Archive for the ‘observations’ Category
Last weekend, my computer caught a virus. Thanks to some Gateway computer features and the Cloud, it survived quite handily, back up and running with just about everything in place in less than 24 hours. This is how it all went down so you can learn from my experiences and perhaps protect your computer and avoid a disaster. Let’s start at the beginning…
My computer caught a virus
It was a mean one. It pretended to be a Windows anti-virus that dubbed all programs on my computer as “infected” and “unsafe,” preventing me from running any of them. This includes Firefox and my own anti-virus. Once my computer was held hostage, it asked me to scan my computer using this program, whereby from past experience I knew it would say that my computer was hideously compromised and the only way to fix it would be to hand over my credit card information to this fake Windows anti-virus.
I had encountered this virus before, or at least ones like it. Once on a friends computer and a second time on another computer of mine (used only for video watching). In both cases the OS had to be wiped. Unfortunately, this time, the computer was my work computer and main personal computer.
Knowing what I was up against, I immediately transferred my files over to my little netbook. Luckily I don’t have much saved on my computer. Just work documents. No photos, no videos, no music.
If I don’t save my photos, videos, and music on my computer, how do I survive? Obviously I have tons of photos – I am on Facebook. I listen to music – I am a young adult and I do fit some stereotypes. I love watching videos – again, I’m a young adult.
So why aren’t they on my computer?
Look to the clouds.
I host my photos on Facebook. It is the largest photo-sharing website, after all. Actually, most of my photos are shared in my Friends’ profiles. I don’t take many myself.
My music? Saved on Spotify. I love Spotify. I am not a paying member, mostly because I haven’t gotten around to it. But I will. Just wait.
Videos? Do I own DVDs? Not really. I watch movies and TV series on Netflix and Hulu. What DVDs I own are a historic artifact from when you couldn’t get anime without ordering online. Now I just go to Netflix and their ample Japanese animation library.
So when my computer got ill, I at least wasn’t loosing anything. It took me about an hour to transfer all files I couldn’t afford to lose to my netbook using a simple 250MB thumb drive that my father got for free years ago at a conference.
Okay, Gateway gets some credit
I don’t have a Windows 7 OS CD. Luckily, however, Gateway has a simple Factory Defaults setting that resets the entire computer to out-of-the-box newness. I just needed to start that and bam! I had a brand new old computer. It’s only a year old, but I didn’t want to buy a new one yet. This was perfect, and, really, it’s what saved my computer.
Once the computer had its amnesia, it forgot all about that virus. No more virus, no more danger. Unfortunately, it also forgot all the programs I had loaded on it over time. But no worries. I hadn’t paid for any of them.
I use Tweetdeck for Twitter, and that’s free. Skype for phone calls with family, and that’s free. I’ve already mentioned Spotify for music, and yes, that’s free, too. I use Chrome and Firefox to surf the net, free and free. I just spent a morning working off my netbook while I downloaded my main computer redownloaded all my favorite programs. Rather simple, actually.
But I don’t ever want this to happen again, to you either
In all, I discovered that my computer had a virus at about 10:30 pm last Sunday and had my computer back up and running with all integral programs by 11:am the next day. I haven’t moved all my files back, but that’s just me being lazy. I have rediscovered my netbook and just like using it more so the urgency to move the files has worn off.
That said, I don’t want this to happen again, so I’m going to do as my father has suggested: start using Virtual Box to surf the net. It’s from Oracle and it is free (like everything else I use, apparently). Basically, it runs a partitioned second OS on your computer that you can use to surf the net. If you download cookies and viruses during your surfing, you can just delete that partition without affecting the rest of your machine. It’s like having a disposable computer within your computer. Neat, huh?
Privacy is a big concern, particularly on Facebook. And for absolutely good reason, too. After all, I’m sure we all have those ex-friends we not only never want to see again, but would like to never see us again, too. Keeping who you want close, close and who you want far away as far away as possible is only natural.
That includes companies. These days there is a barter system going on with our private information. We like a brand’s page and allow them to see our demographics in exchange for potentially fun posts and, even better, free stuff. Sounds like a deal, as long as I’m the one who gets to okay it. This same barter is seen on Amazon, where the site learns what you like and makes, sometimes very astute, recommendations. But only when you’re signed in.
But, what about those cases when you’re not signed in. When you didn’t sign up for something and they’ve scraped your data from your Facebook profile? You didn’t sign up for it. I didn’t sign up for it. How can we avoid this danger?
But, is there really a privacy threat?
I mean, no doubt Facebook has privacy issues. Otherwise people wouldn’t be complaining left and right. I do not doubt this, and will not argue against it.
But I will point out that it’s incredibly difficult to get at your public data on Facebook by using the legal Open Graph API. I know because I tried to access my own public data and that of my friends through that API while not signed in. Here’s what I found:
Then just type in https://graph.facebook.com/ followed by that number into your browsers URL bar and – tadaa! You can see what is available publicly about you.
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t care if people know I’m female, speak American English, and thus assume I’m an American female. As far as my name goes, I use a pseudonym online, so have fun!
Notice that even if my privacy settings were to make everything public, they still wouldn’t show up with this public Open Graph API search. That’s because Facebook doesn’t use the word public here the same way that we do. The information displayed above is “public information.” But in order to get at the information I’ve shared with the world on my Facebook Profile, any application developer needs an “access token.”
To get an access token, Facebook’s developer website explains that an app must go through three stages: user authentication, app authorization, app authentication. User authentication is just verifying that the user is who he says he is, same for app authentication. App authorization, however, is that bit where we’re asked to allow the app access to various bits of our data.
“Public” does not mean “public”
Let’s back up a second. “Public” in the eyes of Facebook app developers is basic demographic information. “Public” in the eyes of you, me, and most consumers is the stuff we set as available for strangers to see on our profiles. Companies and other systematic organizations cannot even see what we allow complete and total strangers to see. At least through this API.
I’m actually a bit reassured by that.
Of course, I’m sure there are work-arounds, particularly for the less than legal. However, at least when it comes to companies trying to spy into my life using the Open Graph API, I can rest assured that it’s a bit more complicated than just searching my name with this tool and that if they want to legally pry into my life, I have to give them permission.
*Note: I am not a Privacy Expert. I just tweedled around with the Open Graph API and this is what I found. As I said, I’m sure that there are other ways to spy on us. I just don’t think this is one of them. So you should always set your privacy settings as high as possible!
I haven’t blogged for a while. Just today I decided to check by my blog, out of curiosity, to see how my blog has been faring in my absence. I was honestly quite afraid to see what was waiting for me. Would my followers have dropped to zero? Was my blog a ghost town that no one visited?
Instead of fear, I should have had faith. Faith in my content! I haven’t posted anything new since August 31st, and yet my blog traffic is not really down that much. I had expected much lower, honestly, more like less than a hundred. I also am getting referred to by links on sites such as Ask.com and by other bloggers. These were not really big sources of traffic for me before my hiatus. Not only that, but I have 3 new blog followers – Welcome!
There is only one explanation for this – my content must be good enough to anchor my blog while I was off handling life’s little insanities.
See, in the past three months or so I have graduated from my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, gotten my first full time job, moved back to the good ol’ US of A, found an apartment in New York City, and begun to start my new life in this town. Honestly, that didn’t leave a lot of room for blogging. A shame, though, because I do like sharing my thoughts and opinions on digital marketing, the technology world, and advertising.
And apparently people like to read them. In my absence, the top blog posts have been on advertising (The Economist in the Tube, MacDonald’s + Pickpockets = My Favorite Tube Ad), Digital Marketing (The Cartoon Icon & Logo Twitter Debate), and social media (How to Disconnect with Someone on LinkedIn, LinkedIn Amazon Reading List Tips), to name a few. There was also one of my oldest posts, and a consistent crowd pleaser, Where do you wear your name tag?
All of this makes me wonder: What would my traffic, links, and follower statistics look like by now if I hadn’t gone on hiatus? More-over, you, who have started to follow me, who have linked to my content, and who are visiting my bog now, don’t you want to see something new once in a while?
I don’t get paid to blog, but I do enjoy it. Knowing that others are watching is perhaps the greatest incentive of all to start blogging again. So here’s my promise to you: I will try to post at least once a week. I might fail sometimes, you might get more posts some weeks, but that’s my goal. I’ll also endeavor to write something interesting and not just space filler, but that should be a given.
A little over a week ago, I reached an event horizon. I graduated from graduate school. I am now the proud holder of a Masters in Digital Marketing. While this is a happy event – I certainly worked my tush off to achieve it – it does mean that a large phase of my life has ended. I am now off to the Big Apple to start a career in Digital Marketing Research.
Before this next phase starts, I want to take a look at the top 3 lessons I’ve learned in getting here.
The best things have happened when I jumped right into them, eyes wide open and praying that I landed on my feet. Though, I might not have always landed where I thought I would, I always landed running.
That’s how I wound up with a degree in Digital Marketing and not, say, an International Business or MBA degree. And I’m happier for it. I’m digital, and I like it that way.
I first signed up for the Masters in International Business program, actually. Hult hadn’t announced the Digital Marketing program when I first signed up. When I saw it on their home page, I’m not even sure I read the course description all the way through before I called up my recruiter and asked to be bumped over into the other program. I jumped right into it, and if I hadn’t I’d never have gotten my new job in New York.
I’m actually a natural home body. I den like a bear. But if I did that all the time, I’d never have gotten to where I am today. In high school I joined some clubs, but mostly because it was a requirement for the scholastic program I was in. When I reached college I continued with the habit. It became something more than just a check-box; it became an integral part to my life.
Through my very first anime club in college, the Otaku Club, I learned to access the social networks around me. Introductions let to introductions until, eventually, I became the PR Director for a 14,000 attendee, fan-run pop-culture convention, the Phoenix Comicon. (The Con is still going strong today, though I’ve moved away. If you’re in Phoenix in May, check it out!)
Joining groups and clubs and then finding new groups and social networks through them has colored how I do my work and opened doors all over the world for me. This is why I’m starting up a #themeet140 in New York, once I get my feet under me again. I attended these lovely meetups in London and met some great friends. Meetups and clubs are definitely an important lesson.
It is hard to care consistently. People will ask for things at the oddest hours of the day. They will ask stupid questions. And they won’t always be people you actually like. And yet, you have to care.
I’m a busy person. That’s why this blog doesn’t always get updated consistently. But the person asking me a favor, needing an ear to tell her woes to, or simply having a tough time getting a task done and needs a bit more time… That person isn’t interested in how busy I am. This is when it’s hardest to care.
And yet, I think the key to success, the key to me getting to where I am, is caring when it’s hard. Caring about doing a good job when all I really want is to get out of the office and have dinner, or caring about my roommates when all I really want to do is sleep. That’s when caring is the most important. And that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.
Jump, Socialize, Care
These three lessons are simple yet hard learned. I’m sure I’m not the only one to come up with them. Whole books are written on life-lessons, after all. Just check out your the self-help section of your local book-monger’s. But this is my take on them. What’s yours?
I’ve touched on this in the past, but I do love a good outdoor ad, particularly the ads in the London Tube. Okay, some of them aren’t so hot, but occasionally I find one that I think has done a good job. And most recently, it’s this one.
When I highlighted the “Beware of Pick-Packets” McDonald’s ad, I focused on how important it is for an ad to be aware of its surroundings and use them. In the McDonald’s case this meant referring to a common reference that viewers would know. The Economist is also referring to outside events that make it relevant to viewers, but in a less localized fashion. Plus it isn’t funny.
But that isn’t my only criteria for a good Tube ad. The Economist is using the ads to their full capacity in a number of ways. First off, it’s not a picture. These ads use the fact that people standing on Tube platforms are all bored. But this isn’t a novel approach to Tube ads. Practically all of them do this. No, what I like is that these ads are each two ads side by side. This probably cost quite a pretty penny but it is a very effective use of space.
When I first saw the ads, I only saw one of them. I simply hadn’t noticed the sister ad hung up right next to it. I was shocked. Yes, there are people with those political views, but do you ever see them shouting about their ideas in a Tube ad? Not really (except during election time, maybe).
Then I saw the other one. Just as partisan but in an opposite color scheme. I got the message loud and clear: the Economist tells both sides of the story. And that makes it a good ad. What makes it better is that when these ads first appeared (or I first noticed them), the Economist had folk handing out free copies of the magazine at Tube entrances.
But I do have to wonder about the demon panda.
I love outdoor advertising. I know I might just be the only one in London who does, considering how often I hear people complain about Tube ads, but I do. Maybe because I am a marketer.
I am a bit picky about the ads I like, though. I have a main requirement for all advertising I see, outdoors, print, digital, or otherwise. It must fit in the context of the situation. If I am reading a magazine, then a great ad would do more than just recognize my demographic and general interests. It would play with the medium. And if I am in a London Tube, it should understand that context, too.
That’s why I love this ad.
It was shown in my local Tube station for about a month, and each day it made me smile, and maybe reminded me not to wave my smartphone around. I highly doubt that the creators of this ad were trying to make a public service announcement. Rather, I think that they had gotten tired of the ubiquitous “What your valuables” notices that are scattered around all the London Tube stations. They decided to have some fun. And because they weren’t the only ones who were tired of those notices, the audience got a smile, maybe even a chuckle, out of the ad, too.
I am not the only one who liked them, either. Here are some quotes I found with a simple search for “Beware of Pickpackets.”
“On the billboard side of things, the latest McDonalds adverts are really great and generate a real ‘smile in the mind’.” – Payne by Name
Of course, there’s another insight that went into this ad: that everyone likes to steel fries. That’s the part that makes us want to hit the nearest McDonald’s come lunch or dinner.
Not too long ago I went to a blogger’s meetup. There were bloggers there who had successfully monetized their blogs and those who were just thinking about starting. All were listening raptly to the night’s speaker, Muireann Carey-Campbell (AKA Bangs) from BangsandaBun.com as she discussed finding a voice, a theme, for her successful blog.
Business Bloggers Have it Easy
Business bloggers do not have this problem. The theme is set: the company and the industry. All that’s left is to find content that is engaging, whether that be examples of the product’s uses, like Kodak’s A Thousand Words, or personal anecdotes from the front lines à la Nuts About Southwest. (To be sure, these companies do blur the lines.)
Personal bloggers have it a bit harder. We think we have to have a theme. This is an easy trap to fall into. We think that we have to have a reason to blog. We can’t just post something online. The idea of a theme becomes a crutch holding us back, not guiding us forward. But there is another way of looking at themes for a personal blog.
The Writer Is the Theme
During her talk Bangs tackled this issue and provided what I think is a pretty good answer: Don’t care about themes. Just be yourself. A blog is not carried by the subject matter. It is carried by the blogger’s personality.
Particularly in the beginning, bloggers can take advantage of the fact that no one is reading the blog to find their voice. Once this voice is found, the readers will start coming. The key is that if a person is real, not a persona, the blog is that much better. People do not have themes. We have interests. And so it is perfectly acceptable to write on variety of topics. The real person behind the topics, the tone of voice and personality, is what ties it all together.
Don’t Forget That Pesky Audience
This is the reason I have two blogs, this one and The Masked Geek. Put simply, I have two pretty distinct audiences I want to talk to. Sci-fi and fantasy geeks may use social media, but chances are, most don’t really care about the finer points of content publishing on social channels. Social media marketers may like going to see superhero themed summer blockbusters, but I highly doubt the vast majority want to discuss if Batman is really Bruce Wayne or if Bruce Wayne is just a front for Batman.
You may go into blogging knowing what the target audience is, as business bloggers do. You may just want to write and not have a clue what you will eventually be writing about. But, as a marketer, I just can’t help but think that you have to know who you want to talk to. Even Bangs agrees with this point. During her talk, she said that you have to develop common ground with the readers in order to get traction. This target audience may change as your interests morph. For instance, this blog started out meant for fellow young people entering the workforce, thus the post on where to wear a name tag. Now I talk to fellow digital marketers. That’s fine. It’s okay. The key is to use yourself as the theme, but find common ground with those you want to talk to.
We have fewer rights to do things with our digital purchases than our physical ones, even though digital is supposed to offer us more freedoms. If there was ever an argument not to buy digital goods, that one is probably it. Just because you handed over your hard earned cash or credit card debt does not mean you actually get to use the product or service you just bought as you see fit. Not by a long shot.
Your Login Details Are Not Yours to Share
Let’s suppose that you want to share your Netflix login with your friends and family. You’re thinking that you bought it, so it should be yours to share if you want. If you live in Tennessee, though, don’t.
Tennessee just passed a law that makes it illegal to share your Netflix login information. The law is meant to target people who sell logins in bulk, but it is worded in a way that if you shared your login with your dormitory floor, or even just your extended family, you could be in trouble to the tune of $2,500 plus jail time if you take $500 or less.
What this basically means is that your digital purchases are not yours. If you want to share movies, buy them on DVD. You do not have the same rights with digital goods as you do with physical ones.
Your Books Are Not Yours to Share
Books, the paper variety, have been one of the most shareable items in the world. Sharing books and other printed material has spread the ideas necessary for political and social improvement, such as Thomas Payne’s “Common Sense” prior to the American Revolution.
Yet, if you own a digital book, you do not have the right to pass it to a friend. Yes, there are systems such as the Nook’s LendMe feature which allows you to pass a book to a friend’s Nook for two weeks, but I honestly have a book on loan from, oh, two years ago (Sorry, Aunt Julie. I promise to return it, eventually).
Besides the Big Brother company watching over your activities, there is a platform war. Because the ebook sharing is based on Nook technology, not the universal epub, I can’t share any books with my father, who owns a Kindle. And he can’t use the Kindle version of this feature with me. This is not an attempt by the book sellers to mimic the freedoms we had with paper books. This is an attempt to get more readers to use their platforms by providing the benefits of the network. It’s more like the Betamax vs VHS wars than going back to visiting a friend’s library.
The worst thing is that these laws and gimmicks are highly unlikely to cut down on piracy. Rather than getting the movies through a semi-legitimate source, many who used to use a friend’s Netflix login are more likely to turn to pirate sources than buy their own accounts. And the inability to pass books on to friends with different platforms is more likely to limit people’s exposure to more material, and you can’t buy what you do not know about.
More than this, however, it’s the question: Who owns these digital goods? Not you. Even though digital opens the opportunities for more freedom with your purchases and information, you actually have fewer rights with digital products than physical ones. You just paid a one-time only renting fee to use them.
What if all content were free?
With all the discussion going on about pricing in my Digital Publishing course at Hult International Business School, I had to ask this question. There are people, like Cory Doctorow, who maintain that content should be free. He publishes his books for free online using the Creative Commons license. I actually agree with him since I think that piracy in terms of entertainment materials is just too rampant to fight, and who would want to? Often the pirates are the publisher’s biggest fans, and fighting fans is just weird.
But I can’t lump all publishing together. Entertainment is one thing while business, news, and other more factual writings are distinctly separate. When this information is provided for free, does it maintain an intrinsic value or gain the value of its price – nothing?
John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing has outlined 5 pitfalls of free content for a business. Hartley Brody with the Inbound Marketing pros over at Hubspot posted a reply defending free content. This exchange made me ask some very important questions about the value of free content:
How Much Value Do People Get from Free Content?
Jantsch points out that show-up rates for free events are around 25-30%, much lower than would be expected to a paid-event. I can’t speak for everybody, but I can say why I don’t show up to free events I RSVP for: I just can’t be bothered or something else comes up. That something else has more value in my eyes than a free event, and nothing happens to me if I don’t show up. No lost revenue without a gain, for instance. And if I do show up, how much attention will I pay? Will I be more likely to skip out if I hear a friend is having a party nearby?
Brody’s reply to this issue was to say that the event holders (or newsletter senders or whatever flavor of content you produce) should include a coupon or other incentive for people to do what they said they would, such as show up or read, but this isn’t always possible. Newspapers can’t necessarily give out coupons when all their content is free, for instance. And this coupon must be pretty valuable to outweigh my laziness before an event. After all, it’s a gain, not a loss, and humans react more strongly to potential losses than potential gains. They will trudge through snow when sick to attend an event if it means they would have “wasted” their money if they don’t go, regardless that the cost is sunk. This is hard to duplicate with a coupon.
This lack of effort to attend or gain the benefits of free content versus paid means that when someone has actually paid for content, they will actually get more value out of it. If I have paid for a NY Times online subscription, you betcha I’ll be reading most of those articles! When I pay for a single magazine, I go through each page not to miss anything, even when most of it is uninteresting. I feel I have wasted money when I don’t. Do I read all my RSS feeds with such zeal? Nope. I lose nothing by doing so, even though my feeds routinely pump out great information.
How Can We Judge the Value of Free Content?
Jantsch also raised the point about “eroded value.” In his words, “How good can something that’s free really be?” He was more worried about the lack of differentiation between quality content and slapped-together “pitch fests.” When all the prices are the same, telling the two apart is hard. This probably contributes to the lack of effort people will put into attending a free event. Without prior experience, it’s hard to tell if the event is really worth going to.
Brody counters by suggesting that publishers need to build a reputation for quality and then show that reputation off by displaying how many other people have signed up for your content. This still doesn’t display how much the content is worth, however, since it doesn’t answer how many of those newsletter recipients are actually reading the e-mails or have just forgotten to opt-out. With the Internet being so huge, it isn’t that hard to get a large following. Just look at some of the “gurus” on Twitter.
A higher price signals the higher value. The retail industry has known this for ages. They have known that if you want your store to be considered high end, make the scarves expensive. Even though they are really rather cheap to produce, the price gives the items caché and the brand, value.
Prices Might Help
Pricing your content will help you avoid these pitfalls. If you charge for your events, people are more likely to show and truly listen to what you have to say. The price can be used as a way to judge value, too, so the more expensive – to a point – the more valuable.
Now, like Jantsch, I am not suggesting hiding behind a paywall. For instance, displaying ads for expensive items would associate your free content with the value of the displayed merchandise. You can encourage event attendance by having people pay with digital currency received through a game experience. Perhaps a more common and direct system, however, is the freemium system. A newspaper could have its more general reporting up for free and its in-depth coverage behind a small paywall. Longer reports and such could be paid for one at a time. eConsultancy does something like this with their varied level freemium memberships.