Google Productivity Pad: July 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to Make Facebook Better

Note: This post is longer than normal, but I think you will find it very useful.

Because I am a social media professional, I hear most peoples' complaints about social media. For some reason they love to tell me, like they think I can do something. It's like talking to the gas station attendant about high gas prices, like there is something he can do.

What people fail to realize is that social media is a reflection of real life and what you value (for more an this see Elder Ridd's talk from last General Conference). The sad truth is that if your social media is not what you want it to be it is a good sign that something is off in your life.

That being said, I believe in helping people to live better both physically and digitally so I am here to teach you the secret to making Facebook better because probably 90% of the complaints I get are about Facebook.

The Newsfeed
People get upset a lot because their newsfeed does not go in reverse chronological order any more on Facebook. This is like people complaining about bug-spray or the national defense budget, you complain because you have no idea what is actually being prevented. Negative effects are hard to measure.

What you don't realize is that at any given moment you and every other Facebook user have an average of 1500 messages that could be appearing in the newsfeed that much information in chronological order would be impossible to deal with. So Facebook uses its fancy algorithm to show you what it thinks is most important to you. It reduces that to about 1/3 (300 messages) and shows you those in the order it thinks is most important.

Now, here is the solution, on the left menu bar if you click on the drop down (gear on mobile) next to News Feed you can switch to "most recent" instead of "top stories". Then it will show you them in reverse chronological order, but still only the 300 or so that it has decided have value.

The Problem is You

Image from

Before I teach you the secrets to making Facebook better let's just face up to the fact that you cannot change other people. That is why it is so fun to blame them, because it makes you feel like you can remove responsibility from yourself for the situation. If you can say that someone else did it, than you can't change it, you can just go along your merry little way wallowing in you misery.

What a stupid idea.

Why don't you just put yourself in the driver's seat and make it better? Well maybe you don't know how. That is why this post will empower you. I have come up with three problems, framed in terms of your choices, that make Facebook seem like an annoying place.

Problem #1: You have too many friends

The first issue that most people run into is that THEY have friended more people than they can reasonably care about. Remember that digital life is an extension of real life, you can only manage so much.

If you look through your Facebook news feed and see lots of info from people you don't care about, that is you problem, not theirs. You have to learn to be selective. The more friends you have the more their stories will have to compete with each other for the top places in your news feed. So you get annoyed because you see stuff from people who you really don't even want to know anything about. But that is your fault because you made the choice to allow them into your feed.

Problem #2: You have stupid friends

Many people complain that their newsfeed is full of stupid or worthless content. They got on Facebook to stay in touch with family and friends, but all they see are dumb memes that have nothing to do with their friends actual lives, or on the flip side they get way too much information (TMI) about the personal lives of their friends.

My response to this is: I am sorry that you have stupid friends. In Facebook just like life you get to choose who your friends are. The lower quality of people you accept, the lower quality experience you will have. It is your choice. So, don't friend stupid people.

A word ought to be said here about family members. These are the people we do not pick, they are part of the life package we got when we signed on for this little journey on spaceship planet earth. Sometimes we have family members who are just annoying, every family has them. In digital life, just like in real life we have to treat these family members cordially for the sake of avoiding drama. Just like you might smile and nod at a family get-together, you may just scroll past the things they post online.

Problem #3: You check Facebook too often
Are you seeing the same stories over and over again? Or do you just keep seeing things from the same people? Chances are you check Facebook more often than you should. Here is a good rule of thumb, if Facebook is annoying and not interesting and you have taken care of Problems 1 & 2 then there is a good chance you are checking it more often than you should.

So cut back on checking Facebook until you find that things are interesting again. Maybe try just once a day. You'll probably find it is a big help and you get more things done as an added bonus :)

3 Ways to make Facebook better

#1 Express yourself
If you are a lurker on Facebook, meaning you just go there to see what others are doing but never do anything yourself, then Facebook doesn't know enough about you to make a good experience for you. Stop being a lurker and start contributing. If you like something you see then "like" it on Facebook. If you have something to say about a topic someone has shared than comment. If you want others to know something than share. The more Facebook knows the better it will do.

#2 Create custom lists
Many people I teach and talk to ask me if there is a way for them to see only what certain groups of people are saying on Facebook, like just their family, or just their high school friends. The answer is yes, but it takes some work.
You will need to go to the right sidebar menu, where it says friends and click more:

Next you will see this menu.

You can see that Facebook has made some out lists for me based on things like who has worked at the same place as me or who lives close to me, and that I have made a few of my own lists as well. Click the + Create List button and you will be able to make a list of whatever friends you want.

Then when you want to see updates only from those people just go back to that friends > more button and then click on the list you want to see.

#3 That little drop down menu
I have saved the best for last, so congrats to you for sticking around to the end. The biggest way to make Facebook better is hidden in the drop down menu that appears as a little down arrow in the top right of every post. Can you see it?

This is where you teach Facebook explicitly what you do and do not like to see. You can click "I don't want to see this" and that post will disappear and Facebook will remember that you said that, it will try to stop showing you content like that. It will also ask if you want to block all posts from that person or company.

If you really want to make things better you can click the "Make Newsfeed Better" option. Facebook will then give you a survey that takes a couple minutes to determine what you think of different types of posts. This can be a very useful exercise to go through.

There you have it, that is how you make Facebook a better experience. Do you have any tips that you have found helpful? Please share them in the comments below. I hope this post will help you to live better, online.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

iPhone and iPad Tip: How To Close Apps

Here is your iOS tip for the week. Most people don't realize or even think about the fact that when they press the Home button on their iPhone or iPad the app that they leave continues running in the background of the devices operating system.

This is a good thing because it allows you to use multitasking to switch between apps without rebooting each app each time. This can be very useful feature if you need to copy and paste something into an email, or you need to a so quick calculations on the calculator, or any other number of reasons.

But if you use a lot of apps (like I do) you can end up having a lot of apps open in the background and that can slow down you iPhone's or iPad's processor. Every once in a while it is a good idea to close out all the apps, particularly if you are getting a lot of crashes or a lot of spinning wheels.

Here is how:
1. Double tap the Home button (meaning click it twice quickly).
2. The multitasking menu will open, you can swipe through all your open apps by swiping to the left.

3. Close out apps by swiping up on them. You can actually close up to 3 at a time by using three fingers.

And that is it! Your apps are now closed. You will want to do this from time to time just to keep things tidy. I would suggest about once a week or more if needed. Older devices will likely need it more often than newer devices.

Note for old devices: if you are running iOS 6 or earlier your screen will look different. When you double tap you will get a "tray" of app icons at the bottom of the screen. You will have to hold down on one of these until the icons wiggle and little red buttons appear in their corners. Click the buttons to close the apps.

I hope that helps things go a little smoother for you. If you have any iPad or iPhone questions you want answered please put them in the comments below. And remember, live better.

Monday, July 7, 2014

168 hour log: Week 1, Late Nights

Well we have now passed week 1 of my 168 hour log project. I did not get as much filled out I was hoping to.

Originally I was planning to fill the sheet out each night before going to bed. Incidentally that is not what Laura Vanderkam says to do. She says to take the sheet every where with you and to fill it out throughout the day. I may have seen better success if I had followed this advice.

Regardless what I did learn is that late nights and holidays do mess up the regular flow of your week, but that they are valuable in their own way. Because of Independence Day things got thrown off towards the end of the week. But when I have gone back and tried to reconstruct and color code it, I found that almost all of it was family time. Since this category is very important to me it is great to see it get a whole day once in a while.

Another observation I had this week was that life does not always fit into half hour increments. This is something I am thinking about, I could modify the chart to make it be 15 minute segments, but that would end up making it twice as long as it is. I think that might make it unwieldily and hurt its usefulness as an evaluative tool. Let me know your thought on this or anything else having to do with the 168 hour log.

Thanks for reading. Happy Independence Day, and remember, live better.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

App Review: Gas Cubby

Name: Gas Cubby
Price: Free(ads)/1.99
Type: Gas tracking
Stars: 4

This is an app that I use on at least a weekly basis to keep track of my gas usage.

When I was a kid my father always kept a little pocket notebook and pen in the flip down shade above the driver's seat or in the driver's door of each of our cars. The sole purpose of that notebook and pen was to record the gas information every time we fueled up. He would carefully put down the odometer number, the cost per gallon, the number of gallons bought and the brand of gasoline. This allowed him to know how much was being spent on gas and to be able to calculate the miles per gallon.

Gas Cubby now allows me to do the same thing electronically. I use the free version and it works fine for me. Since I normally use the app while I am out getting gas and don't have internet the ads don't even bother me.

Gas Cubby does everything my father's notebook did and a little bit more. When you open the app you see a list of all the entries you have made in order of the most recent. At the top right you find the  + buttons. One is for gas (red arrow) and the other for maintenance (orange arrow).

When you click the gas option you will enter your odometer number, the price of gas and the number of gallons, it will calculate how much you paid automatically. You can also enter information such as the octane level, the brand of gas, what card you used, and tags. You can also put in similar information for a maintenance entry.

The app will automatically calculate things for you like MPG, cost per mile, average cost per gallon, etc, no math required. It is a nice little app to keep around.

The only drawbacks are that it has never been updated stylistically for iOS 7, so it still looks like an old app and uses the old keyboard interface, and if you miss putting in the odometer reading you will have to make something up or your MPG will get wonky.

Cars are one of our big expenses in life and I think it is a good idea to track what is going on with them and how much money we are putting in. Is there an app that you use for your car? Please share with us in the comments below. Have a great day, and remember, live better.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

iPhone and iPad Tip: How To Quickly Scroll to the Top of a Page

Here is another quick tip that has been around for a while but many people forget about. When you are in an app and you scroll way down (this often happens in apps like Facebook and Pinterest) how do you get back to the top of the page quickly?

Double tap the status bar

Simple right? Whenever you want to just zip up to the top, tap twice on that status bar (the best place is normally right on the clock) and there you are. The screen shot below is of the Gospel Library app, which is an app I use in church a lot. I often need the double tap option in this case because I will end up way down a chapter of scripture and need to get back to the beginning.
Just double tap on the clock

And you jump straight to the top

And that is it. Another really simple tip that can help make things a little easier for you. Please leave you iPad and iPhone questions in the comments below so I can answer them in a future post. And let's all remember to live better.