Do meditation apps work?

In a New York Times interview earlier this month, Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds revealed he suffers from anxiety.

“I have anxiety, I’ve always had anxiety,” he said. “Both in the lighthearted ‘I’m anxious about this’ kind of thing, and I’ve been to the depths of the darker end of the spectrum, which is not fun.”

When asked how he manages his condition on stressful press tours, Reynolds said he is one of the over 15 million people who have downloaded guided meditation app, Headspace.

Ryan Reynolds is a fan of the Headspace app.

Ryan Reynolds is a fan of the Headspace app.

Photo: TPG

Apps designed to improve mental wellbeing have skyrocketed in popularity over the past five years. Most of these focus on managing stress and anxiety, in particular overcoming panic attacks.

However there have been concerns raised about the quality of many of the supposed mental health apps currently available for download.

Last year, the American Psychiatric Association assessed more than 10,000 depression and anxiety related self-help apps available for download, finding fewer than 1 per cent had been professionally evaluated.

Evidence for meditation programs having a moderately positive effect on psychological stress exists, although research is limited.

Last year, the federal government announced $2.18 million in funding for the Black Dog Institute to conduct a five-year trial of mental health apps involving 20,000 teenagers, assessing whether the technology can – in their words – “inoculate” adolescents from developing depression after a year of use.

However, the number of apps on the market which administer guided meditation in a potentially clinically useful way appears to be small.

A 2015 Queensland University of Technology evaluation of mindfulness-based iPhone apps, assessed the 560 unique apps found when searching for “mindfulness” in Apple and Google’s respective application stores, finding only 23 did more than simply remind a person to meditate, time their meditation, or provide support beyond a non-interactive guided meditation track. Of those 23, Headspace was the study’s top-scoring app.

Dr Kym Jenkins, president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, says problems can arise if people use smartphone apps as a substitute for gaining face-to-face mental health care.

“Mindfulness mediation apps can be useful for some people, but for others, when unwell, using these apps or even engaging in mediation its self can be quite difficult,” she says.

“Apps of this kind are not a substitute for professional health care. If you are concerned over your mental health then you should seek help from your GP. A GP can help you work out what is going on, and refer you on for further treatment by a psychiatrist or psychologist.”

Some mental health professionals have started to integrate the apps into their therapy programs. Melbourne clinical psychologist Dr Melissa Keogh recommends her clients complete 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation each day, and encourages them to use the Australian-made app, Smiling Mind.

Similar to Headspace, Smiling Mind is a free mindfulness meditation app. Developed by a team of psychologists, and offering meditation programs for children, teenagers and adults, it has been downloaded over 2.6 million times.

(The 2015 QUT study found Smiling Mind to be the second-best app for mindfulness meditation, after Headspace.)

For Dr Keogh, apps do not replace sessions, but provide her clients with a more structured way to do their prescribed daily meditation. She says her clients report a reduction in stress and anxiety symptoms when using the app.

“Before the advent of the iPhone and apps I used to teach deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation via the reading of a script in-session, to help clients with stress and anxiety,” she says.

“While clients enjoyed and benefited from these exercises, they often struggled to stay the course outside of [their] session because the mind does have a natural tendency to wander… the apps we have now are great in this way as clients are guided the entire way through their meditation, although that said, it does still require some level of discipline and dedication to keep up the practice.”

[“Source-smh.com”]

YouTube Studio: better insights or a work in progress?

Will YouTube Studio’s new metrics be better for marketers?

In June of last year, YouTube announced that Creator Studio was about to change. A beta version named YouTube Studio was undergoing testing with hundreds of thousands of users – or should I say ‘creators’.

After nine months of nurturing their new baby, YouTube Studio was unveiled last week. Promises of efficiency, empowerment and increased joy, packaged with new features, metrics and insight. The increased data commitment has been played-up by YouTube.

But did the much anticipated promises deliver? Well, sort of.

YouTube Studio features include three new metrics: Impressions; Impressions Click-Through Rate; Unique Viewers. YouTube says these will give us better understanding of video performance with the aim of helping us produce more impactful video.

What’s an Impression? It’s when a viewer sees one of your video thumbnails; Impressions tell us the potential reach of our videos. It’s an ‘opportunity to view’.

What’s Impressions Click-Through Rate? Simply put, it’s the percentage of Impressions that turned into a video view.

What’s a Unique View? Well, to quote YouTube, it shows us “the estimated number of different people who watch our videos over a period of time.”

And there lies one of my issues. Data should not be estimated. We should be able to know the difference between a unique view and a repeat view. Why is YouTube estimating metrics? As for the ‘opportunity to view’ this just feels like a return to a time when we couldn’t accurately measure irrefutable data. perhaps it’s just me, as I’ve always hated fluffy measurements. In my PR and creative agency days I was forced to peddle PRVs and ‘Opportunities to See’. I hated both.

YouTube’s intent of delivering better insight and metrics should be applauded. It’s a key facet of success for other social media channels and absolutely is the direction they should be taking their Studio platform. Data that helps to evolve the production quality and impact of our videos is welcomed. I just can’t help but feel like this is a work in progress, rather than a refined proposition that’s ready to roll.

I’ll explain why: YouTube tell us that if we’re seeing a low percentage of Impressions convert to Impressions Click-Through Rate, then our thumbnail and title require work. That may be correct in some cases, but we can’t ignore how busy some pages are with thumbnails. Watch a video through to completion and then see how many thumb nails are served to you. It’s busy. Undoubtedly, Impressions will be recorded when users haven’t seen our thumbnails. To be fair though, the same criticism could be made of other social media channels.

Clearly, the Impressions Click-Through Rate is a useful metric. Being able to asses video performance will be insightful. I’m just not sure we needed the Impressions metric.

Now for the good news: we’re excited about YouTube Studio Dashboard – the single view of your data, insights and news. We’ll see three pieces of insight here:

Video Snapshot: A snapshot of our latest video performance, versus past videos – over the same period of time. Quickly, we’ll be able to ascertain if we’ve a production that is resonating, or if refinements are required. This should help us do more of what works, and learn from what isn’t.

Personalised Recommendations: YouTube says this will surface Creator Academy content based on our specific needs. Over time, we’ll also see insight into why certain videos perform better than others. Again, this will help with refinement and development.

News: Dynamic news and community information that is served to us. Meaning we don’t have to discover news, it finds us.

We expect Video Snapshot and Personalised Recommendations to be a real hit with users and the single view definitely receives a thumbs up. It’s just a shame we can’t be as positive about the new data metrics.

Data is resolute. The challenge with data is that it’s sometimes unstructured, requiring a framework to organise and help make the unstructured, structured. Data isn’t, and should never be estimated.

There is no denying that YouTube is onto something with their direction for YouTube Studio. In its current state though, it should be in production, rather than distributed for release. After nine-months of testing, you have to ask who was testing the platform, and why haven’t these basic flaws been flagged sooner?

As my old school tutor would say: “a good effort, but work still to be done!”

[“Source-thedrum”]

Samsung Bixby 2.0 to Be Unveiled Next Year, Will Work on Multiple Devices in the Home

Samsung Bixby 2.0 to Be Unveiled Next Year, Will Work on Multiple Devices in the Home

South Korean technology major Samsung will introduce the second edition of its voice-powered digital assistant ‘Bixby’ next year that will work on multiple devices, including televisions and refrigerators, a top company official said Thursday.

This will help the global smartphone leader further strengthen its position against companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon that also have virtual assistants – Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa, respectively.

“We would introduce Bixby 2.0 in 2018… it would be designed to be available on any and all devices,” Samsung Electronics V-P, Mobile Communications Business, Ji Soo Yi told reporters in Seoul.

He added that “this means having the intelligence of Bixby act as the control hub of device ecosystem, including mobile phones, TVs, refrigerators…”.

Bixby 2.0 would have “one work on one platform” command structure and would integrate all operating systems like Android and Samsung’s Tizen.

However, Yi did not divulge the month of the planned launch of the new version of the voice assistance software. Named after a bridge in California, US, Samsung had introduced Bixby in May this year globally on its premium smartphones like Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, and Galaxy Note 8.

Asked whether Samsung would extend Bixby to other Samsung phones, Yi said: “Yes, we would.” However, he did not share the models on which Bixby will be extended to.

“We are getting it ready to work with more languages,” he said, adding that “Hindi could probably be among the first five languages the company will have first”.

Samsung will also invite local linguistic experts to develop the local language command in the second phase.

“Self-sustainable ecosystem is essential because that is the only way to support users’ growing personal need,” Yi said.

India is a huge market for Samsung for mobile phones and consumer electronics.

The company has maintained its leadership position in the burgeoning and dynamic Indian smartphone market, commanding 24 percent share at the end of June 2017 quarter.

In the consumer durables segment, Samsung is a leading brand in TV panels, microwaves and frost-free refrigerators. It had recently launched an Internet of Things-enabled washing machine.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

5 Reasons Budgeting Apps Don’t Work For Most People

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Can we all agree that one of the secrets to achieving financial independence is figuring out a way to spend less than you make? OK, good. Then why aren’t more of us better at it? Credit card debt levels are the highest they’ve ever been. Clearly, finding a way to budget is a bit of a holy grail for many people.

The thing is, there is no perfect way to track or control spending. The way people make spending decisions varies as much as the number of ways to order at Starbucks so as a financial coach, I’m always on the look-out for new ways to make it simple and painless. In other words, I’m in search of the My Fitness Pal for money.

However, I’m not so sure an app is what’s going to move the needle. In fact, using a screen to make financial decisions may actually promote bad behavior. How many times has a notification popped up that lead to you filling a digital cart? Here’s why I think we need to stop trying to find the perfect app and instead master the pen and paper or spreadsheet way of tracking money:

1. It’s too easy to ignore. If I had a dollar for every person that confessed that they tried Mint, but eventually the text alerts and notifications started driving them crazy, I could afford a personal chef. Yes, money apps can help you set alerts to notify you when you’re coming close to overspending, but they can easily get lost in the myriad of more fun notifications that already flood your screen. Just nagging isn’t enough to actually keep money in your account.

2. You still have to actually maintain it. No software is perfect. So even if you are able to effectively link your apps to all of your accounts for an accurate look at where you are, you still need to log in regularly to make sure it is categorizing correctly.

If you’re trying to track spending on dining out and booze, you have to go in and make sure it doesn’t think your liquor store is a grocery store (that happened), and what happens when you buy wine while grocery shopping or if your restaurant lunch is actually reimbursed by work? You have to manually fix that stuff, and if you don’t do it regularly, it will become too much. You might as well use that time maintaining a spreadsheet.

3. My Fitness Pal doesn’t actually stop the chips from going in my mouth. You can have your phone tell you six ways ‘til Sunday that you’ve blown your calorie allotment for the day before you even get to dinner, but unless I’m in the first four days or so of tracking, I’m probably still going to eat before I go to bed. Financial apps work the same way. They give you the data, but only you can take that next step of keeping the money in your account.

4. My brain is changing and I don’t like it. I do think I’m addicted to my iPhone. My compulsion to check email when I’m already feeling overwhelmed with tasks is constant, even when I don’t actually want to be working.

I’ve also noticed that it’s become totally socially acceptable to be texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Snapchatting, etc. while hanging out with friends. I hate that! Adding financial management to my phone just exacerbates the problem. So I’m putting the phone down and I think you should too.

5. We notice what we pay attention to. When I purchased my Mini Cooper, “Sheldon”, I was excited about the white racing stripes that I thought made him unique. Then I started to notice how many other electric blue Mini Coopers had white racing stripes.

Was there a sudden surge in the popularity of this style? No. I just started noticing it.

The same thing goes for your money. I started tracking my net worth on a monthly basis a couple of years ago. Nothing complicated – I just list all my accounts and about the same time each month, I add a new column with their current balances.

I love watching the amount grow in my 401(k) while seeing the value decrease on my car loan. And I LOVE putting a big fat zero down in the student loan line these days! This is a great way for me to make sure I’m checking in on my money at least monthly and it is fun to watch my net worth slowly but steadily increase. Try it and see if it doesn’t also get you starting to track other things like how much you spent the previous month on carry-out dinners.

There is one thing I think you can use your phone to help with and that’s checking your bank account daily. Every morning when you’re doing that first check to see what you missed on social media, add in a quick check of your bank account to see if anything funky posted overnight. This can save you from expensive overdrafts and help you catch fraud much sooner.

[“Source-forbes”]