Monday, 8 December 2014

Tumblr and Teens

If you haven't heard - Tumblr is the fastest growing social network right now, ahead of Instagram and Pinterest.

I joined Tumblr over 4 years ago, quickly falling in love with the simplicity and design of it. I was easily able to craft my own blog, reblogging content I loved and posting my own pictures and favourite content. Tumblr skews young - it was perfect when I was 19 and super interested in the alternative subcultures that I didn't get to see in the local mall.

I started following queer authors and feminists, social justice leaders and activists. Finally, my eyes were opened to different situations outside my small suburb in Waterloo.

Businesses have finally gotten on board; I now see advertisements for McDonalds and Taco Bell on my dashboard. Bands have Tumblrs, and even Laurier has gotten involved with the platform.

Tumblr skews very young, and I find myself becoming more and more uninterested and more and more out-of-the-loop. So many of the popular jokes are about highschool, and here I am finishing my undergraduate degree.

It's a weird feeling growing out of a social network. It's only been a couple years, but I guess I'm growing out of Tumblr and into LinkedIn.

What a weird feeling.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

On Privacy and the Internet

A while ago, Tim Cook published a statement about privacy and the Apple philosophy. My favourite quote from his statement is this:
"A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product."

While this is a sentiment I've been repeating for years, I found it interesting to hear it come from Mr. Cook. My first thought was that he's talking about Facebook and Google. I thought "who is he targeting with this? Who is he alluding to?"

Of course Apple is different. They don't make money off ads, they make money off selling overpriced products and services to willing fans. Sure, some of the stuff is free, but they don't make money off services supported by advertising.

 An important thing to remember is who has their hand in the cookie jar. If you're not paying for something, then where is the company getting their money from? Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft.... you can be sure they're not non-profits.

And if you're not paying for it, someone else is. It's important to know who that person is.

Monday, 1 December 2014

My Inbox is Exploding

My inbox is exploding.

It does this every year. I'm apparently on so many mailing lists, and every store is having a Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sale. Stores I don't think I've ever bought anything from. Stores I've never even visited (either in person or online).

How did they get my email? Or more importantly, why do they think I care about their sales?

Some companies do it better. Amazon sent me an email saying the video game I've been looking at is now on sale. Threadless sent me an email saying the t-shirt I voted for is printed and on sale.

Others are very, very bad at it. I got an email about powertools from some company I've never heard of. I got an email about accessories for iPhones (I have a Samsung). I got an email about PS4 games on sale. I have no interest in any of these things. Why am I getting emails about them?

I understand that email marketing is an important form of marketing, especially when you're selling stuff online. I get that. But why are you sending mass emails to people who don't care? All you've done is lost me; I unsubscribed to each one.

Don't send mass emails unless you know I care. If you bought my email from someone and I have no recollection giving it to you, then odds are I don't care. You might get some interest, but you're probably pissing off way more people than you're selling to.

And for the love of God - make sure there's an unsubscribe button on your email so I can get rid of you for good.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Why I Hate The Internet: FHRITP

A disturbing trend has picked up steam online.

It all started with a video where prankster John Cain pretended to be a journalist reporting on a missing woman when he accidentally says he'd "f--k her right in the p---y." The video went viral, and now people are harassing female reporters, yelling the phrase while these women are reporting on air.

I'm disgusted. I saw the video a while ago, and while I didn't really think it was funny, I also didn't think anything of it.

Now people (almost always men) are targeting these women in their workplace, ruining their broadcasts and demeaning them in front of their audience. It's scary, it's hurtful, and it's completely disgusting. What kind of person thinks this okay? What kind of person does this?

Sometimes I hate the internet and what it spreads.

And I'm not even linking the video.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Man Walks Into Starbucks

"A man walks into Starbucks and before he gets to the counter someone says to him you’ll never guess which eight celebrities used to be baristas and he tries to guess and suddenly he’s drinking coffee in Buzzbucks." - Pete Davies, from here

Online stores get away with a lot of stuff that would never fly in real life.

No, I don't want to do your survey. No, I don't want to hear about other weird things you want to recommend. No, I don't want you to tell me how to shop. No, I don't care about your membership plans. No, I don't want your advertising on my facebook feed.

"A man walks into Starbucks and he has to wait and watch a video but after five seconds he can go in if he starts skipping."

Noise in the real world is everywhere, but it seems like it's so much easier to avoid. You don't get pushy people asking for your email before you're allowed to enter the store. You don't get forced into watching some promotional piece before you can see what's on sale. And if I was just in a store, I don't see ads about what I was looking at all over my life.

If you want to get me to buy things, you have to make it easy for me. Don't make me sign up, don't ask for my personal information unless you need it for something directly related to my purchase. I tried to buy a digital album yesterday and they wouldn't let me buy it unless I gave them my home address and phone number. No, you don't need that, and I'm not trusting you with more data than is necessary.

It's time companies wake up and see why people are leaving their online stores. I love online shopping, but once I get a popup asking me to sign up for something, you can bet I'm running the other way.

The beauty of online shopping is that if I like your product, I can do a quick google search and find it somewhere else. I don't need to get it from you, and you can bet I'm not going to if you make me just through hoops to give you my money.

Check out more "a man walks into Starbucks" here.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Quick Note on Correcting People's Spelling

It seems like these days, the most popular way to prove how smart you are online is by correcting other people's grammar and spelling. I see it everyday - someone is always pointing out how another person used the wrong their/there/they're or your/you're. Don't make any mistakes online; there is always someone who can't wait to correct you.

I always ask what purpose they're trying to serve. What does that correction add to the conversation? Could you understand what they meant to say in the first place? Yes? Then what are you trying to accomplish?

The only thing I can come up with is that they're tying to show how smart they are. "Look at me! I noticed you made a mistake and I'm going to show you how smart I am by pointing out how dumb you are!"

It hardly ever adds anything to the conversation, and I'm pretty sure you can almost always tell what they really meant. I would argue that a lot of these mistakes are just that - mistakes. People aren't dumb for mixing up you're and your in their facebook status update. I like to believe that even if it isn't spelled right, you probably knew what they were trying to say and your correction does nothing to further the conversation.

It especially bugs me a lot when someone with more education points out a mistake someone less educated made. It really seems like someone picking on another person who hasn't been as fortunate as them. We get it, you have a university degree. Who are you trying to impress? Why are you still trying to prove how smart you are. Why are you picking on someone who doesn't have the same background? Not everyone learns advanced English in Highschool... Grammar and spelling mistakes are the low hanging fruit. Why not add something useful to the conversation?

A friend of mine misspelled a tweet and had over 20 people tweet back a correction. Not a single one actually responded to what she was actually talking about. It really just came across as "hey look you made a mistake and I'm going to make sure you know all about it."

I just don't get it.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Ben Huh's 3 Lessons

Ben Huh, the  CEO of the infamous I Can Has Cheezburger, posted his story and lessons on Medium today. He detailed his story of the struggles of the business, including multiple rounds of layoffs and falling revenues. He also explained his side of the story, and even owns up to the fact that he lost his focus and vision throughout the way.

Near the end, he discusses the three lessons he learned over the last three years. I found it refreshing and interesting to hear about one CEO's struggles, especially that he is able to see where he went wrong.

The first lesson: "Consumption is learning"
He talks about learning from others, and I think this fits really well with what I am learning these days. Social media moves so quickly that many universities are only just now figuring out how to teach it. Much of what I know about the internet and social media isn't stuff I learned in a classroom. It's stuff I learned by seeing others use it. I learned the little tips and tricks about hashtags from the thought-leaders I follow. When I was hired to help run a facebook page, I had never run a facebook page before. I learned how to properly do it by seeing what other facebook pages were posting. I learned through consuming other people's posts.

The second lesson: "Remixing is cooperation"
He mentions that everyone should be open to criticism and cooperation. By inviting others to comment, modify, and remix your work, you can grow and develop something better than anything imagined. Social media is inherently social (maybe that's why they call it social media!) and it pays to have people suggesting new ideas. Creativity isn't a one-person operation; it comes out of many people working together to create something through cooperation. I'll never understand facebook pages that don't let people comment or twitter accounts that don't read their mentions. Afterall, how can you create anything new without listening directly to your consumers.

The third lesson: "Friction kills. Speed wins"
His take on this is that you need to get out of the way of the users to allow them to do whatever they want. His take on speed is that people don't want to wait, and that you need to get the product to the consumers as fast as possible. This applies in every aspect of life I think; I can't be the only one who hates waiting around for the newest product or innovation. Social media is about speed. If I take a good picture on my phone, you can bet I'm posting it to instagram right away. I think the biggest annoyance is waiting for content. For example, last week Laurier SOS took a picture of me holding one of their signs for a contest. They told me that once it was posted, if I tagged myself in it, I'd be entered to win. I went home and looked for the picture to no avail. I quickly forgot about it. Today, the pictures were posted and someone mentioned it to me. I couldn't believe that - a whole week to post some pictures?! Of course I completely forgot about the contest and the picture. Speed wins, and in this case their lack of speed killed.

It's interesting to hear his version of these lessons, and I liked that they're coming from a place where he was failing the company. So much of the advice we get is from people who are doing well and have always done well. I really liked reading the perspective of someone who struggled so much, and not in that "rags-to-riches" way but "here's how I almost destroyed everything" way.