Waterloo Startup Looks to Connect the Children of the Digital Age With Their Analogue Grandparents

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A small startup in Waterloo is testing the waters with an online service that aims to bridge the digital-analogue divide by turning the weekly checkins, photos, tweets and blogs of social media savvy parents into a printed story sheet delivered by mail to their children's grandparents.

The service, dubbed Flockwire, is Inflolabs second attempt to closing this particular gap. The company won a number of awards with their debut offering photoflo which allowed users to send digital images directly from their computers to their grandparent's TV by deploying an interesting an inexpensive piece of equipment called Raspberry Pi. But despite testing well, the group ran into some trouble during deployment with their core demographic. Many retirement residences are still slow to adopt WiFi — the backbone delivery mechanism for the service — into their operations. The availability of WiFi, the reliability of onsite technical support and installing the hardware ultimately forced the group to rethink their offering.

The new approach — sending weekly glossy printouts in the mail — is seemingly less problematic, but will people buy it? Those at the helm hope so, as it offers a tangible way to connect those who are growing up digital with those who grew up analogue. That said, this bridge can only be built if the sandwich generation between these two radically different demographics decides that it is worth building. The jump to broadcast parenting isn't doesn't seem like a significant stretch at first, but printing and mailing out a story sheet lacks the immediate feedback that Facebook, Twitter and now Pinterest offer; an immediacy that many of them are may have become dependent on.

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Could be a winner

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So, I'm firmly in the digital and social media age. My son's grandparents aren't too far off from that, either, checking email daily and also checking our family blog. It should be said that nobody's on Facebook, so perhaps Facebook-connected families will have a different perspective than me, but here's the thing:

Everybody likes printed copies of stuff. People pay more attention to printed copies. Something that my dad might "gloss over" on my blog, he's likely to read in full on printed paper. When they bring in the mail and see a new "update" envelope, they will open it with excitement and read it at the kitchen table instead of taking turns in front of a computer screen.

I DO think that people who decide to give it a go should probably put in some sort of "value-add". A picture that didn't make it to the blog would be enough. I also predict that for those who use it as a glorified "printout" of the blog, they will lose their family members as online readers but gain them as more engaged readers overall.

The real point I'm driving at is this: I don't care how digitally savvy you are, you are going to be more excited to open a new envelope than to get a new blog post alert.

Finally (phew)... you just KNOW that the grandparents are going to put each and every printout into a binder or a folder, in meticulous order, and revisit it from time to time throughout their lives and show it to friends and other family members in a more intimate way than they'd ever revisit or share your blog.