Monday, November 18, 2013 | 0 Comments
Shane Parrish bets you can't even finish reading this story without checking
your email once. Yeah, he says, it's time to power down:
"I've been giving a lot of thought to my habits recently and how they affect me. One thing I've placed an increasingly watchful eye on is email.
Email seems pervasive in our lives. We check email on the bus, we check it in the bath. We check it first thing in the morning. We even check it midconversation, with the belief that no one will notice.
John Freeman argues in The Tyranny of Email that the average office worker "sends and receives two hundred emails a day."
Email makes us reactive, as we race to keep up with the never-ending onslaught.
In the past, only a few professions — doctors, plumbers perhaps, emergency service technicians, prime ministers — required this kind of state of being constantly on call. Now, almost all of us live this way. Everything must be attended to — and if it isn't, chances are another email will appear in a few hours asking if indeed the first message was received at all.
Working at the speed of email is like trying to gain a topographic understanding of our daily landscape from a speeding train — and the consequences for us as workers are profound. Interrupted every thirty seconds or so, our attention spans are fractured into a thousand tiny fragments. The mind is denied the experience of deep flow, when creative ideas flourish and complicated thinking occurs. We become task-oriented, tetchy, terrible at listening as we try to keep up with the computer. The email inbox turns our mental to-do list into a palimpsest — there's always something new and even more urgent erasing what we originally thought was the day's priority. Incoming mail arrives on several different channels — via email, Facebook, Twitter, instant message — and in this era of backup we're sure that we should keep records of our participation in all these conversations. The result is that at the end of the day we have a few hundred or even a few thousand emails still sitting in our inbox.
Part of us likes all of the attention email gives us. It has been shown that email is addictive in many of the same ways slot machines are addictive — variable reinforcement.
Tom Stafford, a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Sheffield, explains: "This means that rather than reward an action every time it is performed, you reward it sometimes, but not in a predictable way. So with email, usually when I check it there is nothing interesting, but every so often there's something wonderful — an invite out, or maybe some juicy gossip — and I get a reward." [The Tyranny of Email]
There are chemical reasons this happens that go well beyond our love of gossip. If we're doing something that pays out randomly, our brain releases dopamine when we get something good and our body learns that we need to keep going if we want a reward.
"Ironically," Freeman writes, "tools meant to connect us are enabling us to spend even more time apart." The consequences are disastrous.
Spending our days communicating through this medium, which by virtue of its sheer volume forces us to talk in short bursts, we are slowly eroding our ability to explain — in a careful, complex way — why it is so wrong for us and to complain, resist, or redesign our workdays so that they are manageable.
Life on the email treadmill
"If the medium is the message, what does that say about new survey results that found nearly 60 percent of respondents check their email when they're answering the call of nature." — Michelle Masterson
When you arrive at work and there are twenty emails in your inbox, the weight of that queue is clear: everyone is waiting for you.
So you clear and clear and clear, only to learn that the faster you reply, the faster the replies come boomeranging back to you — thanks, follow-ups, additional requests, and that one-line sinker, "How are you doing these days?" It shouldn't be such a burden to be asked your state of mind. In the workplace, however, where the sheer volume of correspondence can feel as if it has been designed on the high to enforce a kind of task-oriented tunnel vision, such a question is either a trapdoor or an escape hatch.
At the workplace it used to be hard to share things without a lot of friction. Now sharing is frictionless and free. CC'ing and forwarding to keep people "in the loop" has become a mixed blessing. Now everything is collaborative and if people are left off emails they literally feel left out.
"What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it." — Herb Simon
We live in a culture in which doing everything all at once is admired and encouraged — have our spreadsheet open while we check email, chin on the phone into our shoulder, and accept notes from a passing office messenger. Our desk is Grand Central and we are the conductor, and it feels good. Why? If we're this busy, clearly we're needed; we have a purpose. We are essential. The internet and email have certainly created a "desire to be in the know, to not be left out, that ends up taking up a lot of our time" — at the expense of getting things done, said Mark Ellwood, the president of Pace Productivity, which studies how employees spend their time.
Of course we can't multitask the way technology leads us to believe we can. "Multitasking," Walter Kirn wrote in an essay called "The Autumn of the Multitaskers," messes with the brain in several ways:"
At the most basic level, the mental balancing acts that it requires — the constant switching and pivoting — energize regions of the brain that specialize in visual processing and physical coordination and simultaneously appear to shortchange some of the higher areas related to memory and learning. We concentrate on the act of concentration at the expense of whatever it is that we're supposed to be concentrating on.
What does this mean in practice? Consider a recent experiment at UCLA, where researchers asked a group of 20-somethings to sort index cards in two trials, once in silence and once while simultaneously listening for specific tones in a series of randomly presented sounds. The subjects' brains coped with the additional task by shifting responsibility from the hippocampus — which stores and recalls information — to the striatum, which takes care of rote, repetitive activities. Thanks to this switch, the subjects managed to sort the cards just as well with the musical distraction — but they had a much harder time remembering what, exactly, they'd been sorting once the experiment was over.
Even worse, certain studies find that multitasking boosts the level of stress related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and wears down our systems through biochemical friction, prematurely aging us. In the short term, the confusion, fatigue, and chaos merely hamper our ability to focus and analyze, but in the long term, they may cause it to atrophy.
"In other words," writes Freeman in The Tyranny of Email, "a work climate that revolves around multitasking, and constant interruptions has narrowed our cognitive window down to a care, basic facility: rote, mechanical tasks."
We like to think we are in control of our environment, that we act upon it and shape it to our needs. It works both ways, though; changes we make to the world can have unseen ramifications that impact our ability to live in it.
Attention means being present. Being present helps mindfullness. Thanks to an environment of constant stimulation the biggest challenge these days is maintaining focus.
"Immersing myself in a book or lengthy article used to be easy," wrote Nicolas Carr in an essay entitled "Is Google Making Us Stupid?"
My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I'd spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I'm always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
Carr wrote an excellent book on the subject, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. If you don't have the time, or attention span, to read the book, you can watch the video.
Reading and other meditative tasks are best performed in what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a "state-of-flow," in which "our focus narrows, the world seems to drop away, and we become less conscious of ourselves and more deeply immersed in ideas and language and complex thoughts," Freeman writes.
Communication tools, however, seem to be working against this state.
In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi writes:
In today's world we have come to neglect the habit of writing because so many other media of communication have taken its place. Telephones and tape recorders, computers and fax machines are more efficient in conveying news. If the only point to writing were to transmit information, then it would deserve to become obsolete. But the point of writing is to create information, not simply to pass it along. In the past, educated persons used journals and personal correspondence to put their experiences into words, which allowed them to reflect on what had happened during the day. The prodigiously detailed letters so many Victorians wrote are an example of how people created patterns of order out of the mainly random events impinging on their consciousness. The kind of material we write in diaries and letters does not exist before it is written down.
It is the slow, organically growing process of thought involved in writing that lets the ideas emerge in the first place.
In The Tyranny of Email, Freeman sums up the multitasking argument:
Multitasking may not be perfect, but it can push the brain to add new capacity; the problem, however, remains that the small gains in capacity are continuously, rapidly, outstripped by the speeding up and growing volume of incoming demand on our attention.
Why is it so hard to read these days?
In his essay on Google Carr writes:
It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of "reading" are emerging as users "power browse" horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.
Some of this is due to changes in the medium itself. Newspaper articles are shorter and catchier. Text has become bigger. We're becoming a PowerPoint culture. We need bullet points, short sentences, and fancy graphics. We skim rather than read. Online readers are "selfish, lazy, and ruthless," said Jakob Nielson, a usability engineer. If we don't get what we want, as soon as we want it, we move to the next site.
But all of this has a cost.
"What we are losing in this country, and presumably around the world is the sustained, focused, linear attention developed by reading," said Dana Gioia, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. "I would believe people who tell me that the internet develops reading if I did not see such a universal decline in reading ability and reading comprehension on virtually all tests."
"If the research on multitasking is any guide," Freeman writes in the The Tyranny of Email, "and if several centuries of liberal arts education have proven anything, the ability to think clearly and critically and develop an argument comes from reading in a focused manner."
These skills are important because they enable employees to step back from an atmosphere of frenzy and make sense in a busy, nearly chaotic environment. If all companies want, though, is worker bees who will simply type till they drop and badger one another into a state of overload, a new generation of inveterate multitaskaholics might be just what they get. If that's the case, workplace productivity isn't the only thing that will suffer.
Freeman concludes his book by offering several tips you can do to take back control of your life and the mental space email is consuming.
1. Don't send
The most important thing you can do to improve the state of your inbox, free up your attention span, and break free of the tyranny of email is not to send an email. As most people now know, email only creates more email, so by stepping away from the messaging treadmill, even if for a moment every day, you instantly dial down the speed of the email messagopolis.
2. Don't check it first thing in the morning or late at night
Not checking your email first thing will also reinforce a boundary between your work and your private life, which is essential if you want to be fully present in either place. If you check your email before getting to work, you will probably begin to worry about work matters before you actually get there. Checking your e-mail first thing at home doesn't give you a jump on the workday; it just extends it. Sending email before and after office hours has a compounded effect, since it creates an environment in which workers are tacitly expected to check their email at the same time and squeeze more work out of their tired bodies.
3. Check it twice a day
Checking your email twice a day will … allow you to set the agenda for your day, which is essential if you want to stay on task and get things done in a climate of constant communication.
4. Keep a written to-do list and incorporate email into it
5. Give good email
6. Read the entire incoming email before replying
This seems like a pretty basic rule, but a great deal of email is generated by people replying without having properly read initial messages.
7. Don't debate complex or sensitive matters by email
8. If you have to work as a group by email, meet your correspondents face to face
9. Set up your desktop to do something else besides email
As much as you can, take control over your office space by setting aside part of your desk for work that isn't done on the computer. Imagine it as your thinking area, where you can read or take notes or doodle as you work out a problem.
10. Schedule media-free time
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Monday, November 11, 2013 | 0 Comments
Turns out there are some benefits to shrinking your attention span to nothing!
As reported by Monica Nickelsburg, on any given day, the average American teenager spends more than 7.5 hours online and uses his or her cellphone 60 times. While these numbers strike fear in the hearts of parents and crotchety novelists lamenting the loss of a more meaningful existence, there are some real benefits to a technology-saturated life: Young people spend far more time consuming new information, honing verbal concision, and interacting with a diverse audience than they have at any point in history.
Social media might render us mean and unhappy, but it also makes us more intelligent, according to a new study. Research suggests social media can improve verbal, research, and critical-thinking skills, despite popular concern about the damaging effects of the internet on impressionable youths.
Stanford professor Andrea Lunsford collected 877 freshman composition papers from 1917 to 2006 to study the ways technological advances have changed the quality of writing. Often the biggest complaint about "digital natives" is lazy prose — a tendency to use abbreviations and poor grammar — but Lunsford's research suggests that's a myth. She discovered there was virtually no change in the number of errors in composition papers over the past century. She also found that by 2006, papers were six times longer, more thoroughly researched, and more complex than those written in 1917.
"Student writers today are tackling the kinds of issues that require inquiry and investigation as well as reflection," Lunsford told The Globe and Mail.
Of course, major advances in education over the past century need to be accounted for when reviewing Lunsford's findings. But there is one change inextricably tied to social media: Young people spend far more time writing outside the classroom than ever before. They spend hours on extracurricular composition in the form of tweets, texts, emails, comments, photo captions, and discussion boards.
It's easy to write this off as meaningless chatter and narcissistic navel-gazing, but Lunsford's findings suggest it does influence quality of writing. Sites with character counts, like Twitter, are particularly beneficial because they teach users to be economical with language.
Digital connectedness can also provide students with a greater sense of purpose in their work. Writing for an engaged, responsive audience often motivates people to make their work more compelling, even if they're just composing a 140-character tweet.
Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds for the Better, explains why this wide range of readers is beneficial:
One good example is allowing children to write for this incredible, global audience. When kids are writing a paper for a teacher, they sort of don't care, because they know the teacher doesn't care, they are being paid to read this, it's just an assignment and a grade. But as soon as you connect them with an authentic audience, the same way adults do on blogs and Twitter, the kids completely throw themselves into the work.
Once they saw their first comment from someone outside the classroom, their entire world shifted, because they understand they are thinking publicly, and that catalyzes them to produce something better. They go over their work and ask others to critique it before posting. Teachers who had struggled to get kids to write a two-page book report suddenly found they would willingly compose a painstakingly researched 35,000 word walk-through of their favorite video game.
That's not to say social media doesn't have negative effects. Even Thompson and Lunsford recognize that the impact of technology on young minds is complicated. One clear casualty of the digital revolution is our attention spans. Ten years ago the average attention span was 12 minutes. In just a decade it's been reduced to five seconds.
"The distraction issue is real and significant, you can't get certain types of important thinking and work done if you're constantly darting around from one thing to another," Thompson told The Verge. "The problem is, we currently have this information ecology that has been designed to capture as much of your attention as possible."
Research also suggests that Facebook can contribute to feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction. But these symptoms of social media, while unfortunate, are not inconsistent with Lunsford's and Thompson's findings. After all, if history is any indicator, unhappiness and intelligence are not mutually exclusive.
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Monday, November 04, 2013 | 0 Comments
California's pending Internet "eraser button" law gives minors a way to (partially) expunge their digital footprint.
As reported by Peter Weber, California's legislature recently passed a landmark law giving minors the legal right to scrub their Internet history clean. That means, if Gov. Jerry Brown (D) doesn't veto the bill, anyone under 18 will be able to digitally erase any Facebook harangue, indiscreet Instagram, impolitic tweet, or any other web posting that doesn't age well.
The new law will protect "the teenager who says something on the Internet that they regret five minutes later," said California Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D) after the upper chamber cleared his bill on Aug. 30, sending it to Brown's desk.
"Kids and teenagers often self-reveal before they self-reflect," agrees James Steyer at Common Sense Media, which pushed for the California law. "It's a very important milestone."
Who would oppose such an act of humanity? After all, people can often have their juvenile criminal records expunged or sealed when they turn 18, so why not extend the same courtesy to job-seekers trying to rid Google of that embarrassing photo they sent to their boyfriend in high school?
There are some open-Internet advocates who oppose the law on the idea that regulating the Internet always had unintended consequences. "We are principally concerned that this legal uncertainty for website operators will discourage them from developing content and services tailored to younger users, and will lead popular sites and services that may appeal to minors to prohibit minors from using their services," the Center for Democracy and Technology told California lawmakers, to no avail.
More sympathetic critics of the new law also "warn that in trying to protect children, the law could unwittingly put them at risk by digging deeper into their personal lives," says Somini Sengupta in The New York Times. "To comply with the law, for example, companies would have to collect more information about their customers, including whether they are under 18 and whether they are in California."
And then there's the possibility that teenagers will come to think of the law as a sort of digital version of the Amish Rumspringa — go do whatever you want, you crazy kids, and all will be forgiven when you come to your senses. The Internet, of course, doesn't work that way.
"Before minors celebrate by temporarily posting offensive jokes or pictures, the bill wisely provides that there is no guarantee removal by the initial website ensures complete elimination of the materials from the entire web," says Travis Crabtree at eMedia Law Insider.
Not only doesn't the law require the internet companies to remove the data from their servers, Crabtree notes, it also "only applies to content actually posted by the minor and not those pictures posted by the teen's friends who have less scruples."
It's not that California couldn't fix those shortcomings. In Europe, for example, an EU electronic data protection directive lets all Europeans — not just minors — "object to the processing of any data relating to himself," says Eugene K. Chow at The Huffington Post.
So when then-Formula One chief Max Mosley discovered in 2008, on the website of Britain's News of the World, that anyone with a Internet connection could watch a covertly recorded video of his participation in what the website alleged was a "sick Nazi orgy" with multiple prostitutes, he could do something about it. Mosley had "the legal grounds to sue Google in Germany and several other countries," says Chow, and he "could even compel the Internet giant to filter out the raunchy videos."
The European Commission's proposed "right to be forgotten" law would take those privacy rights and turn them up a few big notches. The controversial proposal would essentially give all Europeans the right to demand that tech companies erase any data they hold on a petitioning individual. The European Commissioners are still trying to work out how to best balance privacy rights and free speech concerns, but if we give teenagers an internet "eraser button," why not adults, too?
For one thing, the U.S. is not Europe, says Chow at The Huffington Post:
Despite the American myths that tout the individual as the pillar of society, European privacy laws have a more deeply rooted respect for individuals as evidenced by Europe's long tradition of prioritizing people over newspapers, photographers, and more recently, tech companies.... American laws frequently prioritize free speech at the expense of individual rights.
Nobody is arguing California's SB 568 is a perfect solution to the looming problems of a generation that seems to collectively have little hesitation about posting embarrassing and career-limiting stuff online, but at least the Golden State is taking a stab at the problem.
And while a national law would have a bigger impact, what California does matters, attorney Mali Friedman tells The New York Times. "Often you need to comply with the most restrictive state as a practical matter because the Internet doesn't really have state boundaries."
So if you're an Internet firm, you "may have to reassess the cost-benefit analysis of collecting certain types of data from minors," or even whether it's worth letting them use your site or app, says Cynthia Larose at Privacy and Security Matters.
On the other hand, she adds, if you worry that, "given the types of things minors deem appropriate to post on social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, our country won't be able to produce an electable candidate for president in 40 years," laws like California's internet "eraser button" will help ensure that "many more of our children could become president someday."
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Monday, October 21, 2013 | 0 Comments
This is an interview by Ultimate Spelling Bee with Erin Jansen of NetLingo :)
Long before computer jargon and “text speak” became part of the ongoing argument about spelling skills and the development of the English language, Erin Jansen saw the need to collect and document all of the terminology associated with the digital world, and the virtual world that followed. Now her site is the top-ranked resource for information on the language of the internet, of mobile chatting, and of 21st-century communication in general. We talked to Erin recently about the website, and how the English language is growing and adapting to keep up with the ongoing cyber-evolution of our world.
US: You were a pioneer in classifying and tracking the terminology associated with computers back in the mid-1990s and your website now covers vocabulary used in all aspects of the digital world, from the internet in general to blogging, texting, gaming, and marketing. What has been the biggest change in “cyberspeak” you’ve noticed over the last 15 years?
EJ: The biggest change in cyberspeak over the past 15 years has been the increasing use of acronyms and text shorthand, and specifically the use of numbers and symbols within acronyms and text shorthand. For example, 10Q means thank you; 143 means i love you; 182 means i hate you; 9 means a parent is watching; 99 means a parent is no longer watching. This kind of code has evolved rapidly into what is known as leetspeak.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes: “The digital frontier is a nurturing place where verbs and nouns are not only born, but in fact bear offspring.” —Don Altman
US: Here at Ultimate Spelling we’ve frequently discussed the topic of texting, and whether or not using abbreviations and acronyms has a negative impact on spelling skills. What’s your opinion on this?
EJ: I do not believe the use of abbreviations and acronyms while texting has a negative impact on spelling skills, it’s simply another way of talking or writing. While I don’t think this kind of shorthand is appropriate for school course work, I do think it can spur on the creative writing process. So the challenge for educators is to encourage creative writing in the first draft, but by the final paper, make sure the student is using proper grammar and spelling.
Here’s another favorite quote: “No language as depending on arbitrary use and custom can ever be permanently the same, but will always be in a mutable and fluctuating state; and what is deemed polite and elegant in one age, may be accounted uncouth and barbarous in another.” —Benjamin Martin
US: AFAIK, UNOIT, and HTNOTH look like serious cases of misspellings, but they’re fairly common acronyms used in text messages. In general, do people use acronyms like these rather than the phrases themselves, when they’re typing out e-mail messages or other non-texting communication?
EJ: Many people use these kinds of acronyms on a regular basis while others do not, it depends on the person. I continue to receive new acronym submissions on a daily basis, and I continue to see this type of shorthand even on social networking sites, not just in email or text messages. I get the feeling that people either love acronyms and use them as often as possible, or people don’t like acronyms and use shorthand sparingly.
Another favorite quote: “A dictionary is an historical monument, the history of a nation contemplated from one point of view, and the wrong ways into which a language has wandered … may be nearly as instructive as the right ones.” —Richard Chenevix Trench
US: The acronym WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) has been around long enough that it’s actually become a spoken vocabulary word, pronounced WIZZ-ee-wig. It’s even listed in the Oxford English Dictionary! Do you think that this illustrates the next step in the evolution of the English language?
EJ: I absolutely think that acronyms and tech talk in general illustrate the next step in the evolution of language. On a recent episode of the popular TV show “Dancing with the Stars” one of the stars was “talking in hashtags” when she said “OMG, hashtag intense” to refer to a posting she made on Twitter under “#intense” at which point the host responded “You talk in hashtags? OMG, please hashtag stop.” Acronyms and tech talk crossed over into mainstream media in the early 2000′s with the popularity of social media sites. NetLingo continues to track all of these terms as they keep evolving, and the good thing about the website as oppose to printed versions is that it is always updated and always growing. (The first NetLingo Dictionary book published in 2002 had 500 pages while the website had 5,000 pages; now in 2013 the website has 10,000 pages, it’s unrealistic to publish all of that in a book.)
A quote to help illustrate: “Telephone books are, like dictionaries, already out of date the moment they are printed.” —Ammon Shea
US: One of the sections of your website is titled “Top 50 Internet Acronyms Parents Need to Know.” What are the issues that come up between parents and kids, as far as “net lingo” is concerned?
EJ: The issues that come up between parents and kids as far as “net lingo” is concerned are primarily that parents don’t understand what kids are saying when they are texting and they don’t know what they are doing when spending time online. This is a problem because kids are often approached by strangers online. The statistics say it all: 95% of parents don’t recognize the lingo kids use to let people know that their parents are watching. One third of kids have been contacted by a stranger and half of these were considered inappropriate. 75% of youth who received an online sexual solicitation did not tell a parent. 81% of parents of online youth say that kids aren’t careful enough when giving out information about themselves online. These are unfortunate facts and it is why I try to educate parents about the lingo used online, and the need to stay engaged and set rules around online usage.
Here’s a cute joke to help illustrate: “The linguistics professor was explaining to his class that there were languages on this earth where a positive and a negative was always positive, some where this was always negative, and some where a double negative was in fact a positive, but that there was no language on earth where a double positive was a negative. To which a student at the back of the class called out, “Yeah right!” —Anonymous
Erin Jansen is the founder of NetLingo.com and author of “NetLingo The Internet Dictionary” and “NetLingo The Largest List of Text & Chat Acronyms.”
Monday, October 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
Have you ever stopped to think about the politics or economics of social media and digital sharing? Jaron Lanier has.
Stop “offering yourselves up on a platter,” said Jaron Lanier. In today’s world of social media and digital sharing, we upload, tweet, instagram, share, and “like” with abandon. But have you ever stopped to think about the politics or economics of this new world order?
Take Instagram, for example. “When photography happened on film, a company like Kodak directly employed 140,000 middle-class people,” all making money from the products it created. Today, we have Instagram: a company that recently sold for $1 billion, employs 13 people, and “makes money off content that others—that is, you—create.”
You young people ought to wake up. By buying into the digital lifestyle, “you’ve become passive little playthings of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, screwing yourselves over for their profit.” The sad thing is that this isn’t “some evil conspiracy that’s taking away your future.” You’re giving it away!
“You’re sending all your data to companies in California so that they can sell behavioral models of you to whoever pays them the most to manipulate you.” And in exchange, what do you get? A chance to promote yourself? Likes and retweets? Reputation? Goodwill? Those “informal online benefits” are great, but be warned: “You can’t retire on them.”
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Monday, October 14, 2013 | 0 Comments
For a company that for the longest time was touted to "not have a product," Google is doing plenty well, and is poised to bring us all into the new age of connectivity. The editors at Best Accounting Schools decided to research the topic; below are some key facts and figures. Click here for the infographic!
Google made $33.3 billion last year
- With 97% ($32.2 bil) coming from online ads
- Making Google Ads more valuable than Panama (GDP)
- And the 31 poorest countries in the world combined
- 70% of this revenue is from adwords, which allows business to advertise by popular keywords
Most expensive keywords
- 1. Insurance: $54.31 per click
- 2. Mortgage:$47.12 per click
- 3. Attorney $47.07 per click
- 4. Loans:$44.28 per click
- 5. Credit $36.06 per click
- 6. Lawyer
- 7. Donate
- 8. Degree
- 9. hosting
- 10. Claim
- 11. Conference Call
- 12. Trading
- 13. Software
- 14. Recovery
- 15. Transfer
- 16. Gas/Electricity
- 17. Classes
- 18. Rehab
- 19. Treatment
- 20. Cord Blood
And 30% is from AdSense
- Which allows business to advertise on particular sites
- Some of the most expensive ad placements
- 1. CBS March Madness on Demand $70 cost per thousand views
- 2. Hulu $35 cost per thousand views
- 3. Aol homepage takeover $500,000-$700,000
Chances are, you'll click on a link at some point. Google wants you to stay online as long as possible.
Both Google and other acquisitions are furthering Google's cause.
Google is the lab where future projects are developed. There, several ways in which to keep you online have been developed:
- 300,000 miles have been logged in Google's driverless cars, which use sensors and Google map technology to keep you on the road
- If you don't have to pay attention to the road, you can be online, for work, play, Google, etc.
- A form of augmented reality glasses, allow you to be online all the time with an unobtrusive display within your upper visual field
The "web of things"
- Involves embedding many ordinary devices with internet connectivity
- Televisions, thermostats, refrigerators
- Is busy hooking up Kansas City, Missouri, Provo, Utah, and Austin Texas, with lighting fast fiber optic internet access
- Including: 1 terabyte of Google drive storage
- and, 2 terabyte DVR service for subscribers
- That can record up to 8 tv shows at once
- Time Magazine has noted that Google does not want to enter the ISP business, but rather wants to shame existing ISPs into improving service so searches can be done more quickly
Plans for an elevator to space...
- Because what would you do out there without Google maps?
Other acquisitions by Google Include:
- Purchased for a--then--astounding $1.65 billion in 2006
- Youtube has proved to be plenty worth it
- As it is now the third most popular site online, with billions of ads shown yearly
- Motorola Mobility
- Purchased in 2011 for $12.5 billion
- Motorola is one of 39 Android handset producers
- Was bought primarily to "supercharge the Android ecosystem."
- Other Acquisitions include
- $676 mil for ITA software, a company merged into Google Flights
- $450 mil for Wildfire Interactive, a social engine
- $400 mil for AdMeld, an online advertising service
- $1.3 bil for Waze, a socially driven mapping technology to merge with Google Maps
- And $228 mil for slide.com, a social gaming site
- With 83.18% of searches worldwide occurring on Google, and the right people thinking about how to funnel that for the collective, and profitable, good, Google's not going anywhere. Just buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Monday, October 07, 2013 | 1 Comments
to Colleen Oakley, it's not just for Veronica Mars reboots. Graduating
with less debt could just take a couple of clicks.
When Kelli Space graduated from Northeastern University in 2009 with $200,000 of student loan debt, she panicked. Given that she had an entry-level office manager job that didn't pay much, Space knew that it was going to be tough to pay back that debt on her own.
But instead of deferring her payments — or not paying them at all, like many grads end up doing — she started a crowdfund, which is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a vast pool of people online.
"In total, I received $13,000 from strangers around the world," she says. And although that amount only made a small dent toward paying off her debt, it had a big impact on her career trajectory — the experience inspired Space and three friends to start Zero Bound, a company that helps students and graduates crowdfund their own student loan debt in exchange for community volunteering.
Space has not one but two lofty goals with Zero Bound. "We hope to use the trend of crowdfunding to not only help a generation pay off their debt, but also increase volunteerism among an age bracket that actually volunteers the least," she says. "And, to that end, I believe that crowdfunding can be a largely beneficial way to raise the funds to make that happen."
Space isn't alone in her thinking. Since 2011, crowdfunding efforts have more than tripled, and current campaigns are projected to raise more than $5.1 billion worldwide in 2013.
But what started out as a way to enable businesses and individuals to raise money for creative endeavors without relying on such traditional financing sources as banks — take the indie Veronica Mars Movie Project, which raised over five million dollars on Kickstarter in just 30 days — has morphed into a means for literally anyone to ask for money … for literally anything.
"Crowdfunding is definitely branching out into multiple areas, including personal causes," says Ellen Sperling, cofounder of crowdfunding site YouveGotFunds.com. And, by personal, we're talking about everything from surgeries to honeymoons. Why, you ask? "It's partly because the costs for many of these regular items have skyrocketed," she says. "Medical fees are through the roof, and even if you have health insurance, they don't always cover certain medications and procedures, like fertility treatments."
The same applies to financing higher education. "Why would college students want to graduate owing $150,000-plus in loans," Sperling says, "if they have family, friends and possibly community members who can help, enabling them to start their careers in a better place?"
Brad Wyman, chief creative officer of FundAnything.com, calls this new trend of personal crowdfunding a "virtual barn raising." It's the online version of your own community rallying around you to support you when you need it the most.
Take James and Adena Reimer, a Canadian couple who started a campaign on FundAnything.com when James, who'd been battling cystic fibrosis and bromchiolitis obliterans, needed a second lung transplant. They were hoping to raise $10,000 to "pay for medical bills that weren't being covered by my home province," says James, 29. "We also had other expenses, like plane tickets to fly my mom out to help, and emergency taxi trips to the hospital."
They ended up raising a whopping $43,000 — and were overcome with the outpouring of support. "If it wasn't for crowdfunding, we'd probably have to take out a loan or beg family members," says James. "It was a huge blessing!"
The Kujawas are using crowdfunding to help finance IVF.
Couples are also turning to crowdfunding to help make their dreams of having kids come true. Nate and Christy Kujawa of Spokane, Wash., had been trying to get pregnant for about four years with no success. After multiple doctor visits, Christy received a devastating double diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis and Crohn's disease — and then Nate learned that he had multiple sclerosis. Physicians told them that they had a two percent chance of conceiving naturally, but a 95 percent chance with IVF.
The only problem? It's an expensive solution.
So they turned to the Internet. "I got the idea from a client of mine," says Christy, 31. "We were talking about how expensive IVF was, and she suggested I start a crowdfund. I actually knew a few people who had done funding for cancer treatment, and to help replace things due to a house fire, but no one specifically for IVF." To date, the Kujawas have already raised one quarter of their $12,000 goal — and they say that the response has been overwhelming.
A hand up or a handout? Most people cringe at the thought of asking for financial support, and tend to proceed with caution when asking friends or family for money — even for worthy causes. So what makes doing it online so much more acceptable?
"It's a lot less uncomfortable to ask someone to check out your campaign than to put your hand out," says Wyman. "And for life events, such as a wedding, look at it this way: It's similar to registering for gifts at a store, except now the couple can ‘register' for something that's more meaningful than china. And unlike just giving cash, guests know that their contributions are going toward a couple's real goal."
"People just want to help others. It's a strong emotion that drives the crowdfunding industry as a whole." According to Sperling, crowdfunding isn't just benefiting those raising the funds, either — it's giving everyone a chance to give back. "Sometimes people just want to help others," she says. "It's a strong emotion that drives the crowdfunding industry as a whole."
Crowdfunding 101: A primer for success
Before you jump on a crowdfunding bandwagon yourself, Wyman says that there are a few things you should know when it comes to creating a good campaign:
1. Set a realistic financial goal. If potential contributors don't think that you'll be able to reach your goal, they'll think twice about contributing to your campaign.
2. Craft a smart elevator pitch. You should be able to explain your cause in two to three concise sentences. And before you share that pitch with potential donors, practice it on your friends and family.
3. Be your best marketing team. Tell everyone you know that you've launched a campaign, and invite them to visit. And be sure to consistently update the campaign, so there's a reason for people to keep on visiting your site.
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Monday, October 07, 2013 | 0 Comments
This is a guest post written by Charlotte Kertrestel, do enjoy!
“I wandered lonely as a cloud”...“texting on my new iPhone 5”. Sound familiar? Ok, so perhaps not the second line. I’m sure when Wordsworth wrote the lines of ‘Daffodils’, he imagined his sister, Dorothy, roaming through green pastures and trickling streams, marvelling at the wonders of the natural world. But now it seems that while modern poets might be getting their inspiration from alternative sources, they are also recording their innermost thoughts not with traditional pen and ink that the likes of Coleridge and Oscar Wilde, but with their mobile phones.
Not long ago I witnessed a friend recounting a rather unfortunate date that she had experienced the previous week. To top it off, she told me, with a particularly cringing look on her face, he wrote her a heartfelt love poem. Or rather he WhatsApped the said lyrical masterpiece.
Once upon a time, when mobile phones were a new and exciting phenomenon, users developed what we all will be familiar with as ‘text speak’; a new language whereby all words from the English dictionary were contracted and dissected, with letters changed for numbers, and numbers for words. The aim of this wasn’t to increase the challenge of having to decipher a text message before you could make sense of what was being said, but was ultimately due to the limited number of characters that could be sent in one message. Back in the day, you could only write 160 characters to limit a message to one single text. After all, this was before the days of unlimited text packages, when it cost you at least 10p to tell your mum what you wanted for tea, or to warn your friends that you were running late. It simply wasn’t feasible to demonstrate your finest vocabulary from the English language when a simple ‘C U l8r’ would suffice.
I for one am a firm hater of text speak- or should I say ‘txt spk’?- mainly because I’m not always brilliant at breaking the undecipherable code that some text messages can become. But I also hate it because of the fact that I actually value real words. In fact, I’ll admit that I’ve even gone as far as dumping a boyfriend due to his inability to compose a fully-fledged text message using full words that feature in the Oxford dictionary. Heartless, I know.
But while I may prefer to read a text message or email which reads as fluidly as a novel, it would seem that others are willing to celebrate works written in text speak. Back in 2001, the Guardian newspaper launched a nation-wide poetry competition especially targeted at mobile phone users. The competition limited entrants to using only one text message within which they had to compose a poem in either plain or shorthand English. The winning poem, written by a Hetty Hughes, won the prize. Courtesy of the Guardian newspaper, the poem goes as follows:
txtin iz messin,
mi headn'me englis,
they all come out txtis.
gran not plsed w/letters shes getn,
swears i wrote better
Texting has changed a lot since 2001, however. With the influx of mobile phone developments over the past ten years, the majority of users now benefit from having access to unlimited text messages though pay-monthly tariffs. Also, with all smartphones featuring a QWERTY keyboard, whether physical or touchscreen, there really is no excuse not to type text messages out in full, plain English. Because of this, it’s now easier than ever to use your mobile phone to do what you would otherwise use a computer, or even a pen and paper for: to write. Whether you are sitting on the bus when you suddenly get a wave of inspiration, or whether you’re lying awake at night, pining over a lost love, the mobile phone seems to be the modern instrument to record your masterpieces.
That said, there has been a recent drop in the popularity of mobile phone poetry. Perhaps when the 160 character limit was taken away, the challenge of producing a text-style poem deemed became pointless for mobile poets. Though that is not to say that writing poetry using your smartphone is entirely a dying trend; with today’s smartphones offering users a multitude of functions, from texting, emailing and messaging on social media platforms, it is probable that modern poets are still writing pieces on their phones, but just not in the traditional text message format. In fact, Twitter poems have become the new phenomenon for modern smartphone era. With a 140 character limit, many users are typing out their ideas and emotions in tweets on the social media site, presenting their poems to the world. This can surely only be a good thing: poetry has so often been considered an art for the professionals, or for those who hide away their words on scraps of paper in bottom drawers. With the help of smartphones, poetry has now become accessible to all budding writers, or interested readers, with a simply touch of a button. For an example of Twitter poems, check out @TwitterPoetry.
Smartphones have not only enabled the pubic to write and read poetry by amateurs, though. There are numerous apps available for download which enable poetry enthusiasts to read the famous, or not so famous, words of, say, Carol Anne Duffy, Rupert Brooke, or even Edgar Allan Poe. The Poetry Foundation has released an app for both iOS and Android devices, which gives readers access to thousands of poems. Whether you’re a Literature student studying Shakespeare, or just Joe Blogs who enjoys reading good poems, the free app can make poetry accessible, in more ways than one.
So next time you’re feeling creative, you don’t necessarily have to reach for a notepad. Browse, type, tweet; with smartphone technology, the message can be firmly put out there: poetry doesn’t have to be boring.
Brought to you by NetLingo: Improve Your Internet IQ
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Monday, September 30, 2013 | 0 Comments
The animated map,
from an anonymous researcher, is beautiful, mesmerizing — and made
using highly illegal means, according to Peter Weber. Behold, the
internet. In about eight seconds, you can watch a whole day's worth of
internet activity around the world, with the higher activity in reds and
yellows and the wave shape showing where it's day and night.
The map was put together by an anonymous researcher in a self-styled "Internet Census 2012." Why isn't he or she taking credit for this remarkable feat of cyber-cartography? The data came from infecting 420,000 computers with automated, web-crawling botnets — and "hacking into 420,000 computers is highly illegal," says Adam Clark Estes at Vice.
What are we actually seeing, and how sketchy is its provenance? The researcher, using the 420,000 infected devices, tried to figure out how many of the world's 3.6 billion IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) addresses are active; roughly speaking, he got responses from 1.2 billion devices around the world. The map shows the average usage of each device each half hour.
The map isn't totally comprehensive: His botnet, called Carna (after "the Roman goddess for the protection of inner organs and health"), only infected Linux-based devices with some user name–password combination of "root," "admin," or nothing. Also, the world is slowly switching to IPv6, and Carna doesn't measure those devices — in fact, he says, "with a growing number of IPv6 hosts on the internet, 2012 may have been the last time a census like this was possible." At the same time, "this looks pretty accurate," HD Moore, who used ethical and legal means to conduct a similar survey of smaller scope but larger timeframe, tells Ars Technica.
That said, it's a snapshot of 2012, with a limited shelf life. "With cheap smartphones taking off in Africa and $20 tablets popping up in India, the world is becoming more connected by the minute," says Vice's Estes. "So in a few years' time that confetti-colored map of the world above will look less like a chart of privilege and more like an acid trip of progress."
As for the ethics of this census, let's call it "interesting, amoral, and illegal," says Infosecurity Magazine.
The [botnet] binaries he developed and deployed — it's difficult to call them malware since they had no mal-intent; but it's difficult not to call them malware since they were installed without invitation — were designed to do no harm, to run at the lowest possible priority, and included a watchdog to self-destruct if anything went wrong. He also included a readme file with "a contact email address to provide feedback for security researchers, ISPs and law enforcement who may notice the project." [Infosecurity]
And if we're being charitable, you could argue that he performed a public service by highlighting how poorly protected our computers, routers, and other internet-connected devices are. Here's a "crude physical analogy" for what the researcher did, says Michael Lee at ZDNet: By himself, he would have been like "a burglar who walks from house to house in a neighborhood, checking to see whether anyone has forgotten to put a lock on their door."
With an opportunistic attack, given enough "neighborhoods" and enough time, one could potentially gain an insight into how poorly protected people are. However, with the burglar being a single person, doing so would take them a prohibitively long time — unless, theoretically, they were able to recruit vulnerable households and send them to different neighborhoods to do the same.... The Carna botnet... highlighted just how many people left their metaphorical front doors unlocked by using default passwords and user logins. [ZDNet]
Still, if this researcher were caught in the U.S., he'd "likely be slapped with one violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for every computer breached and face something like 50 consecutive life sentences for the sum total," says Vice's Estes. "(I'm being sightly facetious here but only slightly.)" So why take that risk? To see if it could be done, basically.
Building and running a gigantic botnet and then watching it as it scans nothing less than the whole internet at rates of billions of IPs per hour over and over again is really as much fun as it sounds like. I did not want to ask myself for the rest of my life how much fun it could have been or if the infrastructure I imagined in my head would have worked as expected. I saw the chance to really work on an internet scale, command hundred thousands of devices with a click of my mouse, portscan and map the whole internet in a way nobody had done before, basically have fun with computers and the internet in a way very few people ever will. I decided it would be worth my time. [Internet Census 2012]
Monday, September 23, 2013 | 0 Comments
Wow, according to an article by Chris Gayomali, 80 percent of one
survey's participants say we're all becoming jerks. I have to say, over
the years I've seen the problem getting worse. Let's see what he found
Hello, Internet user! Have you witnessed anyone being mean on a website today? Chances are you have!
According to a new survey from corporate training advisers VitalSmarts, nearly 80 percent of 3,000 respondents believe that people are becoming increasingly rude on the Internet. What's more disturbing, though, is that those same folks doing the finger-wagging say they have "no qualms" about being big ol' jerkfaces themselves when they're hurling insults in comment sections or getting into shouting matches on Facebook.
Other sad-face statistics from the survey include:
* Two in five users have severed contact with a one-time pal due to a digital altercation
* One in five people try to avoid former friends IRL that they've had an online argument with
How do otherwise decent human beings with hearts and stuff suddenly transform into ALL-CAPS USING JERKS not-nice-people when they're behind a computer screen? One probable answer, says VitalSmarts co-chairman Joseph Grenny, is that a lack of peer pressure in the digital realm means people feel like they can get away with being rude. Here's what Grenny recommends doing if you want your pixelated approximation to reflect a kinder, gentler you (and really, who doesn't?):
He said three rules that could improve conversations online were to avoid monologues, replace lazy, judgmental words, and cut personal attacks particularly when emotions were high.
In other words, yeah, that 800-word knee-jerk manifesto you were going to leave on your pal's Facebook status probably isn't the best idea in the world. We can change this! The next time something you read online makes you angry (probably in the next two minutes?), close your eyes, take a deep breath, and step away from the keyboard (or just close the tab). There. That wasn't so bad, was it?
So, let's all take it upon ourselves to not be jerks on the Internet. It's the hot new thing going forward in 2013. We can do this, you guys.
Monday, September 16, 2013 | 0 Comments
Try: "filetype:xls site:za confidential"
The National Security Agency in May of 2013 declassified a hefty 643-page research manual called Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research that, at least at first, doesn't appear all that interesting. That is, except for one section on page 73: "Google Hacking."
"Say you're a cyberspy for the NSA and you want sensitive inside information on companies in South Africa," explains Kim Zetter at Wired. "What do you do?"
Well, you could type the following advanced search into Google — "filetype:xls site:za confidential" — to uncover a trove of seemingly private spreadsheets. How about an Excel file containing Russian passwords? Try: "filetype:xls site:ru login."
These are just two examples of the numerous private files that are inadvertently uploaded to the Internet, and can be accessed if you know the right Google search terms.
Pretty neat, huh? Declassified information being what it is, though, some of the search tips can appear a little dated.
And even if keyboard espionage isn't really your thing, the document contains a number of practical tips anyone can use to become a better Googler:
* Adding a tilde (~) immediately before a term will search for its synonyms. For example: "Scary ~animals" will also search for "scary creatures," etc.
* Repeating a word will help you find more relevant hits. For example a search for "java coffee coffee coffee" will cut down on the results about the programming language.
* You can use Google wildcard (*) to replace a term in a query if you don't know exactly what you're searching for. For example: "Sacramento is the * of California."
Take a look if you're interested over here. (Via Wired)
Monday, September 09, 2013 | 0 Comments