Author: Neil Hughes

I am a Freelance Writer, Blogger, LinkedIn Author and Podcaster. You can follow me on Twitter at @neilchughes or contact me via my site TechBlogWriter.co.uk if you want to reach out or appear on my podcast. You can also find me over at the LinkedIn's Publishers and Bloggers Group where I collaborate and support like-minded bloggers.

Spotify Running Playlists for House of Cards’ Frank Underwood, Claire Underwood and Doug Stamper

Ironically, nothing reminds you that you need to go out for a run more than binge viewing your way through another House of Cards season. Running plays a big part in the TV show and many are still trying to find out the hidden meaning behind the old woman telling Claire Underwood not to run in the cemetery in season one.

Have you ever wondered what Frank and Claire Underwood listen to on those infamous late night runs? Have you been tempted to purchase a North Face vest and live out your very own House of Card’s fantasy while running through the streets of your hometown? For those of you that bravely or nervously answered yes to both of the questions, Spotify has a treat in store for you.

Three running playlists appeared on the music streaming service as Season 5 hit Netflix. We are led to believe that the plalists were created by Claire Underwood, Frank Underwood and even the even the quiet, cold and calculating Doug Stamper gets his own playlist too. We are used to seeing our favorite antiheroes Frank and Claire Underwood wearing all black, putting on a pair of headphones, and heading out for a run before plotting their next dark and dastardly move. But, now you can hear what music they are supposedly listening to.

Sure we could dismiss Spotify’s actions as a stupid and cringeworthy PR stunt that went too far. But, if the motivation to get you away from the couch and out for a run is to pretend to be a character from your fave TV show, I don’t see any harm in that.

It’s fair to say that all three of the Spotify playlists contain an eclectic mix of tracks. Claire Underwood goes for girl power with the likes of Florence and the Machine, Beyonce, Tina Turner. Even though a bizarre appearance of We Are The World appears, it’s Foreigner’s, Cold As Ice that reveals more than she would like you to see.

Frank Underwood predictably opens up with Sinatra’s My Way. I cannot help but think that he is also very aware of the irony of including the often misunderstood protest song Born in the USA. Although I struggle to think of Frank singing Danger Zone from the top of his voice while running through a deserted graveyard.

However, once again a random mix of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osborne and Atlantic Starr will make for an entertaining run around the block.

One of the darkest and most complex characters from the show Doug Stamper has everything from AC/DC, Rise Against The Machine, Soundgarden to Boys II Men. But a theme of secrets and lies is prominent in his song choices.

You will not find any House of Cards season spoilers in this post. But as you binge your way through another 13 episodes of the superbly acted show, don’t rush your way through it. Some things shouldn’t be consumed in a few sittings like a trip to McDonald’s. Treat the series like a fine whiskey and savor every mouthwatering and jaw dropping scene.

Why not take a mid-season break, put on your North Face running vest, plug in your earphones and head out for a run while listening to one of the themed playlists. But, just promise me you won’t run in the graveyard.

Why There Is More To Wendy Williams Than ‘Talk-Show Wendy’

We are living in an age of instant gratification where even businesses are guilty of concentrating on the sprint rather than the marathon. We also convince ourselves that successful people are lucky or born with an exceptional talent. But dismissing someone’s work ethic as luck is quite possibly the biggest insult there is.

In a world of shortcuts, the harsh reality is that there is no secret sauce to cook up a dish of success. As for all those online courses and eBooks that promise to help you get rich quick, the inconvenient truth is that it’s only the author that is going to make money fast.

The truth that nobody wants to hear is that the only path to greatness requires hard work and dedication. The countless hours that it takes to master a skill and the sacrifices along the way that it takes to make it possible. Or as my teenage son tell me, it’s all about the grind.

However, the story of how individuals are investing 10,000 hours to master a skill rather than binge-watching TV shows on Netflix is one that is seldom told. For example, Wendy Williams is best known for her long-running daytime Emmy-nominated talk show, “The Wendy Williams Show.”

However, there is no such thing as overnight success. When running on the comparison treadmill, many choose to conveniently forget about how Williams built a fan base throughout a 23-year career in radio.

Rather than comparing herself to others in the industry, she decided to use her unique and authentic voice to build her brand. An audience of over 12 million people allowed her to become one of the most popular personalities in radio.

Wendy was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in November of 2009 and became one of only a handful of women to achieve the honor. The nurturing of relationships with an audience builds a trust that should never be taken for granted.

A part of what I love about my show is the connection I have with my audience and fans, whether it be in the studio, or while they’re watching at home. – Wendy Williams

Refreshingly, despite enjoying phenomenal success with an Emmy-nominated daily talk show, she is keen to show the world that there is much more to her than talk-show Wendy. Although from the outside people might see an actress, comedian, entrepreneur, designer, or New York Times best-selling author, Wendy Williams is much more comfortable being seen as a mother and a businesswoman.

As someone who is continuously looking to engage with her audience, the launch of a behind the scenes entertainment and lifestyle app called Wendy Digital makes perfect sense.

There seems to be much more to the app than just indulging users with a daily fix of pop culture. For example, the ‘Shopping’ section is again designed to genuinely connect with her fans and allow users to browse and purchase Wendy’s outfit of the day or learn more about the moisturizer she uses.

I recently interviewed Williams on my podcast, and she takes her responsibilities in this feature very seriously. It’s not just about brand partnerships, but a strong focus on what Wendy Williams genuinely likes and recommends.

Williams told me how her audience often picks up on the tiny details from the show and will regularly bombard her with questions such as what is that nail color you wear? Or what do you use on your skin for it to look so great? The app enables Williams to have those conversations with her audience and address these questions directly.

In many ways, Willams was a pioneer by building a career on being authentic, open and honest. But now everyone is doing it, she told me. As a result, she is determined to push the envelope by creating a digital platform to connect with her audience.

Essentially, technology is enabling Williams to leave the makeup, and false lashes in the TV studio and broadcast live from her mom cave. It was evident from our conversation that engaging with her fans and allowing them to follow the rollercoaster of emotions in life whether that be laughing or crying is incredibly important to her.

Now through my app, I have a brand new platform where I can continue to engage with my fans, and be able to share more behind-the-scenes intel into my life outside of the show – Wendy Williams

In a digital world, audiences are now increasingly turning to YouTube stars for authenticity and hosts they can relate with. Viewing trends suggest people are turning their back on polished, fast edited and contrived TV shows that feel fake. However, Williams has built a career on simply being herself, and this seems to be her secret recipe for success.

In a world where everyone is trying to be like somebody else, it’s incredibly refreshing to see Wendy Williams has built a hugely successful career by doing what she does best. Being herself.

 

DroneDeploy Offers Real-Time Drone Mapping With Fieldscanner

Drones are a guilty pleasure for many tech fans who can be seen flying their latest gadget on a beach near you this summer. In a world where people feel the urge to go the extra mile to make their travel videos stand out on Facebook and Instagram, there is an argument that the aerial footage from your holiday is a cool feature to have in your arsenal.

Meanwhile, businesses have been using the similar footage for showcasing their work from a unique vantage point. But, you could be forgiven for thinking that ultimately the footage rarely delivers any real value or tangible results to individuals or businesses.

Under your radar, DroneDeploy has been bringing something new to the table that will change the way you think about drones. The cloud software platform is designed for commercial drones and is transforming the way businesses leverage aerial data across multiple industries such as agriculture, construction, mining, inspection and surveying to name but a few.

To put this technology into perspective, DroneDeploy users have mapped and analyzed over 8 million acres in over 135 countries. The recent introduction of Fieldscanner is already proving to be a real game changer with farmers by giving them an eye in the sky.

A real-time view of a farmer’s fields that can reveal crop damage, pest problems and the effects of weather is proving to be invaluable to the 21st-century farmer. Anyone looking for ROI can instantly see the benefits of increased efficiency, decreased costs and increase yields.

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How to Listen to Podcasts on the Amazon Echo

So you treated yourself to an Amazon Echo or Dot. After checking the weather, news, traffic updates, sports headlines, and the numerous easter eggs to amuse your friends, most of you reading this will quickly want to make practical use of the new digital assistant sitting patiently in your home.

The beauty of podcasts is you can listen and learn about subjects you are curious about in almost any location. But did you know you can ask Alexa to play your favorite show with one voice request?

Amazon has partnered with the free podcast and internet radio service provider TuneIn which features over 100,000 radio stations and 5.7 million podcasts. The best part about this function is you don’t need to worry about an account signup, login, or any configuration to add the ability to your Amazon Echo.

Thankfully, you are free to request any of these by simply asking Alexa. For example, to listen to my show, you would simply say:
“Alexa, play the Tech Blog Writer Podcast.” And it will play the latest episode of my show.

How to Listen to Podcasts on the Amazon Echo

How to Listen to Podcasts on the Amazon Echo

Assuming you know the name of your favorite radio station or podcast, all you need to do is ask Alexa, and you can carry on doing your chores or cooking a nice meal while listening to your favorite show.

How Do I Skip An Episode Of A Podcast On Amazon Echo?

The only downside of listening to podcast episodes on Amazon Echo is that it will automatically play the most recent episode. If you are a few shows behind then you can merely say “Skip” or “Next” to go to the next episode.

Unfortunately, you can’t use an episode’s name to locate a particular episode at the moment. Here is a list of the commands that you can use while an episode is currently playing on your Amazon Echo:

  • “Back” to go to the previous episode
  • “Pause”
  • “Continue”
  • “Stop”

However, there’s no way to skip forwards or backwards within an episode which can be frustrating when listening to a show littered with sponsored ads.

That’s all you need to start listening to podcasts or radio stations from all over the world on an Amazon Echo or Dot device in the comfort of your home. It can be quite handy when you have your handsful to say “Alexa Play the…” and has enabled me to catch up with the growing number of podcasts that I love.

I would love to hear how you are getting on with using voice control to listen to podcasts. What shows do you like? Do you find the feature useful? And do you have any additional tips?

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below or tweet me @neilchughes.

Are Facebook’s 8 Billion Views the Result of Freebooting?

Mark Zuckerberg recently revealed that Facebook is now generating 8 billion videos views a day from only 500 million people, and if you are proficient with numbers, you will notice that these figures don’t quite stack up. Most people scroll down their Facebook timeline with the mute button on their device while navigating away from auto-playing videos and are blissfully unaware that after only 3 seconds this is classed as a view and allows advertising income to be gained from the video.

Over on YouTube, a video has to be playing for 30 seconds for the view count to be recorded. Many are starting to notice that there is a billion dollar industry emerging known as “freebooting” where people can steal YouTube content and promote via Facebook creating unreal view counts and forced virility as Facebook videos are automatically prioritised over YouTube videos.

However, a video is currently going viral and receiving widespread support after pointing out the struggles for content creators suggesting that Facebook is purposely “rigging” their algorithm for their own personal gain.

Very often the original creator of video content will obtain a few views from their own YouTube channel whereas the video can achieve millions of views on Facebook, which generates advertising income for the social media behemoth rather than the content creator(s) who rely on revenue for advertisements.

Primarily the content creators are not receiving money or recognition from these videos whereas Facebook and the video stealing accomplice receive the returns.

YouTube’s copyright infringement system seems to be quite stringent by comparison, and it seems clear that Facebook’s is turning a blind eye to protect their cash cow while the video stealer appears to get away with a lucrative swag bag every time with no threat or fear of any consequences.

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Tech or Treat! Technology Brings Halloween Into the 21st Century


You might be a high-flyer with a mountain of emails to wade through and countless meetings to attend this week, but in the back of your mind is the impending doom that you need to think of something original for Halloween or lose your cool parent status forever in this modern nightmarish tale.

I am always fascinated by how people use a combination of innovative ideas and technology to bring something a little different to age-old traditions. The pressure for families to outdo their neighbours by adding something unique to their annual Halloween celebrations and deliver the ultimate scare factor is here once again.

The days of simply carving a traditional pattern to your pumpkin are gone, and there are now a wealth of patterns and stencils available online to ensure you secure the cool factor with your friends and family. However, the latest hair-raising trend of ghost droning has raised the stakes for anyone wanting to bring All Hallows’ Eve into the 21st century.

Tech fans have created a fusion of old and new methods to deliver the ultimate fright night by adding traditional scary costumes to drones that were originally designed for aerial filming. Those who have a fear of clowns might want to stay indoors next Saturday if these videos by @djlilraz are an early indication of what to expect.

Who are you gonna call when an apparition of a terrifying flying clown haunts your neighbourhood?

Technology is also on hand to ensure you do not find yourself in the ghastly position of arriving at a party in the same costume as one of the other guests. Google Frightgeist helpfully allows you to to see what costumes are trending in your neighbourhood obtained from Google Trends 3-billion searches. Predictably Harley Quinn and anything Star Wars related will be incredibly popular this year as fans get their geek on.

The ubiquitous selfie and the sticks that accompany them will be hitting the streets in full force, and there are a few apps such as Vampire Me that allow you to capture your inner bloodsucking vampire. However, the fact vampires do not have a reflection seems to have been conveniently left out of the app description.

When it comes to the afterlife, vampires might seem a little lame to zombie obsessed millienials but thankfully there is no shortage of apps for fans of the Walking Dead to quite literally zombify yourself for the ultimate Halloween selfie.

ghostcam

Meanwhile, GhostCam allows you to spice up your photos by placing ghostly figures in the background to add a little authenticity to those late night spooky stories.

Scare Cam allows you to trick your friends into performing an eye test only to flash a scary pic on-screen and film their reaction to share their lack of nerve on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

If you wanted to add a 21st-century angle to the spooky stories around a campfire, there are a wealth of ghost story podcasts available on Stitcher that will certainly be responsible for a few sleepless nights. Meanwhile gamers might prefer to enter the world of Silent Hill with the lights off or sample one of the many scary titles at their disposal.

Halloween might be an ancient tradition, but it’s our love of technology that will ensure this year’s parties bring something a little different to the table. Although these are days of selfies, flying drones, mobile apps and online trends. The truth is these are also just more tools at our disposal to up our game this Halloween.

As a society, we have evolved so much over the last 2,000 years and yet fundamentally we are exactly the same trying to scare each other with the same old ghost stories whether it be by a campfire or via a podcast.

However, if you feel that the whole day is complete nonsense, you can point your telescope to the skies and watch an asteroid larger than the Empire State building hurtling past the earth aptly named ‘Spooky

It seems that when the darkness falls across the land, it’s technology that will be bringing people together whatever you choose to do on October 31st.

 

Bodyboarding in Croyde Bay With a GoPro Hero

People often ask me where I find my inspiration and energy. As a guy that spends far too much time staring at a screen and tapping away at a keyboard. I think it’s getting out and about in the great outdoors that helps me maintain a very positive outlook.

My two favourite places in the world would be the Glastonbury Festival of contemporary performing arts where I can go completely offline and lose myself for five days soaking up over 1,000 different acts across a 900-acre site. My second favourite place is Croyde Bay in North Devon where I can hit the beach armed with a cheap wetsuit from eBay and a £20 bodyboard.

Sure, learning to surf properly is high on my bucket list. However, a distinct lack of time, money and water near my home makes it quite difficult, but one day I live in hope of spending my final days as a Johnny Utah style character in Croyde.

Until that day, it was time once again to hit Croyde Bay in October to store up my last shot of vitamin D to get me through the winter. And recharge my mojo by catching a few waves in my favourite place.

This year I borrowed my son’s GoPro Hero camera to try and capture some of our antics and also see how this much cheaper model handles the sea. I have to say that this £90 model seemed to capture just how much fun we had and presently surprised at the HD quality.

For anyone that is wondering if the cheaper and original GoPro Hero offers a high enough level of quality, I hope this video helps you make a decision.

No more trips are planned for 2015, but once again I have been fortunate enough to have made some amazing memories and enjoy the company of my friends and family. Although, I am back in front of the screen, it won’t be long until I am scouring Holiday Pirates for my next cheap flight.

The Soundtrack to Life Lessons and Thought Leadership

Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied until he rules everything

Sure there was the cynical realisation in the lyric, but ultimately the underlining message I took from Badlands is if you want to make anything happen then you have to create goals and form your own path to make it happen.

Aerosmith cemented the theory of turning negatives into opportunities with their line “You’ve got to lose, to know how to win” in their hit Dream On, many years before Eminem sampled the chorus to deliver the same message in his own unique way. Meanwhile, Bob Dylan taught me not to criticise what you can’t understand and Ice Cube kept me grounded by booming ‘You better check yo self before you wreck yo self’ into my ears.

Despite having a love of technology and gadgetry, I equally appreciate the simple things in life and sometimes you just need to breathe some fresh air and soak up your surroundings. Sometimes, we are guilty of becoming so goal oriented that we forget to live, love, laugh and walk in the rain. However a quick listen of Breath by Pink Floyd ensured a very valuable life lesson was learned sooner rather than later.

Arcade Fire might have sent me a subliminal message to stay on my own path with the line ‘the past won’t rest. Until we jump the fence. And leave it behind‘ but it was the Rolling Stones who poignantly pointed out that ‘You can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need’

The risk of becoming selfish or self-absorbed was quickly quashed by the legend Bob Marley who hammered home the importance of helping others on this journey called life with the simple message ‘Be not selfish in your doings, pass it on. Help your brothers in their needs: Pass it on

Maybe we underestimate the influence that music can have on our lives and do not always realise that the songs we listen to can empower us just a much as any self-help book or life coach ever will.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not the guy that sits in a dark room full of melancholy searching for deep meaning in every song that I hear. After all sometimes you just want to shake it like a polaroid picture and I’m likely to find just a much inspiration by busting out a few moves with wild abandon on a sunny afternoon.

My music obsession leads many to think that I’m just a dreamer, but in the words of John Lennon, I’m not the only one, and I know for sure that one day you will join me.

Let me know the songs and lyrics that have inspired you on this journey of life by commenting below.

 

 

Hiking to Kjeragbolten and Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock)

Any parent will tell you that the summer holidays can be quite challenging when your tiny children become teenagers. All theme parks have long been ticked off their bucket lists and everything you suggest seems to fall under the labels of boring or too childish.

I spend most of my time writing about the latest technology trends and often find myself conflicted by the benefits and negative aspects of this digital age. I am also increasingly conscious of the amount of time that both my son and I spend staring at screens and don’t want to be the dad who says “in a minute” paying more attention to email than each other.

The older that I get, the more I realise that its experiences rather than possessions that truly make us happy, so decided to take my teenage son on a father and son adventure to Norway. A short 90-minute flight from the UK into Stavanger would allow us to soak up some of the finest scenery that this world has to offer and allow us to spend quality time together.

Our base was the Scandic Stavanger City hotel which ticks many boxes for anyone sightseeing in the Stavanger region. The airport bus drops you across the road from the hotel, it offers an all you can eat breakfast and the all important free wi-fi.

P1040818

Hiking to Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) simply involves crossing the road and getting on a ferry (pay on board) to Tau, then hop straight onto one of the buses waiting (pay the driver) and begin your hike. Refreshingly you are encouraged to pay on your card rather than using cash on your travels making the whole trip incredibly simple.

Hiking with your dad could still be interpreted as boring to the typical teenager, but I had something special up my sleeve. The plan was to climb to the top of Kjerag and stand on a large boulder (Kjeragbolten) wedged in the mountain’s crevasse for the ultimate Instagram moment.

Although, the photo’s give the impression that standing on the boulder is incredibly scary, it is much bigger when close up and reassuringly nobody has ever slipped or fell off the precariously placed rock. Maybe, it’s a combination of a survival instinct kicking in and the channelling of one’s inner mountain goat that comes to the rescue when the health and safety risk assessment police are nowhere to be seen. (more…)

New York City Second Time Around

I was fortunate enough to visit New York for the first time around 7 years ago and, as a rule, I don’t return to the same place twice because I feel that you are missing out on somewhere else.

However, I had unfinished business with NYC and my first visit consisted of rushing around like a madman trying to see as much as I could racing to the top of the Empire State, Statue of Liberty and the Rock frantically attempting to tick as many things off my bucket list as possible.

Now that Grand Central Station, Central Park, Times Square, Wall Street and Brooklyn Bridge are a fading memory, I thought it was time to return and soak up the other things that New York has to offer at a more leisurely pace with 5 full days for our return visit.

NYC2

Arriving into Newark on an internal flight at 21:45, we got the train from the airport to Penn Station for only $12.50 which was only a 2 minute walk to our hotel the New Yorker and there were no safety concerns at all and everywhere was very busy despite the arriving in Manhattan quite late.

Day 1

It was time to learn and conquer the New York Subway so purchased a one-week unlimited subway and local bus pass for $30. NYC is a big place, so having the ability to zip around the city without scrambling around for loose change was the best decision I could have made.

Understanding the metro system offered a slight learning curve, but again the beauty of the unlimited pass means any mistakes were quickly rectified when I understood the difference between uptown and downtown or express and local service.

Next to the New Yorker Hotel Tick Tock restaurant is a subway station that allowed us to hop on the A, C or E line downtown to ground zero where the freedom tower has recently opened. Upon leaving the subway station, we were a little disoriented and unsure which direction to take but we turned a corner there it was and the sight takes your breath away. (more…)