8 hot ways Evernote can spice up your sex life

“For doing your taxes”. “For shopping and to-do lists”. “For home improvement projects”. These are three of the very practical suggestions the Evernote blog has to offer as part of their 8 great ways couples can use Evernote shared notebooks blog post, which I just stumbled across today.

But I worry that their list may perpetuate the stereotype of computer geeks as nerdy and sexless — or worse yet, get Evernote users so absorbed in household efficiency that they forget to have sex at all. (And then where would Evernote get its next generation of users? This is a very short-sighted business strategy.)

So let me step into the breach, and offer all those Evernote-using couples 8 tips on how they can use their favourite note taking application to improve life inside the bedroom as well as outside of it:

Elephants have sex at the Berlin Zoo, from Wikimedia

  1. Create a sex stack: I know it sounds like a sexual position or a new kind of sex swing, but in this case I am advocating for the creation of a notebook stack in Evernote that you dedicate to the notes and notebooks you create to enhance your sex life. Your stack should include an all-purpose “sex life” notebook as well as specialized notebooks I suggest below.
  2. Write your own sex manual: Whether you’re browsing the web for porn or for sex advice, you may stumble across interesting ideas for spicing up your love life, or useful information about sexual health issues. Use Evernote’s web clipper to add them to a private manual of sexual advice and inspiration.
  3. Start a sex calendar: Yes, we all know that sex is supposed to be this delightfully spontaneous act where you tear each other’s clothes off whenever the urge seizes you.  But those of us who have been together for more than a few years, or more than a couple of kids, sometimes have to book time for sex. Put your sex schedule in Evernote, and sign up for specific dates when you’ll each take responsibility for making that night something special.
  4. Maintain a sexual shopping list: Whether you’re stocking up on condoms or saucy lingerie, there’s always a role for retail in the bedroom. Maintain a shared shopping list for items that either one of you can pick up on the next drugstore or grocery run (strawberries? check. whipped cream? check.) and separate shopping lists for naughty things you can buy to surprise one another.
  5. Collect your turn-ons: Have you spotted an image that turns your crank? Read something that got your juices flowing? Give your partner a new take on what turns you on by clipping whatever gets you hot to a shared notebook, and build a collaborative collection of erotica.
  6. Start a bucket list: Start a note or notebook to collect all the places and ways you want to have sex.  If you read about romantic hotels or interesting new techniques, use Evernote’s web clipper to add them to a “try this in bed” notebook, and treat it like a sexual to-do list. Make sure to include a checklist so you can notch your virtual bedpost when your fantasies are realized.
  7. Map your sex life: Start a a sex journal (you may not want a notebook named “Sex Journal”, but I’m sure you can think of something clever and cryptic) and use it to log your sexual encounters — even if all you do is note the date.  Use your smartphone to log each encounter, and your entries will be automatically geo-tagged. Then use the iPad or Android client app to see a map of everywhere you and your sweetie have done the deed! Not only is this satisfyingly nerdy, but when printed it will make a lovely heirloom that I’m sure your children will treasure.
  8. Forget sexting, and try Evernoodling: Sexy chat is all well and good, but who wants to go searching through their SMS history to find the sexy message your honey sent you six months ago? Start a smut sharing notebook in Evernote, and use it to share dirty stories you write for one another, sexy messages and naughty pictures. Just be damn careful about who you invite into that notebook.

Of course, not every sex-enhancing Evernote use needs be quite so explicitly sexual. If you really want Evernote to enhance your sex life, use it in any way that helps you and your sweetie stay more closely and intimately connected.

One romantic idea: keeping a log of all the little moments when she has surprised or delighted you, or all the things he’s done that have turned you on. Save it up for an anniversary or Valentine’s Day, and then hand over the keys. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll get lucky.

NameRater: A search tool for evaluating a possible name change

When my friends first started to get married, about fifteen years ago, I made an amazing discovery: majoring in Women’s Studies in no way predicted whether a woman would take her husband’s name. Over the years, I have had to let go any idea that changing your name correlates with your degree of feminist commitment, feelings about your dad’s family, or even the charm of your birth name. People assume a married name for all sorts of reasons: to get a better name, to cement their marriage, to ensure they’ll have the same last name as their kids.

What I still don’t get is why anyone would change their last name to something that makes them harder to find on Google.

I’m personally obsessed with being the only person who shows up on the first page of results for a Google search on “Alexandra Samuel”. If truth be told, I feel like it’s kind of in poor taste for other people to have my name at all. For a while I made a point of friending everyone else on Facebook who is named Alexandra Samuel, just because I don’t feel entirely comfortable with the idea that they have free rein over the Internet. And since I own AlexandraSamuel.com, and most variants thereof, I don’t really understand how other people are still allowed to have my name. Isn’t that trademark infringement?

To spare other people my sad fate, I propose a new search tool: NameRater. If you are planning to get married, and you are trying to decide whether to change your name, you can search on your current name, and compare the results with what you’d see if you changed to your prospective spouse’s last name.

Sure, you could just Google both your current and prospective last name, and see which has more Google search results, but that doesn’t really tell you how you’d stack up if you changed your moniker. Your status as a bestselling author and Fortune 500 CEO might ensure that you’re the only Sarah Smith who appears on the first page of Google’s search results. Or your lack of online presence might mean that even with the name Persephone Camelhauser, you’re invisible until page 8.

NameRater would factor in the current ranking of Google search results that belong to you — not to your name, but to you personally — and make some assumptions about which of those pages would now belong to the new Mrs. Your Husband. Then it would mentally re-factor the search results for your new name to show you where you’d land in Google’s search results if you had that new name.

This is a tool with value in other scenarios, too. I have had a surprising number of friends who have changed their first names (at least four have changed to names that were entirely unrelated to their original names, and at least two more who changed to dramatically different variants). I quite love the idea of people assuming a sense of ownership over something so core to their identity as their name….as long as it doesn’t hurt their Google stature.

And prospective parents, most of all, might value this tool. Some parent will want their kids to have a degree of anonymity in a SEO-ruled world. Others will want their kids to have a leg up in building blog traffic by giving them a name that is not only available as a URL, but offers a high probability of Google hegemony.

Until NameRater gets built, you’ll have to make your decision the old-fashioned way:  by Googling your current name and your prospective name and seeing which set of search results looks more competitive. Whether you like the idea of being more searchable — or conversely, prefer the idea of begin relatively anonymous — is a decision that is far too personal for me to weigh in on.

6 qualities to look for in an online date or offline mate

[Online dating] sites tend to emphasize similarity on psychological variables like personality (e.g., matching extroverts with extroverts and introverts with introverts) and attitudes (e.g., matching people who prefer Judd Apatow’s movies to Woody Allen’s with people who feel the same way). The problem with this approach is that such forms of similarity between two partners generally don’t predict the success of their relationship.

This condemnation of the “science” of online dating, by Eli Finkel and Benjamin Karney, appeared in yesterday’s New York Times. I read it with great interest, not only thanks to my ongoing (and entirely disinterested) obsession with online dating, but because of its tidy summary of what we do know about the science of compatibility.

My own analysis is much less rigorous, and based on a far smaller data set: my marriage, and the marriages and relationships of my friends. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the various breakups I’ve witnessed, it’s that you never really know what’s going on in anyone else’s relationship (which is what makes for frequently astonishing post-breakup revelations). So let’s say that my analysis of what makes for a happy relationship is really mostly based on my own…but since any half-decent social scientist would have predicted that my family history would give me incredibly low odds of a happy marriage, I feel like this relationship formula could be useful to those who are trawling eHarmony and Craigslist for their perfect match. Here’s what I suggest looking for:

  1. Common interests: I’d like to tell you that our mostly-harmonious relationship is based on our awesome communications skills, and sure, they’re worth something. But there is just way less to fight about when you both prefer watching The Matrix to The Pianist, when you like both like rainbow bedsheets over white linens, and when you both think that the Apple Store is the perfect place to spend date night.
  2. Complementary temperaments: Most couples seem to have one person who is more of a high energy extrovert, and one person who is more of a calm introvert. The high energy person (that’s me) makes sure you are both trying new things, socializing with friends, and having fun; the calmer person (that’s Rob) makes sure you both stay sane, take time for the two of you, and stay grounded. This to me seems the the essential axis on which you should look for a complementary rather than similar mate, though it can be hard to assess online.
  3. Common schedule: I have seen a number of happy mixed marriages — you know, between a morning person and a night person. I have no idea when they see each other. (But maybe that’s why they are happy.) Being married to a fellow night-person means that I don’t have to fight for the right to stay up past 10, or apologize for sleeping late on the weekends.
  4. Complementary functions: Especially once you have kids, it’s helpful to have a clear division of responsibilities. If you can divide things up via natural affinity rather than horse trading, you reduce a common source of stress and conflict. We like to say that in our house, Rob is the Vice-President of Operations (laundry, dishes, brushing of kid teeth) while I am the Vice-President of Special Projects (vacation planning, seasonal closet purges, school projects). I think I’m getting the sweet deal, but apparently Rob thinks he is too. FTW!
  5. Common flaws: Since I am a messy pack rat, a lousy budgeter and a technology compulsive, it might have been wise for me to marry someone who was tidy, good with money, and keen to peel me away from the computer whenever possible. But I would have driven that kind of person completely crazy! So I live in a messy house with a million concurrently-used screens paid for with money that probably should have gone into a retirement savings. You’d probably hate it. That’s why I didn’t marry you.
  6. Complementary in common: Maybe you have been thinking, hmm, this is all fine, but why is she misspelling “complimentary”? Actually, that is how you spell this kind of complementary — as in, two things that go well together, as opposed to one thing that is either flattering (a compliment) or free. If you already knew that, or you were delighted to learn it, you should be with someone else who thinks that correct spelling and grammar are incredibly important. If you think this is a totally pointless sixth point, you should make sure not to waste your romantic time on the language nerds of the world, because we will only break your heart when we catch you making some basic error and then not even caring about it.

Lessons for online dating from offline marriage

Readers of this blog know that I am fascinated with online dating, probably the way that women who got married in the 50s were fascinated by the birth control pill. Like the pill, online dating has enabled a revolution in romantic and sexual behaviour, one that those of us who got married in the pre-eHarmony world will never fully comprehend.

From that outside perspective, however, certain fundamental inadequacies of the e-dating world are all-too-apparent. I’m not talking about the usual complaint, which is that you have to go on so many dates before you meet the right man or woman. Back in the day,we used to meet potential mates or hook-ups at these things called parties: you’d go to party after party, introducing yourself to people at each party, and then eventually you might meet someone who was cute enough or interesting enough to be worth seeing again. If you went to three parties, in the course of which you talked to a total of fifty people, you’d be pretty stoked if you went to party number four, met guy number 51, and hit it off.
4 parties, 50 dead-end conversations, 1 hot outcome: a pretty good return on your investment.

Suffer through 50 eHarmony or Match.com dates, on the other hand, and you feel like it’s taking forever to meet the right person. True, it’s a bigger commitment of time: all that scanning of other people’s profiles (which is why it’s worth writing a great one so that they come to you) not to mention the hour for each meeting (which is why you should take the advice passed along to me: if you meet them, and you’re not feeling it, don’t feel like you have to stick out the whole date — just say “sorry, this isn’t feeling right” and cut your losses). But at the end of the day, love is a numbers game: you’ve got to screen a whole bunch of people before you find The One.

As long as you’re looking at online dating as a DIY version of the in-person screening you might do at a succession of parties, it’s destined to fall short on the basis of the required time commitment alone. Many of my dearest friends have met their soul mates through online dating, but man, does it ever look like a lot of work.

That’s because dating sites are far too trapped in the conventional offline dating model. They’re relying on the things that we are all told make for a happy marriage: shared interests, values, relationship goals, religious beliefs etc. And sure, those things matter. Kind of.

But where dating sites could really kick the ass of conventional face-to-face matchmaking is by getting at the crucial dimensions of compatibility that most of us only learn to value after we’re well into marriage. This includes not only areas of commonality, but complementary. I for one would be all for a dating site that matches people who…

Share the same perspective on:

  • Whether you should keep the living room curtains open or closed in the evening
  • Importance of using apostrophes correctly
  • Hip hop
  • Shopping: heaven or hell?
  • Ideal shower temperature
  • Coffee: black or polluted?

Have different but complementary preferences on:

  • Pizza crusts: pro or con
  • Blanket hogging vs blanket tossing
  • Aisle or window seat
  • Oreos: cookies or filling?
  • Highway driving vs. city driving
  • Drafting vs. editing
  • Router administration vs media server administration (OK, that one might just be an issue in our house)

Just think about how much better you’d feel about your remote-hogging spouse if he consistently offered you the cookie part of his Oreos, or she let you eat her pizza crusts. I know our own marriage (and business partnership) got a lot easier once I stopped feeling like I had to do my share of our long-distance drives (Rob likes highway driving) and once Rob stopped worrying about parking on city streets (I do the parallel parking, and thus, the city driving).

My own mother, who has been single for many years, finds it vaguely bizarre that I and her other married friends outsource big parts of our competency to our spouses in key areas like pizza crust-eating or electrical repair. My own feeling is that as long as the outsourcing is reciprocal — in other words, each partner has assumed primary responsibility for certain kinds of competencies — then this division of expertise is one of the great efficiencies of marriage. Better yet, the discovery that you and your partner have complementary as well as common preferences (so that you feel like she’s doing you a favour when she eats all of the pretzels in the Bits ‘n Bites) can create an ecology in which you are effortlessly providing little boons to one another simply by indulging your own quirks.

That ecology of complementary selfishness can take years or even decades of marriage to uncover and build. I dream of a dating future in which eHarmony does it for you, by finding you the crust-loving, cookie-eating, blanket-tossing love of your life.

The 9 secrets of a successful marriage (to a web application like Evernote)

On August 2 I will celebrate my third anniversary as an Evernote user. For the past three years I’ve put just about all of my notes into the fifty-odd “notebooks” in my Evernote database, including the “Alex blog 140″ notebook I created to hold my drafts for this series. I use Evernote on my Macbook to draft blog posts or take notes during phone calls; I use Evernote on my iPad to review stored web pages and take notes in meetings; I use Evernote on my iPhone to snap whiteboards and business cards (knowing they’ll become searchable thanks to Evernote’s built-in text recognition). Using Evernote as my all-purpose notetaking, writing and archiving tool, I’ve accumulated a grand total of 3340 notes.

33 months of continuous notetaking in a single application is the social media equivalent of a 25 year marriage. In the three years that I’ve been using Evernote I have tried 711 iPhone and iPad apps, hundreds of social networks and online communities, dozens of project management tools, scores of personal information management tools, and an inestimable number of utilities. A handful have made it into my regular workflow, but nothing has infiltrated my daily workflow as deeply as Evernote.

Just like a marriage, a successful long-term relationship with a web app takes a combination of chemistry, commitment and good luck. If you’ve found an application that you think could be that special something you’ve been looking for, here’s what you need to do to give this new relationship a real chance:

  1. Play the field: Whether you’re looking for a contact management tool, a photo editor or an event planning site, don’t jump at the first one you find. If this is a site or piece of software you’re going to use regularly, you want to make sure it’s going to offer what you need. Get to know your options by checking out at least three comparable products before you settle down with the one that seems right for you. I tried a bunch of notetaking tools, and even used Voodoopad for several years, before falling in love with Evernote.
  2. Look for long-run potential: Sometimes you’re looking for a little fun; sometimes you are looking for a long-term commitment. If you’re using a new piece of software for something other than a one-off, short-term project, look at its long-run prospects. Does it have a large development team? A significant user base? A deep-pocketed parent company? None of these guarantee a tool will be around forever, but they certainly increase the likelihood that the software you choose will be maintained and ideally extended in the years ahead.
  3. Make a prenup: In the haze of newfound passion, it can be tough to remember that even the best relationships may only last for so long. If you’re choosing a piece of software that will house data you need in the long run — whether it’s your contact list, your music library or your email history — make sure you have options if the relationship doesn’t work out. Choose software that stores data in standard file formats, or that offers robust export tools in case you decide to move on.
  4. Be monogamous: You’re not going to fall in love with Evernote if you’re still taking half your notes in Word: what makes Evernote work is knowing it’s got everything you want in one place. The same is true for everything from bookmarking to photo storage to online document collaboration. Find your best match, and then commit to it wholeheartedly.
  5. Don’t look for everything in one place: The flip side of monogamy is that your happy software relationship can be destroyed by excessive expectations. Even the happiest wife has certain conversations she just has to have with her oldest friend (and not her spouse) and the happiest husband may still have hobbies he enjoys most when shared with a buddy. Don’t expect more from a single software tool than you’d expect from your mate: make room for complementary relationships. Evernote is a great notetaking tool but it’s not your best contact management tool or the right piece of software for live collaborative notetaking.
  6. Invest in your relationship: My affection for Evernote has continued to grow because I continue to find new ways to use it. When I incorporated the web clipper into my travel planning workflow, I found that Evernote was the perfect way to build my own travel guide to Paris — one I could then access on my iPhone. When I discovered Everpress for WordPress, I found a new, even easier way of uploading draft blog posts directly to WordPress. Lesson: Just because your favorite tool is working fine doesn’t mean it can’t do even better. Take the time to look for new ways to use or extend it.
  7. Embrace PDAs: You’re more likely to love your favorite software tool if it works on more than one device — not just your laptop, but your smartphone; not just your desktop, but your Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). And you’ll find that your love expands still further when you give it a little oxygen: with public displays of affection in which you hold forth about all the reasons this is The Greatest Piece of Software The World Has Ever Known. In proclaiming your love, you’ll deepen your commitment — and may find yourself answering questions that help you discover new tricks or use cases.
  8. Work through your issues: Nobody is perfect — nor is any one piece of software. If you’re making regular use of a software tool, you’ll likely find the occasional bug, missing feature or usability glitch. Don’t give up on the relationship! Let the developer or support team know about your issue or suggestion. I’ve had email, forum or twitter exchanges with the dev teams of just about every software tool I use regularly.
  9. Show you care: Your relationship with a favorite software tool will flourish when you make a point of regularly showing your affection. You’ll inspire the developers, and help to grow the community of users that helps ensure the future of your favorite beloved or application. So tweet, like and blog about your top software picks…and don’t overlook the possibility of the occasional personal, heartfelt email.

How to find support online during life’s big passages (for Oprah.com)

“Thinking of you lots,” I wrote on my old friend’s Facebook wall after a couple of years had gone by without a chance to reconnect. My timing was perfect, she replied. “We’re going tomorrow to meet our new son! He’s 10 months old and has been living with a foster family. I could really use some mothering advice from you!”

I responded with hearty congratulations and my best stab at useful advice. Over the next few months, we resumed the kind of regular back-and-forth, intimate exchanges that had characterized our college friendship and the years after school when we both lived in Boston. It had been a decade since we’d lived in the same city, but online conversation allowed us to reconnect through the shared experience of a major life transition: the transition to parenthood.

When I think of any significant passage in my own life, it’s inseparable from the friends I shared it with. Friends are there to share your celebrations, support you through difficult transitions, and mourn your losses. Social media enable that sharing and support in new ways, across distances that would formerly exclude people who are far away but dear to your heart.

Marriage
When we got married in 1999, we created a wedding website and gift CD for guests. My husband spent the night before our wedding burning disc after disc, and I spent the months after the wedding scanning photo after photo. These days, blogs, iTunes and digital cameras make it easy for anyone to include their friends in the celebration, and to turn this once-in-a-lifetime gathering into the birth of a shared community of friends. Create a group on Facebook or another social network so your guests can plan car pools and wedding weekend get-togethers beforehand; after the wedding, use the group to share photos, keep people in touch and ask them to share their reflections on your celebration.

Birth
If you’ve got a new parent in your circle of friends—or if you’re counting on your friends to help you through the birth of your kids—the web can help. Set up an online calendar that friends can use to sign up for days when they’ll bring meals. Keep an online grocery list so people know what supplies you need, and an online task list so people can sign up to help you out as needed. And while you’re waiting for the big day to roll around, set up an email list to blast your good news to friends (putting everyone’s email address in the BCC field so you’re not sharing addresses among your friends who don’t know each other).

Birthdays
My husband couldn’t have turned 40 without the social web, and I think he’s holding a grudge against all of social media as a result. For his 40th, we threw a huge party and invited all our friends (via email). In addition to the in-person party, I set up a virtual celebration by asking all of Rob’s friends to post memories and notes to a blog I set up for that purpose. For the actual party, I spent a week baking seven different kinds of desserts, all selected from the Epicurious website based on reader reviews. Between the severe sugar high and the deluge of loving blog posts, Rob entered his 40s with a big smile.

Use social media to organize celebrations (with online invitations, shopping lists and recipes) and to mark the event (via blog post, photo or video contributions) in a way that can include friends from any part of the world.

Illness
“A friend of mine has just been diagnosed with cancer,” a friend emailed. “Do you know a web tool that can help all of her friends coordinate visits, grocery shopping, trips to the doctor and whatever else she needs?” As it happened, I knew just the thing: Tyze, a personal networking tool I developed for the PLAN Institute. For the past 20 years, PLAN has helped families create personal support networks for adults with disabilities or other kinds of challenges; those support networks ensure not only logistical support but the kind of social connectedness that helps people lead meaningful lives. Tyze lets anyone create a support network for a friend or family member with an illness or disability: it helps the network stay in touch, schedule visits, keep track of tasks, and most crucially, share the stories that bring them closer together. Whether you use Tyze or your own combination of a blog, task manager or calendaring tool, social media can help people pull together to support a friend in crisis—not just with logistics, but with the messages of love and concern that bring you all closer together.

Death
My Dad died almost two years ago, but his Facebook page lives on as a place where our friends and family can share their memories and thoughts of him. A social media presence—whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or a personal blog—can be a way for someone to tell his or her own story as they are passing out of this world, and for friends to connect through the dying and grieving process. If you don’t like the idea of your online presence outliving you, Legacy Locker is a service that serves as a social media will: Give it the registration info for the sites you’re on and you can leave directions on how your social media profiles and content will be handled after your death.

Whatever challenge you are facing, or milestone you are celebrating, you want your friends to share it with you. Make good use of social media and you’ll have their support, no matter where they are.

This post originally appeared on Oprah.com.

Is social media just for married people?

Think Social is a blog from the Paley Center for Media that focuses on the public benefits of social media. It’s an incredible blog and one that you must follow if you are looking for thoughtful reflection on both the social and political potential of social media.

And here’s the latest example of what makes this blog so wonderful: Ben Cajee’s delightful reflection on how social media changes the rules of romantic love. He asks:

So what does it mean to be in love in 2010? Do we love differently? Have our attitudes towards love and the feelings evoked changed over the last hundred or a thousand years?

And he suggests:

Perhaps we’re held back by our technologies, the immediacy of online messaging and the possibility of loss of face over being rejected via so many different social mediums. Or maybe it relates to certain individuals feeling the need to document their whole romantic episodes on social networking sites.

I’ve spent a lot of time and tech thinking about how to make social media support my existing relationship; arguably, too much time. Ben’s post made me feel lucky to have settled down before my social media compulsion took hold, since I suspect I would have been one to spend hours on plentyoffish, and just as much time documenting each date. As he points out, that’s hardly conducive to romance.

But as a happily married person, I have to say that social media can be romantic. My husband and I exchange affectionate comments on Twitter, write romantic tributes into blog posts and cartoons, and use social media to sweeten our date nights. Is it possible social media is only romantic once you’re already settled down?

On Oprah.com: Great dates that take your marriage online

The new Italian restaurant in our neighborhood was the perfect place to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary. We settled into a cozy table for two and turned our attention to the menu. It wouldn’t be easy to decide on our courses: The menu included almost too many enticing options with ingredients like black olives, Jerusalem artichokes and capers. (I will order anything that comes with a sexy-sounding Italian garnish!)

That night, I was torn between the flank steak served on a bed of arugula and the foraged mushroom Arborio risotto. (Are you getting hungry now?) I love risotto, and I know it’s traditionally made with Arborio rice, but on this occasion I couldn’t help musing out loud:

“What is Arborio rice? Is it rice from a place called Arborio? Or is some actual kind of grain?”

Less than a decade ago, couples must have had entire evenings—perhaps entire relationships—destroyed by the pain of waiting for an answer to this kind of pressing question. Your spouse thinks it’s a region, but you think it’s got to be an actual type of rice. Worse yet, he suggests it’s a pointless question and you shouldn’t care about the answer. The next thing you know, you’re arguing over why he has to be such a know-it-all or why you have to devote so much time to useless information. Ultimately, your osso buco gets cold, and someone ends up sleeping on the sofa.

Was Steve Jobs thinking about all those endangered marriages when he drove Apple to create the ultimate date-night instant answer device, the iPhone? With my iPhone in hand, the Arborio dilemma was easily resolved by Wikipedia:

Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice. It is named after the town of Arborio in the Po Valley, where it is grown.

“Huh,” Rob replied when I finished reading. (I’ve trained him to make some kind of sound of acknowledgment whenever I say something to him, even if he has no interest in what I’m saying.) Our mystery solved, we were ready to order our meal and crack open the anniversary champagne.

Our delight at diving into the soup of online knowledge turns the Web and the world into our marital playground, never more so than on date night. If you still think date night means dinner and movie, or if the very concept of date night has been lost to the challenge of leaving work or finding a babysitter, it’s time to take a look at how the social Web can help you rediscover the joy (not to mention relationship-saving importance) of spending a night out with your sweetie.

6 Ways to Use Your Tech Toolbox for Love

Make a Date-Night Dashboard
“Do you want to go to Topanga?” “Not again.” “Tojo?” “We get Japanese delivered all the time.” “How about the new Judd Apatow movie?” “Might as well wait till it’s out on video.” If your date nights have gotten boxed in by routine, a date-night dashboard can help you find new options. I’ve customized my Google homepage to keep track of date-night possibilities. I subscribe to calendars of upcoming events in our area, updates from bloggers who review new restaurants and announcements of upcoming salsa nights. If we need inspiration for what to do when the babysitter arrives, a quick look at the dashboard can turn up the most appealing options.

Geek Out
“Can you shoot me that image?” Rob drags the cartoon he’s just doodled onto my hard drive, and I drop it into the blog post I’ve just finished. We’ve spent the evening at one of our favorite date-night spots: It’s got a great prawn curry, cozy private booths and WiFi. So if we’ve got a few hours worth of sitting and want to enjoy an activity that’s more interactive than staring side-by-side at a movie screen, we aim for a united geek-out. We sit beside each other so we’re not separated by our laptops and choose an activity we can do together: writing a blog post, making a family DVD, playing a multiplayer game or trying out a few collaborative Web applications. If you share a tech-enabled hobby, a date-night geek-out is a great way to use your computers to explore your creative connection.

Bring Along a Third (or Fourth)
I know that we did enjoy date night before we got our iPhones, but I can’t remember how. An iPhone is like a date-night magnifying glass: It can enlarge your experience, sharpen light into fiery heat or refract giggle-producing distortions. We’ve used our iPhones to snap menus for our collection of egregious copyediting failures, to exchange sarcastic notes about the people at the next table and to tweet adoring love notes midmeal. And yes, a couple of those tweets have provoked our friends to tweet back, “Get a room!”

Play Together
As I’m browsing in an aisle of our favorite bookstore, my phone vibrates. I’ve got a text message from Rob: “Marco!” “Polo!” I type back. After a few rounds of back-and-forth, we’re reunited in the cookbook section, where we giggle and kiss. Shouting might be a more efficient navigational tool, but texting is less obnoxious and a lot more fun. Whether it’s Marco Polo, online Scrabble or a trip to the arcade, a night of digitally enabled gaming is a great way to bring the play back into your relationship.

Look Down
Our date nights aren’t limited to our hometown—or even to nighttime. When we travel together on business, we make a point of reserving a day for the two of us to spend on our own, reconnecting as a couple. During one recent trip to San Francisco, the first item on our agenda was to find a lunch spot that would satisfy our craving for Mexican food. Stepping out of our hotel room, we whipped out our iPhones and strolled slowly down the street while we each did a search for recommended Mexican meals nearby. Looking down at my screen, I navigated to a highly recommended hole-in-the-wall while Rob held onto my elbow so I wouldn’t trip or bump into someone. Fifteen minutes later, we were eating the best tamales of our lives and settling into the bliss of a day uninterrupted by kids or work. Forget gazing into each other’s eyes (at least for a few minutes): Looking down at your iPhone or PDA can help you find an outstanding meal or attraction that will turn a day out into a lasting memory.

Look Up
After our Mexican lunch in San Francisco, we decided to walk over to the Castro, but it was a good distance and we wanted our walk to cover an interesting route. Once again, our iPhones saved the day. With Yelp.com—which maps nearby restaurants, stores and attractions— we were easily able to figure out which street would have the most boutiques of interest to browse as we meandered toward the Castro. Once we’d chosen our route, we actually (gasp!) put our iPhones away so that we could stroll hand-in-hand and take in the sights. And a good thing we actually looked up or we would have missed the ice cream shop with the sandwich board advertising flavors like salted caramel, honey lavender and balsamic strawberry. It was only after we were happily enjoying our cones that we noticed the proud display of magazine articles that (deservedly!) praised the Bi-Rite Creamery as one of America’s 10 best ice cream shops.

Whether you’re looking for an evening that busts you out of a longtime rut or for a playful night out with a new beau, your tech toolbox can set you up for a great date. Just be sure to put that phone away when it’s time for your good-night kiss.

This post originally appeared on Oprah.com.