We changed our name! After 14 years of creating award-winning digital products & services, it’s time for a new identity that better reflects the human insights-driven, digital customer experiences we create.
We changed our name! After 14 years of creating award-winning digital products & services, it’s time for a new identity that better reflects the human insights-driven, digital customer experiences we create.

AIAIO: Our Blog

AIAIO: Our Blog

The pulse and reviews of Alexander Interactive

Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

How Television Shows Can Ensure a High Quality Experience for Viewers

Whoever said television is dead, obviously hasn’t taken a cold, hard, look at a Roku… or an Apple TV, or an Amazon Fire Stick. Television isn’t dead, it’s evolving; moving increasingly fast in the direction of online, on-demand, broadcast. Thanks to streaming sites like Netflix, HBO Now, and Amazon Prime, binge watching has allowed TV fans to unwind anywhere, anytime. Yet, not only is it the act of watching 10 nonstop hours of Game of Thrones pleasurable, it’s also downright engaging; starting before the show begins and even after it ends. So much so that binge watching, or watching any amount of television at all, is no longer a means to an end for boredom, it’s a chance for show runners to engage with viewers like never before.

According to a survey by Conviva, a video optimization provider that was reported by Techcrunch, more than half of today’s binge watchers are unlikely to return to a series they’ve stopped watching due to a negative experience. Whether it’s from poor resolution, frequent interruptions, or an unavailable episode/season for long periods of time, the well over 100 million people binge-watching want just one thing: a quality watching experience. But how can television shows provide that, especially when they’re not in charge of what (legal or illegal) streaming sites they appear on?

There is only one answer: television shows need to focus on their viewers at all times, throughout every episode, across all channels. Seems difficult… until you realize that some shows have already achieved huge levels of success by doing just that.

Quality television requires a fan base — one that’s dedicated to the overall storyline, its characters, and the behind-the-scenes team that make it all happen. In return for their continual support, show runners often give something exciting back to their fans. They begin to focus on the wants, desires, hopes and dreams of their viewers, and sometimes actually implement their ideas into the storyline. This doesn’t mean by any means that every show has to have a main character like House of Card’s Francis Underwood that literally talks to the viewer, but it’s not like that type of dedication hurts viewership…shows just need to make sure they don’t go too far.

“At a certain point, as always happens in Hollywood or culture in general, a set of superficial things come to stand in for quality,” says author of ‘Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution’ Brett Martin for the New York Post.  Essentially what Martin is saying here is to never forget your audience’s standards. It’s inevitable that some viewers are going to get bored or disconnected and leave. If every show had the same viewing ratings as its premiere date, than no one would win an Emmy. But what’s important to remember is that although some viewers will leave, those that stay are the heart and soul of any show. Honing in on those users will allow the show to thrive – living a long and healthy life (looking at you, Law & Order: SVU, currently on season 18). But this type of lifestyle won’t last long without being shared.

Today, shows that see the light of day (aka a second season), take their experience to the next level… well, levels. Quality television shows are designed for shared experiences. Taking the action off screen and into the real world is what sets apart B-list shows, from A-list winners. Most recently, the #1 spot on the leaderboard goes to USA’s Mr. Robot. The mysterious drama revolving around an underground hacker society has gone to extreme lengths to tie in the viewer. From tweeting this seasons first episode a full 24 hours before it’s release (then deleting it shortly after), to launching a VR narrative experience at Comin-Con, to even secretly relaying messages in the form of QR codes on screen mid-episode, Mr. Robot  is the epitome of the total television experience for viewers. But if Mr. Robot is the King, The Walking Dead is quite obviously the Queen.

Debuted on AMC in 2010, The Walking Dead has some of the most dedicated fans of any television show. Viewers talked about the series so frequently that the network created a second show just to talk about it: Talking Dead. Various other series have too incorporated an after-show for fans to further revel in the shocks and rumors of each episode (Mr. Robot just debuted the after-show Hacking Robot, and Bravo’s live after shows often lead to some intense catfights thanks to the Real Housewives). But to push the experience even further, Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, California created a Walking Dead Attraction, filled with professionally trained zombies. Yeah, it’s that serious.

So for other shows to catch even a bit of the viewer wave Mr. Robot and The Walking Dead are riding, they need to stay focused on the user across all digital channels and engage where their viewers do. Television isn’t on it’s last leg, but the way viewers watch it just might be. It’s time for shows to move past the realm of ‘the box’ and into the real world- where everything is shared. Television is in the big leagues of UX now, will your show be ready?


The Fight to Ride: Dissecting the Disruption Battle Between Old & New Ride-Hailing Apps

“Who’s that guy waving at in the middle of the road?” If you’ve had a lapse in memory or are just too young to remember what ‘hailing a cab’ looks like, you’re not alone. In today’s digital world, hailing a ride means going to your smartphone and hitting “request.” No waving necessary.

An industry valued well over a billion dollars, ride-hailing apps have taken over traditional methods of public transportation, and major cities around the world either love it, or hate it. For New Yorkers, the flood of yellow cabs in the streets has dwindled to a steady stream, overshadowed by bright pink Lyft mustaches and sleek blue Uber ‘U’ stickers. But for cities like Austin, Texas, where strict voters overruled the use of such companies for lack of certain regulations (think fingerprint-based background checks), commuters have to fend for themselves. So while it may seem like Uber and its competitors are winning the fight to ride, you can’t yet count out the old-timers in their yellow rides of sunshine. This disruption battle has only just begun.

Uber, founded in 2009, stands at the foundation of the ride-hailing industry, but not without pressure from its competitors. Lyft joined the battle in 2012. Followed by an outbreak in services overseas like Ola Cabs in Mumbai, Grab in Southeast Asia, and the women only service SafeHer in the U.S. arriving later this year. And they all want what Uber already has- disruption.

According to Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen, author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, for Techcrunch, “a disruptive product addresses a market that previously couldn’t be served… it offers a simpler, cheaper, or more convenient alternative to an existing product.”  Today’s existing product? Taxi cabs.

The first means of ‘ride-hailing.’ The original form of a public chauffeur. Cabs were established long before the cultivation of online transportation networks, and have used this ‘first-of-its-kind’ status as their platform for battle against companies like Uber and Lyft. But now, cabs have something more than age in their favor. The launch of ride-hailing apps made specifically for taxi’s allowed the yellow cab industry to finally put up a fair fight. Taxi-hailing apps like Gett, Arro, Flywheel, and Way2Ride, have all successfully launched in major cities in the past few years. Most notably, Gett has already announced that it’s revenue has tripled annually to $500 million, inching closer and closer to Uber’s $800 million last year.

With more and more apps coming to fruition every day, we may never see a clear winner of this battle. But one thing is certain, there’s no clear frontrunner either. There are downsides and upsides to ride-hailing apps, taxi-hailing apps, and just plain cab hailing. Time, money, and overall experience affect the ratings and ultimate success of these networks. Here are the most important points of contention these ride-hailing apps are fighting over.

Surge Pricing vs. Flat Rates

Surge pricing has been a huge cause for complaint for users of both Uber and Lyft. It’s not uncommon for users to experience rides for as much as 3X the original price during heavy traffic periods, extreme weather and heavy social holidays or events… along with what appears to be for no apparent reason. This is where Gett and traditional Taxi’s come out on top. Gett is primarily based on it’s $10 flat rates for black car trips in Manhattan (up to a half hour), and taxi’s don’t have a surcharge at all.

Winner: Gett/Traditional Taxis


Compared to Uber’s 14,088 black and luxury cars and Lyft’s 5,000 dispatched vehicles in New York, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has roughly 13,437 medallion cabs. That’s not that big of a difference; but when looking at the number of specific drivers for Uber– the company has approximately 32,000, whereas Gett hasn’t yet reached 6,000, says NY Daily News.

Winner: Uber & Lyft 


Uber provides 82,000 rides per day in New York. Taxi’s make 485,000, without even factoring in Gett rides. This doesn’t need to be further debated …

Winner: Gett/Traditional Taxis


According to Pew Research Center, 33% of American adults have never heard of online ride-hailing services. Of the remaining percentage, only 15% have actually used them. Uber and Lyft might be well known in the major cities, but it’s not as widely used as regular cab systems everywhere else.

Winner: Traditional Taxis 


Last year, Lyft made $800 million. Pretty impressive, except Uber made nearly $2 billion. Talk about an upset. Comparatively, the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission released data last year that indicated a 18.4% gross revenue decline from the post-2012-far-increase peak.

Winner: Uber & Lyft

As you can see, the battle for the top spot on the disruption podium is far from over. Luckily for commuters, no matter who wins, there will always be a ride and disruptive technologies will keep riders as the real winners.


How to Hire (And Retain) More Women in Tech

According to the US Census Bureau, women make up just over 50% of the total US population and 59% of the US workforce. And yet, when it comes to technology, the number of women at the table plummets. A Deloitte report exploring the gender disparities within the tech industry found that the number of women employed by these companies (including some of the world’s most recognizable brands like Microsoft and Google) is less 25%, even fewer for technical roles. So what can tech companies do to recruit, hire and retain more women?

  • Provide educational opportunities and chances for women to learn. Part of the challenge in hiring women is that there are presently fewer applicants in the job pool. Less than one fifth of US computer science degree recipients in 2013 were women. While not all people working in IT or other technical positions have computer science degrees, companies without training programs or educations offerings are missing out on opportunities to consider women who’s skills can be polished once hired and can be developed into a true asset.
  • Consider how job descriptions and outreach are worded. Deloitte identified two major keys for recruiting efforts. The first is to make it a priority to avoid words that demonstrate or present any sort of (unintentional) bias that may deter a woman from applying. Secondly, reconsider requirements and recognize that mandating a significant amount of years of experience inheriently slashes many women from the pile of applicants.
  • Make it a priority to help ensure jobs are satisfying for women once they are hired. To consider simply getting women in the door is setting up for failure. A National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) study found that not only are women in technical positions between 25-34 finding increasing dissatisfaction with their jobs, 56% of those women are leaving before the highlight of their careers. This quit rate is twice as high as men in the same positions. Include true flexibility especially with scheduling. Develop catches to stop any sort of discrimination or bias that may not be recognized.
  • Create a path to leadership. Opening the path and demonstrating to younger women how they can grow can be a critical piece of the puzzle. Develop a mentorship program that pairs up women executives or management with younger women. This could be as simple as making tan internal program to create lasting bonds among coworkers or it could be going the route of Facebook, Pinterest and Box who paired together to create WEST (Women Entering and Staying in Tech). WEST pairs experienced women in technical roles at one of the three sponsor companies with younger women within their region (as opposed to their company) to provide 1-on-1 mentorship. Developing leaders does more than improve the worker’s life; it improves a company’s bottom line. A Credit Suisse report found companies with women in leadership experienced better sales, higher returns on equity, better stock performance, and higher payouts of dividends

Hiring (and keeping) female tech talent and creating leadership opportunities for these workers is more important now than ever. With benefits clearly demonstrated, it’s up to today’s tech leadership to identify what women need to feel good about their jobs and comfortable in the workplace – and make the necessary changes.


Our 10 Favorite Insurance Tweeters Right Now

Getting to know the ins and outs of the industries our clients are a part of is something that is extremely important to us at Ai. One of those particular verticals is insurance. So here are TEN of our favorite insurance experts on Twitter right now in no particular order.

V8W8DIIaName: Shifting Gears – @shiftinggearsio

Followers: 783

Why you should follow them: Shifting Gears is a blog that provides insight on changes to the insurance landscape, innovations in product development, emerging technologies and the world of actuaries. They tweet their own posts along with articles from reputable 3rd party sources like Fortune, TechCrunch and Insurance Thought Leadership among others.

Best Recent Tweet: PSA: You are no longer an insurance agent ‪ … ‪#insurance ‪#innovation

Runner-up: Why Google could be a major force in insurance – insurers should take notes ‪ … ‪#insuretech


aRMJySEYName: Jonathan Swift – @InsuranceSwifty

Followers: 3,754

Why you should follow him: Jonathan is the director of content for Incisive Media’s insurance division. He has been writing about insurance since 1998 and truly knows the industry inside and out.

Best Recent Tweet: Millennials are key to ‪#insuretech success ‪ ‪#wakeupinsurance ‪#sta

Runner-up: My list of #insurtech #startup firms who could make waves in 2016 #wakeupinsurance


LtMyFkYm_400x400Name: Deb Smallwood – @dmsmallwood

Followers: 1,178

Why You Should Follow Her: Deb is the founder of Strategy Meets Action, which is a leading research and advisory service firm strictly aimed at the insurance industry. She makes it her business to know the industry inside and out – and it shows on the newsfeed. Some of her best content is

Best Recent Tweet: RT @Insurancethough: How to insure the sharing economy. ‪@monhess ‪#ITL ‪#connected ‪#sharingeconomy ‪ …

Runner-up: “Want to understand insurance technology priorities and plans for 2016? ” by @dmsmallwood on ‪@LinkedIn ‪ …


SofNxKAFName: Mairi Mallon – @Reinsurancegirl

Followers: 7,714

Why you should follow her: Mairi is a public relations pro who specializes in insurance and risk on a global scale. She engages with people throughout the agency, shares industry articles and promotes events and meet-ups.

Best Recent Tweet: ‪#reinsurance‪ #insurance #ils tweet up in New York – please spread the word and come along! February 25 … cc@ilsdiva

Runner-Up: RT Global ‪#Reinsurance Outlook “Negative” – Life Reinsurance “Stable” Says ‪@AMBestCo See why ‪@WRINtv ‪


bW9gd0SjName: Jim Peavy – @ThePeav

Followers: 5,969

Why You Should Follow Him: Jim is a PR/social media/media relations pro in the insurance and reinsurance sectors. He offers interesting commentary on the latest industry trends as well as touching on tech and social media.

Best Recent Tweet: Troubled energy market impacts ‪#insurance via ‪@reutersCarolynC ‪@Noor_ZainabHuss ‪@JGouldReuters ‪@ReutersRachel ‪ ‪ via @Reuters

Runner-up: ‪#Canada‪’s largest life insurer takes C$250 million charge on #oil #investments by @katiadmi #insurance ‪


blog4_big_400x400Name: Emmanuel Kenning – @BrokingBod

Followers: 2,267

Why You Should Follow Him: Emmanuel is the editor of Insurance Age magazine. He covers a lot of insider news about the industry.

Best Recent Tweet: RT @BrokingIda Smaller brokers pushed out of the market because of regulation, says Craig Tracey MP ‪  ‪#insurance ‪#insurancebroking

Runner-up: Drum roll please… the winner of 2015 ‪#brokerapprentice has been revealed ‪  check it out here ‪#insurance ‪#broking


DVXGZ2E2Name: LearnVest – @LearnVest

Followers: 38.1 K

Summary: While LearnVest focuses on financial planning and making it more affordable as a whole, they spend considerable time on insurance and offer plenty of great insurance resources about the industry as a whole.

Best Recent Tweet: 20 of the best company benefits and perks, rated: ‪  via ‪@FastCompany

Runner-up: 3 steps to getting the most out of your health plan: ‪  via ‪@MONEY


twitterJMName: Jamie Macgregor – @JamieMacgregorC

Followers: 466

Summary: Jamie is an insurance tech and IT strategy specialist out of London. His tweets are informative, interesting and conversational.

Best Recent Tweet: Ouch. Never underestimate the power of regulatory compliance. A lesson for ‪#insurance tech startups from Zenefits?

‪ …

Runner-up: A whopping 43 vendors to choose from in Celent’s latest ‪#insurance PAS report for P&C in EMEA from ‪@cgbeattie. ‪


PC360-no-tag-leftName: Property Casualty 360 – @PC_360

Followers: 20.5k

Summary: PC360 provides total coverage of the P&C insurance market. They tweet often and their content covers

Best Recent Tweet: Why a good ‪#insurance claims experience is so important ‪  ‪#customerservice

Runner-up: 5 ‪#liability issues restaurant, bar and tavern owner needs to watch out for ‪  ‪#insurance


5efe29807983554210cd2c91e37d06b3Name: Emily Delbridge – @CarInsReview

Followers: 1,156

Summary: Emily writes as an Auto Insurance expert for and Michigan Insurance Review with the purpose of making insurance fun and easy. While her specialty is auto insurance and all that it entails, she also

Best Recent Tweet: Do you have to pay for your own pipes in a frozen pipe home insurance claim? Find out now. ‪  ‪#frozen ‪#home ‪#claims

Runner-up: Curious what is considered to be car insurance fraud? Check it out now! ‪  ‪#insurance ‪#fraud


High Tech Valentine’s Day Gifts for Everyone!

Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s a holiday you love or hate, it is right around the corner. Sticking with candy and flowers may be tradition, but there is no better time than now to upgrade your gift giving skills to include some of today’s latest in greatest in tech. Here are some awesome ideas perfectly tailored to match your special someone’s interests.

For the hobbyist. If your significant other is always tinkering around and building, the perfect gift might be an arduino board. Whether it’s programming robotics or other projects, this gadget is a great place to start. ($24.95)


For the sweet tooth. Candy hearts and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates have always reigned supreme on February 14th. If your
tech lover is also a sweet tooth, why not step outside of the box this year?  Who needs heart shaped chocolates when you can get your special someone iPhone shaped chocolate! ($19.90) Double points if you make it yourself!


For the person who can’t put down their phone. Nothing says “I love you and I accept you (and your phone addiction)” like a snazzy new phone case. What better time than now and what better choice than this perfect Marc Jacobs  option that is covered in hearts? It comes in red, pink or white. ($55)


For the fashion forward fella. What man does’t look dapper in a suit? Dress him up more in a way that is stylish and functional with stainless steel cufflinks from Adafruit. While both look similar, one opens to reveal a USB with 4 GB of storage. ($29)


For the music lover. Remember a time when people used to make mixed tapes or CDs for the person they were crushing on? While it might seem like music streaming killed the mixed tape, this gift proves that it is not true! With Sharetapes, you can take your love back to a simpler time. Make a playlist on Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, etc and download it onto the credit-card sized tapes. Your special someone will be able to use the card to play the music. ($9.99 for 5 tapes + cost of music)


For the person who is always snapping pictures. Does the special person in your life constantly snap pics whether the moment being captured is big or small? The Polaroid Instant Snap Digital Camera might be the perfect gift! This 10 megapixel camera has the technology you are used to from a digital camera while also printing out a cute 2×3 polaroid of the shot. ($99.99)


For the health conscious couple. Unless a person has been living under a rock, it’s impossible to have NOT heard about FitBit. There is no better way to show someone they have your heart than looking after theirs. The FitBit Charge HR goes above and beyond to measure sleep and heart rate while also allowing food and water to be recorded. Like some other wearable trackers, it allows you to connect with other users and challenge them. How’s that for some friendly competition!


For the consummate host. Your special someone is the person who loves throwing a party or hosting a dinner. Enter the Bartesian. This gadget allows people to make their own premium cocktails using pods filled with mixer ingredients and adding alcohol. Bottoms up! ($299 on preorder)


Still looking for a valentine? No worries! Enter The League, a free dating app (iOS) that connects smart, ambitious professionals. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, The League has partnered with BloomThat and Minibar to deliver your potential matches booze and flowers. (NYC and San Fran areas only)

Funny Stuff

Having the right tools for the job

Hmm, so many directions I could go in here. Do I talk about the best OS for the job? The best software toolkit for the job? The best IDE? No, I think I’d rather talk about…screwdrivers.

I’ve been looking for some new tools for working on my computers for awhile now. I’m of the opinion that most precision screwdriver sets and computer toolkits available in stores are of questionable quality. Well, I was recently trying to open up my Nintendo Wii in order to fix the buzzing noise it was making, and I discovered that I couldn’t open it without a tri-wing screwdriver. Upon looking for a nice tri-wing screwdriver, I discovered Wiha Tools. They have a huge selection of screwdrivers. The ones that caught my eye had ESD handles for working with sensitive electronic equipment. They also have the largest selection of precision screwdrivers I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, I decided to give them a go. They have so many precision screwdriver sets that I couldn’t decide which one I wanted, but I did put together a custom set to replace my larger tools. If you need a custom set for computer cases, this is a good place to start. Here’s what I got:

  • Drive-Loc VI ESD Handle
  • Tri-Wing #0 x #1 blade
  • Slotted/Philips 1/8 x #0
  • Slotted/Philips 5/32 x #1
  • Slotted/Philips 1/4 x #2
  • 1/4 Nut Driver
  • 3/16 Nut Driver
  • Torx T10xT15
  • Canvas storage pouch

All these items can be found here. I would like to note that if you not looking to put together a custom set, you can probably find their stuff cheaper on Amazon. I just ordered my set, if the quality is good, I will be buying a nice precision set from them as well. If I just spent over $80 on a set that I don’t like, you will hear about it.

Oh, and one more thing about Wiha tools..they’re made in Germany, and as we all know, Germans always make good stuff.


We use commercial software too

We love open source solutions, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for commercial software here at Ai. In fact, everyone here uses commercial software on a daily basis. I thought for today, I’d cover our servers.

Windows Server – 80% of the Ai servers I manage run linux. But we do have a couple of windows servers as we need them to run Microsoft Exchange, Quickbooks, and our phone system software. We use Windows Active Directory for authentication on our LAN, even on the linux servers. We also use and love the Volume Snapshot Service.  Unlike an LVM set-up on a linux fileserver, Windows just takes care of everything. I don’t have to worry about where Windows is storing its filesystem snapshots. It’s a very nice supplement to our backup plan. It saves me a ton of time when someone accidentally deletes or overwrites a single file.

Microsoft Exchange – I don’t believe we’ll be on Exchange forever, but for now, it has one killer feature that we need. Calendar delegation. I’ve yet to see a cheaper solution that has robust calendar delegation features. If google adds that feature to google apps, we may have a future there. Oh, and if you read my last post, you’d also know that I love push email :)

Shoretel – We use a Shoretel phone system. I bet not many people here realize that their voicemail is stored on a Windows Server :) When we finally outgrew our old Bizfon, I looked into both Asterisk and ShoreTel. I would have loved to build a custom solution with Asterisk, but simply didn’t have the time. Our good friend Lou over at Brightstack gave us such a good deal on the Shoretel system that it was impossible to turn down. However, if you are ever looking for an Asterisk solution, I highly suggest you give Inter7 a ring. I found their prices to be very reasonable, and their sales guy was extraordinarily helpful. I’ve also been using some of their qmail related open source software on my servers for many years now.

JIRA – JIRA is our bug and issue tracker. It’s made by Atlassian. We used Mantis for many years, but outgrew it. We tried and liked FogBugz as well, but JIRA turned out to be much more cost effective for us.

There you have it. Ai uses commercial software too. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone.


Nitrodesk brings push email for MS Exchange to Android

I don’t know how I missed it, but Nitrodesk released a major update to their Touchdown software yesterday. New in version 2, push email! I made the switch from Windows Mobile to Android back in January, and push email was the biggest feature that I missed. Now that I have push again, there’s nothing I used my old Windows phone for that I can’t do on my Android Dev Phone 1.

There are also a few other business friendly features in the new version. Remote wipe is nice. They also added ‘Supress Delete from Server’ and ‘Surpress Mark-Read from Server’. I’m guessing these are welcome features to people who have used Blackberrys even though I won’t use them myself. You can see the complete list of new features in version 2 here.

Touchdown cost me $24.99 and it has been worth every penny. It’s nice to see a solid Microsoft Exchange client on such a young platform.


Windows Live Writer

I decided for my first blog post that I would mess around with Windows Live Writer to see how it works with Movable Type.

Setup was easy. I followed the instructions here to create a WLW Manifest file for Live Writer. I was initially unable to log in, but that was my own fault. I didn’t realize that I had a separate API password for logging in via the RPC script. If you don’t know your API password, log into Movable Type, and go to your profile page. It’s at the bottom.

After spending a few minutes messing around with Live Writer, I have to say that I like it. It’s nice to be able manage my blog posts in a single place, whether I’m online or offline. It does a very good job rendering our blog’s CSS, although your mileage may vary here. The program is nice and simple, I didn’t have to spend any time figuring out how things work. With the exception of the authentication error, I was up and running very quickly.

I’ve only run into one glitch so far. The “post draft to blog” action is grayed out. I guess that feature hasn’t been made to work with Movable Type yet. While this won’t be a problem for me, I can see that being a useful feature for others. So for now it seems my drafts can only be kept on my local computer.

I haven’t used any other programs like this, so I’m not sure what else is out there. But for now, this is all I need.