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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

December 14, 2013 at 8:01 PM

Catching up with earlier glimpses of a tech year

Adam Baggett, Adam Wygle, Bryan Zug, Sara McNally and Scott Berkun (crouched) show off We Make Seattle coasters at Pioneer Square letterpress shop Constellation & Co. Thursday, the morning after their project to create a film celebrating Seattle was funded on Kickstarter. (Mónica Guzmán / Seattle Times)

Adam Baggett, Adam Wygle, Bryan Zug, Sara McNally and Scott Berkun (crouched) show off We Make Seattle coasters at Pioneer Square letterpress shop Constellation & Co. Thursday, the morning after their project to create a film celebrating Seattle was funded on Kickstarter. (Mónica Guzmán / Seattle Times)

Tech never stops. As we near the end of 2013, I thought I’d give you an update on some of the stories and habits we talked about this year.

Are you “showrooming”?

“It makes you feel kind of used,” Patti Harriman of Ravenna Third Place Books told me in May about showrooming. That’s the term for a behavior that’s putting local businesses at risk — finding something you want at a store but ordering it from someone else online, usually for less money, and sometimes right there, right from your smartphone.

It presents a conundrum: Do you buy a product at the best price, hurting the store, or do you buy from the store, hurting your wallet?

Third Place Books managing partner Robert Sindelar hasn’t noticed a clear uptick in showrooming since spring. “Reverse” showrooming happens — that’s when particularly loyal customers come in to buy a book they found online. And some of his customers have been going out of their way to tell him, unprompted, that they’re tapping on their smartphones for one or another innocent reason. It seems they know what it looks like.

Are consumers becoming more self-conscious? I know I am. At the Urban Craft Uprising earlier this month I asked a vendor for permission to snap a pic of her jewelry so I could send it to my husband for a second opinion. It wasn’t the first time.

I’m pretty sure I’ve solved the conundrum for myself. I’ll never showroom again.

Power outlets take over Sea-Tac

The biggest passenger complaint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport used to be about Wi-Fi. Then it was about power. Tablets, laptops, smartphones — we live on our devices, and our devices need juice.

By April, Sea-Tac had added 432 new power outlets at the gates since 2011. As of today, it has installed 480 more.

I used to set up camp on the floor to work on my computer, hoping one of the scattered gate outlets for the vacuum cleaners wasn’t clogged with someone else’s cables. Today I can sit on a chair. There are outlets under the seats. At new work tables. At airline charging stations.

Meanwhile, new construction is spreading connectivity. The new cellphone lot, set to open in the spring, will have free Wi-Fi.

Add in those updated FAA regulations that let you read your Kindle on takeoff and landing, and it finally feels like the technology of travel is catching up to the technology of life.

The making of “We Make Seattle”

When a group of Seattle creatives pitched a project to create a short film about why Seattle is a great place to be and work, they weren’t sure it would meet its Kickstarter goal. Thanks to the support of hundreds of Seattle entrepreneurs, designers and makers, it did.

Now “We Make Seattle” — a film directed by author and speaker Scott Berkun — is on its way. The team has narrowed down dozens of potential interview subjects to 10, and will choose three among them to tell the film’s central story.

Preliminary interviews have all been on audio; people are more candid off-camera, the team said. Video starts in the new year. By spring, Seattle should have its trailer.

Meanwhile, project backers are getting their swag: posters, coasters, T-shirts and other perks for funding a film they hope brings more attention to the city. Stay tuned for the final cut.

Scavenging to the top

Last month I told you about local adults who for one week behaved like children. They were one of hundreds of teams to compete in one of the zaniest events I’ve ever heard of — the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen, or GISHWHES — and guess what? They won.

Microsoft attorney Rachael Vaughn, Amazon.com executive H.B. Seigel, property manager Dianne Moreland and their 13 “Vatican Cameos” teammates took the top prize in the competition, which holds the Guinness World Record for “world’s largest media scavenger hunt.” Teammates split up more than 100 tasks, including hosting a tea ceremony in an elevator, rope-swinging into a river dressed as a nun, playing a violin strung with one’s own hair and getting a Seattle garbage collector to dress as a caterpillar.

For their reward, the team will join the contest’s creator, actor and philanthropist Misha Collins, in Vancouver, B.C., “for a chartered seaplane flight to a majestic island … for fish stew, a seance and a Viking surprise,” whatever that means.

Disconnecting

Last but not least, that tricky topic of disconnection. In the summer I told you how time slowed and days lengthened during my unplugged week in Colorado, and how quickly the impulse to check my smartphone returned when I plugged in again.

Our brains work differently with and without that impulse, and I’m convinced now more than ever that a rich, present break demands not so much a disconnection from the world of our phones —  which is itself richer and richer — as a reconnection with the world around us.

Thanks, as always, for reading. I’ll see you in 2014.

Mónica Guzmán’s column appears in Sunday’s Seattle Times. Got a story about living with technology in the Northwest — or know someone she should meet? Send her an email, follow her on Twitter @moniguzman or send her a message on Facebook.

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