Cash gifts, the engine of the Stimulus social network

There’s a new social network in town. It’s called “Boost”. They got me with “cash gifts”.

So far, Stimulus has distributed over $100,000. In their welcome message, a middle-aged man with a thick Italian accent says, “You’re like me. You’re sick of all the fake accounts that spoil all the fun. Stimulus is a happy social network where brands and generous people give money to get attention. Brands need attention to grow, people need money to live. Stimulus helps both.” I have been sold.

I clicked on a message that said “don’t forget your lima beans” and was immediately signed up for a $500 giveaway. The winners will be announced in three days. Then I clicked on 10 more gifts. Each offered $500. Most of the other posts are homemade, probably because the founder started “Sticker Mule,” a site that sells personalized stickers for mugs, jars, and other things.

To prevent counterfeits, Stimulus requires government-issued identification, such as your driver’s license. An artificial intelligence system compares it to your face, as seen through your phone’s camera or your computer’s webcam. For more precision, it asks you to turn your head left and right.

What is the purpose of gifts? Stimulus indicates that companies can have more impact by offering money than by spending money on advertisements. For example, if the $4.5 billion spent on promoted tweets on Twitter went directly to users, nine million people would receive $500 each. But would that induce brand loyalty? I wonder.

BEST GIFT FOR KIDS

What better gift for children than a book? How about a kid’s Kindle with thousands of free books?

The $110 “Kindle Kids,” aimed at ages 7 to 12, offers thousands of free books and hundreds of audio titles from the Amazon Kids Library, but no videos or games. After your one-year free subscription ends, you can keep adding more books by paying $5 per month, if you’re a Prime member, $8 if you’re not.

The Kindle Kids Edition features an anti-glare black-and-white screen that’s perfect for reading. It’s similar to the $160 Kindle Paperwhite Kids, which is waterproof. Both have all the Harry Potter books, but not all the bestsellers. You can buy them yourself or install the free app “Libby” to get more e-books from the library.

Alternatively, you can subscribe to “Amazon Kids Plus Monthly”, an iPhone and Android app aimed at ages 3 to 12. It works with iPhones, iPads, Android tablets and smartphones. There is a one month free trial. It includes books, games and videos.

ADVICE TO READERS

After writing about casting your Google Photos and iCloud photos to your TV, one reader suggested the Roku streaming device. It starts at $25 for the Roku Express HD. I enjoyed my Roku until I got a TV that already has Google Chromecast built in.

“I just wish there was a way to add and display information about each photo on screen,” the reader said. In fact, there are: just add your own text to a photo. On Android, open a photo and tap “Edit”. Then, where you see “Suggestions”, swipe left until you get to “Markup”. Press it. Then, from there, tap on “Text” and type in your caption. For iPhone/iPad, try the free “Canva” app. Using it on my iPad, I tapped on the cloud with an up arrow to choose a photo, then “use”, then “edit photo” and finally “text”. I typed in a caption and chose the down arrow to save it. Canva stored it in “Camera Roll”, which I found under “Albums” in the iPad Photos app.

READER CHALLENGE

A reader asked, “Why would anyone choose Windows over a Chromebook?”

First, because Windows is familiar. Second, because you prefer Windows games. Third, because you like to install more complex programs than you can find online, such as Photoshop. I loved art history programs until I discovered that the web gave me everything I needed.

COMPLAINTS DEPARTMENT

I have a Grubhub account, which offers delivery from restaurants. It came free with my $10 a month Lyft Pink membership, which also offers ride discounts. Just tried using it for the first time to send a meal to a friend who was mauled by a pit bull.

Here’s my beef: when placing an order through Grubhub, I kept getting an error message. He said my credit card was not accepted. But it did, twice, on my Barclays JetBlue card, even though no meal was delivered. I tried to complain to them, but they said I should tell Grubhub. The Grubhub helpline was so backed up that I finally gave up and messaged through their app. No response yet.

GEE WHIZ DEPARTMENT

Scientists from the Hebrew University have introduced a new type of wood ink. It allows structures to transform into three-dimensional shapes after drying and shrinking. The ink could be used to make furniture that is shipped flat to a destination and then dried to form the final shape. In a similar achievement in 2019, Japanese researchers made an aluminum foil doll that could do sit-ups on its own.

INTERVIEWS

• “This robot will also serve you coffee.” Search this phrase to see a robotic arm capable of picking up a Twinkie, serving coffee, and handling other tricky tasks.

• “1000 flying drones at Burning Man 2022.” Search this phrase to find a YouTube video of drones turning into faces above the annual celebration in Black Rock Desert, Nevada.


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