On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
The invitations arrive by email, the cake is ordered from a bakery website and guests post photos in real time on Facebook. In the digital age, party planning isn’t what it used to be. With websites, apps and innovative software to streamline the process, we explore the pros and cons of employing technology to plan and execute a big bash.
- Nick Bilton Technology columnist, reporter and the lead writer for the Bits blog, The New York Times; author, "I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works" and "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal"
- Sophie Pyle Founder, Tweet the Bride
- Hilina Kebede Co-Founder & CEO, BlissInvite.com and TouchedByPaper.com
- Dan Berger CEO, Social Tables
Poll: How Has Technology Changed Your Celebrations?
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's "Tech Tuesday." Imagine you're planning a big bash. The invitations go out online. Ideas for favors and games are sourced via Pinterest. The cake is ordered for delivery through a bakery website. And once everyone's around the same table in real time, moments captured by guests on cell phones are posted instantly to social media.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThose who have grown up as so-called digital natives might not bat an eye at this scenario, but others are having a hard time finding the right mix of the personal and the technological at big events. Over the course of this hour, we'll introduce you to three local entrepreneurs in studio with us, who are helping individuals and companies create and enjoy events. But before you meet them, let's start with Nick Bilton. He's a New York Times Business and Technology columnist and lead blogger for the paper's Bits blog. Thank you very much for joining us, Neil. Nick.
MR. NICK BILTONThank you very much.
NNAMDII don't know where I got Neil from. I'm losing my mind. Oh, by the way, you can join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. Ask a question or make a comment there. Nick, we've entered an era that has brought about, with apologies to Charles Dickens, a tale of two weddings. On the one hand, there's the digital 2.0 event. On the other, the unplugged affair. What has been your recent experience on both ends of this spectrum?
BILTONWell, it's interesting. I wrote a column about all of this a couple weeks ago. And part of where that came from was I was at a wedding and -- earlier this year, and the priest stood up and he said, you know, the usual, began the usual sermon and said, we're gathered here today to bring this bride and this groom together. But before we begin, we'd like to ask you to use the following hashtag for anything you post to social media. And that was kind of jarring to hear a priest say that.
BILTONAnd then a few weeks later, I was at a wedding where it was a strict, no digital policy. And it was jarring to see that too, and it kind of made me question, well what's right? What's wrong? And kind of where are we going with all of this in the future. Not just weddings, but Bar Mitzvahs and birthdays and so on. I mean, if you, anyone who's been at a birthday party recently and the cake comes out, you know, the person who's about to blow out the candles on the other side of, essentially, a paparazzi, as everyones' smart phones become these glowing rectangular screens around them.
BILTONAnd it's kind of interesting to see the dynamic take place.
NNAMDIWell, some people might not be surprised by the ways in which social media and tech tools are encroaching on personal milestones. Everything from weddings to birthdays, baby showers to high school proms. But given the amount of time we spend online and on our smart phones, Nick, I wonder if we have hit a point where this kind of overlap is inevitable.
BILTONWell, I think it is inevitable, but I also think that it -- that we have to -- we're kind of at the point where we're deciding the social norms. It's interesting, because often with the way things are adopted in society, nobody really gets a say in that. It usually happens from the bottom down and it kind of floats up and it is what it is. For example, a lot of the acronyms we use today, they come from very low income families. You know, hundreds of years ago, they developed okay, things like that.
BILTONAnd that just -- it became the norm. And you use the word okay or you don't. And the same thing is happening with social media. But we do actually have a say. So, if you are having a wedding, and you don't want people to use social media at weddings, you can say hey, we're not going to allow this. And that actually starts to have some push or pull on the way other people that attend your wedding will do that. What I found when I was reporting this column was that the best solution is to live in the best of both worlds.
BILTONSo, during the ceremony, for example, a lot of brides said, look, I don't want to walk down the aisle and see all these screens staring at me. I want to see the people that came to celebrate this day with me. But, at the same time, asking people not to tweet and Instagram things from the ceremony, like the table or the speech by the brother-in-law that's very funny, or whatever that is, is really difficult. And people have tried to find that balance.
NNAMDIAnd what was your experience when you went to the bathroom?
BILTONOh, it was funny. So, there was the wedding where it was strictly no social media. It wasn't even no social media. It was no gadgets. You weren't allowed to bring a cell phone or anything. And I reluctantly put mine in the car and had a little bit of a shakes for a second as I walked away from the phone. But there was a bathroom out back for guests, and I went back there and there was a group of women who were taking a selfie of themselves with their outfits -- bridesmaids, actually.
BILTONAnd they -- when they saw me, they quickly hid their cell phone and one of them hid it in their bra. And I was like, what are you guys doing? And they explained, they wanted to get a photo of themselves, but they didn't want to upset the bride. And so the girl had smuggled a cell phone in through her bra, which was quite funny.
NNAMDIAnd others whose gender shall remain nameless were looking for the latest scores is my understanding.
BILTONYeah, it was during the World Cup, and in the men's bathroom, there were people who were checking...
NNAMDIWell there you identified the gender, but go ahead.
BILTONWell, there could have been women in the men's bathroom, so -- there were people who were checking the sports scores and checking their email. And it was funny, because at the dinner table, there were a couple hundred guests at this wedding, that was the discussion. And one of the things that I found really fascinating about that part of the discussion was that it's not just at weddings, but it's everywhere. We're still really struggling to try to figure out when is the appropriate time to use our devices and social media and when is not?
BILTONAnd I found it interesting, there was a gentleman who was sitting at my table who was an executive at BBC and he said that for two weeks out of the year, his wife and his kids go away and they have a very strict no gadgets policy whatsoever. And he's a very, very high up executive. And, you know, looking around at this wedding and seeing people not using their devices, it was kind of refreshing to realize that certain people do that now.
NNAMDINick Bilton. He joins us from the Garden of Sound studios in Los Angeles. He's a New York Times Technology and Business columnist and lead blogger for the paper's Bits blog. Author of several books, most recently "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal." He joins us for our "Tech Tuesday" conversation on milestones, events and tech. A conversation you can join by going to our website, kojoshow.org. Where you can also take a poll on where tech fits in to your major milestone celebration.
NNAMDII'll tell you a little bit later about what we found out so far. You can also ask questions at 800-433-8850. Now, let's meet one of our studio guests. Hilina Kebede is co-founder and CEO of Blissinvite.com which allows a person planning an event to mail personalized paper invitations from your computer. Hilina, how does your service allow people to bridge a kind of divide between the digital and the tangible, and what inspired you to start it?
MS. HILINA KEBEDESure. Thanks for having me here, Kojo.
KEBEDEFour years ago, when I was planning my own wedding, I was working in a different -- in Austin, TX, commuting to D.C. and Atlanta for work and other purposes, and I had to plan a wedding at a different state. So, I was using different tools that are available to kind of manage and connect with my guests and my family and my mother and my sister. To communicate and plan the wedding. So, that pre-planning that goes on, we can -- I relied on technology, and so we try to bring that to life through blissinvite, allowing you to manage your guests and work with your family.
KEBEDEAnd then during the wedding, obviously, you can communicate to your guests via email and so forth, and then post the wedding. We write thank you notes that are personalized to send to the guests. So, we are actually bringing paper back and also allowing people to facilitate the technology piece.
NNAMDIBringing paper back, but we don't have to do the work ourselves. Who is your average client, and what do you think is driving the demand for this service?
KEBEDESo, specifically, my average client is, you know, a woman between the ages of 25 to 40 that is very, very busy with family or work and doesn't have time to have a high touch personalized physical object to be sent out to weddings and other milestone events that she's planning. Can rely on this tool to facilitate this process.
NNAMDIA lot of people like that in Washington, aren't there?
KEBEDEVery much so. D.C. and New York.
NNAMDINick, if someone is planning a celebration and that person is using Pinterest for inspiration, has a website or an app for attendees and is posting on social media constantly in the run-up, can that person then realistically expect to put the brakes on phones and other tools when the event itself comes around?
BILTONYeah, I just want to ask a question to the guest. Did you see the movie, "Her?"
KEBEDENo. Actually, I haven't.
NNAMDIWhy should she have seen that movie?
BILTONThere's a great -- I mean, part of the movie "Her," which is about somebody, Joaquin Phoenix, falling in love with an AI robot. His job, in the movie, is to handwrite letters to people back and forth. And it sounded somewhat similar, and the funny part about the movie is that everyone handwrites letters back and forth through the service and no one actually handwrites the letters. So, that's why I asked.
KEBEDEYeah. No, I haven't seen the movie, but there is definitely a comeback in reaching out to people, just because instant communication has been dwarfing actual communication, engagement with each other.
BILTONSo, to get back to your question, it's interesting. I -- when I was reporting this column, I spoke to one person who said that they were not going to allow social media at their wedding, but then the bride went and showed me, proudly, her app, which she had had built for guests. And the app had the directions and the invitation and there was even a comments forum where you could leave notes and so on. And the best part was they had built into this app, for this wedding, this customized experience where you could take a selfie with the bride and groom.
BILTONAnd almost like when you go to the circus and you get to stick your head through one of those wooden circus things and I thought to myself, well, how, you have all of this technology leading up to the event. How are you going to stop people from using it at the event? And I think that, you know, it's, it's really kind of -- it's really going to be a difficult task for someone like that to allow people to kind of walk away from it.
NNAMDINick, has it occurred to you that some people might think the analogy of the wedding and the circus a bit inappropriate?
BILTONWell, they both have tents.
NNAMDIAnother tech entrepreneur in studio with us today is Dan Berger. Dan is founder and CEO of Washington D.C. based software startup, Social Tables. Dan Berger, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. DAN BERGERThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnyone who has ever arranged and then rearranged a seating chart will understand the demand for your company's software. But there's more to it than that.
NNAMDIWhat is it that Social Tables does?
BERGERSo we started out as a pretty basic seating chart app. I had this need of wanting to see who was at the table before I got to a wedding. And that was three years ago. Since then, we've really changed what we do. And instead of serving brides in a one off basis, we actually have customers use us for planning entire events. It's a collaborative software for people coming together to do everything from the diagram, the guest list, the check-in process and the seating chart.
NNAMDIYou've got 2500 customers at the moment, it's my understanding. And you said 80 percent of what you build is based on what they're looking for. Which begs the question, who are your customers, and what the heck are they looking for?
BERGERSo, our customers are -- there's 2,500 customers worldwide. We're really proud to have many in D.C., actually. That's where we started. 40 are just in D.C. alone. So, our customers are two thirds hotels and venues. Companies like Hyatt and a couple hundred Marriotts and Hiltons. And then, a third are planners, corporate planners at companies like Genentech or companies like Goldman Sachs. But also small business owners like wedding planners, for example.
NNAMDIIn the early days of the internet, Dan, and this may still be true today, some people thought we'd eventually stop gathering together for work and pleasure, in person, and move all of our interactions to the tech realm. What have you found to be true instead?
BERGERYeah, you know, that's -- a lot of people said that the internet would kill, or technology would kill, events and meetings. And we've actually found the opposite to be true. Corporations spend about two percent of their revenue on meetings and events. So, there's always a need to connect face to face, because there's business value to companies. So, we're actually seeing an increase, and people don't really recognize -- understand this, but the meetings and events industry is a trillion dollar industry worldwide. And that's just money spent around meetings and events.
BERGERJust imagine the kind of effects meetings and events have on the economy that go way beyond that trillion dollars.
NNAMDISo we're meeting more than ever, it seems.
BERGERAbsolutely. And we're recognizing the value of meetings. They have business impact, but they also have -- if you're mission driven or objective driven, they also go much deeper than that.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break, but before that, you can head over to our website, kojoshow.org to take our poll on where tech fits into your major milestone celebrations. So far, we found that 40 percent of our listeners said that they share images from, most often, on Instagram. Another 40 percent said they prefer Facebook. Many said the platforms felt more intimate to them than something like Twitter. 80 percent of our listeners said they share images right then, during the celebration instead of waiting to go home.
NNAMDIWhy? One listener wrote, I can easily do so from my iPhone and it's simple. Doesn't require a lot of creative thought like a blog would. I'm also able to reach more friends and especially out of town family. So there you have it. You too can join this conversation. Give us a call. 800-433-8850. Has technology changed the way you celebrate milestone events in your family? Tell us how. And we have left our best entrepreneur guest for last. You'll meet her after this break. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's "Tech Tuesday." We're discussing milestone events and tech with Nick Bilton. He's a New York Times Technology and Business columnist and lead blogger for the paper's Bits blog. He joins us from studios in L.A. Joining us in our Washington studio is Hilina Kebede, co-founder and CEO of blissinvite, which allows a person planning an event to mail personalized paper invitations from their computers. Dan Berger is founder and CEO of Social Tables, a maker of event planning software.
NNAMDIWe're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you think the increasing amount of time we spend online has made meeting in person more valuable, as Dan Berger seems to suggest? If you've planned a gathering lately, how did you decide what tech tools to use and which ones might be overkill? Both in the run-up and on the day of the event itself. And have you tried to lay down the rules for guests about cell phone use at a party? Tell us how that went. 800-433-8850 or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org to take our poll there on where tech fits into your major milestone celebrations.
NNAMDIOr to join the conversation with a question or comment. Our third in studio guest is Sohie Pyle. She's the founder of Tweet the Bride, a service that definitely was not around on your grandparents' wedding day. Sophie, thank you for joining us.
MS. SOPHIE PYLEThank you so much for having me.
NNAMDIWhat exactly is Tweet the Bride and how does the company build on your prior experience covering events?
PYLEYeah, so for a little over two years, I was a society photographer for guestofaguest.com. And I was the D.C. editor, as well. And this has just sort of snowballed into being a very social person, very active on social media. And as both a spectator and a user, I've seen this need, as I've watched my friends get married, for more social media coverage of weddings. And what has made that very easy is the use of the wedding hashtag. So, being able to click on wedding hashtags of both my friends and acquaintances has made that huge milestone of a day viewable by more than just the guests in attendance of the wedding.
NNAMDIIs part of this about letting a couple, or anyone celebrating any milestone enjoy the moment in real time while still sharing it virtually as it unfolds? And then, being able to look back on it again after?
PYLEYes. Couples have loved being able to enjoy their big day without their cell phones. And can immediately look at photos later that evening or the next day, or during their honeymoon. And, in addition to any guests who may be posting wonderful photos on that hashtag, a lot of the couples really like using the photos that I've taken and post it to their Facebooks immediately. Cause I only post things on Twitter and Instagram, so they have full rights to post those pictures that I take to any other social networks of their choosing.
NNAMDIOne of the big questions that tends to surround a lot of tech innovation is whether it's a trend or whether it's part of a larger intersection of our real lives as they meet and merge with our online lives. To that, and where do you see these innovations going, Sophie?
PYLEOh gosh. It's definitely a moving target. Social media and covering weddings. I think if I had launched Tweet the Bride a few years ago, it would definitely be focused on Twitter and Facebook because Instagram just wasn't a very major social network a few years ago. I don't even think it was around. But, I'm bracing myself for a potentially different social network in the future. Sonny Ganguly, the Chief Marketing Officer of Wedding Wire spoke at Wedding Wire World and said that virtual reality is on the horizon. And a lot of younger social media users are very active on Tumblr.
PYLESo, and then there's -- then again, there's also all of these different wedding apps and I'm definitely open to ideas in terms of other social media networks that couples may use. But I think, right now, Twitter and Instagram are what people are really using a lot to share their experiences at weddings live.
NNAMDIHilina Kebede, where do you see this all going?
KEBEDESo, it's interesting. I don't want to be the party pooper here. But, you know, the other side of the -- to instant notification and sharing of information is privacy. I mean, that's huge. Etiquette is one, being considerate to the guests and wedding planners. But, five years from now, we're going to be able to crunch all of this data. And provide context for people that would utilize that data to sell us products or make us vote a certain way. And it's going to be very sublime.
KEBEDEWe're not very good at predicting behavior in the future, so they would be able to gather that data and know us better than we do. Our devices and the software. So, that's really something to consider. And so, that's -- I advise our listeners to be cautious when sharing information.
NNAMDINick Bilton, what about you? Where do you see this going? Do you see it going in that direction?
BILTONI mean, I think, you know, the people that -- there are people that make these decisions based on privacy for their guests, but that's usually in instances where there are, you know, celebrities or, you know, something like that. I think that, you know, what's really interesting is that -- it's funny, cause that's the first time we've heard the privacy question come up in quite a while. I think that that ship has kind of sailed for a lot of people. But, you know, we had that issue before, before we had social media.
BILTONAnd with privacy in photos and so on. I think it's just easier to share today. One of the things that I do think is interesting that -- earlier, from the Tweet the Bride guest, about virtual reality and so on, is she's exactly right. I mean, the speed with which social media is changing is just astronomical. And one of the biggest growing platforms right now, believe it or not, is Snapchat. They have this feature called Snapchat Stories. And you can record these kind of one minute stories that are seen once and thrown away forever.
BILTONAnd some of them, some of the kids on there are becoming, you know, Snapchat famous and getting millions of views and so on. And, you know, most adults, if you will, don't really even know it exists. And so, you can just see how quickly this all changes.
NNAMDIThank you for revealing my Snapchat ignorance. Here is Tyson in Front Royal, VA. Tyson, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TYSONHi Kojo. Thank you for having me. I'm actually the co-organizer of the Google development group in D.C., as well as the glass and wearables group. As well, on meetup. Not really trying to plug that, but trying to give some context. So, I actually have Google Glass. I've had it since last November and I've really enjoyed it because of its minimalism. One of the first events that I actually wore it at was my family's Thanksgiving. And it was really nice to actually not have my phone out, but be able to take photos, be able to take video.
TYSONAnd not necessarily share that right away, but at least have that, and have that in a way that's not really as intrusive, I think.
NNAMDIWere any questions raised by family members during that Thanksgiving last November?
TYSONWell, they were all very curious, you know, about the device. And that curiosity is still there, but as well, you know, I mean, there are privacy concerns that come up. And I think what I try to stress and my other organizers and people in our community try to stress is you want to be ethical. You want to be polite, essentially, just as you would with any other device. My question, maybe to the panel and to you as well, would be how do you see this technology or even other technology may fit into, you know, these situations?
NNAMDII'll ask Nick Bilton.
BILTONIt's interesting. Google Glass is a really fascinating thing to think about, especially in this instance when we're talking about trying to decide whether technology's appropriate or not. I mean, I remember the first time that I tried on Google Glass and it was this kind of eye opening experience of wow, this really is a game changer. And I was amazed by it, and then a couple weeks later, I remember being in front of someone who was wearing Google Glass, and I didn't have it on, and I felt completely vulnerable and that anything I said could be recorded.
BILTONAnd it was one of the scariest technologies. And I've never had that kind of feeling from one technology, from both of these different angles. And I think that you're gonna -- it's gonna be a really, really difficult thing for people to be able to say, hey, we're having a social media free wedding and no Google Glass allowed. Or no wearable Apple iWatch when it comes out, or whatever that is in the future. And I think that, you know, you're really gonna have a dichotomy that happens between two different groups of people that are pro technology and those that want it to be separated from certain experiences, like these milestones.
BILTONAnd I don't think anyone can predict how that's gonna play out, but I could imagine that it's not gonna play out too well.
PYLEYes. So, just sort of building on that, even weddings that do have a hashtag, there's still a certain level of etiquette that needs to be maintained. The first wedding that I covered was in Baltimore and I was just snapping pictures with my phone and uploading them to Instagram and Twitter, just as I promised. And halfway through the reception, a few of the guests were not very happy with me being on my cell phone the entire time until I told them that I was with Tweet the Bride and I was there to work.
PYLESo ever since then, I've worn a name tag with the wedding hashtag and people have understood exactly what my role is and why I am hunched over my camera the entire time. So, technology certainly does take some getting used to, and when I do wear that name tag, much like the Google Glass, people are very curious and want to hear more. And hear more about my experience and also just add to the hashtag stream themselves. So, there are still some elements of technology in these formal, traditional settings that people need to get -- people are still getting used to.
NNAMDIHilina, Google Glass gets right to the center of the privacy issue that you brought up earlier.
KEBEDEAbsolutely. I'm actually super excited about wearable technology, just on the record. What I'm, I think it's great that the Google Glass is able to predict certain meetings and things that we have and more. And allow us to have a better user experience. However, I think the question of who owns our data? You know, there are minor, tiny datas floating about us. Very personal data, very non-personal data floating around, and who owns that data? So that's what worries me. There's no way of me erasing that data at this point. Right? So that's -- that worries me.
NNAMDIDan Berger, in terms of tech innovation, in the event industry, is this a segment where there's a lot of room, or is it getting pretty crowded?
BERGERIt depends what perspective you're looking at. You know, from -- so, just software category, in general, there are several categories. One of the major ones is registration software. So, specifically around registration, you're looking at about 200 or so providers of just registration software. So, as everyone knows, registration means signing up for an event. It's essentially a fancy survey tool. So you have -- it's what's called the red ocean. I mean, you got sharks swimming around biting each other's tales off and that's why everything is bloody and it's nasty out there.
BERGERThere's -- and it's a commoditized product. It's very difficult to differentiate them these days. So yeah, it's getting really, really crowded.
NNAMDIOn now to Maren in Purcellville, VA. Maren, your turn.
MARENHi Kojo. I'm calling because I'm one of those 25 to 40 year olds who are too busy to get everything done, you know, without social media and digital technology. But we're personally very private people and have managed to avoid publicizing our wedding on the social media platform. We don't have our relationship status online. But we've gotten so much pressure from our family that doesn't live nearby that, you know, there is now this societal expectation to make those kind of events public. Which has been a whole other thing that we didn't realize we'd have to participate in as part of our marital, you know, rituals.
NNAMDIWhen are you getting married?
MARENOn the sixth of September. And we've done all the planning on like Google Sheets, and everything, which has been great, so we can share it with people who aren't, you know, in our physical proximity. But, you know, now it's getting to the point that people are asking to Skype in from China to be part or the ceremony and we're -- now it's a debate of do we want a bunch of screens in the front row so they can participate?
NNAMDII'm really glad you asked that question, because you've taken me exactly to where we were in this conversation. Sophie, Hilina, there are two sides to the coin of tech when they talk about inclusion. Let's start with the positive sides. How might these tools help people who are, perhaps, as Maren is saying, unable to attend an event because of geography or who aren't close to the celebrant, but care about them. How can tech help those people feel included? I'll start with you, Sophie.
PYLEWell, I think the idea to Skype in is a wonderful idea to allow someone on the other side of the world to feel like they're there virtually. And using a wedding hashtag, having those beautiful pictures on Instagram and Twitter, it's a really great way for people who aren't at the wedding to see how your big day unfolds. As well as people who are at the day itself see a little bit of the behind the scenes. So, I think sharing it -- sharing a wedding can give a totally different perspective. And that goes for many other big milestones.
PYLEBar Mitzvahs, baby showers and the like.
KEBEDEYeah, I think -- I do agree with Sophie in that. One of the advantages of technology has been connecting us when proximity becomes an issue. And so, I think, maybe having a screen is a bit intrusive, you know, having Face Time. You know, one of your bridesmaid hold up Face Time for briefly, and sharing that would be -- may be appropriate for you. As far as being pressured, to use, you know, Instagram and Facebook and others, I think there are more private tools. Like, for instance, wedding party app, that allows you to have a totally secluded experience with your family. Similar to -- you know, you said you use Google Sheets to plan your wedding.
KEBEDESo, there are tools out there that can allow you to be a little bit more private.
NNAMDINick, not putting any pressure on you, but your response here might be the difference between Maren having a great wedding and not so much. So, go ahead, please.
BILTONWell, it's funny, because I think, you know, when I was writing my column on this and I spoke to a lot of seasoned wedding photographers, and one of their biggest problems with all of this was not that they were being cut out of work, or anything like that, because that's not really happening. What their problem was is -- as a wedding photographer, you're trying to capture timeless moments. You know, you don't -- that's the reason people rent the old cars and they -- you know, they, everyone looks beautiful and the flowers and all of these different things. And it's something that you can look back at 20 years later and you look 20 years younger, but other than that, it's timeless.
BILTONAnd their biggest challenge is actually trying to take photos where technology is not in the photo. And at the reception, one wedding photographer told me that, you know, he has to go up to people and say, can you not look down at your phone for a second while I take your photo? And I -- my concern is not necessarily, you know, seeing screens of friends and family that are Skyping in from elsewhere, because I think that's kind of neat that they can do that from China. But it's more of like, well, how will that look in the wedding video, in the photography, and so on in the end? It really does stamp a time on the wedding.
NNAMDIOn the other hand, what does this mean for people who are not interested in being connected online or who cannot afford these services, Nick?
BILTONWhat does it mean for people that are not interested -- are you talking about guests or...
NNAMDIGuests, relatives maybe, people who...
BILTONYou see this any -- I mean, I'm sure all of the panelists have seen this at weddings and so on. There are -- you know, there are the young kids that are, like, let me take this picture, let me do this selfie, let me do this, let me do that, and post it here, there, and everywhere. And then there are the older generations that look at them with a sense of kind of disgust, like, what are you doing? This is not the time or place for that. And so you're definitely -- we're still at this point. There's nothing that's been resolved or decided or something like that. I think we're still at this point where we're all trying to figure this out.
BILTONAnd it's interesting because, you know, when I first started exploring this idea for this column, I didn't think it would be -- that many people would be interested in it. But the response has been phenomenal because I think that it's such an important part of people's lives. It's such an important milestone. And they want to be able to allow people to be a part of it and share photos and so on. But at the same time, they want it to be traditional, and we're still really trying to understand which is the right choice.
NNAMDIDon (sic) Berger.
BERGERYeah. I just want to follow up to Nick's point. What I think is interesting is that now when we attend things, we don't just think about attending them and experiencing them. We think about how we're going to share them. So you're going with the decision that you've made already in your head. I'm going to share this with my social network.
BERGERAnd I think that really goes into -- and applies to business meetings, especially as thinking about all these things, thinking about a hybrid event which combines a virtual and a real event at the same time, thinking about your audience and actually thinking about how that plan -- that goes into the planning, so having the live stream, having the tweet wall, having somebody in charge of social media, all these things that you're now doing on the fly.
NNAMDIAnd as I mentioned at our website, kojoshow.org, we're taking -- we have a poll on where tech fits into your major milestone celebrations. On the use of cellphone cameras during formal gatherings or wedding ceremonies, 56 percent of our listeners are OK with minimal cellphone use, but 33 percent say cellphones should be completely off.
NNAMDIOne listener makes a distinction between different parts of something like a wedding writing, "The reception is different than ceremony. It's a party. I take pictures at a party." But, Miranda, I don't know. Has this conversation assisted you at all? Miranda, are you there? Oh, Miranda has left us, probably gone off to plan her wedding. Hopefully, she got a few good suggestions from us.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this Tech Tuesday conversation on milestone events and technology. You can call us, 800-433-8850. If you have planned a big celebration lately, how do tech tools help you ahead of time? You can also send email to email@example.com or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's Tech Tuesday. We're discussing milestone events and tech with Dan Berger. He's a founder and CEO of Social Tables, a maker of event planning software. Sophie Pyle is founder of Tweet the Bride, a service that posts photos and updates on social media during weddings. Hilina Kebede is a co-founder and CEO of BlissInvite, which allows a person planning an event to mail personalized paper invitations from their computers.
NNAMDIAnd Nick Bilton is a New York Times technology and business columnist, lead blogger for the paper's Bits blog, author of several books, most recently, "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal." We got an email from Orville who writes, "My colleague at work was just married. And instead of banning cellphones, she instead gave each table a photo assignment, such as snap a shot of the groom laughing, or get a shot of my parents dancing together and other goofier themes."
NNAMDISt. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Germantown, Md. tweets to tell us, "New gadget policy at our church: You may leave it on but must set to stun and must post or tweet something meaningful to them about the service." And iamGoth (sp?) tweets, "I've seen complaints about #weddings, but we met so many friends through Twitter, we knew we needed one."
NNAMDIAnd OhKerry (sp?) tweets, "#wedding means a photo of me not well comported would be shared even to strangers, a lot of distractions, too." Obviously people have a variety of opinions about this. You can share yours by giving us a call at 800-433-8850. We move on to Anna in Alexandria, Va. Anna, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANNAHi. Thanks for taking my call.
ANNASo I was just recently married in May, and it was a very check-friendly wedding. We actually FaceTimed the ceremony to my sister who had just had a baby in the hospital. But my question is about iPads. I don't understand why people are so intent on carrying them around and taking photos with them. And my clearest memory of walking down the aisle is seeing one guest holding her giant iPad with the bright red cover folded open. And that's my clearest memory. I don't even remember looking at my now-husband. So...
ANNASo why do you think people carry around such a cumbersome object when it doesn't even take good quality photos?
NNAMDII have no idea, but Nick Bilton might.
BILTONCan I ask you, is -- was the guest older?
ANNAShe's probably in her 50s.
BILTONYeah. That's -- it's -- I think it's partially just 'cause there's a -- I've actually wondered that when you walk through Times Square, and you see people, like, using an iPad as a camera. And you're thinking, what is wrong with you?
ANNAYeah. I mean, you always see people at the monuments in D.C. It just seemed so inconvenient.
BILTONYeah. It's usually...
ANNAI'm sure she has an iPhone as well.
BILTONYeah. It's usually -- people like to use them because -- when they're older because it's for poor eyesight and so on. But I'm right there with you. You should unfriend that guest on every social media platform possible.
KEBEDEYeah. But I think, in addition to age, there are different levels of technology adoption, so there are the early adapters that have Google Glass and then the late adapters that would have, you know, old cellphones and iPads. So that's the beauty of technology. You're going to have variation of people carrying and using different tools.
PYLEI think it's all about perspective really. I can understand how an iPad or a lot of cellphones in a wedding shot, or even seeing it in person as you did, can be very intrusive. But I think there's also a very sweet and endearing part of it, too, that this person does want to share your moment with their followers and their friends, or even share it -- save it to view later. So perspective can definitely change how you may feel about that huge iPad staring at you during your wedding.
NNAMDIDan, you care to comment on this at all?
BERGERWell, I was just going to say, you know, Mary Meeker who does this -- from Kleiner Perkins, she does this state of tech every year, and she talks about how we experience things has just changed. We now experience it through the second screen. We watch TV with a computer. We go to events and record a show, and now what used to be lighters in the air when an artist comes out is now cellphones in the air when an artist comes out.
BERGERSo it's just changed how we experience it. And I think -- and, Nick, you might know this. But I think there's research that shows that when we take photos, we actually memorize less because we're not fully experiencing it. I'm not sure if you know that data.
BILTONYeah. It's true. It's -- I wrote a piece, I think, three years ago now about -- I went on a hike in California when I first moved out to California. And I went to the top of this beautiful mountain on the coast. And the sun was setting, and I spent, you know, five minutes getting my cellphone right and getting the right photo or Instagram. And I looked up, and the sunset was gone. And I was like, wait a second, I just spent the last five minutes looking at this beautiful sunset through a four-inch screen.
BILTONAnd I did a lot -- I talked to people, like, actually Mary Meeker and folks at MIT about this. And we tend to not remember the actual moment. We tend to remember the image when we look at it through a screen and so on. And I think that really kind of -- you know, going back to this iPad, I think that it really -- what I -- the advice that I would give anyone, you know, for a wedding, for a birthday, whatever it is, is have the device there. Encourage people to do things.
BILTONI love the idea that someone gave people photo assignments at the table. That's really creative and -- but for that one moment, just have it not there, and, you know, you can have people like Tweet the Bride come and do it as a service or something like that. Or you have your photographer or something. But for the ceremony, for the moment you blow out the candles, just put the device away for 30 seconds and experience that moment because that's the thing you'll remember, the photo maybe not so much.
NNAMDIHilina, in the poll on our website, last time we looked, when it comes to planning parties, 31 percent have ordered supplies online or set up websites with information and details for guests while 8 percent have actually hired a party planner. Forty percent think online invitations are OK, but 30 percent say they should not be used for weddings. What do you say?
KEBEDEI do agree. So what's interesting is, as instant communication and as we get bombarded with lots of emails, standing out in that inbox, it's becoming harder, even if it's a wedding invitation that's so special to you that you're sending out to your guests. They may glance at it in between work break, and then it's kind of shoveled away. I think, with the physical paper, it's slightly -- anything physical is slightly different, and you experience it very differently.
NNAMDIExcept, on the other hand, one listener says, "I like the online invitation. I don't lose it in my usual pile of paper."
KEBEDEThat's true. So, you know, I can only speak to what we're trying to do with BlissInvite. We're giving you both tools.
KEBEDESo we're allowing you to RSVP online and through email but experience it physically as well.
NNAMDIOn to Janet in Washington, D.C. Janet, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JANETThank you very much for taking the call. I am mother of the bride. Our daughter grew up in Arlington. She's getting married in Denver where she's lived for the last eight years. I have very mixed feelings. I'm in my 60s. That's as far as I'm going to get with that. And, of course, I didn't grow up with computers and, you know, cellphones and things like that. What I've observed, like, on Facebook, photos just get there, and then they're, like, forever. They have no end date, kind of like radioactive material. And I see a lot of, you know, getting happy, drinking -- I have nothing against drinking. And then...
NNAMDIWell, in Denver, there might be more than drinking. But go ahead. That's another story.
JANETSo let's get -- you know, let's get some goofy photos. Like, even one bride called you and said one assignment was to get, you know, a picture of the parents dancing and other goofy photos. Well, excuse me.
JANETAnyway, my feeling is the money that goes into weddings by the couple, by the, you know, the family, and they get a photographer. And I really appreciate what the two guys were saying about being in the moment. I mean, even when I was in Europe, like, in the '90s, I decided one day I'm not going to take my camera because I felt a prisoner. I felt captured by that little teeny thing, the same thing, like, oh, now the sun's not the same color. And I really much more enjoyed what I saw.
JANETTo make a long story short, people are coming to a wedding. It's a party, but it's an expensive party that you are the honored guest participating in. Therefore I think you should let the photographer do the photos. It's disrespectful, I believe, for people to have their little things out because they don't just stop at that. They're checking voicemail. They're checking email. It's just it's not a real...
NNAMDIWe don't have a lot of...
JANETIt's not living in the here and now.
NNAMDIDon't have a lot of time left, Janet, but I'd have Sophie...
JANETNo. That's all I want to say. That's my opinion.
NNAMDIWell, but before you go, Janet, Sophie, how would you advise Janet?
JANETOh. I am...
PYLEWell, one of the downsides of a photographer is that usually they take a minimum of two weeks to get those hundreds and hundreds of photos back to you. And in this age of instant gratification, people have really loved Tweet the Bride because the photos are instant, and they're up immediately. And they're shared. And the photographer, you know, weddings today, only about 16 percent will print the photos, 18 percent will create a hard copy album, and 23 percent will make their own online album. And it's probably much higher than that because photographers often just make an online album for you. So I think everyone's different, and every bride is different.
BERGERYeah. It's just such an interesting -- and, Janet, thank you for being so honest. I think that was a powerful contribution.
BERGERI think, you know, from -- this has to go back to the guest and the experience of the guest. Whether it's a business meeting or whether it's a social event, you have to think about the guest. You have to ask yourself, why are they using their phones? Well, they're probably not enjoying themselves most of the time. Not everybody wants to be there, and they're looking for an escape to get out. Now -- and that's why you have to go back to the guest and think about, how can I make this experience better for the guest so that there is no need to do that? And it's very difficult when you're trying to appease so many people, inviting so many people with different agendas.
KEBEDEYeah. But also, I mean, what the guests should also consider in general is that there is now the reality as it happens as seen in our naked eyes and archived by our brain, and there's the reality captured and recorded by that phone, by that machine. And a lot of the times, those two may not match, right? So you're having -- the great thing is you're telling a story twice, as you experience it and then how you tell your friends.
KEBEDEWhen there's a gap between those two, also unhappiness is created, right? So you're diverted from the reality much, much more. The pictures may show that you're having a blast at your honeymoon. In reality, you may be fighting with your fiancé. And so, in looking back, the discrepancies are going to be even greater.
NNAMDIWell, there's another aspect of the issue that Janet raised, Nick. In many ways, big gatherings might sort of serve as a microcosm for a bigger issue. You've been trying, as Janet recommends, to unplug a bit more recently which may seem unusual for a tech columnist. But why are you doing it? And how has it changed your perspective?
BILTONWell, it's interesting 'cause I have gone through this experience where I -- you know, like everyone, you find -- I find myself, you know, waking up in the morning and reaching over and grabbing my phone and checking Twitter and my email and Instagram and Facebook and then, you know, getting bored throughout the day when I'm supposed to be doing work and checking those things, and being in line at the grocery store and checking those things. And when you kind of collectively look back at it, you -- when I kind of collectively look back at it, I don't really have much to show for it.
BILTONI don't -- in my, you know, I don't -- I'm not a -- I don't feel like I've kind of grown and feel fulfilled from the things that I've found on there. There are -- sure, there are news articles that I probably would have found elsewhere, too. And so what I did was I decided -- it's just specifically in the mornings, I think, was the part that was really kind of bothering me because I do think that Twitter and Facebook and all these things are really important for the way we live today. And I, you know, I love these things and use them all the time. But in the mornings, I felt like -- 'cause I wake up very early and...
NNAMDIOnly have about 15 seconds left.
BILTONYeah. So I -- what happened was I decided I was going to quit using social media in the morning, and I started reading a book. And so every morning, for an hour, I read a book, and it has literally changed the way I consume that media throughout the day because I just feel more fulfilled from it.
NNAMDIJanet, thank you very much for your call. I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Nick Bilton is a New York Times technology and business columnist, lead blogger for the paper's Bits blog, author of several books, most recently, "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal."
NNAMDIHilina Kebede is co-founder and CEO of BlissInvite, which allows a person planning an event to mail personalized paper invitations from the computer. Dan Berger is founder and CEO of Social Tables, a maker of event planning software. And Sophie Pyle is founder of Tweet the Bride, a service that posts photos and updates on social media during wedding. Thank you all for joining us. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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