Daily Archives: December 30, 2013

How to Make your Customers and Prospects Look Forward to Receiving your Marketing?


How to Create Valuable Content?

You can do this by creating a “Webtility” that drives traffic and gets clients to call you. A webtility is a website that has valuable and relevant content that attracts, educates, and engages a clearly defined target audience — with communicating with the customer and prospects without selling.
How to Create Valuable Content?
Instead of pitching your products or services, you need to delivers valuable insight that makes your buyer more intelligent. As a business, delivers ongoing valuable information to their buyers, they will ultimately reward us with their loyalty and business. A great example of this…


…would be a search agency creating a webtility that shares weekly or monthly tips on how to optimize and get their website on the first page of Google. You may think that people would just use the site and not call you for help, which sometimes is the case. But most of the time, people don’t know how to put all the ingredients in a recipe or even have time. By putting out thought leadership that is valuable to your target market, your audience will encourage you to market to them. The good rule of thumb about putting out valuable content, would someone pay for this information?

How to Get Started.
Start with focusing on one of your customer’s challenges, and giving them valuable information that helps them solve their problems. This should go without saying but make sure your promote and socialize your webtility.

The Webtility Checklist:
The checklist is designed for digital content creators, and it defines four valuable content benchmarks:

  1. Findable
  2. Understandable
  3. Engageable
  4. Shareable

Written by

Digital-preneur, Agency Advisor, Author of How to Design a Great Website & Not Get Screwed

 

14 Fucks I Refuse to Give in 2014


Forget about New Year’s Resolutions. This year, I’m making a Fuck It list.

It’s that time of year again, folks. A New Year; a fresh start. Now’s the time we all vow to do a boatload of things most of us will never follow through on come 2014.

Everyone, that is, except for me.

I’ve had it with resolutions. My diet of cookies, coffee and chocolate suits me just fine, thank-you-very-much. Spend less, save more? Please; I live in Vancouver.

So keep your resolutions. Enjoy your salads and electronic cigarettes, your busy gyms and caffeine withdrawals. As lovely as that sounds, I won’t be joining you this year. Instead, I’ll be sticking to a new framework.

Welcome to my Fuck It list. Fourteen things I’m going to stop giving a fuck about in 2014. Because, as important as it is to push yourself to be a healthier, more compassionate person, that can be downright impossible. Refusing to give a fuck, however, isn’t just easy — it’s kind of awesome.

If it’s good enough for Julie Andrews, it’s good enough for me.

So fuck it. Here are the fourteen things I’m going to stop worrying about come 2014.

1. Becoming a Morning Person

I’ve always hated mornings. I hate getting out of bed, hate getting out of the shower, hate finishing my coffee. I pretty much just hate everything and everyone who crosses my path prior to 10 am. I’ve tried to ‘fix’ this issue multiple times, trying to schedule in an hour of exercise or writing prior to embarking on my day. Fuck that. The only thing worse that getting out of bed in the morning is getting out of bed to torture yourself on a treadmill or stare at a screen. So keep all your “10 Things Successful People Do Before 5 am” motivational posts to yourself come 2014. I’ll be successfully asleep.

2. Making the Moment Count

Are you living in the moment? Right now, right this very instance? Are you making the most of this super-important, never-going-to-happen-ever-again stitch in time? Of course not; you’re reading this post, ignoring your kids, your boss, your dog, your girlfriend. In fact, I’d hazard to say you’re doing everything you can to avoid the moment. Amen to that. Moments don’t last; I’d actually say they’re pretty irrelevant by themselves. But string 50 of them together and then you’ve got a reason to pay attention. That being said, 2014 is the year I stop trying to make moments matter. No more searching for hidden significance in a small gesture or assigning importance to a particular event. And please, could everyone just stop telling me that everything I’ve done in my life has led me to this moment. Considering it’s 3 pm, I’m still in my pajamas, and I haven’t showered in two days… that doesn’t really mean much.

3. Fitting In

I suck at social situations. I’m awkward, withdrawn, quiet and quick to drop a sarcastic remark. I also sport a handful of tattoos, have an award-winning bitchy resting face, and have been told I give off a not-so-subtle fuck off vibe whenever I walk into a room. By no means am I trying to be standoffish, this is just who I am. So when it comes to fitting in at conferences, networking events, house parties, the supermarket — you know, anywhere there are other people — I tend to struggle. For years I’ve tried to fix this; forced myself to be more outgoing, more present, less me. It’s exhausting and annoying. So fuck fitting in. Despite my icy demeanor and lack of seemingly standard social skills, I’ve managed to surround myself with an accepting, loyal group of friends; people that understand my oddities and love me for them. Bitchy resting face and all.

4. Forcing a Smile

I’ve been told I’m very pretty when I smile. I’ve also been told I don’t smile very often. That, if I forced myself to smile more, I’d actually feel better, happier, simply by faking this joyous facial express. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t really care. I smile when there’s something worth smiling about. This doesn’t mean I’m drowning in despair the rest of the time. Normally I’m quite content. So fuck forcing happiness or faking jubilation. You want me to flash a smile, you’re going to have to work for it.

5. Quitting Vices

Why are New Year’s resolutions always about ending bad habits? Personally, I quite enjoy my vices. Beer = delicious. Pie for breakfast? Completely acceptable. Hoarding all of the blankets on the coldest night of the year? Not my fault you were too slow to steal them first. Everything in moderation, right? My bad habits have shaped me as much as my good ones. But at the end of the day, they aren’t really hurting anyone. I drink socially and with restraint, pie only finds its way into my fridge two or three times a year, and my boyfriend is more than welcome to yank the covers back over to his side… provided he’s ready to except the consequences.

6. Swearing

My ex used to hate it when I would swear. And I get that — believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of constant vulgarities either. That being said, some situations simply call for foul language. Come on, no one is going to stick to a Screw It list or an Eff It list. What’s more, studies have shown that people who swear are actually more trustworthy and honest. Which, by my count, means I’m kind of exceptional. Fuck it? Don’t mind if I do…

7. Guilt

Earlier this year I was told that guilt is the fear of future punishment. That we feel bad for past transgressions not just because we regret them, but because we’re worried that we’ll make the same mistakes again. I’m not entirely sure of the legitimacy of this statement, but it certainly resonated with me. I regret a lot in my life; I’ve made some foolish mistakes and have hurt a lot of people, not to mention myself. But it’s the fear of making these same mistakes again that weighs on me the most. And yet, the mistakes I made in the past were the result of dozens of different variables — age, health, circumstance — repeating them is pretty much impossible. So why bother dwelling on it? Fuck the guilt; I can’t undo the past, but I can certainly look forward to the future.

8. Being on Time

If you know me, you know that, try as I might; I am never, ever going to show up on time. I’ll show up — I always show up — but nine times out of ten I’m going to be roughly an hour late. It’s a fatal flaw. It’s best to just lie to me about the designated meeting time. Trust me.

9. Lying to Myself

We all lie to ourselves. Some of these lies are inconsequential. Others send us down a slippery slope of denial straight onto a soft cushion of false security. I’ve lied to myself a lot over the last year. I’ve told myself things are fine when they’re falling apart, convinced myself that a bad decision was a blessing in disguise. Thing is, it’s easy to tell the lie. Believing it is a whole other story. So fuck the fabrications and flimsy fronts. How can you possibly trust someone else when you can’t even trust yourself?

10. Planning for the Future

I have very sensible parents; parents that sacrificed to provide my sister and I with the best life possible. For that, I’m thankful. That being said, now that I’m an adult myself (or at least I pretend to be), I think a lot of it was unnecessary. They wasted a lot of good years of their lives putting us first. As irrational as it might sound, I feel responsible for this. Granted, I don’t have kids, so I don’t really understand the type of devotion and selfless love that a parent feels, but even so, I don’t really know if sacrificing yourself for the sake of your children makes sense. I sometimes wonder if my parents lost more than they gained by having children. That, in the process of planning for our futures, they forgot about their own lives. There’s so much they could have done — should have done — when they were younger. Now, it’s too late. It’s like they went to bed at 30 only to wake up at 60 determined to make up for lost time. Except now the hourglass is nearly empty and the world has lost most of its luster. Selfish as it may sound, I could never travel that same road. I could never give my life to my kids; and please, save your “but you can have it both ways” spiel for someone less cynical. You don’t win the Mommy of the Year award sitting in a boardroom, and you don’t get a promotion for catching every Christmas concert. In one scenario, you resent your kids. In the other, you resent yourself. I haven’t yet decided which is worse, and to be quite frank, I don’t think I ever want to.

11. Growing Up

And give up my love of dinosaurs and LEGO? Fuck that.

12. Saving Relationships

Romantic, platonic, familial — I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to nurture destructive relationships. Compromising in order to avoid confrontation, pretending problems weren’t as pronounced as they were. The fastest way to lose yourself? Focus all of your energy on something or someone that was never really there. Eventually you’ll wake up alone. Worse, you’ll wake up a stranger.

13. Forgetting Failures

I failed at being a wife. A lot of the time, I fail at being a daughter. I’m not a very good sister, and I have a pretty good feeling the odds will be against me if I ever decide to become a mother. I’ve failed at business, failed to relax while on vacation. I’ve failed to let insecurities go, failed to speak up when I had the chance. Fuck, I’ve failed myself more times that I’d care to admit. I’ve forgiven a lot of them. But forgetting them is useless. I made those mistakes for a reason. The least I can do is learn from them.

14. Falling in Love

If I learned anything in 2013, it’s that love — the overwhelming, this-is-the-one kind, the love that makes you weak in the knees, if not slightly duller in the head — isn’t real. It exists outside of reality, in a world devoid of calories and Kardashians. The fall is fun, for a while. But big love is just that… oversized and oversold. Overstated and filled with impossible expectations. I don’t want to fall into that kind of love again. It lacks substance. I prefer the little loves. My best friend’s daughter running around the kitchen chanting, “It’s all rainbows,” over and over again. The wag of a dog’s tail when you scratch the sweet spot behind her ear. Neglected nuances, subtle sincerity — that’s where love lives. Lost in a pile of unmatched socks, it sits and waits for you, overlooked and underappreciated. Flawed but sturdy; frustrating but frank. A beautiful mess of sadness and hope. Fuck engagement rings and moonlit walks on the beach. Love hurts because that’s the only way to tell that it’s real.

Happy New Year’s.

May you give as few a fucks as I do in 2014.

Written by

If you have no baggage, you have no story.

Published December 30, 2013

 

Is Twitter Killing Real-Time Journalism?


Not Quite — But Journalists Aren’t Helping

Senator John McCain last Tuesday he was going to run for his seat again in 2016. But I didn’t hear about it from the Associated Press. I saw it on Twitter from New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich (@MarkLeibovich). And he heard it from a radio interview the Senator conducted in his home state. Then, he tweeted.

In the modern era of Internet-centrism, eyeballs equate to advertising revenue. Thus, Twitter could be the best thing that has ever happened to journalism.

Unfortunately, the tech Luddites running the AP perceive Twitter as an enemy. Recently, they issued a curious set of commandments to their reporters that can be best summed up as: “Thou shall not Tweet!”

Morsels of news, such as the McCain moment, must be run through the AP’s byzantine internal editorial process for fear of “scooping the wire.” This direct from the AP rule book:

“Don’t break news on social networks that we haven’t published in AP’s news services. If you have a piece of information, a photo, video or audio that is compelling, exclusive and/or urgent enough to be considered breaking news, you should make it available to AP services before you consider putting it out on social media. There may be occasional exceptions to this rule, but they must be prearranged with your manager and approved by a Nerve Center manager.”

Huh? Speed wins eyeballs. Period. These rules bring to mind a wayward principal telling schoolchildren to consult the handbook before evacuating in case of a fire.

There was a time when newswires like the AP and Reuters were the source for breaking news. They were writing the first draft of history, as the saying goes, and their reporters steered the news cycle.

Those days are long gone. We learned about street protests in Tehran from Twitter, and the micro blogging service is proving itself worthy of our attention because of its ability to aggregate personalized news in a way the news media, so far, has failed to do.

Reporters, equipped with social media, can break news online before they even put pen to paper. But that’s not a problem. It’s a chance for savvy outlets to deploy their talented reporters in new ways. For example, to slingshot back into relevance, couldn’t the AP set up a special, AP-branded Twitter feed specifically for breaking news online?

Is Twitter the death of journalism? Sort of. Short-form newswire journalism must evolve and become less dependent upon its current format to thrive. But we will also drift away from fast-breaking, fact-driven information as our main medium for understanding the world.

Le Flaneur — The French wanderer/thinker

While Twitter makes the AP obsolete (or, more accurately, the AP makes itself obsolete), we are surrounded by the din of hard facts and micro-bursts of news. Inevitably, we will yearn for media in a different format. Long-format articles longer than the 140-character and 650-word throwaway pieces will experience a Renaissance.

Pulling back from the relentless churn of information in our modern world means some of us will fall into the repose perfected by the fin-de-siècle French stroller, le flâneur. There is an allure here for those of us who crave the white space of contemplation now crowded out by the infinite loop of social media-fired news.

Bijan Stephen makes this point beautifully in an essay in The Paris Review. “But as we grow inexorably busier—due in large part to the influence of technology—might flânerie be due for a revival?”

It’s a good question. It’s also something unanswerable via Twitter.

Written by

Writer, father, pr shaman, former Reuters correspondent, man/myth, gardener and hockey aficionado

Updated October 31, 2013

 

On Technical Entitlement


yours truly, circa 1994

yours truly, circa 1994

You know that kid who’s been coding for, well, forever?

By most measures, I should have technical entitlement in spades.

I’m the granddaughter of a software engineer and the daughter of a entrepreneur. I could use a computer just about as soon as I could sit up. When I was 11, I made my first website and within a year I was selling code. I took six semesters of computer science in high school, and I had two internships behind me when I started my freshman year of college.

Despite what it may seem, I’m not trying to brag—seriously. I’m just trying to prove a point: I should not be intimidated by technical entitlement.

And yet I am. I am very intimidated by the technically entitled.

You know the type. The one who was soldering when she was 6. The one who raises his hand to answer every question—and occasionally tries to correct the professor. The one who scoffs at anyone who had a score below the median on that data structures exam (“idiots!”). The one who introduces himself by sharing his StackOverflow score.

Photo by ARGmonkey

That’s technical entitlement. It starts with a strong background in tech, often at a very young age. With some extreme confidence and perhaps a bit of obliviousness, this blooms into technical entitlement, an attitude characterized by showmanship and competitiveness.

It’s easy to dismiss technical entitlement. People often cite social ineptitude as a reason for unpleasant behavior in tech. But, frankly, I’m tired of that excuse. The fact is, the behavior that comes from technical entitlement is poisonous. It can really ruin someone’s introduction to computer science.

Let me frame it this way: I know logically that I’m pretty good. But I never feel like I’m as good, or as experienced, as everyone else.

I always feel like I’m behind, trying to catch up to a group of super-elites who’ve been programming since they could walk.

Now imagine someone starting out as a college student taking their first CS course. Imagine how the technical elite make them feel.

“Oh, that’s not for me.” I’ve heard this more times than I can count. Or, “I’m not that kind of person.” Or even just sheepish laughter. I have several extremely sharp, logical friends who won’t even think about CS because it’s not “right” for them. (How can you know this if you don’t try?!)

At the NY Tech Meetup’s “Conversation with Women in Tech” (which is 100% worth watching if you haven’t seen it yet), my friend Amy Quispe talked about her experience studying computer science at Carnegie Mellon. She didn’t like it—at least, not at first. “I felt like an outsider,” she said.

As an aside, this is patently absurd. Amy is the kind of person who everyone knows and adores. Amy is at the heart of Carnegie Mellon’s CS community, and is a pillar of the CS student community for students everywhere–even if she hasn’t always felt like that. In the fall of 2011, Amy decided to organize a hackathon. Hackathons weren’t popular at CMU, she explains. But her hackathon was a huge success. Why?

She broke down the entitlement barrier. “We told people, ‘You are exactly the kind of person who does this kind of thing. You’re exactly the kind of smart, creative people who like to solve problems. So why not?’”

Amy’s hackathon, TartanHacks, had a turnout of over 150 students. Most other CMU hackathons had no more than 50.

At the same event, Jessica Lawrence, who organizes the NY Tech Meetup, told a similar story. And hers illustrates the real danger of technical entitlement: It discourages diversity.

One of Lawrence’s roles is finding startups to demo at NYTM, and she had trouble getting women to demo, she explains. She’d invite women and most of them would turn her down. Out of curiosity, she decided to organize an event just for women—and they applied in spades. She had so many female founders apply that she was turning them away. “Why?” she asked them. “Why did you never apply to the full NY Tech Meetup?”

Their responses were astonishingly consistent. They didn’t apply for NYTM because it was big, and intimidating. They felt like they “weren’t ready.” Women in tech, Lawrence concluded, don’t have an under-aspiration problem or an under-competence problem.

“There is,” she said, “an under-confidence problem.”

Sound familiar? Yep, it’s exactly the kind of self-doubt that can arise when there are so many technically entitled people around.

So why does this happen? Why does it persist? Technical elitism seems like the kind of thing that could knock the entire industry flat. Why do we keep scaring everyone off?

I have a couple of ideas.

For one thing, precocity is rewarded in tech. We all swoon over the guy who started programming robots when he was 6. Growing up in tech, I took this as a constant in life—if you’re doing cool things, the younger the better. But it’s become obvious that this is more unique. One of my friends working in finance put it this way: “If I told people I started shorting stocks when I was nine—not that I was, by the way—people wouldn’t be impressed. They’d only say, ‘Who was stupid enough to give you their money?’”

Additionally, there is a certain machismo and bravado associated with success in tech. I watch my classmates one-up each other day in and day out. (Occasionally, rarely, I do a little one upping myself.) Why is this the case? Well, that’s a whole separate question. But it certainly contributes to the way that technical entitlement turns “outsiders” off.

That’s not something I want to do. I love computer science, and I’m a huge advocate of everyone giving it a shot. (Just ask any of my friends who are studying political science.) So when I realized what a problem technical entitlement was, I momentarily threw my hands up in the air.

And then I remembered that many people probably see me as incredibly technically entitled. Many people probably see Amy as very technically entitled. (We both started writing code in middle school.)

Technical entitlement is all relative.

Odds are, if you’re in CS, someone sees you as being technically entitled. I’ve realized I have to keep this in mind. This is worth keeping in mind for everyone in tech.

My officemate is the son of a software developer, and when I asked him about the technically entitled, he said he’s made a conscious choice “not to be one of those people.” This is, at the very least, a good start. (And I can personally attest that he’s a very welcoming person.) This is a start that we can all make.

So, what will happen if enough of us make that choice? Will it be enough? Will that make computer science a friendlier field?

I sure hope so.


I originally published this post just over a year ago, on June 29, 2012. When I wrote it, I was a Penn student and a Microsoft intern, and I was kind of angry.

I’m reposting it to Medium, unedited, and using Notes to add commentary from where I stand now, in July 2013.

Further Reading

How to Reinforce Impostor Syndrome

 — September 2012

Written by

Hacker at large, software engineer at @Medium.

 

I, Glasshole: My Year With Google Glass


  • By Mat Honan
  • 12.30.13
  • 6:30 AMhttp://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/12/glasshole/

The author at a Google Glass GDK announcement event in San Francisco. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

An anecdote: I wanted to wear Google Glass during the birth of our second child. My wife was extremely unreceptive to this idea when I suggested it. Angry, even. But as we got a bit closer to the date, she began to warm to it and eventually landed somewhere in the neighborhood of bemused hostility.

I assumed the plan would sell itself. Glass has a slew of features that made my case: hands-free Internet, voice recognition, and a camera that makes snapping pictures an automatic action. Touch it at the temple and you take a photo. Hold the button a second longer and you’re shooting video. Bark a few commands, and you can send that photo or video to anyone. Even better, you can share what you are seeing, live, with other people in real time. I have no idea why my wife was resistant to live-casting the birthing experience.

It seemed a great way to remain in the moment yet still document it and share it with our far-flung family. I could Hangout ™ with our parents during the birth of their grandchild, even though they were half a continent away. I figured I’d just wait until the time came, pop them on, and see what happened.

As it turned out, I never got the chance — babies keep unpredictable schedules. But what was interesting to me in retrospect was I had to work to convince my wife to let me use Glass. I didn’t have to convince her I should take pictures or shoot video. She hoped I would do that. It was the form factor of the camera that irked her. It was the way Glass looked. It might let me remain in the moment, but my wife worried it would take her out of it, that its mere presence would be distracting because it’s so goddamn weird-looking.

There’s some weird shit on your face.

For much of 2013, I wore the future across my brow, a true Glasshole peering uncertainly into the post-screen world. I’m not out here all alone, at least not for long. The future is coming to your face too. And your wrist. Hell, it might even be in your clothes. You’re going to be wearing the future all over yourself, and soon. When it comes to wearable computing, it’s no longer a question of if it happens, only when and why and can you get in front of it to stop it with a ball-pein hammer? (Answers: Soon. Because it is incredibly convenient. Probably not.) In a few years, we might all be Glassholes. But in 2013, maybe for the last time, I was in dubiously exclusive face-computing company.

Here’s what I learned.

Look at that asshole.

Even in less intimate situations, Glass is socially awkward. Again and again, I made people very uncomfortable. That made me very uncomfortable.

People get angry at Glass. They get angry at you for wearing Glass. They talk about you openly. It inspires the most aggressive of passive aggression. Bill Wasik refers apologetically to the Bluedouche principle. But nobody apologizes in real life. They just call you an asshole.

Wearing Glass separates you. It sets you apart from everyone else. It says you not only had $1,500 to plunk down to be part of the “explorer” program, but that Google deemed you special enough to warrant inclusion (not everyone who wanted Glass got it; you had to be selected). Glass is a class divide on your face.

The people who were selected too often made things worse. I’m not talking about provocateurs like Robert Scoble, but the precious set of beautiful millennials you most commonly see wearing Glass in social settings here in the Bay Area. Bay Area Explorers tend to be young, dressed in expensive denim and bespoke plaids.

The few times I’ve seen multiple people wearing Glass in public, they’ve kept to self-segregated groups. At the party, but not of it. Worse is the evangelism, full of wide-eyed enthusiasm that comes across as the arrogance of youth and groupthink. It has its own lingo, its own social norms, and of course you must pay top dollar to enter. No wonder it reminds me of Landmark Forum.

And yet I’m one of them. I know that I’ve enraged people because I’ve heard them call me an asshole. “Look at that asshole,” they say. And I always sort of agree.

Where can you wear wearables?

My Glass experiences have left me a little wary of wearables because I’m never sure where they’re welcome. I’m not wearing my $1,500 face computer on public transit where there’s a good chance it might be yanked from my face. I won’t wear it out to dinner, because it seems as rude as holding a phone in my hand during a meal. I won’t wear it to a bar. I won’t wear it to a movie. I can’t wear it to the playground or my kid’s school because sometimes it scares children.

It is pretty great when you are on the road — as long as you are not around other people, or do not care when they think you’re a knob.

When I wear it at work, co-workers sometimes call me an asshole. My co-workers at WIRED, where we’re bravely facing the future, find it weird. People stop by and cyber-bully me at my standing treadmill desk.

Do you know what it takes to get a professional nerd to call you a nerd? I do. (Hint: It’s Glass.)

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Google Now for your face is uhhhhhhhhmazing.

Whatever you may think of Glass and those who wear it, it’s a completely unique experience. Even that itty-bitty display, which fills your vision, is like nothing I’d seen before.

You could install some apps on it from the get go, and more over time. But I never found the first batch of third-party apps particularly useful. Twitter was just too much; it was too noisy for something that was, literally, in my face. The New York Times breaking news alerts were okay. But mostly the third party apps were just noise.

Google’s native apps, on the other hand, were pretty great. I loved Glass for (very basic) rapid-fire email replies. The navigation stuff was aces. And the Google Now for your face is incredible — its ambient location awareness, combined with previous Google searches, means extremely relevant notifications come to your attention in a way they just can’t on a smartphone, unless you wear your smartphone on your face. If you want to know what Glass is really, really good at, it’s Google Now for your face.

You are so going to love Google Now for your face.

I’m so bored.

Glass is still very limited. Aside from directions, it’s more novelty than utility. The really cool stuff remains on the horizon, which means I got tired of it before I’d had it for even a year.

It took a long time before Google truly opened it up to third party developers. Once it did, things got interesting again. The Strava cycling app, for example, really shows off the promise of Glass by combining location tracking with updates that let you keep your eyes on the road and hands on the handlebars. So too does AllTheCooks, which lets you create and follow recipes without taking your eyes and hands away from sharp knives and hot ovens. There’s another app that will translate signs just by looking at them. What a world.

Which is to say, I’m really, really excited about where Glass is going. I’m less excited about where it is.

The inadvertent Android

Did I mention I swapped to Android because of Glass? That was weird and unexpected, but it happened.

I’ve been an iOS guy since the first iPhone, which I bought with my own hard-earned dollars the day it shipped. And although I’ve gone full time Android a few times in the past, mostly to stay current, it’s never taken. But I started lugging around a Nexus 4 when I began wearing Glass regularly because tethering to my iPhone didn’t work well. (Glass needs to hook up to a phone to take advantage of its internet connection when there is no Wi-Fi.) So everywhere I went, I had two phones in my pocket.

An aside: Few things will make you feel like quite so big an asshole as stepping out in public with Glass and two smartphones.

I gradually noticed I was pulling the Nexus out of my pocket far more often that I was reaching for the iPhone. That was especially true after I started running iOS 7. That’s not a knock on iOS as much as it is a testament to how much Google has improved its mobile operating system. For sheer brutal efficiency, Android is ace.

But moreover, Glass changed the way I think about phones.

Phones are the worst.

Glass kind of made me hate my phone — or any phone. It made me realize how much they have captured our attention. Phones separate us from our lives in all sorts of ways. Here we are together, looking at little screens, interacting (at best) with people who aren’t here. Looking at our hands instead of each other. Documenting instead of experiencing.

Glass sold me on the concept of getting in and getting out. Glass helped me appreciate what a monster I have become, tethered to the thing in my pocket. I’m too absent. Can yet another device make me more present? Or is it just going to be another distraction? Another way to stare off and away from the things actually in front of us, out into the electronic ether? I honestly have no idea.

Glass is normal. Kind of. One day.

Glass, and the other things like it, won’t always be ugly and awkward. At some point, it’s going to be invisibly indistinguishable from a pair of glasses or sunglasses. Meanwhile, Google is going to continue getting better and better at figuring out what to send you, based on where you are and when you’re there, and what you’ve done in the past. Third-party developers will create amazing new apps, things we haven’t thought of. Its form will encourage new functions, new ideas, new realities.

And here’s the thing I am utterly convinced of: Google Glass and its ilk are coming. They are racing toward us, ready to change society, again. You can make fun of Glass, and the assholes (like me) who wear it. But here’s what I know: The future is on its way, and it is going to be on your face. We need to think about it and be ready for it in a way we weren’t with smartphones. Because while you (and I) may make fun of glassholes today, come tomorrow we’re all going to be right there with them, or at least very close by. Wearables are where we’re going. Let’s be ready.

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2013/12/glasshole/

 

Report: 70 journalists killed on the job in 2013


— Dec. 30, 2013 6:35 AM EST

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http://bigstory.ap.org/article/report-70-journalists-died-job-2013

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NEW YORK (AP) — At least 70 journalists were killed on the job around the world in 2013, including 29 who died covering the civil war in Syria and 10 slain in Iraq, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The dead in Syria included a number of citizen journalists working to document combat in their home cities, broadcasters who worked with media outlets affiliated with either the government or the opposition, and a handful of correspondents for the foreign press, including an Al-Jazeera reporter, Mohamed al-Mesalma, who was shot by a sniper.

Six journalists died in Egypt. Half of those reporters were killed while reporting an Aug. 14 crackdown by Egyptian security forces on demonstrators protesting the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.

“The Middle East has become a killing field for journalists. While the number of journalists killed for their work has declined in some places, the civil war in Syria ?and a renewal of sectarian attacks in Iraq have taken an agonizing toll,” the committee’s deputy director, Robert Mahoney, said in a statement. “The international community must prevail on all governments and armed groups to respect the civilian status of reporters and to prosecute the killers of journalists.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has been tracking deaths among reporters and broadcasters since 1992.

Most of the killings it has documented over the years involve people who are covering news in the places they live. That was the case, as well, in 2013.

Many of the deaths occurred during combat, or among reporters covering conflict zones, but journalists in several countries were also murdered after reporting on sensitive subjects.

Reporters and commentators who covered police misconduct, political corruption or drug trafficking and other sensitive topics were slain in separate incidents in Brazil, Colombia, the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Russia.

A pair of Radio France Internationale journalists were abducted and killed after meeting with a leader of ethnic Tuareg separatists in Kidal, Mali. Militants in Iraq killed five members of the news staff of Salaheddin TV in a suicide attack this month on the channel’s offices in Tikrit.

For the first time in a decade, no journalists were known to have been killed for their work in Mexico.

The CPJ is still looking into the deaths of an additional 25 journalists in 2013, not included in the tally of 70, to determine whether they had anything to do with their work.

To date, at least 63 journalists have been killed covering the conflict in Syria, the CPJ’s report said — and that tally may understate the problem. Sixty journalists have been abducted in Syria this year alone. Thirty are still missing.

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/report-70-journalists-died-job-2013

 

I flew on a plane without going through security. It was amazing and no one died.


“I guess it would be nice, if I could see a full scan of your body.” – George Michael, TSA. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Friday morning, I flew on an airplane, and it was amazing. And there’s no reason Congress can’t make every flight exactly that amazing, as well.

“Amazing” is not how you’re supposed to feel about flying on airplanes. Flights are supposed to be day-long humiliations, preceded by a tedious and intrusive two-hour prologue of TSA scans and killing time at the gate, often followed by sundry delays and missed connections, and culminating in a physically and emotionally wrenching voyage featuring a screaming, virus-ridden infant, not-completely-unfrozen ravioli and “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” Business Insider‘s Henry Blodget is probably the master of the airplane-memoir-as-survivalist-tract genre, if you’re into that kind of thing.

A lot of that could be solved by people just getting over it and developing a sense of perspective, but one part of the process really is horrible and unnecessary: the TSA scans. Let us count the indignities:

• The wait to get to the metal detector itself can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour. You have basically no idea how long.

• If you’re silly enough to have brought along more than 3 ounces of toothpaste, shampoo, liquor, water or some other liquid on your flight, you’re going to have to either toss it or start the whole process over again. If, say, a friend or family member gives you a bottle of bourbon that consequently has sentimental value, you’re going to have to pay $29 or whatever to check your bag or else watch a TSA inspector pour out the memories before your very eyes.

• At the end of the security line wait, you have to take off your shoes, jacket and belt, empty your pockets, pull your laptop and/or liquids (3 ounces or less!) out of your carry-on bag, and arrange all those into separate bins (one for the laptop alone, of course!). I usually expedite this process while waiting in line — taking off my belt and emptying my pockets and putting the contents into my carry-on bag, taking out my laptop and holding it separately, and unlacing my shoes, though on at least one occasion this has ended with me tripping on my shoelaces, with hijinks ensuing.

• Once you’ve managed all that, you get to go through a metal detector or, better yet, a body scanner — for looking under your clothes. While the infamously invasive Rapiscan scanner was phased out over inadequate privacy protections, body scanners generally aren’t going anywhere.

• Usually that’s it, but sometimes you’re randomly selected for a pat-down. And if they find something they don’t like in your luggage or on your person, you could get even more than that. Hooray!

• Once that’s all done and you’ve stumbled from the end of security to the nearest bench, you get to put your belt, shoes and jacket back on, refill your pockets, and put your laptop and liquids back in your carry-on. Now you just have to wait because you, like a responsible traveler, allotted a fair amount of time in case security took a while.

Many of the problems with air travel can be directly attributed to the TSA. The whole time-wasting, privacy-invading aspect of all of it is bad on its face, but there are indirect harms, as well. The whole reason you have to get to the airport 90 minutes to two hours before boarding is that you don’t know how long it’s going to take to get through security. If you knew it would take 10 minutes — or, better yet, zero minutes — you could get there 15 to 20 minutes before boarding and be fine.

The just-in-time arrival point is really key. On Friday, I had the pleasure of flying on Cape Air from Lebanon, N.H., to White Plains, N.Y. Cape Air is a commuter airline, and as this flight was on a plane with a total of eight passengers (plus the pilot), and disembarked outside the secure or “sterile” zone of the White Plains airport, it was exempt from TSA passenger screening requirements as laid out in §1544.101 of title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The flight was at 11 a.m., and boarded at 10:50, so I got to the airport around 10:30. I could have gotten there at 10:45, and it would’ve been totally fine. I just walked up to the airline counter, gave my name, got my ticket and walked into the aircraft. Because the plane was so small, you have less control over your carry-ons than you might usually, as the crew has to carefully place luggage so as to not put the plane off balance. But you also are spared baggage claim upon arrival, as the plane is unloaded for you right on the tarmac. It felt basically like riding Amtrak, or Bolt Bus. You just show up, show a ticket, and get on. No muss, no fuss.

Boarding Cape Air is a delight. (photo by Dylan Matthews)

Boarding Cape Air is a delight. (photo by Dylan Matthews)

Obviously, switching the airline industry over to exclusive use of sub-30 passenger planes would be financially untenable (though it’s not just Cape Air that’s profiting off the TSA’s suckiness). And a TSA-free life in bigger planes would still have its disadvantages, like middle seats (every seat is a window/aisle seat on Cape Air’s Cessnas) and baggage carousels. But think of the advantages. Imagine if catching an 11 a.m. flight out of D.C. was a matter of hopping on the Metro at Petworth at 10:20, getting off at Reagan/National Airport at 10:43, and boarding the plane at 10:50.

That world is possible. I’ve lived it, and it is amazing. All we have to do is abolish the TSA. Entirely. Just let people walk off the street and onto a plane.

Would this increase hijacking? Probably. But there’s no reason to believe it would increase casualties from terrorist attacks overall.  That’s because increasing airport security just leads terrorists to direct their assaults elsewhere.

The best literature review available on the efficacy of counterterrorism tactics found that, on average, adding metal detectors and security screenings at airports lead to about 6.3 fewer airplane hijackings in the years examined (a hijinking-heavy period chronicled in Brendan Koerner’s latest book, in case you’re interested). But that was more than compensated for by an increase in “miscellaneous bombings, armed attacks, hostage taking, and events which included death or wounded individuals (as opposed to non-casualty incidents) in both the short and long run.” In fact, metal detectors and security screenings at airports lead to about 6.8 more of these substitute events. “When calculating the overall weighted mean effect size for all of the findings examining the effectiveness of metal detectors, the positive and harmful effects cancel each other out,” the review’s authors conclude.

Could that literature review be wrong? Sure. The evidence base on counterterrorism effectiveness is very thin because true experiments on it are hard to conduct. But you go to war with the data you have, and the data we have (including some from after that review came out) suggests that even the most rudimentary of security screenings have not saved any lives, all things considered. What they have done is waste countless hours and dollars, because we really needed a rock with which to scare away tigers.

Is eliminating airport security politically untenable? Maybe. Then again, consider what socioeconomic class flies a lot, and which one gives the most to political campaigns, and then notice that they’re the same one. The first 2016 candidate who promised to end — or at least dramatically loosen — TSA inspections would probably have a veritable bevy of business travelers begging to give him/her their money. And there’s nothing stopping airlines from instituting security procedures of their own devising if they want to court passengers who are still freaked out by the prospect of security-less flights. Worrywarts could fly Stripsearch Airways while the rest of us choose to opt out. Everyone wins.

Still not convinced? Let us then end with an economic parable. The company Timbuk2 makes messenger bags, and even makes some of them in San Francisco, meaning it’s one of those durable consumer goods manufacturing firms that U.S. policymakers love so dearly. By my count, four of their products — three messenger bags and a backpack — are specially designed so as to allow you to put them through TSA screening without removing your laptop.

That’s a really helpful service for Timbuk2 to provide. But think about what went into that. Think about the person on Timbuk2′s staff who had to talk with the TSA about what, exactly, was and was not allowed in a TSA-compatible bag. Think about the product designers who had to redesign messenger bags and backpacks to fit TSA specs. Think about the effort that went into marketing that specific feature to frequent travelers. Think about what happens when TSA specs change, and all those people have to go through the whole song and dance again. Think about people buying that bag instead of something else they need or want just to get around the TSA regulations.

Think about all the waste that one stupid government policy can generate. And for what? To save lives? It doesn’t. To prevent attacks? It doesn’t. All it does is waste time and money. And messenger bag hijinks are just of the tip of that iceberg.

Dylan Matthews
Dylan Matthews covers taxes, poverty, campaign finance, higher education, and all things data. He has also written for The New Republic, Salon, Slate, and The American Prospect. Follow him on Twitter here. Email him here.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/12/30/i-flew-on-a-plane-without-going-through-security-it-was-amazing-and-no-one-died/

 

Deeper Than Rap: Beyond Google’s Smackdown of Rap Genius! Underestimate these guys at your own peril, tempting as that may be!


The distinguished gentlemen of Rap Genius

The distinguished gentlemen of Rap Genius
WRITTEN BY
Gary Suarez
December 30 2013, 2:59 PM ET

For spoiled modern tykes, Christmas-morning coal amounts to little more than an empty threat, but the naughty boys behind four-year-old hip-hop lyrics hub Rap Genius woke up this past Wednesday to something far more upsetting: a punitive move by Google that sent their site to the craggy bottom of paginated results listings on the only search engine that truly matters anymore.

Google discovered that the controversial, privately financed domain had engaged in a link-exchange scheme meant to artificially boost its rankings in searches related to the new Justin Bieber record. Google struck back by burying all pages on the Rap Genius domain, including its homepage, far deeper than any reasonable user would bother dredging. Try to Google the lyrics to Drake’s “Trophies” and you won’t come across an RG link until at least page five, which in today’s competitive online landscape might as well be page five thousand. Since then, the site’s daily traffic has sunk to levels not seen since the summer of 2012, according to Quantcast, a leader in online-audience measurement. In recent days, the site has garnered between 265,000 and 310,000 unique visitors per day, a pale comparison to the rest of December, during which it regularly topped 1.3 million.

This was no mere act of Google Grinchery. Rap Genius unquestionably violated the posted Webmaster Guidelines — specifically the section that discourages dubious link exchanges — and once caught, called out, and penalized, founders Tom Lehman, Mahbod Moghadam, and Ilan Zechory copped to it in fairly plain language via an open letter, particularly fitting given several other music websites’ recent appropriation of the format. “We effed up,” the trio admit right at the very top, “and we’ll stop.” (True to form, the letter was annotated and remains open to community annotation, leaving it prone to further discussion, as well as abuse.)

In a way, the Internet takes the closest thing it can to a vacation this time of year. Media sites in particular slow down their publishing or supplant the gaps with reposted “Best Of” content. Essentially, the understanding is that readership and the traffic it brings lessen as people return home for the holidays to visit their relatives en masse. Fewer writers and experts, then, would likely be reporting on the story to highlight its importance beyond online schadenfreude. Accordingly, Rap Genius would likely have seen a natural, explainable dip in their metrics anyway, albeit nothing this dramatic. Were Rap Genius beholden to advertising like the bulk of lyrics websites, Google’s power move might have had a deeper impact.

It’s important not to trivialize what happened here as some “smackdown” or to take a narrow view of the story, especially when many might analyze it further are otherwise occupied with not strangling their family members with leftover tinsel. Since garnering a $15-million investment from Silicon Valley venture capitalists Andreessen Horowitz, a not insignificant amount of the media narrative surrounding Rap Genius has ranged from skepticism to full-on negativity, an image problem that its founders have fostered more often than not. From threatening to sexually assault a SPIN editor orally to posting absurd job listings on Craigslist and dressing outlandishly for interviews, the brain trust has not done itself any favors. In a sense, the bad behavior has become expected, tolerated, and in some circles accepted, particularly by the business press.

Clearly, someone believes in Rap Genius. The much-ballyhooed investment assuredly stems from more than investor Ben Horowitz‘s expressed love of hip-hop, which he reinforces with selected rap lyrics atop each post on his blog and in his upcoming contribution to the Business Self-Help bookshelf, The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Both he and partner Marc Andreessen maintain Rap Genius accounts, but rest assured they’re not wasting time annotating Soulja Boy lyrics. The duo evidently sees a profitable future in this self-described “knowledge project,” one far broader than any number of music genres. Yet as sites like BuzzFeed and Upworthy have proven this year, new business models are emerging, and the benchmarks of success have changed with them. It is in Rap Genius’ best interest to be a defining part of the new normal rather than another faddish dot-com footnote. As Wikipedia and the explosion of “wikis” have revealed, annotating the web has immense value even if a viable, sustainable monetization model has yet to emerge, and Rap Genius (ahem, the Genius Media Group) certainly desires to play a vital role in developing that model.

You already can see this taking shape on the site. Those familiar with Rock Genius, at present a catch-all for both indie and pop, likely haven’t traversed Poetry Genius, which despite its narrow moniker intends to encompass all things literary, from Auden poems to the references behind Breaking Bad episode titles. Though ostensibly a zone for breaking news, News Genius has turned into a repository for declassified State Department memos and political stump-speech transcripts, as well as messages from CEOs to their shareholders. Sub-branches are in the works for a variety of disparate fields, from fashion and sports to law and science. All either currently operate as Rap Genius subdomains or intend to once active, a strategic choice to expand the prominence of the larger domain. There’s even an enterprise model planned, which if implemented could change the way companies internally share documents and information much like wikis already. In light of all this, earnest arguments about the site’s cultural appropriation of hip-hop seem almost quaint. The Genius Media Group aspires to be something much grander, which a ubiquitous, seemingly omnipresent tech and information giant like Google no doubt recognizes. After all, Amazon used to be a place that just sold books.

For now, however, lyrics still remain the key gateway and, accordingly, the well-funded Rap Genius responds to credible threats with agility and trademark swagger. Back in November, when the National Music Publishers Association sent takedown notices to some 50 lyrics websites, it took only a few days for Rap Genius to announce that it had secured a licensing agreement with industry heavyweight Sony/ATV Music Publishing, with more such deals on the way. In doing so, the company helped insulate itself against the sort of litigation bound to do more damage to the current advertising-led business of posting song lyrics online than any temporary Google punishment. It’s an audacious strategy, running afoul of the respective industries that Rap Genius straddles until the site is directly challenged. But their apparent willingness to promptly play ball once challenged suggests a shrewd pragmatism not expected from a bunch of hip-hop-loving millennials.

That wrong-headed underestimation of Rap Genius allows it a tremendous leeway. Those who read beyond the “tl;dr” note at the top of the aforementioned open letter — one notably devoid of words like “apologize” or “sorry” — know that the founders used the opportunity to put a number of competing lyrics sites on blast, courtesy an infographic grid with wizard hats and smirking question marks. The founders singled out seven other sites, recognizable to just about anyone who’s searched for lyrics online, alleging more egregious violations of the Webmaster Guidelines, from excessive link exchanges to outright paying for links.

If anything, the defensive non-apology served as a volley back at Google, a public notice that singling out Rap Genius can have consequences in both directions. If sites like AZLyrics, Metrolyrics, and Sing365 are actively engaging in gaming Google in illicit ways, surely the search giant has an obligation to police those sites as well. Failure to do so will give Rap Genius an upper hand at some stage, at least from a PR standpoint, should this search suppression go on for too long. At present, there’s no clearly defined end date to Google’s search-results embargo, and it’s not unreasonable for the two companies to be seen as likely competitors in the annotation realm at some point in the near future.

Link schemes aside, with its record of permissible and enviable growth hacking and SEO, Rap Genius can survive a setback like this in ways the lyrics site status quo might not. A leveling of the playing field might just bury the competition, or weaken it to the point where an industry-compliant site could claim even greater market share. Turning a lump of coal into a diamond? Now that’s gangsta.

http://www.spin.com/articles/rap-genius-google-smackdown/?utm_source=spintwitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=spintwitter

Do This And Your Customers Will ALWAYS Be Happy


My Normal Fee is $500/hr. for Consulting

It doesn’t seem like this should be so difficult, but it is.

Mission statements are uplifting, the core directives that keep large corporations aimed at a wider good—perhaps the sole factor that lifts them above venal profit-grubbing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, only six mission statements of the Fortune 500 even refer to customer “expectations.”

Two of them immediately kill any thought that a high principle is at stake: BNSF Railway makes clear that its mission is only to “consistently meet customers’ expectations.” Hardly the stuff of inspirational soft-focus ads. ITT Industries is only interested in “exceed[ing] the reasonable expectations” of its customers—not all those pesky unreasonable ones.

That leaves Ecolab, Inc., Laidlaw Int’l, MetLife, Inc., and Owens-Illinois. Have any of those companies exceeded your expectations lately?

If you’re a business—anywhere from solo to Fortune 500—here is the shockingly simple truth:

If you exceed your customers’ expectations, you will keep them happy.

And here’s the shockingly simple corollary:

Your customers expect you to be self-interested and not give a shit.

Can you see how low the bar is?

There are a lot of specifics your customers expect, depending on your line of work. But the basic principle is the same: know what they expect and deliver more in some degree.

And the most basic way you can do that is to care about them. About them, not the revenue they bring in.

The businesses that learn how to treat customers as people and not profit centers are the ones that will (and deserve to) survive and prosper.

Every single customer walking through your door wishes you knew this. Everything else is commentary.

Written by

Lawyer with a Doctorate in Ethics. Mission: Make Sense of That. See also: http://startupright.org/.

 

Netflix Says It’s Testing New $6.99 Single Screen Streaming Plan, But It May Never Roll Out To Everyone


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Netflix has informed TechCrunch that it is indeed testing a $6.99 single-stream plan to new users as part of a test. The option appears to some new users after selecting the streaming option as a free trial.

Unfortunately for those of you excited for a dollar off discount on a standard definition stream, a Netflix spokesperson also told us that not all users may see the option and that it may never offer it generally.

The plan was first noted by Adweek this morning and we confirmed the plan as an option when we began signing up for the $7.99 streaming-only plan with a 30-day trial.

netflix-sd-plan-hed-2013

Offering a standard-def stream to one device might as well be called ‘the smartphone plan’, as that’s what it seems most suited to. Though many smartphone screens are above HD resolution, the smaller real-estate means that it can be difficult to discern a standard-def stream from a high-definition one.

Netflix analyzes a junk ton of data about user viewing habits including locations, devices and times of day that people view stuff. If that information was telling them that people view Netflix a lot on smartphones while traveling then a single stream in SD rather than HD might actually make a lot of sense for a certain subset of users. Of course, a buck off is a nice ‘sale price’ and if people get utility out of it they might feel inclined to expand the plan further down the road.

Image Credit: Taro the Shiba Inu/Flickr CC

http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/30/netflix-says-its-testing-new-6-99-single-screen-streaming-plan-but-it-may-never-roll-out-to-everyone/