Tag Archives: Motivation

What is Customer Experience and How Do You Deliver It?


Customer experience is everything your brand does for your customers, everything your business processes to do them and how it makes them feel. Customer experience design is the art and science of shaping experience for customers so they appreciate it, remember it, and share it with their friends.

The for part includes those services that make life easier for your customers—the smiles that leave them feeling better and the outcomes that leave them better off. When a business is designed to maximize service, customers receive value and feel good about the brands that serve them. The to part is when business processes make customers do things they don’t want to. It often includes filling out forms, standing in lines, waiting for call center representatives, and repeating themselves. When business processes dictate the customer’s experience, costs (measured in time, money, effort, and emotion) go up and satisfaction plummets.

Before you deliver a great experience, you have to learn what your customers want most, design the experience that delivers it best, and (here’s the hard part) adjust the way your company works on the inside so that your teams, processes, and technologies are capable of delivering on the next expectations.

The next posts in this LinkedIn exclusive series will make customer experience easier to understand and deliver in your own organization.

Please share your comments and help shape the content as we go!

Posted by:Mike Wittenstein

Online is the New Real World: Your Digital Reputation Precedes You


With the social web and proliferation of apps, smart phones and always on internet access, we are becoming a society of accidental narcissists. I don’t believe we set out to become self-obsessed and to be honest, it’s not all that bad. Today’s digital lifestyle made self-expression not only possible but also acceptable. Selfies! What once would have been frowned upon as anti-social and narcissistic is now a form of everyday self-expression. It’s the new emoticon in many ways.

Sharing our lives is easy and it’s rewarding as friends, family and followers react with Likes, shares, comments, et al. With each update we receive positive reinforcement and are heartened to share more. We now are at the center of our own universe and with each day that passes, we share more of our lives and encouragement pushes our behavior toward extroversion. The words privacy and publicity now take on entirely new meanings as we place on display the very thing our ancestors cherished as privileged. With each update, post, selfie, we share a bit of ourselves that in their own way contribute to a semblance of our digital persona.

This though, works for and against us…

The virtual world is more real than we realize.

Online, just like in the real world, actions and words speak loudly. Unlike real life though, your digital footprints are there for anyone to find on Google, social networks, and in communities. These disparate pieces are then assembled by employers, schools, friends, lovers, enemies, and anyone and everyone who wish to learn something more about you. Whether pure, sinister or simply inquisitive, whatever the reason, today these pieces construct a semblance of you and whomever sifts through your online legacy is left to their own surmise. This is too important to leave to chance. This is your life.

Online is the new real world.

In his new book, Repped, Andy Beal reminds us of something we should think about but rarely do. We should be more methodical about what we share and why. But online engagement is teaching us to think in the moment instead of anticipating how those moments collect and assemble into something we didn’t initially foresee. As Andy defines, repped is the result of conscious contributions that are intentionally additive.

He’s on to something here. And, if we each think deeply about it, we are indeed the masters of our own digital fate by choosing what we share and how we reward those whom guide us online. At the same time, we are also the beast of our own burden by sharing whimsically. By investing in positive reputation updates, whether for you or someone else, ratings rise. Relationships flourish. Trust builds. Thus, we enhance and shape an individual’s online profile to a more deserving standing. Again, it’s intentional.

If we do nothing and continue to post along our merry way, we become the victim of chance and circumstance. What others see and assume, the impressions that form, the opinions that arise, and the decisions they make as a result, are defined for us if we do not first define and reinforce what we want them to be.

Think about it this way. When you look in the mirror, you see a reflection of who you are right now. What if you could transform that reflection each day into someone you hoped to see staring back at you. With repped, we become architects of our desired reflection. If heedful, this digital reflection will ultimately work for us rather than against us. It’s more than how we see ourselves of course. It’s the broad strokes we paint in addition to the fine detail that we dab to paint a portrait that helps us now and in the future.

What separates reality from aspiration are your actions and words. You earn what you deserve.

It is what we share and how we build relationships that communicate who we are, not only to those whom we know, but also those whom we wish to know as well as those who are seeking to know more about us. It takes work yes. But then again so does anything that matters in life. Where everything begins though is what’s important. Most jump into online engagement without taking what is quite honestly the most important first step…connecting the threads of who you are, your aspirations, and who it is you want others to see.

Take a moment to answer this question…Why do you use social networks?

Is it to communicate your life to friends and followers?

Is it a form of self-expression?

Do you cast your actions to the proverbial audience to enchant or entertain them?

Take heart in what it is that moves you and those who follow you. Consider what it is they see as opposed to what you do online. You’ll find a great divide between what you say and the intentions behind them and what someone else hears or sees and takes away from each moment. Such is true in life of course, but here nothing really vanishes. Again, everything either works for or against you.

What is it that you value and how could that change with a bit of self-reflection?

I refer to today’s value system in social engagement as the 5 Vs. With each update, we seem look for something in return and each represent a shifting balance between what we treasure and what we think we treasure. The purpose of this exercise though is to contemplate the meaning of worth and in turn put stock in what it is we value and what it is that others will value…in the short and long term.

The 5Vs

1) Vision (I learn something, I’m inspired);
2) Validation (I’m accepted or justified);
3) Vindication (I’m right, cleared);
4) Vulnerability (I’m open); and
5) Vanity (Not egotism, but accidental narcissism. I’m important),

To earn or bestow increments of repped require intent and diligence. Nothing though begins without describing what it is you want people to know and see and how that tracks toward your personal and professional goals. The 5Vs require careful balance. Sometimes its best if you audit your online behavior to see which of the 5Vs were out of balance in the past. Doing so helps align your future engagement.

Some teenagers are aware of the “drama” that arises when their posts or pictures are taken out of context. In fact, they’re smart about covering their tracks. In some ways this is a divergent strategy from repped, but its example teaches us a lesson about the importance of building online reputations over time.

Rather than intentionally construct a desired presence, they simply remove traces of their communication after initial sharing. Some “whitewall” their networks by deleting everything after immediate engagement. Others “super log off” by deactivating their accounts when they’re not online. This behavior is what inspired the rise of an ephemeral web, one that automatically vanishes after a fixed amount of time. There’s a reason Snapchat and other apps and networks like it are wildly popular.

Snapchat and the ephemeral web represent an interesting evolution in social media in that it helps people “share without care” or better manage their digital footprint. The ephemeral nature of “now you see it, now you don’t” lets users be themselves, or sometimes encourages deviant behavior, without worry of future leverage against them. This comes at a time when colleges and employers, and everyone for that matter, are reviewing social networks as qualifying criteria for consideration. With ephemerality, the challenge for you and me though is the very thing that makes it so special and that’s the temporary nature of the moment.

Among accidental narcissists however, attention, popularity, and reactions are also catalysts for open sharing. As a result, Snapchat is experimenting with a hybrid of ephemeral messaging that adds a touch of permanence, such as its Stories product. There’s a sense of narrative that tells a story the way a user defines. But they still vanish in the end.

The ephemeral web is just one of two factions of the social web evolving today. The other movement underway is that of the anonymous web thanks in part to apps cum social networks Whisper and Secret.

When I first heard of Whisper, my initial reaction was wow, that’s interesting and potentially addictive. When I then heard about Secret, I felt similarly but then added the words dangerous and finite to the list. Whisper and Secret are representatives of the anonymous social web, which is a branch of the overall private social movement. Similar to its sister movement around the ephemeral web, these apps are promoting a behavior of sharing without establishing a link between identify and legacy.

Secret is interesting in that it connects friends and friends of friends. This makes the content relevant while sparking curiosity and conversations behind the scenes, online and the real world. Because it’s someone you know or could know, it adds a layer of intrigue to the mix. By including social validation engagement such as likes and comments, users are conditioned to continually share provocative thoughts, observations, and also secrets. It’s a promising mix that will keep secret public for the foreseeable future. However, I see it as more as disruptive novelty than I do as a long term stand alone app. It’s the anonymous movement that will outlast many early players. But that’s not the point. It’s how behavior changes in how we engage and share and the levers of identity we pull to align, or chose not to, our brand with the updates we we find interesting.

The people who define the social web are fickle and suffer from extreme cases of shiny object syndrome. But, anonymity can be healthy. Productive conversations can emerge beyond the juvenile antics of immature or mean people.

As founder of 4chan moot once said in a piece standing up for anonymity, “It’s incredible what people can make when they’re able to fail publicly without fear, since not only will those failures not be attributed to them, but they’ll be washed away by a waterfall of new content.” It was his follow-on comment that struck me however, making sense of the rise of social anonymity…

Anonymous or pseudonymous posting can relieve us of the burdens of social media, and the resulting narcissistic behavior.”

The psychological conditioning of users though is shaped by how communities inside and outside of the communities react. And Whisper’s approach is among the most promising for a long-term play. As I shared with USAToday, with Gawker vial traffic czar Neetzan Zimmerman joining Whisper, the anonymous network will morph into a hybrid gossip, confessional, and allegation media network. And with Zimmerman’s first piece making the rounds that claims actress Gwyneth Paltrow is cheating on her husband, Whisper is officially on its way to competing for media and consumer attention while paving the way for anonymous social networking and sharing.

By crowdsourcing interesting revelations and curating or editing them a la TMZ, BuzzFeed and Upworthy, we may see these networks around for the foreseeable future.

We now live three lives online; one that disappears, one that is secret, and one that sculpts our legacy.

This reminds me of a poignant observation once shared by novelist and philosopher Gabriel García Márquez, “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” With the likes of Facebook, SnapChat and Secret, the thoughts shared by Gabriel García Márquez is now a digital prophecy come to life.

Now’s the time to consider how you want to be appreciated. Now’s the time to consider the value of online engagement and come to terms with what you want to invest into and take out of your digital life and the digital lives of others.

An investment in your online persona will help you earn digital significance. Equally, investing in those who are important to you will also help you bestow significance unto others. The value you assign to engagement affects what you place and take out of this so-called digital life.

The value we take away must only be surpassed by what we invest. This is the foundation for your digital legacy and that of others.

This post is the unabridged foreword for Andy Beale’s Repped…published with approval.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top photo: Shutterstock

Hardware Needs To Be Harder To Hack


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News that Linksys and Belkin hardware was inherently insecure and could easily allow hackers to access your local network and control your gear.

First, there is “The Moon,” a piece of malware that can infect E1000, E1200 and E2400 routers from Linksys. The malware spreads itself from router to router and but doesn’t seem to do much except spread itself far and wide.

More frightening, however, is a hack that allows hackers to access their WeMo line of smart home devices. WeMo is a line of smart wall switches and controllers that let you sense motion and control lights and appliances remotely. Hackers have inject their own firmware into the device and access the switch, change settings, and even gain access to the local network. Security firm IOActive recommends “unplugging all affected devices from the WeMo products.”

As we approach a true “Internet of things,” these things we’re connected better be secure. As devices like health trackers and thermostats become a true personal sensor systems, the data they supply will be increasingly valuable and the services they preform are increasingly mission-critical. In-home hardware, for a long time, has been unconnected. Now it isn’t.

What needs to be done? In short, hardware manufacturers must harden their systems. The WeMo hack exist simply because Belkin got lazy. They allow attackers to digitally “sign” modified firmware, thus turning the WeMo into an attack vector. While it’s probably not scary if an average intruder tries turn your light on and off, the exploit is worth quite a bit to a determined hacker who wants access to your files. The same goes for our Fitbits, Basis bands, and Pebbles – the average user has nothing to worry about but getting the heart rate of a target in various situations could offer attackers a way to socially engineer an unsuspecting target. Add in remote control of health devices like pacemakers and you have something truly scary.

Hardware has long been too hard to hack. It was unconnected and the big manufacturers tended towards the creation of dumb protocols that, while secure, couldn’t do much. Now that we expect big things out of every gewgaw, we need to be ready that those things will be hackable and, more important, hacked.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/20/hardware-needs-to-be-harder-to-hack/

How 7 great web tools save me two hours a day


Time management. Everybody seems to have an opinion on the best ways to save hours per day and there have been some amazing books written on the subject over the years. In my experience, you need a combination of good quality processes backed up by great tools to help you really take advantage of most time saving schemes.

The problem with web tools, of course, is they can by themselves be a real time sink especially if (like me) you like to sign up for every beta under the sun. But if you pick the right tools for the job and use them in the right way you can get some remarkable results – even from products that are free or very low cost.

With that in mind, here are the web tools I use for great time management. These, used in combination with some simple rules and a small amount of control, help me to save around two hours every day.

Do I work less than most people thanks to these time savings? Definitely not – I fill the time saved with more work – but getting two hours of extra results per day feels pretty amazing and definitely helps when you’re busy launching new web tools of your own.

Without further ado, here are the web tools you need in your life, and the simple but effective processes that will help you use them properly.

Email Management

SaneBox – this genius web tool sorts your unimportant emails into folders that you can check one a day. Anything really in need of a reply stays in your inbox. In total, Sanebox saves me about six hours a week processing unimportant emails.

Unroll.me – another great time saver, this allows you to easily unsubscribe from all the newsletter/service emails you get and ‘roll up’ the ones you really want to receive into a single email. I then have this summary email sent to me at the end of the day to check through for anything of importance.

AwayFind – One of the best things you can do to save time is switch off your email notifications. How do you know when something important arrives if you’re not being a slave to the flashing light on your smartphone? Use AwayFind.

This superb web tool will alert you when a really important message comes through. It can SMS, call (and read aloud the email) or DM you on Twitter. It will even inform you of emails from people you have calendar meetings with (I never miss it when someone emails me ahead of a meeting thanks to AwayFind, so I’m always prepared). It also provides auto-responders and a ‘nuclear option’ contact form so people can get you in a hurry.

Once you’ve used those three solutions in concert with your email, you can now ignore your email inbox for most of the day and only look at it three times; morning, lunchtime, evening. Combined, and with the tangent-generating constant email checking at bay, these web tools alone will save you hours per day.

Now, how do I manage my social networks in 20 minutes a day? I’m not talking about managing just one account either; I look after six accounts across all major social networks. Let’s take a look…

Social Networks

Feedly  — this RSS reader allows me to catch up on the important articles I care about from the news sources that matter to me, and provides a central platform for reading and sharing them to my social networks. Once I have my chosen stories and articles to share, I set them up in a scheduling solution to share content throughout my waking hours.

Notice that I said ‘waking hours’ there. You still need to be around to engage with people who re-share the content or to answer questions, so don’t set your scheduling solutions up to post to social networks when you’re asleep — that’s not very social!

I use Buffer and Minideck. Minideck is still in beta so you need to tweet them to get access, but it is simpler and better than Buffer in many respects as it schedules tweets based on when your followers are likely to read it, just like Timely did before it was canned.

Why do I use Buffer as well as Minideck? Minideck works well for Twitter accounts, but Buffer also allows me to schedule posts to Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ too.

Because Minideck chooses the best times to send out tweets, I use that information to personalise my Buffer settings to send content at good times. In this way, Minideck is helping me reach as many people as possible with the great articles I like to share.

Now for the Time Management

Do this one thing; single-task.

Focus on one thing at a time. Don’t multi-task; it doesn‘t work.

Do the biggest, most important thing straight away in the morning (not the most urgent task – make sure you learn the difference between urgent and important to get the biggest time management bang for your buck).

In summary, check your email just three times per day and leave the SaneBox folders and Unroll.me roll-up email until the end of the day. Check your social network mentions and interactions between each task and you won’t miss anything that needs your attention, plus you‘ll be able to reply in about two minutes before moving on to the next task.

And when it comes to mundane tasks that need doing but you really don’t have a lot of time for, outsource them.

Here’s your seventh solution; I use the amazing Fancy Hands web tool (and smartphone app) to pass time-consuming, necessary but dull tasks like hotel bookings to a real assistant. It costs me a small amount per month to employ the Fancy Hands team but saves me a fortune in real terms.

There really is nothing more to time management than that in my eyes, and the two hours a day these processes and web tools save me is testament to how well they work…

Photo Credit: Johnboymg

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Don’t Blame the Tech…


February 20, 2014

In writing the opening to my article last week, I posed the question of whether Edward Snowden was a traitor or a hero.

I asked that question to demonstrate that technology itself is value neutral. A tool. What we do with it — and how we respond to what’s been done with it — depends on our views and values, our own history that fuels our own opinions.

Frankly, while the debate on Snowden’s fate is interesting and related, my point was not political, as many of the comments skewed. But, fair enough, this is clearly an important issue and a legitimate, passionate divide.

The issue remains, however, that we confuse technology not only with who is using it, but how it’s applied. In fact, we bundle technology with all that surrounds it and call everything technology. So, when Amazon couldn’t deliver packages to last-minute Christmas shoppers, it felt like and was reported as a technological fail, when in fact, the basics of shipping have been around since Sears started its mail-order catalog in the 1800s, and probably way before.

The NSA failed, too. So focused on their own data capture, it shockingly never occurred to them that someone could do to them what they were doing to others, collecting the data. And so a cheap, off-the-shelf piece of software brought the NSA to its knees.

But that, too, is not a failure of technology. It’s a lack of human touch. Even worse, a deficit of human vision. Someone didn’t think it through.

So, given that the Internet was designed with the precise intent of information sharing, it seems to me that we are scarily abdicating responsibility when we allow algorithms to make the tough judgment — and moral — calls.

Technology can make life easier. It can help us make sense of massive amounts of information. It can organize, sort and order. It can bring people together as never before. But the flip side holds true, too. Technology can complicate lives if process becomes a substitute for thoughtful decisions. It can distort information if it isn’t filtered intelligently. And, as we’ve seen, it sure can divide people as never before.

All of which means that technology is better, wiser, more effective when we believe its power is mechanical more than magical. Algorithmic, but not analytic.

Technology makes us better, but in every case we make the technology better. And if we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that people still matter most — for good or for bad.

So, to those who continue to debate Snowden’s fate, I leave it to you…hero or zero, either way only you will make the decision and not a passionless algorithm.

Posted by:David Sable

Attractive teen girl using a mobile phone while driving

Tech Tools for Safe and Confident Teen Drivers


It’s natural for parents to worry for their teens’ safety behind the wheel. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for children ages 16-19. Topping the list is vehicular accidents.

Tech-savvy teens and parents have an advantage. There are numerous tools that they can use to make their driving experience less stressful and much safer. In every stage of driving, there is a resource to help teens become excellent drivers. These tech tools give teens the confidence they need while giving their parents peace of mind.

Driving-Tests.org

Passing the driving test is not the first step to getting on the road. The first step is preparation. Teens need help preparing for the test and for their first time out on the road. Driving-Test.org is a site that helps them get ready for their driving test. The company claims that it’s even better than the DMV handbook for preparing teens to take their driving test. Because they base their practice tests on the DMV manual, it really lives up to this claim. The site provides sample DMV driving practice tests that can be taken as many times as needed. They also have an app available called DMV Genius on the Apple store. The best part of all is that the site and the app are free.

SafeCell App

Most people know that texting and driving don’t mix. Texting contributes to a large portion of teen car accidents. The SafeCell app gives teens local knowledge of traffic laws and offers an incentive for teens to drive safely, and can be downloaded from the Apple store for $11.99. The app automatically reminds drivers of the local cellphone driving laws by using the GPS system in smartphones. Also, safe drivers are rewarded with gift cards from popular stores.

Faces of Distracted Driving

Many teens hold the false belief that an accident could never happen to them. Attentive driving can greatly reduce their chance of getting into an accident. The US Department of Transportation has posted a series of videos that gives teens and their parents different case studies of situations in which the driver was distracted. Some of the stories are true, while others are fictional representations, but they all drive home the point that distracted driving is dangerous.

Driver Feedback

Parents may observe that their teen is an attentive driver, but what about when their parents are not around? Do they still follow laws, obey the speed limit, and drive defensively? State Farm has created an invaluable tool for parents to see if their teen is a safe driver when no one is looking. Driver Feedback tracks the teen’s driving performance and alerts parents when and where unsafe driving occurs. There is also a tracking system that shows how the teen has improved over a period of time.

Billie BatesRetired Psychologist, Grandma, Water Aerobics Fanatic

Why Facebook Dropped $19B On WhatsApp: Reach Into Europe, Emerging Markets


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With 450 million monthly users and a million more signing up each day, WhatsApp was just too far ahead in the international mobile messaging race for Facebook to catch up, as you can see in the chart above we made last year. Facebook either had to surrender the linchpin to mobile social networking abroad, or pony up and acquire WhatsApp before it got any bigger. It chose the latter.

Facebook recently said on its earnings call a few weeks ago that its November relaunch of Messenger led to a 70% increase in usage, with many more messages being sent. But much of that was likely in the United States and Canada where the standalone messaging app war is still to be won.

Internationally, Facebook was late to the Messenger party. It didn’t launch until 2011 after Facebook bought Beluga, and at the time it was centered around group messaging where SMS was especially weak.

WhatsApp launched in 2009 with the right focus on a lean, clean, and fast mobile messaging app. And while the international messaging market is incredibly fragmented, it was able to gain a major presence where Messenger didn’t as you can see in this chart above that we made about a year ago.

Unlike PC-based social networking, there is no outstanding market leader in mobile messaging. Still, WhatsApp absolutely dominates in markets outside of the U.S. like Europe and India. It’s also impossible for Facebook to acquire certain other Asian competitors like WeChat, which is the one hope of Chinese mega-giant Tencent to have a global consumer product.

So it’s clear that WhatsApp had strategic interest to Facebook, and we know that the two talked from time to time.

The map above is from a little more than a year ago. We made that map using data from Onavo, another Israeli-based company that Facebook acquired for — ahem — competitive intelligence. Because Facebook scooped up Onavo for more than $100 million in October, we don’t have access to active usage data anymore. The only thing outsiders can see are app store rankings, which imply download rates and not current usage.

So what happened in the last year? WhatsApp looks to have pulled so far ahead of Facebook in developing markets that there was no way to catch up. As Mark Zuckerberg said in a post today that the app was on its way to reaching 1 billion users.

We’ve heard Facebook has been interested in buying WhatsApp for two to three years. But over the past year, it became clear that Facebook couldn’t afford not to pay whatever it would take to get WhatsApp on its team.

So the answer to Facebook’s problem ended up being $19 billion.

Apparently, that’s what it took to take Jan Koum and his backers at Sequoia Capital (the fund that Zuck originally spited) out of the market. If it waited any longer, that number probably would have just gotten bigger.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/19/facebook-whatsapp/

Stolen Target Credit Cards & the Black Market


Originally posted to the State of Security.

With the Target data breach, many are wondering how criminals can profit from the use of the stolen credit cards. The card holders themselves will not be responsible for any of the charges, so how is it that criminals are able to make money from stolen credit cards?

I have been involved with several cases where organized crime rings have been unveiled, many of these have had connections to Russian and Eastern European groups. These groups generate a significant profit through stolen property acquired through burglaries, shoplifting, identity theft, credit card skimming and carding. Many underestimate the complexity of some of these networks and the revenue they generate.

The United States is a mecca for carders, simply because of the fact we are one of the last countries to rely on magnetic strip credit cards that are easily cloned and lack the security of newer chip and pin. The reason the U.S. is still using the technology from the 1960′s is a topic for another blog post altogether.

Buying Stolen Credit Cards Online

First the card numbers are sold to brokers who acquire the stolen card numbers in bulk. These are then sold to carders. The price for valid credit cards can be as high as $100 per card depending on the amount of information available with the card, type of card and known limits of the card. Many of these sites offer guarantees on the validity of the cards and will provide a valid replacement if it is blocked. Now that is customer service.

Valid stolen credit cards for sale in the “deep web”

The Credit to Gift Card Shell Game — Find the Fraud!

One lucrative method of “carding” involves a shell game, where stolen credit cards are used to charge pre-paid cards. These cards are then used to purchase store specific gift cards, such as from Amazon for example.

How stolen cards are turned into cash quickly

Shopping & Reshipping

The carder then uses that gift card to purchase high value goods, usually electronics such as cell phones, computers and game consoles. This process makes it difficult for companies to trace. By the time it is figured out and the cards blocked the criminal is in possession of the purchased goods.

Gift cards transformed to cash, utilizing reshipping schemes it is tough to trace

These packages are usually then shipped via a re-shipping scam. Unsuspecting individuals are recruited as Mules (re-shippers) usually through legitimate channels such as Craigslist job listings promising “easy work-from-home jobs” and usually in the United States as it raises fewer red flags.

The re-shipper then assembles multiple packages and ships them usually outside the country, or directly to someone who purchases the goods from an auction site the fraudster has posted the goods to.

Reselling Goods for Profit

The carder may then sell the electronics through legitimate channels such as through eBay, or to avoid risk can sell the goods through a hidden underground “deep web” site. Most people know the “deep web” from the Silk Road, which was recently shut down by the FBI, reappeared and then vanished again.

The Silk Road was a marketplace for illegal products such as drugs online. However the Silk Road had somewhat of a code of ethics, as certain products were restricted from sale such as pornography, weapons, personal data (stolen credit cards, passwords etc), poisons, or weapons.

There are many hidden services available that do not have such scruples. There are numerous places on the deep web that sell stolen credit cards and goods acquired through carding.

On these hidden illegal websites the goods are usually sold at deep discounts on the black market, usually around 50% of retail and reshipped or sent to a secure drop (vacant house etc) a purchaser has setup for this purpose.

Right now the entire carding underground is busy, as banks scramble to monitor fraudulent activity on the stolen Target cards, the carders need to stay a step ahead and move quickly. Much of the credit card charges have already been made and thieves have already cashed out.

This process of detecting fraud by the banks is furthered hampered simply because of the holiday season and the high volume of transactions that are occurring. It is going to be tough time for fraud analysts this holiday season.

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Why I Quit CrossFit


On my very first day of CrossFit, I threw up. It happened my second day, too. And the third. And pretty much all of the first month. The combination of too many push-ups along with too much running and too many exercises I’d never heard of before turned out to be a pretty terrible recipe for my system. I’m fairly sure that if I had seen a doctor during that first month, we would have had a Very Special Talk about eating disorders. Normally when I’m dealing with so much unpleasantness, I do what most people do: give up. But somehow I decided to trudge on.

For the next three years, I squatted, pulled, pushed, deadlifted, and rowed more than I ever thought I was capable of. There were times it made me feel invincible. There were times it made me feel like a bag of marshmallows. Throughout the highs and the lows, though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was an imposter. I truly believed that CrossFit was only for the people with that messed-up gene that makes them go for a run before their own wedding or do squats during their lunch break. I was right.

The floor became my best friend.

Before all that, in April 2009, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Up until that point, I was a fairly healthy dude. I was the captain of my lacrosse team in high school. I successfully lost thirty-five pounds postcollege thanks to a dedicated plan that involved an elliptical, a portable DVD player, and The Wire. I cared about what I ate and tried not to tip the scale past the two-hundred mark. With my diagnosis, though, I was told I couldn’t lose any weight. I started to enjoy my now-legal pot prescription and the doughnuts it led me to devour. After several failed attempts to exercise during chemotherapy, I decided that I got a free pass to be as lazy as I wanted to, and, after three rounds of the terrible stuff, I was exactly what you’d probably expect: a bloated, hairless blob of a man with the endurance of a slug.

I didn’t seek out CrossFit. After chemo ended, I moved to a new neighborhood to escape the memory of my illness. I was still operating on a pretty lazy schedule, but I wanted to feel strong again, so I joined the gym closest to my house. It happened to offer CrossFit. While some people may favor easing themselves into and out of things, I prefer to go to the extreme and throw myself in the deep end on a regular basis. After that first lunch-losing experience at the gym, I found out just how deep this whole CrossFit pool was going to be.

CrossFit was unlike any workout I had ever done before. It throws out the traditional-health-club model of machines and isolated exercises and replaces them with a whole-body approach rooted in the real world. Calisthenics, Olympic lifting, and gymnastics combine to form a workout that emphasizes ten basic physical skills: cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, flexibility, stamina, strength, speed, coordination, power, accuracy, balance, and agility. Every day, a new workout (called the Workout of the Day, or WOD) is written on a whiteboard, and everyone in a class completes the same workout no matter what fitness level they’re at.

You won’t find anybody doing calf raises or exercise-ball sit-ups in a CrossFit gym (or “box,” as CrossFitters prefer to call it). Instead, there’s an open room with barbells, medicine balls, rowing machines, pull-up racks, and jump ropes. Compared to the formal atmosphere of most gyms, CrossFit boxes seem downright primal. That’s by design. Your typical CrossFitter wants to zap his fitness tank down to zero by the end of a workout. He’s not content to be just sweaty — he wants to collapse into a heap on the floor. The owners of my former gym comprised the perfect profile of who you’ll encounter at CrossFit: a former professional snowboarder looking for a bigger challenge, a college gymnast trying to maintain his strength, and a female Olympic judo star (well, an alternate) who’s been training her entire life.

There’s a lot of bravado in CrossFit, and that’s part of the appeal for lifelong athletes who can’t stand the idea of spending an hour on the treadmill. Firefighters, police, and military personnel especially love the program because it’s all based on functional movement, i.e., the same types of actions they encounter every day in their jobs. In my early days of CrossFit, I used to try to trick myself into thinking I was a firefighter to get through workouts. Then I realized that was stupid.

The first year was exhilarating. I went from that pukey weak guy with no hair to the huffing and puffing mess who kept coming back. The acclimation period is all about accomplishment. You keep beating personal records in workouts; you’re able to lift more and faster than ever before. You graduate from requiring rubber-band assistance during pull-ups to being able to do a whole set of them on your own without stopping. I began bragging about my lifting numbers, and quickly amped up the frequency of my visits from three to four, then five days per week. Without even realizing it, I became that evangelizing asshole who makes people think that CrossFit is a cult.

It’s not exactly a cult, but there’s definitely an “us versus them” mentality. I remember walking by traditional gyms and laughing at the morons doing bicep curls. I remember hearing people talk about going on runs and thinking how decimated they’d be if they had to do thrusters (a gnarly exercise in which squats are combined with barbell push-presses in one fluid motion) after every half mile. CrossFit felt small and inclusive and fun. The trainers (or “coaches,” as they say on the inside) at the gym I joined eventually branched out and opened their own box. As one of the original members of the new place, I felt some of that ownership too. I was a part of a group and we all pushed each other to work harder and faster and better. We had parties and shared inside jokes about different workouts, and I wondered how I had ever existed before this life-changing program came into my life. Then my knee started to hurt.

407 pounds is too many pounds.

Apparently, repeatedly lifting over four hundred pounds isn’t exactly good for you. My second year in CrossFit was my first as an injured CrossFitter. It was something I had seen a lot in the gym, injury; I’d never really acknowledged just how often it was happening. When I say that everyone gets hurt doing CrossFit, I mean it. Not everyone gets injured to the point where he has to get knee surgery, but I did. I also developed a chronic shoulder injury that to this day, eight months after my last CrossFit workout, is still a constant reminder that maybe a human like me shouldn’t do thirty pull-ups in a row. The messed-up part is that injuries in CrossFit are seen as badges of honor, the price of getting righteously ripped, bro. They’re the penalty for not executing movements with perfect form, but I’ve come to believe that having perfect form 100 percent of the time is literally impossible. I’ve probably done hundreds of workouts and let me tell you, not one of them was ever done with completely perfect form.

If you ask a CrossFit coach, the injuries were all my fault. In a culture that drives you to go as hard and fast as possible, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the hype. You’re supposed to push yourself to the limit, but when you hit the limit and pay the price, you’re the idiot who went too far. That double-standard combination of “no guts, no glory” and “know your boundaries” is pretty much why everyone I’ve ever known to do CrossFit will tell you about their best Fran time in the same breath as describing their worst CrossFit injury.

My injury was just the beginning of my CrossFit downfall. The more tangible factor was the program’s popularity. When I joined in 2009, there were only a handful of gyms in Los Angeles. Four years later, the number is closer to fifty official affiliates in the city. According to a recent article, CrossFit has grown from one gym in Santa Cruz, California, in 1995 to a list that may soon top ten thousand gyms, spanning every continent except Antarctica.

In 2011, The Sport of FitnessTM blew up. Reebok made an investment in CrossFit that resulted in the top prize for the CrossFit Games (the sport’s Olympics) ballooning from twenty thousand dollars to a quarter of a million dollars. All of a sudden, the Games were being broadcast by ESPN and Reebok’s CrossFit commercials were shown on national television during the NFL Playoffs. With new members flooding in every day, the gym I’d helped build started to feel foreign to me. Classes went from having ten people to thirty. Workouts took more time because the space no longer had enough equipment to support all these new CrossFitters, so we had to share everything. Instead of feeling like a small community, it felt like a fad. I had gotten in near the ground floor; now the elevator was shooting toward the ceiling and I wanted to get off.

It wasn’t just the new popularity that turned me off. I had started traveling a lot more for work, and every time I left and came back, it seemed like I was starting from zero. My strength remained, but missing just three days in a row would make me wonder if my endurance was totally gone. That would have been fine in the beginning of my CrossFit adventure, but when you’ve put three years into something, it’s truly demoralizing to feel like you can’t keep up.

I scaled back my Monday-through-Friday schedule to four days a week, then three, then just when I felt like it. I was going less often than I had when I was still recovering from chemo. I lied every time somebody asked me how CrossFit was going. “Really great!” I would say, and then I’d try to remember the last time I actually worked out.

At the same time, my gym continued to transform. As CrossFit’s popularity grew, so did the need for each individual gym to establish itself as a major player. That entailed putting more athletes in the CrossFit Games and, incidentally, not caring as much about the guy who probably never really belonged there in the first place.

After I quit, I didn’t do anything for months. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let my postchemo self down. I didn’t think I could ever work out hard enough to match the results I used to get from CrossFit, so I figured it was better just to do nothing. Slowly but surely I made my way back to the weight I had reached before I started CrossFit. I saw myself as the same blob, but now with a full head of hair and no excuse for why I looked like I had been artificially inflated.

Last week, I started to work out again, at home. After ten minutes, I threw up. Looks like I’m going to be just fine on my own.

Further Reading

CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret

 — Everyone has an uncle they’d rather you not meet. Please allow me to introduce you to Uncle Rhabdo, CrossFit’s unofficial and disturbing …

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The Future Role of Digital Media and Technology in Retail


 

Digital is fusing into our daily lives more and more. The concept of digital will soon disappear in a future where we reminisce about the good old days of offline and online.

This fusion is already underway. The mobile evolution continues to provide increasing interaction with richer digital content. While enabling technologies like NFC let us to go one-step further and interact with real word objects. These new interactions are fueling not just a mobile, but also a digital revolution.

As this fusion matures our social profiles will become our passport to interact with the world, with digital media providing the destination for new experiences. Increasingly these experiences will become richer, personal and more captivating through our social identity data: explicit (what I say about myself), behavioral (what I do, my activities) and relationship (who I am connected to and what those connections say about me).

Pioneering this change is the retail experience. While we fantasize about “Minority Report” style high street shopping, the reality is not as futuristic as you might think. Retail is essentially “distribution” plus “experience”. And the role of digital is transforming this experience in key areas.

  • Awareness: Today’s shoppers have an abundance of information, price transparency, location-based deals and special offers literally in the palm of their hands. Countless apps, services and mechanics fight to deliver relevant retail based information. Point of Sale: This is fertile ground today. After a few false starts we are poised to see great developments in the retail space. Shoppers today, and in the future, simply expect more. And the role of digital media and technology in retail is to provide this. The goal is not to dominate the retail experience with technology for technologies sake. But to complement and enable a great retail experience that is tightly coupled with the shopper’s social needs.
  • Purchase: NCF mobile payments expect to hit $670bn in the next 2 years. While this seems like an “adventurous” statement, there is no denying the mobile wallet will have a profound effect on retail in the near future. Again, the social profile will enable a rich retail experience relevant and useful to the shopper. The smart retailers will be first to connect these dots, understand and even more importantly make use of the resulting data.

Digital will continue to present new retail interactions and experiences for the shopper of the future. The question retailers should be asking now is how can they satisfy the unmet social needs of customers in the retail environment. This is the making of a social retail strategy. Something every serious retailer must consider moving forward.

Posted by:Gavin P.