Social Media

How to Email

15 January 2017

From The Atlantic:

I recently cut the amount of time I spent on email by almost half, and I think a lot of people could do the same.

I’m sure my approach has made some people hate me, because I come off curt. But if everyone thought about email in the same way, what I’m suggesting wouldn’t be rude. Here are the basic guidelines that are working for me and, so, I propose for all of the world to adopt immediately:

No signoff.

Best? Cheers? Thanks?

None of the above. You can write your name if it feels too naked or abrupt not to have something down there. But it shouldn’t, and it wouldn’t if it were the norm.

No greeting.

Don’t waste time considering if “Dear,” or “Hey” or “[name]!” is appropriate. Just get right into it. Write the recipient’s name if you must. But most people already know their names. Like they already know your name.

Greetings and closings are relics of the handwritten missive that persist only as matters of, ostensibly, formality. Foregoing them can seem curt or impolite. But it’s the opposite. Long, formal emails are impolite.

Text messages and chat platforms like Gchat and Slack require no such formality, so why should it seem rude to forego it in email? It’s a culture overdue for change. In my experience, most people over age 70 or so are already totally down with blunt emails, it’s just the younger people who have been slow to adapt and insist on making each missive into a production on which they will be heavily judged, and on judging one another accordingly.

Brevity signals respect. Three sentences or fewer.

An email is an imposition on a person’s time. Writing to someone is saying I know you have a finite amount of time and attention today, and in life, and I’m going to take some of it.

Undue formality only wastes more of that time. And it wastes the writer’s time in worrying about exactly how formal to be.

Rarely does an email require more than three sentences. If it does, consider calling or getting together in person. Social interaction is healthy, and more time spent in the inbox isn’t likely to be.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Facebook Faces Copyright Issues Amid Video Explosion

3 January 2017

From Copyright and Technology:

It’s fairly well established by now — thanks to court decisions like Viacom v. YouTube and UMG v. Veoh — that online service operators have no legal duty to proactively police their services for potential copyright infringement.  But that doesn’t mean that some services don’t do it anyway.  The biggest example is Google’s Content ID system for YouTube, which uses fingerprinting technology to flag uploads that contain copyrighted material.

The reason why Google implemented Content ID (in 2007) is simple: Google figured out a way to make money from it.  Copyright owners can choose to allow their content to be uploaded and take a share of revenue from ads that Google places in or alongside the video clips.  The major record companies participate in this arrangement for the vast majority of their content.  They aren’t thrilled with the per-stream revenue they are getting, but both sides agree that it’s better than having YouTube just block everything that matches.

Enter Facebook. Over the past couple of years, Facebook has become a bigger and bigger video-sharing service, one that is starting to rival YouTube in audience size and arguably exceed it in audience engagement.  This has led to “freebooting,” or capturing video streams from YouTube and re-posting them on Facebook.  And not just major record label or Hollywood studio content, but any popular YouTube video.

After a crescendo of complaints from native YouTube stars as well as the music industry, Facebook announced that it would be building a “Rights Manager” system based on the Audible Magic fingerprinting technology that it has been using for years to scan uploaded audio.  (YouTube also used Audible Magic before Content ID was implemented based on its own technology.)

Facebook’s Rights Manager allows copyright holders to “claim” their content and decide what they want Facebook to do with it.  Yet unlike Google’s Content ID, Rights Manager ultimately allows only two options: just allow the upload (and offer usage statistics to the copyright owner), or report it to the copyright owner as a potential violation.  There is no option to block the upload automatically.  Instead, rights holders must receive notices of matched content and then issue takedown notices to Facebook using Facebook’s DMCA process; then Facebook will “promptly remove those videos in response to valid reports.”

. . . .

The NMPA (National Music Publishers Association, the trade group for U.S. music publishers) has raised concerns about the growing amount of videos of cover versions of copyrighted songs (compositions) being uploaded on Facebook without licensing.  Recording a cover version of a song that’s in copyright normally requires a mechanical license from the music publisher.  Under the law, the publisher can’t refuse to grant the mechanical license, but the performing artist must notify the publisher (if the publisher is known), and the artist must pay a standard royalty.

This requires that Facebook detect cover versions of musical compositions.  Audible Magic can’t do that. Acoustic fingerprinting technology is good at matching recordings, but it’s not designed to match cover versions of compositions.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

My new novel is available in the following formats

3 January 2017


Posted by Tom Gauld on Monday, January 2, 2017

Thanks to Dave for the tip.

French workers win legal right to avoid checking work email out-of-hours

2 January 2017

PG acknowledges this is not exactly about books, but relevant to staying plugged-in vs. unplugging from time to time.

From The Guardian:

From Sunday, French companies will be required to guarantee their employees a “right to disconnect” from technology as the country seeks to tackle the modern-day scourge of compulsive out-of-hours email checking.

On 1 January, an employment law will enter into force that obliges organisations with more than 50 workers to start negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones.

Overuse of digital devices has been blamed for everything from burnout to sleeplessness as well as relationship problems, with many employees uncertain of when they can switch off.

. . . .

The measure is intended to tackle the so-called “always-on” work culture that has led to a surge in usually unpaid overtime – while also giving employees flexibility to work outside the office.

“There’s a real expectation that companies will seize on the ‘right to disconnect’ as a protective measure,” said Xavier Zunigo, a French workplace expert, as a new survey on the subject was published in October.

“At the same time, workers don’t want to lose the autonomy and flexibility that digital devices give them,” added Zunigo, who is an academic and director of research group Aristat.

. . . .

Some measures include cutting email connections in the evening and weekends or even destroying emails automatically that are sent to employees while they are on holiday.

A study published by French research group Eleas in October showed that more than a third of French workers used their devices to do work out-of-hours every day. About 60% of workers were in favour of regulation to clarify their rights.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Technology is the Worst Thing to ever Happen to me

31 December 2016

From HackerNoon:

Everyone says that technology is great. We can do so much more! I can catch up with old friends! I’m alerted immediately to everything that happens so I never miss out! Look at this photo of my best friends sisters cousins dog in Indonesia drinking a milkshake!

My contrarian truth for 2017 is that technology, or at least the current advances to instantaneous always connected communication, has ruined my life. I don’t mean that as some sort of hyperbole, I literally mean it has detrimentally affected the quality of life that I have every day.

It has bred obsession on a scale unimaginable before smartphones. At no time in human history have we been more connected to everyone around but at no point have we been more detached. Meetings and conversations have been replaced by likes and retweets and form the social currency which afford us happiness.

I’m expected to answer email all the time, calls whenever they arrive, friends when they WhatsApp me, colleagues when they LinkedIn me, acquaintances when they tweet me. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the barage of communication I’d become an outcast from if I ignored it.

Only I wouldn’t but we all have fear of missing out.

. . . .

We see all the good parts of people’s lives and none of the bad. It gives us unrealistic expectations of what our own life should be like so we try to compete.

. . . .

Smartphones are a terrible habit and a cancer. We are addicted and they cause as much harm as many illicit substances. In many ways we are even less in the moment when on our phones than we would be if on something. We aren’t even present; if your attention isn’t focused on your reality are you really conscious?

Link to the rest at HackerNoon

One of the benefits PG finds in a Kindle is that he really does only one thing with it. Read. Books.

Yes, he can shop on Amazon, but he finds the Eink shopping experience slow and clumsy so he never buys ebooks or anything else with his Kindle. He’s not certain if there is a browser on his current Kindle because the browser experience on his first Kindle was so bad, he immediately stopped using it.

PG has a tablet and, for him, it’s not a good tool for reading books. He’ll read short articles on the tablet, check email, websurf, etc., but he much prefers the Kindle for books. He essentially treats it as a non-connected device for 99.999% of the time it’s in his hands. It’s a book and a small bookshelf.

Huge Increase in Brute Force Attacks in December and What to Do

16 December 2016

PG thinks this may be of interest since many authors use WordPress for their blogs. Wordfence is a leading security software plugin for WordPress. Wordfence offers both free and paid versions of its plugin.

From the Wordfence Blog:

At Wordfence we constantly monitor the WordPress attack landscape in real-time. Three weeks ago, on November 24th, we started seeing a rise in brute force attacks. As a reminder, a brute force attack is one that tries to guess your username and password to sign into your WordPress website.

. . . .

Brute force attacks are unsophisticated. They are simple password guessing attacks. A machine will automatically try to sign into your website over and over in the hope that it can guess your password.

If you install the free version of Wordfence, you are automatically protected against brute force attacks. It’s that simple. We also automatically block the worst offenders completely, and we share some information below on who those are.

. . . .

During the past three weeks we have seen the number of sites attacked each day almost double.

. . . .

The following table shows the top 20 countries sorted by attacks during the past 24 hours. As you can see, Ukraine is by far the main culprit, responsible for over 15% of total attacks. That is a lot when you consider that the population of Ukraine is only 45 million people.

Link to the rest at Wordfence Blog

PG suggests than anyone with a WordPress-blog use a security plugin. PG has used Wordfence and Sucuri Security plugins with good results. As mentioned in the OP, Wordfence permanently blocks abusive IP addresses from even attempting to log into WordPress.

One additional suggestion is to use a really good and really long password for your blog. PG recently posted about password managers. These programs will both create and remember really good passwords.

What’s a really good password?


PG generated it with a single click in LastPass. He’s not using this password, but if he were, LastPass would remember it and automatically insert it whenever he signed onto the appropriate website.

One other advantage of using a password manager is that, because it automatically inserts the password, PG can use very long and complex passwords without ever having to type them to access a website.

A Clear Case of Anxiety in Motion

10 December 2016
Comments Off on A Clear Case of Anxiety in Motion

From Medium:

I was in the middle of finishing up my newsletter for the social network of overthinkers, Alone and taking care of my 6-year-old daughter, a work issue suddenly popped up. Though I was distracted and I hadn’t completely finished my process of nailing down what I wanted to say in the newsletter, I hit send. I wanted the dopamine hit. I wanted to move on.

. . . .

People don’t usually unsubscribe from the bevoya newsletter. But after rushing and sending this one out, 2 people unsubscribed pretty quickly. I was upset and disturbed. Not because people had decided what I was creating wasn’t for them. I was upset because I hadn’t given myself the space to finish my work and send it when it was ready to go. My anxiety to finish and feel done had pushed me to hit send before I was really ready to. I needed more space.

. . . .

I keep pondering this idea of space. The best way I can describe it is: the space to create. Focused relaxation.

If I were to do it over, I would have forced myself to wait to send that newsletter. I would have rewritten it when I had time. I would have achieved the completion of my thought and felt my conclusion click, nailing the ending (a very different feeling than the dopamine-send hit).

Link to the rest at Medium

4 Steps to Selling More Books with Less Social Media

30 November 2016

From Digital Book World:

When I ask new email subscribers to tell me their number one book marketing challenge, the answer is overwhelmingly the conundrum that is social media: it takes too much time, and the results are difficult to measure. I agree.

Without a solid understanding of how social media does and doesn’t work, authors resort to the splatter method. But trying to hit every social media channel is a poor marketing strategy. On the contrary—you can successfully sell more books with less social media in four steps:

1. Find, build and target your proprietary audience.
2. Choose a primary social media channel for engagement and selling based on five specific criteria.
3. Designate social media outpost channels to direct potential fans to your primary social media channel.
4. Create a content system designed to foster engagement first and sell books second based on authentic author interaction with fans.

. . . .

Finding your readers shouldn’t be like playing Where’s Waldo. Here are a few tactics to find out where your readers are on social media.

• Survey your own readers. If you don’t know the social media preferences of your readers, ask them. You can send out a free survey on Survey Monkey or Google Forms to all your readers via email and social media posts. Find out who they are (demographics), where they spend their time on social media, and what other authors they read.
• Check free general use statistics on Pew Internet and other free data sites. Pew Internet provides the most reliable and extensive data on social media use worldwide. There are reputable marketing sites like HubSpot, Buffer, Marketo, Nielsen, Social Bakers and others that also publish free periodic data reports on social media use.
• Check your social media channel data. Most major social media channels will give you data about your followers.
• Check with your professional associations. Some writer organizations, such as Romance Writers of America, offer data about the genre’s readers to members.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Facebook’s Stumbles Expose Flaws in Its Plan to Rule Advertising

28 November 2016

From Wired:

The internet was supposed to mean a whole new world for the business of advertising. Gobs of data let advertisers become wildly efficient in who they target and how they measure results. Consumers also ostensibly win: If you’re in the market want a quality winter coat, the thinking goes, you’re not going to be annoyed if you see an ad for one.

In this new world, Facebook is on top. It knows so much about its users that it can deliver ads precisely calibrated for virtually any demographic you can dream of, from suburban grandmothers to millennials living abroad. But lately, Facebook has faltered, exposing cracks in the basic assumptions about the superiority of digital advertising—the business model on which so much of the internet has run for the past 20 years.

Last week, Facebook said it found flaws in the metrics it reported to advertisers—the measurements by which those advertisers judge the success of their ad campaigns on the platform. The company said it overstated the reach of Facebook Pages and Instant Articles, as well as its count of referrals to apps from ads. This admission of miscounting came just a few months after Facebook said it had inflated how much time on average viewers spent watching video ads for two years.

Facebook has promised more transparency. But in media and advertising circles, some critics are starting to ask whether they’ve been spending their money wisely on Facebook. Were they duped into making costly business decisions based on wrong information?

Link to the rest at Wired

The Price We Pay for an Ad-Powered Internet

17 November 2016

From The New York Times:

We don’t usually think of Timothy Leary as a consumer advocate, but in his zealous promotion of LSD, the iconoclastic 1960s psychologist was searching for what today we would call an ad blocker — though his tiny tabs relied more on messing with our sensory receptors than dropping code on our mobile phones.

In his new book “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads,” Tim Wu reminds us that Leary pushed acid in the pursuit of “a complete attentional revolution” in which his followers would reject the growing external stimuli of commercial media in favor of an inward, spiritual journey.

It’s more than a bit ironic, then, that Leary felt compelled to resort to a classic marketing trick, the jingle, to press his case. His “Turn on, tune in, drop out” was so catchy that, though failing to smash the attention economy, it was ultimately complicit in contributing to it, showing up in a campaign for Squirt, a grapefruit-flavored soda: “Turn on to flavor, tune in to sparkle, and drop out of the cola rut.”

This gets at the heart of the compelling thesis of “The Attention Merchants,” namely that the age of mass media and mass marketing is characterized by an arms race between those who seek to capture the valuable commodity of our attention and capitalize on it for gain and those who resist this harvesting of time either through drugs; regulation; or most effectively, collective boredom, distraction and indifference. Wu’s argument is that each boom in commercial media in some way went too far and provoked an either minor or major revolt, pushing the advertising industry to adopt more sophisticated or extreme methods to monetize our time.

. . . .

 There is little sign of this trend slowing, only accelerating. Facebook and Google represent the largest and most successful advertising-funded businesses in history. They are busy developing technologies that track not only our attention but also every aspect of our online behavior and, in Facebook’s case, synthesizing it with what is known as our “social graph.” That graph is the circle of colleagues, acquaintances, families and friends we connect with online and determines as a result what type of advertising and even what type of news or other content we see. We are largely unaware of how the hidden tracking technologies operate and are complicit in how much we surrender.

From his historical perspective, Wu can see that often a moment such as this one, in which our eyeballs are so thoroughly monopolized, is followed by resistance. But his concern is that we have not individually or collectively paid enough attention to the commercialization of every part of our lives: “Our society has been woefully negligent about what in other contexts we would call the rules of zoning, the regulation of commercial activity where we live, figuratively and literally. It is a question that goes to the heart of how we value what used to be called our private lives.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times 

PG will note that we pay a similar price for an ad-powered New York Times and an ad-powered NBC.

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