Monday, July 27, 2015

The Difficult Moments

Starting college can be a stressful time for a freshman. You have to relearn time management, choose the right major, and also make friends. There is a college standard most are expected to live by: go to school, get good grades, learn to become a positive contributor and make as many lasting connections as you can. So when something happens to throw this standard process off balance, it’s hard to combat the changes with confidence and clarity. Nobody expects to be diagnosed with type one diabetes, or go to 15 doctors appointments in a year. When this happens during your first year of college, it’s easy to feel alone and overwhelmed.
When diagnosed with a chronic illness, you start to see a split, the normal people and the people with illnesses. In college, the “normal” students are counting carbs to get ready for bikini season, but the occasional mess up is fine. While the diabetic is counting carbs, religiously, so they can maintain a healthy level of insulin and not end up in the hospital. A friend of mine who is currently dealing with the diabetic transition was suggested by her doctor to take a year off of school, so she could learn how to manage her new life. Most students take a year off to travel the world, they don’t take a year off to learn how to live their life in a new way. Another college aged celiac patient mentioned that her mom was adamant that she leave school for a while after the patient lost 30 pounds in 5 months and was riding the line of malnutrition. Both students stayed but had more on their plates than either ever imagined.
It’s easy to feel isolated, like the only person in the world going through something so big. Large college campuses have groups for you to meet in if you are experiencing new diseases but smaller campuses let you fend for yourself. That same student struggling with celiac disease, the summer after her freshman year, told us that she felt so helpless because she got sick any time she would eat at the cafeteria, but she was on a mandatory meal plan. She spent her entire fall semester working with the disabilities services to get taken off of the meal plan, while also dealing with depression. It was hard to manage her health, school and friendships so they all suffered. There is a gap in active communities where people can help each other manage their new life circumstances.
People of all ages are being diagnosed with illnesses that can change their life in drastic ways. While some have support from families and friends, there isn’t as much community from people going through the same issues. With blogs being the leading connection between people with diseases,one or two voices are the prominent speaker while others get lost in the comments. The communities need a place where they can all connect, as equals. Plum wants to offer that to people.
Plum wants to help those struggling through new diseases by making it easier for people to find others like themselves. A recently diagnosed patient could find comfort in a group of people going through the same experiences, but also be comfortable enough to anonymously ask questions about some of the issues they may not want their friends and family to know. Many patients being tested with celiac disease have to get colonoscopies and endoscopies. An 18 year old might want to anonymously ask questions to a group who has been through those procedures, rather than asking about them from the only person she knows has been through the procedure, her grandmother.
The whole hope is that Plum can be used to start conversations and community for people dealing with a sickness that your average person may not be going through. We want parents of kids struggling with a chronic illness to be able to connect. Most of all we want to help build communities that will decrease the likelihood of a patient going through depression. We want you to use Plum to connect with sports fans or passionate gardeners like yourself. However, we want you to know that we measure the success of Plum in how well it helps you through those difficult moments in life. When your life has been turned upside down after something as simple as a yearly checkup, that is when you need a community of people like you and me more than ever. 
Plum Intern

Monday, July 20, 2015

New Plum Team Members

Plum is growing, and we are excited to welcome our two newest team members Dee Guo and Morgan Monzingo.

Dee is a passionate designer and app developer that loves developing seamless applications for practical use, as well as for entertainment. When not programming or scripting, she enjoys spending her time outdoors (when it's not too hot or muggy!), hanging out with friends, playing video games, learning new things and doodling in her sketchbook. She believes in technology and what it yet has to offer the world and loves all manner of subjects, including the humanities and natural sciences. Above all else, she wants to learn all that there is to learn (such that learning will never be over) and impact the world through what she creates. 

Morgan is a junior at Southern Methodist University pursuing a degree in computer science and EMIS. She is a member of the Gamma Phi Beta, Alpha Xi chapter and loves to be as involved on campus as possible. Morgan is the co-captain of the ballroom competition team and is a project lead for the Engineers Without Borders Bolivia project. Morgan is also a director of the largest student run hackathon in Dallas, HackDFW. "You could say that I overbook myself, but I call it leaving no room for boredom. I’m originally from Pflugerville, Texas, so the fast pace of Dallas was welcomed." Morgan is passionate about technology's impact on health and hopes to one day pursue a career in that field. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

How many times have I been bought and sold?

In recent years, many of us have become more and more uncomfortable with the idea that the government, and quite a few of our favorite websites, know more about us than we ever wanted them to. I can’t count the amount of companies who know the brand of shoes I bought 4 months ago, the blog I browsed to find a dinner recipe for tonight, or even the exact amount of times that I have clicked on a cat lovers website, all of which gives me chills.
The e-commerce, business and publishing sites you visit have made a faustian bargain with sometimes shadowy 3rd party advertising companies and this bargain is called retargeting. Publishers get paid to sell your site visit information to the ad company and then host ads targeted to your recent site visits. Then e-commerce and business sites trade your data for the ability to advertise their products to you as much as possible.  Just glance at your Facebook feed and you might notice an ad about the brand of glasses you just finished purchasing on Amazon. That’s retargeting in action. Yet, advertising companies don’t stop at retargeting or trying to sell you more stuff, many sell your data to anybody willing to pay. My question is, where was I when the company made this bargain?
The companies that take part in retargeting argue that if consumers were so upset about them collecting data, they would boycott the internet, or do more. That is completely wrong to assume. In the TechCrunch article, “The Online Privacy Lie is Unraveling”, it says, “91% (of the survey respondents) disagree (77% of them strongly) that “If companies give me a discount, it is a fair exchange for them to collect information about me without my knowing”. This article continues to explain that a majority of internet users don’t even know they are allowing companies access to this information, or that it’s legal.
Regardless of our ill feelings towards the bargain which buys and sells our data, we continue to log onto twitter, our favorite airline, amazon, google, Facebook or any number of product and business sites. There is a fear of what information people have about us, but we haven’t stopped using the internet in the ways we have been in the past. We are uncomfortable with what people know about us, but have no way to combat the loss of control of our data and our privacy.
Ultimately, people are unhappy with the idea of sites taking their personal information and spreading it out to these shadowy 3rd parties. Nobody feels like they have ownership or control over their data, or they feel it’s too late to do anything to stop these companies. Users of technology and the companies that serve them need to change their way of thinking if we are going to gain control of our data and our privacy.  
Companies should build products and services based on a consumer's willingness to give them their data. Then the company could build products or solutions based on the needs of that specific user. I would have no problem ALLOWING my choice of companies to use my browsing history.  If this were an option, I would love for Pillsbury to have my information on how many gluten free biscuit recipes I’ve looked at. Maybe then they would feel encouraged to create this product in a can. The whole idea is that I approve of Pillsbury using my data and they don't have to take my information in secret. There is a lot of good that can come from our browsing history but it is something that we should be able to take ownership of, it’s property.
It’s reasonable to predict that consumers are going to switch to wanting to only work with companies that respect their data as the consumer's property. The internet is too important for consumers to not take control of their data soon. I encourage newer companies to address data privacy when building their business plan, and recognize that consumers will hold them accountable. Because consumers, it’s time for us to control our data.
Your loyal Plum intern,