They can also be used to offer more information to you on the job. For example, Google Glass (and its kin) might be useful for letting field service workers watch repair videos while they are actually on a job.

Personally speaking, I can’t imagine ever wearing one of these things, especially if it’s as big and ugly as the Microsoft Band. (Image right.)

If I actually had a job, I might not have a choice. Apparently, almost three-quarters of the U.S. workers recently surveyed by softare company Cornerstone OnDemand believe wearable technologies may become mandatory in our workplace future (no time frame). Sort of like ID badges required for getting around most corporate campuses.

Keep abreast of my daily coverage of business technology by signing up for Data Sheet.

Chatting To Save The Planet

Anyone who reads my occasional posts here knows that I love exploring how technology can make things better, especially when it comes to helping reduce humans’ impact on the planet. As you might expect, I receive pitches (dare I say “many”) for my paid writing contracts that I often can’t cover, because they sit outside my focus.

One example is a note I received in late April related to a relationship between environmental NGO The Nature Conservancy and WeChat, a mobile messaging service that originated in China and that has more than 100 million registered users. In a bid to build its presence elsewhere, WeChat will donate $5 to The Nature Conservancy for every new user who downloads its mobile app and follows the Conservancy’s official account on the service. (It has pledged up to $1 million.)

“The Nature Conservancy’s WeChat account will be a new destination where users can learn more about the Conservancy’s work to benefit nature and people, find ways to get involved and access daily nature photographs and a host of other fun surprises,” the organization writes on this Web site.

Basically, Nature Conservancy realizes many of us like posting photos of the stunning flora and fauna that nature shows to us on our social networks. The organization is seeking more visibility among that audience, plus (ultimately) it hopes to become connected to individuals that might wind up volunteering at activities it is coordinating around the world.

While this isn’t something I’d write about for my GreenBiz or Forbes gigs, this arrangement struck me as interesting — especially since the non-profit has similar relationships with dozens of other businesses from Avon and Aveda to Walmart. So, I’ve downloaded the WeChat mobile app, and will explore it as a way of organizing the text messages that seem to be flooding into my life with far more frequency. (In order to follow The Nature Conservancy account, you have to set up the app and type in “Nature_Org” in the search bar.)

Will this app be useful? Heaven knows, but if check it out can help one of the environmental groups I already support, why not give it a spin?

Are Your Kids Oversharing On Facebook? App Offers Informed Answer

I continue to come across interesting software applications that I would definitely evaluate if I was a parent in this confusing age of privacy. The one I’m reading about today — called AVG PrivacyFix Family — is specifically focused on helping parents know when their children are “oversharing” on Facebook, without necessarily spying on all their interactions.

The software builds on the AVG PrivacyFix service, which helps you understand who can see the information you’re posting on Facebook, Google or LinkedIn, and manage the settings accordingly. For example, it will tell you if you’re inadvertently allowing marketers to use your information without realizing it, because, as we know “opt-in” or “opt-out” can be kind of sneakily handled. AVG PrivacyFix also keeps up with all those surprise privacy updates that seem to happen behind-the-scenes on a regular basis, which you may or may not be able to follow based on the fact that you have something call real life going on.
The Family edition extends these services further to your family’s collective identity, specifically for Facebook (at least right now) — to make sure your parents, kids, siblings, cousins, whomever aren’t communicating things that aren’t for public consumption. It will probably be just your immediate family, but you get the idea. 
Some of the specific features include a Wi-Fi Do No Track feature that shuts down Android devices and prevents them from transmitting MAC addresses when they’re transmitting wirelessly, a data calculator that shows how much your data is “worth” to Facebook or Google, and blockers to thwart more than 1,200 trackers and advertising spam services. You can manage the settings for everyone in your family as part of a central dashboard.
The software comes as an extension for Web browsers (I just downloaded the Google Chrome one), ore as a mobile app for Apple iOS or Android. (A sample interface image for the Apple app appears in this post to the right.)
Did I mention this software is free? At the very least, it will help your family start having much more informed discussions about social network privacy. It might not change what your children think it’s OK to share, but at least they’ll be able to protect themselves should they choose.