At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Category: Tech How To

Summer Joy

Driving in the heat can be a slog. But not for a dog in the back seat with the window down. This is the face of delight.

Bliss. Glee. Elation. Call it what you will. Happiness should be a four-season pursuit. But summertime has unique attributes that can make it especially appealing.

As we are enter another cycle of summer months, I thought I’d share a few of my photos that attempt to capture the many aspects of summer joy.

Why I Continue to Blog Weekly after 10 Years

Posting fresh content to this blog every week has not been easy. Here’s why I continue to challenge myself to maintain my writing pace.

I started blogging At Home with Tech over 10 years ago as a way to channel some of my creative energies. At the time, home tech was a simpler product category and yet simultaneously confusing for so many people. Many of the basics weren’t well understood. I thought I could help readers by sharing my own experiences as I tried to figure out my own finicky technology.

I was the tech nerd who supposedly knew what he was doing, and even I had my gear challenges. That was the set up. So I invited my readers to join me on my journeys of discovery.

My topics broadened over time to other related areas… my photography, video time lapses, movie reviews, science fiction, goofy poetry, family mishaps with technology and well… just about anything that was on my mind. I know that’s hardly a strategic content strategy to build an audience.

But..

Building my Personal Brand
Beyond my tech-challenge-of-the-week structure, these 500 plus blog posts have provided insight into who I am and what I’ve been up to over these years. There’s often a story that leads off each post. And I’ve been mindful to ensure every post supports my individual brand.

Yes, of course I pay attention to marketing myself to the greater universe. While my posts are usually focused on my personal life as a husband and father, the topics are aligned with my professional brand as a video storyteller and leader of creative teams.

If you should Google my name, my blog shows up under my LinkedIn and other social media profiles. So, if you want to learn more about me, it’s there for you.

That’s not a terrible marketing plan.

My Organic Reach
That said, my organic distribution strategy does have limitations in finding a large audience. I track my metrics. They’re stable though not especially impressive. It’s fair to say my weekly blog maintains something of a niche audience.

Yes, some of my ‘how to’ topics have caught on and maintain a healthy number of clicks over months and sometimes years.

And yes, a number of my social media connections do click on my posts after I share them.

So I do maintain a readership.

But blogging weekly takes a fair amount of effort. And I recognize that blogs in general certainly aren’t as cooI as they once were. I could certainly redirect the time to other creative pursuits. So, what brings me back to the keyboard to push out a new post every Sunday at 8pm?

The Benefits of Blogging
First off, At Home with Tech has made me a better writer. While my style here is a bit loose, I know my weekly exercise serves me well.

Second, I must admit I get something of an endorphin hit each time I’m finished with a blog post and press that final ‘click’ to schedule it. Sharing my weekly thoughts with the world is like that first taste of your favorite birthday cake. I know I’m feeding my creative self.

Third, as I mentioned earlier, I intentionally use the topics in my blog to build my brand.

But perhaps most of all, I thrive on the feedback I receive. It’s so great to hear from strangers who’ve been impacted by my words. And it’s really nice when family and friends pop up in the feed.

Then, there are the ‘lost’ connections from my past who occasionally reach out to ‘like’ or make a comment on one of my posts.

In some ways, it’s this feedback I treasure most. I see that I haven’t entirely lost touch with these individuals. I’ve done a terrible job staying in contact with parts of my past… with people who used to be my friends and close colleagues. I regret that and often think about how to repair these lost connections.

And when I see that my blog is actually an instrument of connection to this group, and that they’ve read something I’ve written and then commented back… I’m absolutely blown away with gratitude.

Who knew that his blog could help me stay connected with people I thought I’ve entirely lost touch with?

I’ve not forgotten them, and my blog shows me that I am not forgotten either.

I am Here!
And then there’s the unknowable. Could my blog also be reaching others from my past who choose not to comment on a post? I’d like to think so.

In a sense, my blog is a beacon. So, of course I’d want to keep it lit.

Sometimes I feel a bit like one of those residents of Who-ville calling out in Dr. Seuss’ “Horton Hears a Who.”

“I am here. I am here. I am here. I am here…!”

Isn’t that exactly what many of us want to yell out from time to time?

Yes, At Home with Tech helps me do that.

Another 10 Years?
My blog is my therapy. My blog is my podium. My blog is my teacher.

It is both a time machine that helps me reach back and a totem that centers me in my present.

All of this is why I continue to write my blog.

Thank you for being a reader of At Home with Tech. I really do appreciate it.

We’re Living in a Vertical Video World

If you’ve been fighting back against the vertical video revolution, it’s time to jump into the pool. The water’s warm. Here’s how I found peace with this disruption.

I recently had an epiphany about the growing trend of vertical video disrupting the fundamentals of video production. My mini “ah ha” happened during a Zoom interview recording at work, when one person’s Zoom feed was accidentally locked in a vertical position. More on that story in a moment…

But regarding the general battle between horizontal and vertical video… It’s already over.

The smartphone has effectively killed horizontal video. We’re just living through the transition. Yes, it’s going to take some years, but it’s time to acknowledge the truth.

And that’s been really hard for me to do.

The First Time
Ten years ago, I was producing a corporate video shoot inside a multimedia brand center. My business client walked up to me ten minutes before the interview was scheduled to begin and asked if we could shoot the video vertically. She thought the background of our video shot would look more compelling if seen vertically.

I looked closely for any sign that this wasn’t actually a serious suggestion. The moment felt like those western movies right before the gunslingers do their shoot out. I squinted my eyes, tapped into my inner Clint Eastwood and waited for what felt like minutes before I responded.

“Vertical?”

“Yes.”

It was a serious request.

Vertical Alignment is Coming
So, I explained that we couldn’t reset the shot in time, as our interviewee had already arrived. And I dodged the bullet.

But I remember feeling unsettled that the horizontal foundation of all video was so casually being challenged.

That was a decade ago. A lot has changed. The truth is my client was just slightly ahead of her time.

I have not forgotten this story, and it has been a reminder to me that creative winds and video boundaries are constantly evolving. That’s life. Everything changes.

Vertical TV Sets in your Home?
Today, vertical video is everywhere, primarily fueled by the social media apps on our smartphones. Vertical is natural. Vertical is comfortable in your hand. Vertical is accessible in every way, except on standard horizontal TV monitors.

But if you look around, there are plenty of vertical video monitors in public spaces.

It’s just a matter of time, until they show up in your home…

No More Rules
I know I’m fighting a losing battle whenever I try to correct someone who’s shooting a smartphone video vertically. Sure, I still work in a horizontal medium, though (here it comes) not exclusively.

Yes, today I am creating vertical video too. (There, I’ve come out and said it.)

And the transition to vertical video is only accelerating.

The iPhone has a Vertical Lock
So, back to my more recent story directing the remote interview via the Zoom feed. The interviewee was using her iPhone, which was fine. (The image quality was actually superior to the other three webcam Zoom shots in the conversation.) But for some unknown reason, the phone’s camera was locked in the vertical orientation. I asked her to turn her iPhone ninety degrees and then immediately back again. No dice.

I was stumped. I turned to the other crew members in our TV control room and asked for suggestions.

“Turn off the vertical lock!”

What? The iPhone has a vertical lock? (I had forgotten.)

I pulled out my iPhone and was quickly reschooled on this iOS feature.

That was indeed the solution for our remote interviewee, and her Zoom interview proceeded on horizontally.

Tap the Portrait Orientation Lock
After the interview, I looked again at my iPhone. I swiped down from the top right corner to access my Control Center screen.

It’s the “Portrait Orientation Lock” button. (The icon is a little lock surrounded by a circular arrow.)

If it’s activated, your iPhone screen and apps won’t rotate horizontally when you hold your iPhone horizontally.

Your phone’s screen is then effectively locked into a vertical orientation.

Huh.

You might wonder why that feature is even there. Clearly, there’s a need to prevent horizontal anything!

And after doing some research, I am reminded that this frustrating feature is not that new. Apple has been satisfying the vertical preference for quite some time. In fact, I first discovered this way back in 2018.

A Vertical Matrix?
Yes, you and I are clearly living a vertical video world, though admittedly with any number of horizontal holdouts.

This feels a bit like my own Matrix story. You’re welcome to join if you feel similarly inclined. (There are plenty of pods to house all of us.)

But guess what? I wouldn’t place all bets on vertical video. Oh no. The truth is video can no longer be restricted to any dimension. It’s not horizontal, and it’s not vertical. Sometimes, it’s square (of course).

Maybe video will evolve into the circular. Perhaps oblong? Who knows… Trapezoidal?

The days of vertical video as the mainstream will surely be numbered.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Learn to Love Vertical Video
For now, I’m simply happy to say that I’ve successfully discarded my horizontal bias. I have made my peace with vertical video.

I am comfortable working on digital canvases that orient both vertically and horizontally.

Barrett has evolved.

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