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Everything You Missed When You Watched ‘Inception’

inception

Inception is rapidly becoming my favorite movie of all time. I first saw it during the midnight premiere back in 2010, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. I remember being mesmerized by its originality and unrelenting assault on my mind’s stamina.

It took another dozen viewings of the film, however, to persuade me that this is one of the best films of my lifetime, and the first truly great film of the 21st Century.

Let me explain.

For me, a truly great film isn’t really like a masterpiece. A masterpiece, after all, is more about critical praise and the apex of one’s career. Inception is great in a different way. It’s just smart. It didn’t receive universal, critical praise (though it got some) because it completely went over the heads of almost everyone.

inception

For all of you who think you “get” the movie, I sincerely doubt that more than a handful actually caught everything that was going on in the story.

Here’s a test to see if you did: do you think the ending was a cliffhanger? Because if you did, you are dead wrong.

Let me be clear about something. I’ve seen this movie backward and forward, so what I’m about to get into is just a summary of what I’ve personally discovered, combined with some great insights provided by the research of others.

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading this and get that taken care of.

inception

I believe the entire movie was a dream, and we are supposed to arrive at that conclusion. Nolan implants countless clues that point to this, but he works to make sure that even the clues themselves are ambiguous.

The first clue? To catch it, you have to watch the movie at least twice. There is a line in the movie when Cobb points out that our dreams always start in the middle of something, but not really the beginning. We never think about “how we got there” as he puts it.

Inception begins in the middle of Cobb’s story, as well as the middle of a dream heist. We aren’t introduced to Cobb, Arthur, or Saito. We are given a brief look at the end of the story, and then the movie just shifts seamlessly into the dream heist.

What does that remind you of? When we recall a dream, we typically start at the end (Cobb and “old” Saito) and try to remember how it actually started, but we can’t remember how it really started and just start somewhere in the middle.

inception

So, let’s say you buy that. The whole movie was a dream. Doesn’t that make you mad? Well here’s Nolan’s genius: that shouldn’t matter. We get mad that the movie was just a dream and say, “Why bother watching a movie that didn’t really happen–” and then you realize that the movie is fiction anyway.

That is just one example of why this movie is so amazing. It has scores of themes you didn’t even think were possible to associate with the film. And it takes work to sort this all out.

Back to the first statement that everything was a dream. Maybe you’re not convinced? I’ll give you more clues. The basis for the “It’s a dream” theory is based on how limbo works. When the “kick” happens, namely suicide here, you go one level up in the multi-level dreams.

inception

Cobb explains to Ariadne that he and Mal, his wife, ended up in their world-building limbo because they were experimenting with multi-dreams and Cobb pushed them too deep. He says they grew “old” together and eventually committed suicide on the train tracks to go back to reality. But here’s the thing…that would have sent them only one level up.

Cobb believes inception is the reason Mal went insane and killed herself, but it was actually true. If they died in limbo, it would be impossible for them to return to reality again unless they died again and again. Totems mean nothing here because the totem Cobb used was Mal’s, and he even broke the rules and explained how it works to Ariadne, compromising its purpose. (Talking about the totems alone would take up this entire article by the way)

Another clue that they were in a dream when Mal killed herself: She trashes the hotel room to make it look like Cobb killed her so that he will eventually join her, but when he approaches the window, she’s across the road in another hotel room. If you look closely, it’s the same hotel room, plus it would make no sense for her to go to the other side. Cobb even proves that he doesn’t catch how that’s odd when he tells her to come inside and motions for her to come into the window he’s currently at, even though she’s across the street.

inception

One of the characteristics of a dream is that weird things happen that we don’t catch. When the dream was happening, strange things happened that we didn’t realize were major “plot holes” or illogical until we woke up and actually thought about it.

The entire movie is like this. The fast (and sloppy) editing, the one-dimensional characters all revolving around Cobb, the walls closing in on Cobb for no reason during the chase scene in Mombasa, bodyguards coming out of nowhere to attack him, Saito showing up just in time to save Cobb, and so many more examples all lead the diligent audience to believe that this is really just a dream.

After all, do we really believe that an energy tycoon that is smart about money would actually buy an entire airline just for the heck of it? And then said tycoon would risk his life in order to take part in the mission? It doesn’t really make sense the more you think about it.

inception

Watching the movie play out, it’s hard not to catch that it is clearly an allegory to filmmaking. When watch a movie, we are watching what is essentially a dream. Plot holes and the like exist because the director is trying to explain his “dream.”

Nolan himself has even admitted that he framed the characters around certain roles in filmmaking.

Cobb is the director: he leads the whole thing.

Arthur is the producer: he organizes everything.

Eames is the actor: he changes his appearance.

Ariadne is the screenwriter: she designs everything.

Yusuf is the special effects studio: he’s behind the technology to make everything work.

Saito is the bank-roller: he funds the project.

Robert is the audience: he’s the person they’re trying to plant an idea into.

inception

Need more clues? We’re told during the movie that elements of a person’s subconscious creep up during the dreams. That’s why Robert’s number, 528491, appears so often in the movie. He initially guesses the number is a combination to his father’s safe. Later, the number shows up on a napkin, a hotel room, and eventually his father’s safe at the snow fortress.

This carries on throughout the whole movie. The number of the train that kills Cobb and Mal, when they are in limbo is 3502. The taxi number later on is 2305, and the hotel Mal trashes is in room 5302. This implies that Mal’s death happened during a dream. And in the image above, you can see 3502 on the train that appeared during Robert’s dream.

Here is the most important subconscious clue, since it has to do with the ending that ticked everyone off for being a supposed cliffhanger. The end scene when we watch to see if the totem will fall (and prove Cobb is in reality) is a red herring. A massive misdirection that serves to make us miss what’s going on in the background.

inception

Remember, killing yourself only sends you one level up. We find “old” Saito and Cobb about to shoot themselves to escape limbo. If they did, then that means they would go back to the snow fortress. But wait, that was Fisher’s dream and Fischer received the “kick” already. If they went back a level up, that means there is nothing there. That means that the first person to die, Saito, would fill that dream with his subconscious, leading to the ending scene where Cobb supposedly reunites with his children.

How am I sure? Saito says that he always wanted a “house on a cliff.” In limbo, he is an old man living in a house on a cliff. At the very end when Cobb spins the totem and greets his kids, they say that they have just built a “house on a cliff.” This points to the whole thing taking place within Saito’s subconscious.

The beauty is how that can be a number of things. What if “house on a cliff” referred to Cobb’s subconscious being projected through Saito? That would mean Saito never existed. Honestly, there are countless ways to interpret this, but that’s not the point. The point is that this movie was designed in a way to make us understand that movies themselves are, well, inception.

inception

I could go on and on about this movie, honestly. There are just so many ways to interpret and find new revelations within the narrative. That is why it is a truly great movie, and it pains me to see that so many people dismissed it because it went over their heads and a movie like this lost “Best Picture” to The King’s Speech.

I’ll leave you with some more crazy facts in case you’re interested:

DREAMS: Dom, Robert, Eames, Ariadne , Mal, Saito.

If you add Peter, Arthur, and Yusuf, it spells DREAMS PAY (their profession is to make money by stealing from others’ dreams).

Hanz Zimmer created the entire soundtrack for this movie using only one song that is slowed down and sped up: the song used to initiate a dream is over, which is “No Regrets (translated)” by Edith Piaf. Seriously, even the blaring trombone composition is taken from that song. Also, the very last word in the song is “mal” which coincidently refers to the character Mal.

inception

The running time of the movie is exactly 2 hours and 28 minutes long, which is how long the song “No Regrets” is when translated to minutes and seconds.

Ariadne is a mythological princess who aids Theseus in escaping the Minotaur’s labyrinth. The name is also associated with Ariadne auf Naxos which is an opera that is essentially a “play within a play.”

The movie is based on Cobb’s mission to get home. His first name, Dom, literally means “home” in Latin (think domestic).

One last thought, a lot more about this subject can be found in this book, Inception and Philosophy, by Kyle Johnson. I haven’t read it myself, but I’ve been told it goes even deeper into the movie and what it all meant. Click here to check it out. 


Thanks for reading this. To get updates on my theories, books, and giveaways, join my mailing list.

Or just say hey on Twitter: @JonNegroni

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A Day In The Life of a New Professional

Screen shot 2013-04-23 at 12.14.14 AM

What can you expect from post-grad life? A friend of mine asked me this just a few days ago. He’ll be graduating in just a few weeks, and I can’t blame him for being curious.

I asked myself this question one year ago, right before I completed my own undergrad. Since then, my life has changed dramatically, and I am anxious to give some words of encouragement to anyone who is about to embark on the post-grad adventure.

That said, I had a hard time answering my friend’s question, so I decided to use my favorite writing tool of all time: storytelling.

This article is a chronicle of a typical day for me, Jon Negroni, and hopefully it will shed some light on the type of lifestyle you can expect from career life. There is a lot in the post about work, of course, but I also shared some of the more personal, albeit trivial, details of what exactly a day looks like for me.

[I wrote this last night] Today was Monday. The 22nd of April in 2013.

I woke up at 7am, completely cold thanks to this year’s oddly frigid April. Like any other day, I immediately went to my desk and made my daily to-do list and prayed to God that I would complete everything I had to do.

Because I don’t have to go to work until 10am, I had three hours to prepare for the day, so I read two chapters of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and went on my morning run. As always, I opted to do my morning run in silence in order to gather my thoughts for the day and get my mind going.

I walked my dog and grabbed The Wall Street Journal from my doorstep. I then made my breakfast and morning coffee while reading the paper. This part of the day is essential so that I can grasp the current events I can use and share later in the day.

Once I skimmed through the news, I checked my Facebook, Twitter, and some stats for jonnegroni.com

This is easily my favorite part of the day, as it usually consists of me browsing my social media channels stretched out on the couch with my dog comfortably beside me.

While getting ready for work, I turned the radio to NPR and caught some news on the Boston Bomber story. It got pretty depressing, so I eventually turned on Spotify and listened to folk music for the rest of the morning.

Though I don’t have to come in until 10am, I mostly aim to arrive  about a half an hour early so that I can start the morning at a steady pace. The drive to work is only a few minutes, so I listened to “Time With You” by Marc Robillard, which is what I listen to on my way to work every single day. I like routines as you’ve probably gathered by now.

I am the social media and Google AdWords manager for a faith-based nonprofit, so I divide my day into two major sections of work. I give my mornings and early afternoon to social media and the rest to AdWords.

I began the day by writing all of our new stats on my dry erase board, which shows off our likes, reach, and followers for each of our social media channels, which includes two Facebook pages and two Twitter feeds.

After I checked over all of our notifications, mentions, retweets and favorites, I began posting our first round of stories.

The first few posts were based on content delivered to me at 8am, so it didn’t take long for me to get to the next stage of my typical day: gluttony. I scoured the internet for content to share and publish for our brand, using Google Alerts and Talkwalker. At any given time I’ll have up to about 1,000 articles and news stories to read through and disseminate.

I also sifted through my email while doing this. I went the whole weekend without marking my emails, so I ended up having 181 unread emails to deal with. I didn’t find anything particularly important except for a few articles I read  and shared online.

By 11am, I had almost all of the day’s posts for Facebook and Twitter completed and scheduled, so I moved on to social media engagement.

Our website prompts you to create a profile, so I greet our new members every day and invite them to connect with us on social media. Since we had a weekend full of new members, it took me longer than normal to get through the list.

Next, I went over our notifications again and measured impressions for all of our posts over the weekend. I’ve been experimenting a lot with new types of stories we share, so I’ve been spending plenty of time watching our posts closely to see what works and what doesn’t.

Before I went to lunch at 12:30, I brought up the blog post I wrote Sunday night and did one last proofread. Once it was published and shared, I finally went home for lunch, though I checked my WordPress app for likes and shares almost the entire time.

Before I ate lunch, I went on another run, but this time using a Sony Walkman I received for free as a Klout.com perk. The music player is ideal for running since there are no wires, and they’re great for doing a run when I’m in a hurry. I ran for 10 minutes (so I wouldn’t sweat) and then came back inside to eat leftovers from the night before.

I headed back to work to finish the social media half of my day. Using Talkwalker again, I scoured the internet for keywords based on our brand to see who was talking about us and why. I found some articles people shared via Twitter and then made a startling discovery:  Some of our content had been plagiarized.

You see, we write landing pages that are designed to help people with various problems such as suicide, depression, and mental health (that’s where my Google AdWords work comes in). One of our most popular pages is a large list full of simple tips on improving mental health.

Thanks to Talkwalker (which I’m doing a review on later this week), I discovered that the content of this page had been copied and posted on another brand’s Facebook page (I won’t divulge their name) without attributing our organization to the author.

I let my boss know about this and then communicated with the admin of the page in order to get the post properly credited. All in a day’s work for your local social media manager.

By 2:30, I was ready to spend the last four hours of my workday on Google AdWords.

Unlike social media, a lot of this work is a little more tedious and involves numbers and data, although today I wrote copy for ads we are preparing in regards to a child sponsorship project. I  also did keyword research for our search ads.

We use Google AdWords to drive people to our landing pages, which are about tough topics like marital issues, mental illnesses, and more. I create ads for these pages, add tons of keywords, and then measure our clicks, impressions, and conversions  for each of these pages in order to properly allocate our AdWords budget as effectively as possible.

There’s not much more to it than that. I like this part of my day because it allows my mind to sort of empty. I’ll listen to podcasts, classical music, and NPR to keep myself entertained. Today I listened to a few Freakonomics podcasts.

I finished the day’s work about an hour early, so I began to cool down and read blogs and articles that I could use for the next day before I eventually went home.

I changed into casual clothes and went to get groceries for the week. I went home and cooked to 90s music, ignoring my dog’s pleas for attention. Once I finished dinner and cleaned the kitchen, it was already sunset, so I set out to walk to a coffee shop just a few blocks away from where I live.

On my walk, I listened to “Rhapsody in Blue” by Gershwin, which was pretty much the most beautiful part of my day, as I observed the shifting sky to beautiful music.

I ran into a couple of friends at the coffee shop, including an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while and managed to catch up with. I got my beverage and read a few more chapters of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest before walking back home to “Meditation” by Thais, which was fantastic.

As soon as I got home, I changed into workout clothes and went to play tennis with one of my close friends for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, she completely bested me, but I still managed to have a great time.

I went home, cleaned up, and then worked on my book that I plan to have completed sometime this decade (sarcasm).

And then I wrote this article. Once I’ve finished, I plan on reading a few another chapter or two and getting some much-needed rest.

So there you have it. A typical day in the life of a new professional. I like to think that every single person has days exactly like this, but that is unfortunately ridiculous.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

There is Only One Of You

One of You

So, when you are writing, remember that there countless other perspectives than yours. Falling into this trap of believing your words are somehow universal is, to put it simply, immature.

When you are writing, you are giving freedom to your thoughts. Writing for yourself is a fantastic exercise that everyone, no matter how good they are, should do regularly. Keeping track of your experiences and ideas can be a great gift to someone later in life.

That said, writing for others takes a completely different mindset.

The other day, I wrote a poem for the first time in years. I won’t share it here for two reasons:

1. The poem is ridiculously personal and embarrassing.

2. No one would understand it except for me.

(Yes, yes, I understand that there are great works of literature out there that we will never fully understand because the author did not share its true meaning, but that doesn’t mean that I am seeking anything other than catharsis.)

When I write for an audience, however, I have to rely on more than just my own thoughts and values. I have to pull from shared experiences (which I frankly assume) and translate them into words that I believe will resonate with people.

That, I believe, is what makes a good writer. Empathy. The ability to speak to a lot of people in a meaningful or practical way without alienating yourself in the process.

Enjoy the words.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

Choice Vs. Fate

Choice or Fate

Are our lives governed by choice or fate?

It’s hard for me to pick a side, mostly because this is a competition between the vanity of choice and the evidence of fate, but it became easier for me thanks to a strange event that happened to me yesterday.

Yesterday was one of those days where little choices had a huge ripple effect for me.

I’ve been training for a Color Run in a nearby town that is 5k. So, everyday, I have been running in order to build up my endurance so that I can perform very well. Interestingly, I have no real motivations for why I am training so hard.

I am going with friends so there is no pressure to outrun anyone. I can already run the 5k without too much effort, yet oddly, I have made it a personal goal to perform beyond my usual expectations.

Enter the events of yesterday. I was tired, sore, and thinking about anything but running. I had already run the full 5k the day before, and I desired rest. I ran into an old acquaintance, however, who made a biting remark about my weight since I last saw him.

He claimed to be joking, but the remark sunk in all the same. I felt challenged to overcome my tiredness and prove this old friend wrong. I set out to run somewhere I had never run before.

Notice how choice and fate continue to string along here. I didn’t choose to have this friend challenge me. It just happened. Right place, right time. The rest of this story would never have happened had he not said anything.

I went to a nearby high school and used their track, late at night, to run for just half of the 5k. That seemed reasonable in my head, although I had no idea why I was bothering to run in that very place at that very peculiar moment.

I stretched and embarked on my run, constantly being faced with the choice of how long I should push myself. I was even tempted to quit early because someone was eyeing my bag that I left laying by the track field, and I was worried he would give in to temptation. Regardless, I made the uncharacteristic choice of pressing on.

Soon, my side started hurting. It turned out that I really was too sore to carry on, and I was on the brink of calling it a night. But some unexplainable force kept me going. I made a choice to keep going, despite the fact that I had no reason to make that choice.

As I was running, I noticed a group of three students playing tennis in the courts adjacent to the track. As I kept running, I kept diverting my attention to them, even though I wasn’t very curious.

As it turns out, I managed to run the entire 5k and broke my record for average time per mile. I was ecstatic that I had overcome my physical limitations and successfully pushed myself for the first time in a while.

Funny thing. I finished the run just as I was passing by the courts and was compelled to yell out to the group of three, asking if they needed a fourth player. They were inviting and asked me to join them.

It turns out that the tennis racket I’ve been keeping in my car for years (even though I never use it) finally came in handy, despite all the reasons in the world I had for leaving the thing at home.

I joined them on the courts and played for a good two hours. My partner and I even won 6 games to 5.

It was a great experience and I made some great friends, but I can’t shake just how powerless I felt when it came to how this event happened. Despite all of the reasons why I shouldn’t have made any of the choices I made yesterday, I still made them and it led to a fantastic event that I could have never predicted to happen.

I’ve never been one to care too much about free will and predestination. The idea of whether or not we really have control over our lives.

But I have to be honest and say that even though free will is a much more desirable philosophy, I can’t help but recognize the evidence that we are not the supreme arbiters of our own lives, even when we feel like we are.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

5 Ways to Nail Your Next Presentation

Presentation

A lot of sites and blogs offer great tips on helping you prepare a top-notch presentation, but I want to take it a step further. I’m offering tips on mastering what few of us think to prepare for: Your nonverbals, or as I like to call it, charm.

Let’s face it, your nonverbals make up at least half of how your presentation is delivered. Appropriate hand gestures, tight dialogue, and an award-winning smile go a long way in how your presentation is going to be evaluated, and practicing good nonverbals is a lot easier than you might think.

5. Be “Exemploraneous”

Okay, that word is obviously made up, but the goal is to get you to rethink the word “extemporaneous.”

An extemporaneous speech is one given without a lot of preparation, or to put it less harshly, a speech that isn’t memorized. Most of us operate by this style because we work better impromptu while remembering the basic tenets of our speech’s outline.

The problem is that we typically revert to reading off of PowerPoints when we  don’t memorize our presentation, which affects our credibility. It keeps us from being, you guessed it, exemplary.

So I posit the idea of being “exemploraneous.”

Put simply,  it’s okay to give your speech without a script coming out of your mouth, but memorizing things like definitions and examples ahead of time allows you to nail your presentation without worrying too much about what’s coming next.

The best part? This definitely allows you to focus more on your nonverbals when you’re not too preoccupied with what’s on your PowerPoint screen.

4. Plan Your Segues

Your presentation will be riddled with awkward transitions between major points, and awkward means awkward fillers.

Avoiding works like “um” and “uh” is a given, but we typically forget why we use fillers in the first place. The main reason is we don’t know what to say, or more specifically, we haven’t memorized our segues.

Doing this is invaluable for transitioning between each point and dramatically lowers your chances of lost credibility due to those small, unforgivable words.

3. Practice In Front of a Mirror

Not for the sake of being vain, of course.

If you’re like me, your default facial expressions tend to be a lot different from what you think your face is doing (unless you are a model I suppose).

That’s why getting a sense of what you look like while you are speaking works towards building your confidence and helping you practice your gestures.

2. Record Yourself

You also want to know what you sound like as well.

I typically use a tape recorder or my phone (though a webcam can be pretty effective), and I will find myself listening to the speech many times over in order to fix things like my volume, pitch, and even parts of the speech that don’t make sense or fit.

If you have the resources, practicing in front of friends or family can also be a great way to get instant feedback.

1. Relax

Aim towards being relaxed and confident. Being too rehearsed, while being somewhat beneficial, can be detrimental to your nerves, especially when you lose your place or forget something.

A great way to help yourself relax in the heat of the moment is to use stories and anecdotes to break things up. You’ll find that it puts you at ease and can even help you set up for later points.

Just remember to balance your speech well when using stories, as they have the power to overwhelm the point you’re trying to make.

Alright, good luck and don’t forget to get some sleep the night before!

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

3 Types of Friends You Should Have

3 Types of Friends

You’re in your early twenties going through a multitude of dramatic life changes. Who doesn’t need a friend at this point of your life?

Well, the truth is that the right kind of friend can make this tumultuous time much more bearable, and I posit that there are 3 general types of such friends:

1. The Rival

Tread carefully. The word “rival” has a bad reputation for indicating a person we have harsh, jealous feelings towards. I’m not going there with this.

My rival is my best friend. The person most similar to me professionally and personality-wise. Their purpose in your life is to have someone there to challenge you. To measure yourself against.

Some of you cringe at that last statement, but let’s be frank. We push ourselves much harder when we have someone to motivate us, and a rival allows us to avoid complacency.

I have the fortune of having several friends like these that I graduated college with. I’m fortunate because they are good people with great ambitions, and I always have friends like these to remind myself that I have a lot more to work for.

2. The Partner-In-Crime

Don’t actually commit crimes here, but what I’m describing is that friend in your life that you just have fun with. You don’t talk about work, stress, aspirations, or even relationships very much with friends like these. They are there to help you unwind, relax, and focus on the positives of life.

In my life, my partners-in-crime are there for me to forget about my worries for a brief part of the week and just have people to laugh with.

3. The Kindred Spirit

This is more open for interpretation, but I’m not necessarily referring to a soul mate here or anything romantic. A kindred spirit is that rare type of friend that you only see occasionally but typically turn to when you need to have a deep, meaningful conversation.

You turn to these people, not just
because they are good listeners, but because you know that they will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. They tend to be friends that are very different from you. Maybe an opposite gender or someone older.

The importance of having friends like these is that you have someone who you connect with and have an unconditional relationship with. For me, my kindred spirits have been siblings and long-time close friends. I don’t see them often, but when I do, I know that I can tell them anything.

I’d say that these types of friends can be important for any stage in your life, but the reason I’m narrowing it down to new professionals like myself is because this is truly a vulnerable time for us. Mainly because it is the period of our lives where we feel most invulnerable, which is honestly a tragic illusion.

Forcing these types of friendships is absolutely pointless, but I do encourage you to seize an opportunity to foster friendships such as these and put effort into the types of people you surround yourself with. You will surely see it turn out for the better.

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

 

Where I Stand With Foursquare

Where I Stand With Foursquare

Remember those friendships you had in high school that were constantly filled with drama and stressful falling outs and reunions? Well, Foursquare and I have been dancing that dance for the better part of two years now, and I am finally taking a step back and making a decision on where this check-in app and I stand.

For those of you who aren’t aware, Foursquare was the first mainstream application that allowed you to “check in” to a place via your smart phone. What makes it different from its biggest competitor, Facebook, is that the app has many gimmicky features, such as location “mayors,” Yelp-like tips and reviews, and rewards for checking into a certain place.

The app debuted 5 years ago and has had a tumultuous run to say the least. The app is currently boasting 25 million users, with 10 million being active, yet the app has still been plagued by missed opportunities in advertising and solid revenue strategy.

But I won’t get into the business side of Foursquare. The user experience is what I have most credibility in, having been a user of the app for quite some time.

My experience with the app started a couple of years ago when I started using Android. I was addicted to Foursquare’s features. I check in everywhere, attempting to become “mayor” of my favorite places, and I succeeded most of the time. I loved receiving discounts and free stuff from checking into places like coffee shops and clothing stores, and a lot of my friends were doing the same thing, resulting in an engaging, fun social network.

So what happened?

After a couple of months, the app wore me out. I started seeing less and less check-ins from different people. My friends were flocking from the app, and I started seeing check-ins from the same person checking into the same place they checked into yesterday. The notifications became incessant, and I quickly lost interest into what they had to say.

That was the inherent problem Foursquare always had with me. Eventually, we all run out of new places to check into, or reasons for checking into them. Being “mayor” rarely has any tangible perks, and if they do, the competition to receive the title is too high to bother with.

At a certain point, you’ve used up all of the deals and promotions from your favorite places, and you just don’t think about the app anymore, at least not positively.

Sure, I would boot up the app again while traveling, but those instances are too few and far between for the app to be invaluable to me. I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled the app countless times.

And it seems that Foursquare’s solution is to make the app look nicer. Every update and new release, while interesting and worth checking out, doesn’t make the inherent issues behind the user experience just go away.

At the same time, I’ve always rooted for the app. It’s the proverbial underdog as it is competing against Facebook’s larger network, and it has lost a lot of ground. I get the appeal, though, since Facebook is seamless and doesn’t pester you with notifications unless you will it.

The sad thing is that Foursquare does have better features and is a fun app to navigate recently, as they’ve really tightened up the interface.

I don’t have any solutions here. Sorry for the pessimism. Today I downloaded the latest update, even though I contemplated uninstalling the app just yesterday for constantly pestering me with notifications about the same person every time I check my phone.

At some point, Foursquare lost its magic  with me, where I was perfectly alright with its integration into my life. I’m not hopeful it can achieve that again, but I’m a sucker for a good Cinderella story, which is why I’m still here.

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