For tech, 2018 was the first of many very bad years to come

18 December 2018

From allTop Viral:

When it reemerged after the early 2000s dotcom bubble, the tech industry was a force to be reckoned with. Company after company emerged that was forging new market niches or disrupting old ones. Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Benioff, and Travis Kalanick became household names among the tech savvy. Those in the know used Facebook regularly, shopped almost exclusively on Amazon, and took Ubers around whatever city they lived in. This was the growth period.

Before too long, the gospel of tech spread beyond the young, the hip, and the knowledgable. Grandmas got Facebook, Amazon became the default verb for shopping online, and Ubers spread to nearly every city and town in the country. This was 2010-2016, and even as the companies were growing and spreading, the cracks were beginning to appear.

By 2017, the narrative was changing. Wired didn’t want to publish positive stories about tech anymore, not only because they’d been burned after endorsing companies that turned out to be duds or bosses that turned out to be jerks, but because their readership wasn’t into that kind of story anymore. They wanted to read negative stories.

And now there’s 2018. The narrative has fully shifted away from the “heroic tech companies” narrative. They are now, officially, villains.

. . . .

The next few years will be bad for tech. Not because of anything tech does, even, but because the narrative has changed and it will be some time before it shifts again.

Link to the rest at allTop Viral

PG understands that clickbait has its imperatives, but the truth (as opposed to the narrative) is that tech companies and those who lead them have their ups and downs just like other industries do.

Being the smartest person in the room doesn’t insulate much-lauded tech CEO’s from making terrible decisions nor does it permit them to understand what all the departments and employees in their company are doing.

The ancient Greeks had a lovely word to describe this perennial human trait which long predated the microchip – hubris.

Examples include the Persian king Xerxes who tried to punish the sea for destroying his bridge over the Hellespont and Ajax, who told Athena to help other warriors because he did not need divine help.

In The Iliad, Niobe, the queen of Thebes, had six sons and six daughters. She bragged about their virtues and number to the goddess Leto, who had only two children: Artemis and Apollo. When Artemis and Apollo heard of Niobe’s pridefulness, Apollo killed all of Niobe’s sons and Artemis killed all her daughters. This punishment for Niobe’s pride and her disregard for the gods’ superiority to mortals left her crippled by her grief and unable to stop weeping, even after she was later turned to a rock.

From The Harvard Business Review:

Hubris, the sin of overweening pride or arrogance, may be the most misunderstood disorder an executive will ever be confronted with. It’s not just narcissism; it’s much more dangerous than that.

Actually, no one nailed the nature and dynamics of this problem better than Aesop did: The Hare, in a circumstance where he should prevail (racing the tortoise), snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, after making a jackass of himself with his pre-race prattle. Had the Hare avoided hubris (and his famous nap), he would have handily trounced the tortoise, and moved on to signing autographs and giving press interviews. Pride did not just goeth before the fall; it actually caused the fall.

. . . .

[T]o understand hubris you need to recognize that it is first an act of defiance, and only after others have been completely offended do those suffering hubris take actions that ensure they will not achieve the successes they guaranteed they would.

By contrast, narcissism is a character disorder, which means it starts in the teenage years and defines a person’s entire modus operandi.  If, owing to a childhood that left you bereft of good feelings about yourself, you feel a need to preen and self-promote to merely stay afloat psychologically, that problem sticks with you forever. Psychotherapy can dampen a narcissist’s tendency to self-aggrandize, but under duress he’ll regress and become insufferably self-centered. A narcissist is pretty much a narcissist all the time.

Hubris, on the other hand, is a reactive disorder: Either the unfortunate consequence of endless laudatory press clippings leading to supreme over-confidence, or the culmination of a winning streak that causes a person to suffer the transient delusion that he is bullet-proof. Many good people will, under bad circumstances, suffer from hubris— but they tend to recover after toppling from their pedestals shrinks their egos back down to size.

Kenneth Lay, the former CEO of Enron, is a good example of executive hubris. Long before the company imploded, Lay lauded his company for being a “new economy” corporation “before it became cool to be one.” In an email sent to employees and the public only weeks before Enron’s coffers ran dry, Lay boasted, “Our performance has never been stronger, our business model has never been more robust. We have the finest organization in American business today.”

What is tragic about Lay’s self-destruction and the Enron collapse — apart from the number of lives ruined by it — is that Lay built the business, retired, and returned in a effort to save it, not to feather his own nest. Yet ultimately Lay could not throw himself on his shield and admit defeat, so he let his pride get in the way of reason, causing devastation as a result. Unable to watch his pride and joy fail, and unwilling to make the hard decisions that might have saved a diminished version of it, he decided to cook the books – and in so doing, his business’s goose.

. . . .

Chief among the aspects of your corporate culture that you must imbue in all employees -but particularly the stars who are most vulnerable to hubris— is the virtue of humility. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, the Fool warns the ill-fated monarch, “Have more than thou showest; speak less than thou knowest.

Link to the rest at The Harvard Business Review

From The Guardian:

Originally a triumph was an ancient Roman celebratory procession awarded to generals who had won important battles. It was a ritual governed by strict rules; no general’s remit ran in Rome itself, so when he returned from his campaign the successful general had to wait outside the city walls while the Senate suspended the law – for one day only – to allow him in with his army. In order to merit a triumph, a general had to have won a decisive victory in which his troops killed more than 5,000 of the enemy while sustaining relatively light casualties themselves.

Not every general could expect a triumph even when these conditions were met; he had also to hold the rank of magistrate at least. Scipio Africanus, after his amazing feats of generalship in Spain, was granted only an ovatio because he was insufficiently senior.

A triumphant general was given a warm welcome. Standing in a four-horse chariot, accompanied by toga-clad senators, followed by his booty and captives, and surrounded by his troops shouting “io triumphe!” and singing coarse songs, he made his way through huge, applauding crowds along the Via Sacra to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, there to sacrifice an assortment of animals to the king of the gods, and to offer up the bay leaf wreath which the Senate had placed on his brow as the sign of his victory.

The most important person in the triumphal procession was not, however, the general himself, but the slave who stood with him in his chariot. It was this slave’s duty, as the procession wound its way through the cheers, to whisper warnings into the general’s ear, to help him guard against the consequences of pride, arrogance, overweening self-belief, loss of perspective, and forgetfulness of home truths.

“You are mortal,” whispered the slave. “Remember, the gods are jealous. Disaster might follow triumph, and when it does it can be all the more devastating therefore. Success breeds many enemies. Unless you are magnanimous in victory, you might one day taste the bitterness of defeat. Homer said: ‘It is man’s lot to fight, but fate alone grants success.’ Men are never truly conquered by arms, but by love and reason; so far, you have only conquered by arms.”

. . . .

Hubris, as the slave’s whispers show, is one risk of triumph. Another is its tendency to invite repose, relaxation, a dropped guard. In either case it invites future defeat.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

The Best BookBub Ads of 2018

18 December 2018

From BookBub:

In 2018, thousands of authors and book marketers used BookBub Ads, our self-serve display ads platform, to promote books to BookBub’s millions of readers. As the end of the year approaches, we wanted to share some of the most successful BookBub Ads campaigns of 2018!

There are many ways to define a “successful” ad campaign because there are many different things you can accomplish with display ads. The following campaigns represent a diversity of genres and strategies, but each stood out to us in its own way — some had a high click-through rate, some had a low cost-per-click. Some cost thousands of dollars, others cost $100. One campaign ran for over two years, another for just a few days. But every one of them demonstrates the core elements that make for effective advertising on any platform: targeting a relevant audience with engaging creative that will capture their interest.

. . . .

Leighann Dobbs, Dead Wrong

Leighann ran a series of 13 three-day long campaigns for this book in February and March testing different single-author targets. She reached readers on all regions and retailers, and overall she had an average 4.5% CTR and over 6,000 clicks across all the campaigns. Leighann used CPM bidding, but with her narrow targeting she was able to pay an average rate of only $0.09 per click across the entire series of campaigns. A free deal and a cover that clearly communicates the book’s genre (a title pun, a sassy illustrated heroine, and a cat definitely say “cozy mystery”!) can sometimes be all it takes to get readers to click.

. . . .

Melody Grace, Meant to Be

Melody set up four ads for this campaign, using each of the above images to target fans of a single romance author on two different retailers. The campaigns have been live with daily budgets for four months and counting, and so far, over 20,000 readers have clicked on one of these ads. Both images have performed equally well with the audience she’s targeting.

Link to the rest at BookBub

’tis the Season for Spam

18 December 2018

Is PG the only one being deluged with spam or are his spam-killing extensions off for the holidays?

Here’s one he just deleted (with the disguised link omitted):

Look what we have for you! niceoffers
Are you in?

If you have any niceoffers for potential posts on TPV, you can send them to the phony Santa at Casa PG by clicking on the Contact link (which was free from nasty internet connections to offers from the Unterwelt when PG just checked it).

A gender-neutral Santa with tattoos? Survey gauges how to rebrand St. Nick

17 December 2018

Nothing to do with books, but a great many people in the book business are having nothing to do with books this week.

From CBS News:

Should jolly old Saint Nicholas become jolly old Saint Nicola? Should Santa be gender neutral? More than a quarter of people who responded to a new online survey by GraphicSprings say yes.

And that’s not all. When asked how they would modernize Santa, twenty percent of people responded that he should have tattoos. Eighteen percent responded that his iconic red-and-white suit should be replaced with skinny jeans. And twenty two percent said that Santa should ditch the sleigh in exchange for a flying car.

. . . .

And forget cookies. Twenty one percent of people who responded to GraphicSprings’ survey suggested that Santa should go on a diet – though it’s hard to imagine leaving a crudités platter out in the living room the night before Christmas.

The graphic design company used Google surveys to collect responses from 400 people across the U.S. and U.K. on how they would rebrand Santa with a more modern edge.

Link to the rest at CBS News

New Year’s Day

17 December 2018

New Year’s Day. A fresh start. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. New questions to be asked, embraced, and loved. Answers to be discovered and then lived in this transformative year of delight and self-discovery. Today carve out a quiet interlude for yourself in which to dream, pen in hand. Only dreams give birth to change.

~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

2018 in Review at Canada’s Wattpad: 51 Percent More Readings in Muslim Romance

17 December 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

Among statistics from 2018 provided to news media by Toronto-based Wattpad, the company is reporting that readers on the platform spent an average of 1.7 million minutes this year reading stories tagged #MuslimRomance, #MuslimLoveStory, and #IslamicLoveStory—a 51-percent increase over 2017.

Having recently moved its monthly-active-user tally from 65 million to 70 million, the company at year’s end is reiterating its perception of its service as, in part, providing “a safe space online for marginalized voices and their stories.”

Discerning writers on the platform can read the year-end information as clues to opportunities for story directions.

In regards to the Muslim romance category, the staff writes, “While reading time in these categories has grown into the millions, uploads are still relatively small, indicating a huge demand for diversity in romance …

. . . .

Overall diversity is popular as well, and the company citing readers spending “close to 116 million minutes reading stories tagged #POC (people of color), #Diversity,” and #DiverseLit.’ These hashtagged classifications are reported to have been up 41 percent this year over 2017.

Uploads tagged for diversity increased 40 percent, as well, Wattpad reports, indicating that authors are stepping up their response to the apparent interest in this material.

. . . .

(C)ompany officials are on-record saying, “Our team should match our community, which is why we’ll keep listening, learning, and pushing ourselves to do better, until we get there.”

Of concern at the time was a finding that Wattpad’s engineering group was only 17 percent women, while the product team was looking just as imbalanced at 100-percent women.

Now, in its new statement of 2018 numbers, the platform—which consistently has more traction among women users—reports, “This year, people spent more than 107 million minutes reading stories tagged #Feminism, #Girlpower, #Feminist, and #Feminismo, up 43 percent from 2017.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

It appears that PG must have gotten out on the retrograde side of the bed this morning. His trending hashtags are #ancientwisdom and #historyteachesus.

(When PG was typing #ancientwisdom into Google to see what might come up, the Googleplex suggested #ancientaliens, so that might be another trend.)

Dictionaries chose 3 different words of the year for 2018

17 December 2018

From Fast Company:

If you think about the state of humanity and our future on the planet, there’s just one adjective that tidily sums it all up. That word is “toxic,” and the Oxford Dictionary has chosen it as the word of the year. This year, you could apply the word to the environment, the political debate, the discourse over masculinity, the rise of overt racism, office culture, dog food, almost anything, really.

Meanwhile, Dictionary.com chose an equally apt word, “misinformation,” which it defines as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” In other words, that favorite new expletive, Fake News!

Not to be outdone, Merriam-Webster opted for a word that is both slightly more hopeful and incredibly frustrating: “justice.” The dictionary claims it was one of the most looked-up words throughout the year, marking a 74% rise in people looking to define the word compared to 2017.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

Nobody asked PG about this subject, but if they had, he might have chosen paranoia, psychotic or deranged.

However, after thinking about it, a German word he learned from Mrs. PG many years ago is PG’s 2018 Word of the Year awardee: Weltschmerz

The Emily Brontë Song Cycle: wandering in the wuthering heights

17 December 2018

From The Guardian:

It begins with a flock of birds taking raucous flight; and even though there are no crows to be seen above the heather-flecked moors around the Brontë Parsonage at Haworth, it’s difficult to discern whether this is reality, or a fantasy. I’m immersed in the latest heritage project dedicated to the literary family: a unique audio experience that combines Emily’s poetry, folk music and West Yorkshire’s grand landscape to produce something quite incredible.

The Emily Brontë Song Cycle, an audio production pairing Emily’s poems and music by folk group the Unthanks, was commissioned by the Brontë Society, which runs the sisters’ old family home the Parsonage as a hugely successful museum. The last couple of years has seen a number of Brontë bicentennial anniversaries; this year marked marked 200 years since the birth of Emily, best known for her only novel, Wuthering Heights.

Emily is perhaps less known for her poems; indeed, only one – Remembrance – was published in her lifetime. But it was her verse that composer and pianist Adrian McNally and the Unthank sisters Rachel and Becky turned to, eventually turning Emily’s poetry into songs that marry with the landscape that inspired and informed all three sisters in their own ways.

The final product is a hi-tech audio trail that leads people out out of honey-pot tourist trap of Haworth and up Penistone Hill, along dirt tracks that cleave the bleak and beautiful countryside, accompanied by commentary from McNally and the Unthank sisters. Along the way, radio frequency beacons are hidden to keep the music coming, and visitors are given noise-cancelling headphones to insulate them from the outside world, with only the haunting voices of the Unthanks and Emily’s often dark poetry in their ears. It’s an utterly immersive experience – so much so that, as I head up what’s known locally as the Balcony Path, a Lycra-clad cyclist silently barrelling down towards me startles me so badly that I jump. The effect of the music and landscape together creates an almost separate reality, in which even the most mundane modern intrusion feels like a jarring shock.

The music was recorded at the Parsonage, with McNally composing on Emily Brontë’s own piano, a five-octave cabinet piano from the early 19th century.

. . . .

As you pass through the churchyard, the first song is Deep Down in the Silent Grave; at the crest of Penistone Hill walkers are invited to listen to High Waving Heather and cast their gaze to the west, and the hillside site of Top Withins, thought to be Emily’s inspiration for Wuthering Heights. And yes, up on those wiley, windy moors, the ghost of Kate Bush does occasionally tap at the window. Her song Wuthering Heights – 40 years old in this year of Emily’s bicentenary – has no doubt brought many a coach-load of visitors to Haworth.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG’s impression is that the Brontë sisters are an evergreen topic for the Guardian as well as many other publications.

PG isn’t certain whether many other formerly well-known mid-19th century authors have lasted quite so well as the Brontë Bunch.

Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau, Frederick Douglass and Nathaniel Hawthorne are still remembered and, occasionally, studied, but they don’t draw tourists like the most famous women of West Yorkshire.

Of course, Jane Austen is at least equally revered, but she is more of a creature of a somewhat earlier time, the turn of the 18th to the 19th centuries.

PG hadn’t heard of the Unthanks prior to reading the OP. Here’s a bit of one of their performances.

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