Roni Krakover

Author - Roni

Things you don’t learn in high school

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Things we learn in high school Things we don’t learn in high school
Math: Derivatives and integral How to handle your finances, what is an interest rate
Astronomy, geography Recycling, minimalism, caring about the planet.
Physics, mechanics Repairing simple appliances
History Conflict resolution
Biology of the human body First Aid
Grammar Effective writing. Letters, resume, etc
Logics Critical thinking
Pillars of democracy, the political system Respecting others’ opinions, being a considerate member of society
Bible studies, religion Spiritual concepts of presence, oneness and more
The logic of constructing an argument How to be a big person and see the bigger picture in an argument

Of ice trays, blankets, public restrooms and Toblerone chocolate

public restroom 2

Everybody is so obsessed with user experience these days.

Developers, designers, and UI/UX experts spend countless hours optimizing interfaces for mobile applications, web forms, desktop software, and other tech stuff.

I hear people complaining about the nitty-gritties of online user experience, but rarely do I hear people discussing improvements to the concrete stuff around them, such as the building’s trash bin or their cooking utensils. In a world that lives on the hype of digital innovation, the experience of the good old physical products is lurking behind.

Thus, I collected a short list of five physical products many of us use and have a sub-par user experience. Note: I’m not writing this list to complain about the products; rather to show the contrast between the great user experience we demand from the digital world versus the low user experience we have come to accept in the “concrete world”.

Toblerone chocolate

toblerone

Toblerone is a Swiss brand of chocolate (purchased by Kraft Foods in 1990) that stands for quality. While we can argue about the quality of the chocolate, let’s focus for second on the quality of the foil wrapping it. Toblerone is wrapped with thin foil that doesn’t peel off in one piece, rather shreds into a million pieces as you touch it. You run the risk of accidentally eating foil. This shredding effect makes it hard to peel a bit of foil and seal back to keep the rest of the chocolate fresh.

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Moreover, the chocolate itself has pieces of toffee/honey that stick to your teeth. These pieces of carbs remain stuck in your molars to feed the bacteria and cause cavities. When you eat regular chocolate without toffee, your saliva melts away the remains of the chocolate and it doesn’t stay in your molars. The toffee doesn’t melt.

User experience score from 1 to 10: 4.

Improvement suggestions: use thicker foil, soften or replace the toffee.

Ice trays

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If you consume ice and don’t have an ice machine, you have to deal with ice trays.

You’re probably familiar with the following scenario: you get the ice tray out of the freezer with the hope of putting ice cubes into your drink. Then, as you flip the ice tray facing down to drop a few cubes into your cup, you find that the ice cubes have a life of their own: they start falling out of the tray, spreading everywhere (including but not limited to your cup).

If you’re experienced, you try to work around these challenges by first releasing the ice cubes onto a plate and later manually placing them in your drink. Yet, the ice tray experience remains un-streamlined.

When you’re done with the ice, you have to fill the ice tray with water and put it back in the freezer. In an attempt to avoid spilling the water on the way to the freezer you hold the ice tray with both hands. Wait, how am I supposed to open the freezer now?

User experience score from 1 to 10: 3.

Improvement suggestion: include a cover that helps you control the ice cubes coming out + prevents the water spill.

Bedding #1: blankets tucked in

 

Unless you want to work on your feet flexibility and sleep in a ballet dancer position, why would you want your blanket tucked in?

If you’re staying at a hotel, you un-tuck the blanket on the first night, only to find out on the next night that housekeeping tucked it back. Your only way to avoid this phenomenon is to leave the “do not disturb” sign on the door so you don’t get a visit from housekeeping at all.

User experience score from 1 to 10: 0.

Improvement suggestion: get your local legislator to ban blanket tucking.

Bedding #2: duvets and covers

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Did you ever put a duvet in a cover to later find out that you put it the wrong way (i.e. length of duvet went into width of cover)? Often you just leave it as is, hoping to get it right next time, since putting a duvet in a cover can be quite an annoying task.

Duvets and their covers exist mainly in the form of rectangles which are almost square. Can’t the makers put an arrow to help us tell length from width?

User experience score from 1 to 10: 2.

Improvement suggestion: include a small arrow on both duvets and covers that indicates which side is the “length”.

Conference Tags

conference tag

Have you attended conferences that had a schedule in a mobile app, live Twitter hashtags displaying on the screen, smart bar code scanning and other techy features, yet the conference tag kept turning the wrong way?

User experience score from 1 to 10: 4.

Improvement suggestion: print on both sides, if using stickers, apply them to both sides (can’t believe I am actually writing this).

Public restrooms

“Public restroom” is a generic name for any restroom that is not at home. Specifically, any restroom in which you wish to minimize contact with items around you for hygiene reasons.

Often, it seems like the public restroom is designed to enable you to share and receive as many germs as possible. Decisions like placement of the trash bin and the type of door handle are either completely arbitrary or made to increase dissemination of diseases.

For example, take the office restroom of a (super innovative) company I know, a company that puts a lot of thought into the user experience of its digital products. This company, however, exhibits lack of thought when it comes to its restroom.

As people finish doing their thing, they wash their hands; there is no automated faucet so they have to touch everything with their bare hands.

As they get ready to leave the restroom, they encounter this knob:

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Rather than a regular handle one can lean on /push with elbow, here you have to grab the knob and turn it.

That way you get to find out if the person before you dried his hands are not. Sometimes you grab the knob and it’s completely wet. Not fun. Essentially, it’s like you’re shaking hands with every single person that visited the restroom that day.

User experience from 1 to 10: 0.

Improvement suggestions: design a restroom that is as “hands-free” as possible.

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To sum up, I hope one day some decision-makers that deal with chocolate, ice trays, blankets and restrooms will read my article and put more thought into the design of our everyday, concrete environment. You as an end-user also have power – write a letter to the company that makes the product you would like to improve; talk to the building management at your office about making some changes to the restrooms, etc.

And, I welcome you to leave your ideas for additional product experience improvements in the comments section below

Why Tel Aviv beaches are the best

work out at the beach in tel aviv

Free shade! I have been to many beaches around the world in which your only way to get a shelter from the sun is to pay for it.

free shade in tel aviv beach

You can work out at the beach if you want. Pumps your muscles in real time and makes you look more toned as you are walking around in your bathing suite.

work out at the beach in tel aviv

You can rent a SUP / surf board, windsurf, etc

rent sup tel aviv

And choose your favorite water activity…

rent puddle board tel aviv

Life guard station, open from 7:15 – 18:45 in the summer. Some beaches have lifeguards year round, for those brave enough to swim in the winter.

Also, fixed prices for items such as water, ice cream, sun bed, etc – so you don’t get ripped off

life guard station tel aviv beach

There’s a shallow reef and you can see some fish (most of them grey but still very cool)

snorkeling in Tel Aviv

Most beaches have a beach bar! Food is often expensive and not the best (=tourist traps), but nothing like cold beer or ice cafe to complete your beach experience.

tel aviv beach bar

Many beaches are accessible to people with disabilities – by law. The image below explains that, in 3 languages

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Free fresh water to wash yourself

free shower tel aviv beach

And just wash your feet as you get ready to leave

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Have a great week,

Berlin

Berlin, a city of contrast. Heatwave. Bizarre AirBNB experience. Philosophical talks about human nature, good and bad, liberalism. Duality. Hedonism and its after-math. Happiness and sadness. Fetish clubs. Random encounters. Capitalism and communism. Short romance with a pathological lier. Blurriness and clarity.

How to prioritize different writing projects?

managing writing projects

If you are like me, you have tons of ideas for pieces you want to write and not enough time or energy to actually write them.

The result is often paralysis – you have unfinished blog posts, book outlines, and book chunks lying around in piles or on your hard disk, thousands of words that might never see the light of day. I feel your pain… perhaps 5% of what I write I publish. In fact, as I am writing these lines, I really hope that they will “find their way” into my blog.

But no more. I decided to increase the productivity of my writing. Move from 5% publishing rate to 20% at the first stage, and one day cross the 50% barrier. So I came up with a system to help me determine which writing projects I should focus on. Here it is:

How to prioritize your precious time and become more productive with your writing?

I created a table to compare my different writing projects. It contains important parameters such as time to completion, potential rewards, risk, etc. Below are a few examples of projects I am currently working on.

Project Time to completion Long term reward Short term Leverage Risk
Rewriting my “failing” book 3 months A new book out really fast! No leverage Perhaps no re-write can make this book good.
Just blogging whatever comes to mind NA Possibly high volume of content NA No long term goal..?
Blog about specific topic, e.g travelling NA Can be turned into non-fiction book later NA Not exciting enough
A novel about depression – I have about 30% written 5 months to first draft Niche book which could be successful on long tail Release chunks of the book on my blog, weekly Writing a book about depression is like coming out of the closet in many ways

This is the system I came up with; which of the projects above would you choose? how do you manage your content? Would love some more ideas…

12 steps to master the art of napping

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  1. Never feel guilty for napping
  2. The ideal nap takes no more than 30 minutes, when you’ve become a pro you will wake up naturally after 15 – 20 minutes.
  3. To induce a nap, try activities that tire your brain such as: reading, writing, studying
  4. Put your phone on silent mode for the nap. Not vibrate, silent. Flight mode is also an option.
  5. Avoid your bed. The couch is perfect, and you can also try to nap on a yoga mat on the floor.
  6. If possible, try to find a place for short nap in your workplace.
  7. You don’t choose to nap; the nap chooses you. Don’t decide to go for a nap, wait until you are taken over by fatigue and then proceed directly to the couch.
  8. If weather permits, leave the window open to absorb sounds and feel the breeze coming from the outside.
  9. A nap doesn’t have to take place in the afternoon. You can take a short nap at 8 PM after work, or 8 AM if you woke up early and are tired again.
  10. Having said that, best naps are during the day, when there’s daylight outside.
  11. When you have become a pro in napping, a short nap at any hour of the day will not disturb your night sleep.
  12. Create good napping conditions in advance – if you think you might take a nap on the couch at some point, make sure the couch is not messy so you don’t have to organize it when the need for a nap takes over. You don’t want to lose the momentum.

Photo credit: Federico Racchi

 

Solo travel. Just do it.

solo travel

Imagine you are on the bus from Salta, a city in North Argentina, to Tilcara, a beautiful indigenous village near the border with Bolivia.

You got on the bus around 3 PM, and were assured you will arrive at Tilcara before sunset. But now it is starting to get dark and you’re still on the bus, more than an hour away from your destination.

You don’t like arriving to a new city or village at night, and rightfully so; as you get off the bus in Tilcara it is already pitch black and there are no street lights. You need to find the hostel you planned to spend the night in, but guess what – there are no street signs either.

Adventure? Unnecessary risk-taking?

That night I ended up finding the hostel, don’t even remember how… but what I do remember is the chilling feeling on the bus as I realized I’ll be arriving after dark; and the amazing stay at that hostel once I found it. I ended up staying in Tilcara for a few days.

Does the thought of travelling alone scare you, or does my story make you want to buy a flight ticket?

For me, relieving the Tilcara story brings up a lot of emotions. I started traveling alone a few years ago and got hopelessly addicted. Solo traveling has a special thrill; it makes you feel very much alive. One moment you have no idea where you’re going to stay for the night, the next moment it’s all sorted out (hopefully). And there are a lot of other benefits too.

The benefits of solo travel

Connect with yourself. With the relative silence that comes when you travel alone, comes a lot of insight. You can come to realize things about your life that you are unable to see during your day-to-day life. Disconnected from your routine, you get glimpses of clarity and perspective.

Spiritual growth often comes when you temporarily disconnect from your habitual environment. Traveling alone helps achieve this disconnection, since when you’re traveling with a friend from home your habitual environment is present with you.

Connect with your instincts. For better or worse, when you travel by yourself you have to be more alert. You have to be more “present” in situations you encounter. This increased alertness takes a lot of energy, but brings out the best in you and increases your confidence. You get over daily challenges and learn to see yourself as a person who can cope with anything.

Meet new people. When you travel with a friend, unless the two of you are extremely social, you often meet much less people than when traveling alone. To the solo traveller, every ride on the bus is a chance to meet new people and start a conversation.

Learn a new language. When traveling with your friends from home, you are likely to be speaking to them in your home tongue all day. Travel alone, and you’ll find yourself forced to speak in a new language with the locals.

Do whatever you want. Traveling in a group and have to decide where to go for dinner? Trying to decide between two hostels and can’t reach consensus? Met this gorgeous guy / girl and want to stay in town for an extra night, but your friend is anxious to go to the next destination?

Guess what. When you’re traveling by yourself, you, and only you, make the decisions. You can do whatever you want. Go for your favorite food.  Choose the hostel you like. Stay with the guy you met for an extra night. Heck, stay with him for an extra week if you want.

Improve your social skills. Social skills are important; they allow you to connect with people for social, romantic, and business purposes. Nothing improves your social skills more than solo traveling– you get to a new place by yourself and “have to” make friends. Over time, you get comfortable initiating conversation, reaching out to people, and forming new groups. The social aspect of solo traveling is perhaps the most rewarding (and most challenging) of all. I am planning to upload a separate post with tips on how to ace the social game when traveling alone.

Get unlimited travel options. Once you get used to the idea of solo traveling, you can travel on the dates that work for you, the destination that interests you, with zero dependence on the availability and interests of others.

So… why travel alone?

Because it is fun. Because it is an adventure. Because you are guaranteed to experience personal growth. And simply… why not?

PS- you know you can use all of the images I post for free as long as you link back to my site 🙂

traveling alone

How to write a great blog post in 12 easy steps

how to write a blog post

When people think of starting a blog, they are often concerned that they will not be able to create enough high-quality content.

The good news: writing a blog post can be way easier than you think. Follow the steps below, and soon enough you will start creating and publishing high-quality content.

Step # 1 – get a blog post idea

The first step is to think of an idea you have for a post. It can be a topic, a problem, a statement, an advice you want to give. It doesn’t have to be a super smart or profound topic; if you follow the steps below you will see that everything can be turned into an interesting blog post. I keep a list of “blog post ideas” for future use, and tap into them when I have time + energy to write. Personally, I have excess of ideas and absence of “quiet time” to write.

Step # 2 -brainstorm on paper

Got an idea? Great. Now it’s time to take a few pieces of paper (I recommend scrap paper. All those A4 you accidentally printed, the one-sided meeting agenda prints you don’t need any more, etc.). Once you have some paper, you are ready to start brainstorming. You can try one of these two methods:

Mind map – jot down ideas relating to the topic you chose, surround them with circles or boxes or any other geometrical shapes you like. Create lines connecting between them. Each semi-topic is surrounded with a shape and branches out to other mini- topics. Soon you will have an entire page covered with content.

Create a list – this works great especially when your final output is a list or you want to write about a sequential process. This post, for example started as a list on paper.

If you want to write a guide for “cool things to do when it rains,” start by writing ideas on paper and continue until you have at least 15 different ideas. Don’t censor yourself throughout the process; even if you write down an idea that you think is stupid, this idea can spark another idea that can end up being pretty good. Don’t worry – by the time you publish the post, you will screen out all the “bad ideas.”

Step # 3 – open a word processor and start typing

At first, you want to get everything you have on paper to the computer. As you start typing, things will become more ordered and of course you can always add new ideas that come to mind while at it. At this stage you are still enforcing zero judgment – your goal here is to get everything into a document as fast as possible, so grammar, wording, order and coherence do not play a role at all.  You still want to be connected to your creative energy rather than your analytical energy.

If your paper notes are disorganized (as is often the case with mind mapping), cross over sections you finish typing, so you don’t accidently type them twice.

Step #4 – eliminate

Go over what you now have on the screen and delete everything that’s boring or doesn’t support the overall context of the post you want to write. Often at this point you will find that you steered away from your original topic and now most of your content is about something else. Accept it, and “pivot” your post topic to the new stuff – what you have the most interesting volume of content for.

Step #5 – order

So at this point you already have your “top content” in the document; it is time to order things in a sequence that makes sense, create paragraphs out of sentences, and add connectors between these paragraphs. Each paragraph should feel like it’s right where it should be.

sometimes even the airport becomes my office

sometimes even the airport becomes my office

Step #6 – add an opening and a closing to the post

Not much to say here. Write an opening paragraph and a closing paragraph. Keep them brief. People want to get straight to the point and often even skip the opening paragraph.

Still, opening and closing are important, for two reasons: visitors to the post who do read the opening paragraph, would use it to judge whether to read the rest of the post or not; regarding the closing paragraph, you want to leave your readers with a closure, some sort of wrap-up of everything they just read. Perhaps you also want to include a call to action –suggest that they read another post you wrote for example. I am not good in closing paragraphs (see below).

Step #7 – polish

Now is the time for grammar and style. I won’t get into details here. Simply go over the entire post at least two times for styling.

Step #8 – optional – do some SEO

Read my post about finding keyword ideas. See if you can replace some of the words in your finished post with some keywords you found. Don’t force it. If it doesn’t feel natural on the text, drop it. I hardly ever do keyword replacement in my posts, good content is way more important in the long run.

Step #9 – get an image

Choose an appealing image – you can look for free images online (remember to give the photographer credits), you can buy stock photos,  you can take a picture. Pictures are always a great addition to the blog post. By the way, you can take any of the images on my blog and use them as long as you link back to my blog. You can simply copy and paste this – photo credit: Roni Krakover

Step #10 -think of a catchy title

But don’t exaggerate. I hate click traps such as: “this man thought he was walking into his house. What happened next will amaze you”, “10 things that women can’t do no matter how hard they try”, “seeing what this monkey does is guaranteed to change your life forever”, “the 7 secrets of people who have a lot of sex”, etc. I never click them, and neither should you. More often than not you will find yourself reading a boring piece designed to solely get advertising exposure. But more than that on another post.

Step #11 – upload

Upload to your blogging platform, choose the right category and tag. Add the image. At this point you also want to make sure that any links you included in the article work and lead to the right page.

Step #12 – share

Let the world know about your post. Use all social media outlets you have to announce the news.

Step #13 – go to sleep

You worked hard. Your brain must be super tired right now. I know mine is. I’m going to take a nap. Talk soon.

*Note: every post worth reading takes time to write.

*Photo credit –  Ryan McGuire

9 daily steps to bring good karma to the world

good karma
  1. Talk less, listen more
  2. Come to every meeting with the attitude of “what can I do to help you?”
  3. Instead of only going out for drinks, organize volunteer meetings with friends. Make a list of everywhere you can volunteer on a one-time basis in your town.
  4. Give an unexpected compliment to a stranger, that does not relate to their looks. Appreciate their skills and acknowledge how hard their work is; try to leave as many people as possible with the feeling of “you made my day”
  5. Give up on ego. Be the person that sees the larger picture in the argument
  6. Bring good energies with you everywhere you go; don’t expect to get them from others
  7. Do a random act of kindness – help a bug that’s been turned on its back and can’t flip back
  8. Open up to someone who seems to want to get close to you. You think they want a relationship, but you don’t? Don’t just assume. Maybe they want a friend, someone who will listen, someone who shares their interest and they can hang out with. Lose the barriers
  9. Be sustainable. Reuse your cup. Drink tap water instead of plastic bottles. Take an extra step and find that recycling bin.

I Love Riding the Bus

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Okay I have to confess. I love riding the bus. Not only because it’s cheaper than owning a car or getting a taxi; and not only because you don’t have to worry about incompetent drivers or the lack of parking spots. I love riding the bus because it sometimes offers adventure; it gives you a glimpse into other people’s lives and keeps you connected to reality.

If you never ride the bus, I recommend that you do so occasionally. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable, but overall it’s a healthy experience. We live in a self-centered culture, and riding the bus is an opportunity for your reality to collide with the reality of a stranger.

When you’re driving your own car, you’re stuck in your own cube, in your own reality, in your own story. Maybe you are talking on the phone to someone you know; maybe you are lost in thoughts about your problems and lose perspective. I fear losing perspective. Because I know it happens easily to people. It happens to the most “successful” people – wealthy people who supposedly “have it all,” end up living in isolated mansions, shielded from the world by servants, drivers, and security guards. Until one day they lose touch with the world out there and sink into heavy depression.

So what can happen to you when you ride the bus?

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A stranger gave me his baby

Last week a stranger handed me his baby. It was an awesome baby, and if you know me you know that I am really picky and don’t fall easily for any baby. In fact, at least 60% of the babies I come across are lame, 20% are okay, and only 20% are awesome.

Anyway this baby was one of the awesome 20%. As she noticed me, a huge smile came upon her face and she started jumping around to show her dad that she wanted me to hold her. Her dad smiled and handed me the baby. “Do you mind?” He asked. Of course I didn’t mind! How often do you get free love like this? Someone showing you love on the bus without wanting sex, connections, or money from you. Amazing.

I held her until it was my time to get off the bus. All the time she kept smiling, playing with my hair and my hat, and speaking to me in that baby language I forgot how to speak.

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Are crazy people really crazy?

Then there was the day when two people on the bus were singing/talking to themselves. One guy at the rear of the bus was wearing headphones and singing to himself; a well-dressed woman got on the bus speaking random sentences in English, Italian and Hebrew, all with an Israeli accent.

At some point the bus driver spoke on the microphone: “the guy in the rear with a hat, can you come here for a minute?” The lady who was speaking to herself, started screaming at the bus driver “What is this? Fascism? Nazism?”

The bus driver ignored her and repeated on the microphone “the guy in the rare, can you come here for second?” The self-speaking lady continued with her Fascism speech.

“I don’t know what he wants from me, I’ve been on the bus for three hours relaxing so what does he want from me now?” Since this was line number 5, a city line which makes a trip of about an hour, the bus driver was probably rightly concerned about the passenger not getting off at any of the stops. Perhaps he did have to charge him again…

A man and a woman in their 60s smiled at each other and at me. “They are a little crazy,” the man said. We all are, I thought. But some of us keep it to ourselves and others displayed openly. I wonder who’s crazier.

The guy went to see what the driver wanted from him and came back. As he got back he sat next to the lady that was talking to herself, perhaps about Fascism and perhaps about something else at that point. For a while they were each singing a different song, then he turned to her and asked her if he could invite her for coffee. She didn’t answer his question and just went on singing and talking to herself. The guy turned to me and said “she’s so cute, isn’t she?”