LinkedIn’s Group Spam Problem Is Almost Unbearable

LinkedIn Spam

Not the first to complain about the spam problem that plagues LinkedIn groups, but I shall definitely jump on the bandwagon because it feels like it’s escalating lately.

I’ve been rather careful about the groups I’ve joined (a mere 20) and changed all my settings to receive only digest emails only for the groups I’m most interested in, weekly for others and turned them off altogether for others, yet it feels like the spam levels have increased. I may have to excuse myself from most of my groups just for the sake of email sanity.

I know that the vast membership of LinkedIn tend to be typically unengaged unless actively seeking new opportunities, but the successful groups are more engaged and with their high numbers are a tempting target for the less scrupulous of our profession.

Marketers. I guess they’re why we can’t have nice things.

The Truth About New Year’s Resolutions… They Suck!

The Truth About New Years Resolutions

Most of us make New Year’s resolutions and most of us fail to keep them. It’s not because we didn’t have the intention to keep or achieve them, it’s simply because they were unrealistic to begin with.

Last year I had resolved to write a book in 2014. It didn’t happen because I over-estimated the amount of time I’d have available between family and work commitments. Actually I did worse than over-estimate, I knew I wouldn’t have time between work and family commitments, but deluded myself that I could write it anyway.

Don’t spend half next year feeling guilty for not achieving the resolutions you make while feeling nostalgic over the next few weeks.

Write an honest set of resolutions down and then aggressively trim them using honesty and reason. Rinse and repeat tomorrow, and the day after that…

It’s better to feel happy about achieving some well-thought-out resolutions than it is to feel guilty about not achieving ill-conceived ones.

They Didn’t Think It Through – Browsing WordPress Mobile Theme Stores

I was looking for inspiration for a mobile site design today, trawling WordPress theme stores, when I noticed a particularly stupid and unhelpful trend.

The image you see below is what I get when I visit the demo for a mobile theme on a mobile browser. Yes, that’s right – you’re looking at the full desktop site with the mobile version embedded in a frame…

I understand that these demos are setup to help people visiting from their desktop, but is it really such a stretch of the imagination to think that someone might want to demo your mobile them on, I don’t know… their mobile device?

Theme Demo Nexus Screengrab

Please Just Be Honest When Asking For A Link Removal

404 - Broken Links In Google Webmaster Tools

Can we just be honest when asking people to update or remove links?

It happens to all sites. Links move or change, posts occasionally get deleted, categories get restructured and despite your best intentions, you still have broken links coming into your site.

At this point you can either set up 301 redirects to a new location or relevant content, or you can reach out to site owners and ask them to alter or remove their links. Most site owners will be happy to update broken links, but a little bit of honesty will get you a lot further than trying to scare site owners by saying that Google is penalizing your site and the same will happen to them.

I’m seeing it happen a lot lately. Instead of just being honest and saying “Our bad, we restructured our site and don’t care to put 301’s in place” or “We deleted the content you were linking to” or (and perhaps most honestly) “we’re engaging in some reputation management”, most emails of this type appear to be defaulting to the “Google is penalizing us and if you don’t delete the link Google will penalize you and your site will never rank again” tactic.

The truth is that a handful of broken links on my site spread over thousands of posts isn’t going to result in Google issuing my site any kind of penalty.

While you’re at it, make it as easy as possible for me to find the link you want removed. Provide me with the name and URL of the post in which the link appears. Sure I could search for the URL you want removed but that’s more work for me. The easier you make it the more likely I am to actually do what you want.

Do not, ever, ever, ever send me a list of URLs from my site that include category indexes, tags etc. That’s pointless and making more work for me. Just 1 URL. That is all. Show me you’re not lazy and actually care.

Finally a tip for managing and detecting broken links on your own site.  You really should be fixing broken links yourself as it improves not just your SEO but also the user experience. If you’re using WordPress try using a plugin such as “Broken Link Checker” to stay on top of things. Regardless of what platform you use, you should also be using Google Webmaster Tools which also report crawl errors and broken links.

Where Are The Parents?

Facebook Social Media AbuseI read the following without a single shred of disbelief, but with a lot of sadness when it comes to parenting skills of many of my peers and societies reaction to such a state – which is to let state be the corrective force.

The channel found that British police deal with around 20 “social media abuse” cases a day. In the last 3 years, there have been 20,000 investigations involving adults and almost 2,000 targeting children – although, since around a third of police forces did not give up their data, the number must be higher. Over 1,200 children have been “charged with a criminal offence or given a caution, warning or fine,” including four 10-year-olds and one 9-year-old. 

I have two questions to ask:

  1. Why are the children being cautioned or charged instead of the parents?
  2. Why are these parents allowing their children to use the internet without monitoring their activity?

Sadly, I suspect the answer to both questions to revolve around the same idea…

Why #BanBossy Is Flawed At Best And Potentially Harmful

Catching up on my feeds after two days at home with Malcolm, it was nice see so many people backing the Sheryl Sandbergs’s (COO of Facebook) attempt to ban the word bossy as a descriptor for girls and women. It was nice to see it because I was immediately reminded of how many people will jump right on the bandwagon of ANY campaign that features a few celebrities and purports to help someone – without applying a milliseconds of real thought to the notion.

These little reminders of how the herd doesn’t think, really do brighten my day. Seriously, they do!

“We need to recognize the many ways we systematically discourage leadership in girls from a young age — and instead, we need to encourage them,” Sandberg said in a statement. “So the next time you have the urge to call your little girl bossy? Take a deep breath and praise her leadership skills instead.”

This would be so much easier to get behind if the words bossy, pushy or stubborn applied only to girls, so let’s make a few things abundantly clear here:

  • Bossy is gender neutral. It applies to applies to male of the species just as much as it applies to the female. It also applies to cats. If you don’t believe me, then come hangout at my house for a while and Daenerys will give you an education.
  • Bossy does not necessarily equate to  leadership, or any quality whatsoever that you may want in a confident, assertive leader. In my experience the people who tend to deserve the title bossy (both male and female) tend to be poor leaders and are using being over-assertive to hide their own weaknesses or lack of skills / knowledge / insight.

The blurb for the Ban Bossy website reads:

When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a “leader.” Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded “bossy.” Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.

Um.. NO! This is being over-simplified and deliberately whitewashed.

When a little boy asserts himself, he’s not usually called a leader, it’s more “head strong” or “single minded”, and other things. When he over asserts himself, or displays a need to control everything, he’s called “bossy” or “cocksure”.

Depending on the vocabulary of those doing the describing, he may even be called any of the following – arrogant, conceited, overconfident, cocky, proud, vain, self-important, egotistical, smug, patronizing, pompous, controlling. I know I was certainly called all of those growing up (and worse), and deservedly so.

If he’s a particularly unpleasant bossy person, he may even be referred to as a “bully” (usually deservedly), or worse.

Girls face little difference, except for being called “cocksure”. I’m pretty sure nobody has ever deliberately referred to a girl as being cocksure.

Being bossy isn’t always about being a leader. Being bossy can more often be about getting your own way, or covering up your insecurities and as such it should be pointed out as being a character or attitude flaw. If I’m being bossy then I should be told I’m being bossy. Being bossy is not always good – I can be an assertive, confident leader without being bossy. Great bosses can exist without being bossy – I’ve met and worked for them.

It’s 2014. We’re all supposed to be about equality for all, regardless of race, orientation or gender – right? So why are we going out of way to sugar-coat reality for one gender. If we’re going to do it, shouldn’t we do it for both genders? And if we do that, how do we address the fact that some people simply are bossy and need to be called on it? How far does this sugar-coating go?

How do we teach girls and boys alike that being bossy isn’t necessarily the right approach, how do we explain it if we ban the words, and how do we shape their character without the harshness of reality and being able to call a spade a spade?

And the first person who says “lead by example” is getting a swift kick the groin! Some personality types simply don’t respond to watching what others do – and we’re banning all the words to explain the difference!?!

Protecting our kids doesn’t mean sugar-coating the universe for them. The truth is that “Daddies little princess” isn’t a princess, and “Mommies little man” isn’t just a little controlling, he’s acting like an a-hole because you let him and both of you need to be called on it.

Just because you didn’t like being called out when you were being over-assertive, doesn’t mean that you have to protect your kids from your imagined slights. How is any child ever supposed to build character, or grow up to be a well rounded adult, in this over-protective world which is dominated by the opinions of the self-involved, insecure, overly politically correct, helicopter parent?

Dear god, when is the “everyone is a special snowflake” bullshit going to stop?

But I’m just a bloke! What do I know about the realities that girls face growing up?

Lets ask Mollie Hemingway:

For crying out loud. Has anyone been near a public school classroom recently? I have never in my life ever heard anyone call an assertive little boy a “leader.” There are probably few places more hostile to any male behavior of any kind than our oversensitive, girl-centric classrooms. If a little boy asserts himself in the classroom, he’s sent to the principal.

Yes, there are some slurs that girls face more than boys as they mature. But many of the ones dudes get — I’m thinking of a**hole and d*****bag and what not — deal specifically with being too assertive. Where’s their campaign?

Or Micheline Maynard at Forbes 

I’ve got news for her: there are far worse things for women than being called bossy. And, I don’t think banning bossy does much to help young girls, either.

For one, bossy isn’t only a word that applies to women. It’s gender neutral. There are plenty of bossy men out there, too. Bossy is bossy — dictatorial, unyielding, telling people what to do and expecting them to do it without any input.

Bossy is not the same thing as being a leader, even though Sandberg might view it that way. Leadership is an entirely different category. There are bosses who are leaders, and bosses who are bossy. We’ve all worked for them. We know the difference.

Or Jessica Gardner:

Let me be clear, I am not in favor of shaming or bullying anyone. I believe it’s imperative that we build girls (and boys) up every chance we get. And I hate the words bossy and “Little Miss Bossy” and “bossy pants” and many other derivatives of all of it. I hate them partly because once upon a time, they were used to describe me.

But here’s what gets me. We cannot simply replace “bossy” with “leader.” They are not synonymous.

Or Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post:

I’m all for encouraging girls to lead. What do we think society is, a waltz? Of course women should be leading. Get them in the room solving the problems.

But adding another word to the list of Things Too Hurtful To Say isn’t the way to do it.

Sandbergs heart is in the right place – it really is. But, (there’s always a but) banning words simply because we don’t like them is going about things in completely the wrong way.

Lets’ not start by criminalizing words, or by projecting our insecurities onto our gender, friends, or kids.

Let’s teach our children to be leaders. Let’s teach them to be compassionate. To know when to be assertive and when to be supportive and nurturing. Let’s teach them that steamrolling everyone is not the most effective way of getting people to do what you want, and that understanding their own shortcomings and limitations are paramount to being a good leader. Let’s teach them to accept criticism and make something productive of it, and not project their dislike of it onto others.

Let’s also realize that not everyone is going to be a leader, and that no matter how much we educate or lead by example, some people will always be bossy arseholes when given a little bit of power – that’s probably how they got it in the first place.

Oh, and let’s call a spade a spade.

Ken Robinson: How Schools Kill Creativity (TED Talks)

Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk “How Schools Kill Creativity” is really resonating with me, perhaps because I’m a relatively newly minted father, but also because of experiences of my own education.

In this 2006 talk, Robinson expounds in hilarious and insightful fashion about how the education systems worldwide are mostly geared towards producing candidates for the suitable for employment in the 19th century era of industrialization.

“My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy,and we should treat it with the same status.”

Tablet Productivity – A World Of Compromise

Tablet ProductivityBack in early November I wrote a post about challenging my tablet productivity assumptions, and set out with the goal of leaving my laptop behind (as much as possible) and doing most, if not all, of my work on my tablet.

As per my previous post, this adventure in mobile productivity meant pairing my Nexus 7 with a nice Sharkk Bluetooth keyboard (which I can’t rave about enough), making sure I had plenty of backup power (not such a great experience) and finding solutions to productivity problems that aren’t even a second thought on my laptop.

In undertaking this challenge I really wanted to reverse my opinions about iPads (and tablets in general) being mostly media consumption devices (or Tonka toys of general computing) and come out swinging in favor of tablets being awesome productivity machines. I’m afraid that after a month of working as exclusively as I could on my tablet(s), there were simply far to many compromises made to quality and efficiency for me to call tablet productivity effective.

Yes, I’m sure there are some cases where people are hyper-effective working on their tablets, but those are niche cases. I’m sorry to inform you but your niche case does not make a strong argument for mainstream productivity.

Before I get into what I was doing and attempting, let me clarify that I DO NOT consider checking Facebook, answering email, instant messaging or anything like that productivity.

As a marketing consultant even I can’t justify hours of Facebook activity as productivity, and if you’re spending hours answering your email then you are clearly doing it wrong.

Anyway, when working for clients and equipped with my laptop, I find myself living in Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Dreamweaver (and the awesome Notepad++), Photoshop, Audition, Premiere, RDP, VNC, various EHR and practice management solutions, and of course a browser.

Finding workable solutions for the Microsoft Office suite was easy enough – I just do everything in Google Apps (which I am fully vested in for my non-client work anyway), but there are issues such as formating of exported documents, and added steps that frankly  make it a pain in the backside to move stuff between Google Apps and clients that are using the Microsoft suite.

Don’t get me wrong, Google Apps is awesome for how I use it, but I’ve yet to encounter a non-Microsoft product that exports/imports perfectly with no formatting errors.

Dreamweaver, Notepad++ and Filezilla proved to be an interesting challenge to replace, but after testing a number of apps I have absolutely fallen in love with DroidEdit Pro. It’s an awesome text and source code editor with syntax highlighting for lots of languages (HTML, CSS, C, C++, C# Python, Ruby and more…) as well as SFTP/FTP/Dropbox  support and much, much more. If you’re a developer and need to get your hands dirty in code while you’re on the go without your laptop, you can’t do much better than this app.

I gave up trying to find workable mobile replacements for Photoshop, Audition and Premiere. Yes, there are a lot of stopgaps and half measures which are “kind of almost” passable, but the compromise in quality and features is not worth the the hassle. It’s much easier to stay with full featured desktop apps that also have the processing power to plough through the work in a decent amount of time.

While finding mobile replacements for desktop applications has been very hit-or-miss, even when I do find a suitable replacement there are always compromises to be made. Those compromises may be in terms of quality, the ability to easily export in formats that my clients can use, or simply because doing the work on the table can involve more steps (such as getting source materials to and from the tablet).

Did I mention that it also takes longer to do almost everything on a mobile device? Even with my nifty Bluetooth keyboard I’m still not as fast as I am with a laptop.

Access to files has also been a major issue. Yes there are lots of solutions out there such as Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive and more. I use all of the cloud storage/sync solutions I’ve mentioned and they’re great when I need to get to an invoice template but downloading a 30MB .PSD or a 1Gig+ .wav audio file for editing? Most of these services are just far too slow and storage space/bandwidth constrains on mobile devices may be a concern.

BitTorrent Sync has proven to be a lifesaver in that regard. Not only does the mobile app allow me to selectively download files from my shares on my home server, but it also allowed me to set up shares on desktop computers at my clients offices so I could have access to files, fonts, graphics and other assets that I use in my work but would normally be on my laptop. That way I can use their machines to do the work and have access to assets that I need without hauling my laptop around.

The solution works and doesn’t take long to set up, but, it’s a compromise that has to be made in order to work on a mobile platform.

I think it’s fair to say, that mobile devices are not yet ready to knock the desktop PC or laptop in terms of productivity.. In doing this challenge, I found myself not just using my Nexus 7, but also having to use my iPad at the same time. Some of my clients provide me with a dedicated workspace and computers so I was able to do a lot do the work there that I couldn’t do on the tablets and not impact my productivity. For my other clients I simply had to bring a laptop to remain as productive as possible.

It’s not all doom and gloom however. While I may not be able to replace my laptop (yet) I have found that I can replace large segments of my workflow and get by enough that I don’t always need to carry a fuller featured device around.

Take audio recording as an example. My Nexus 7, 4 or iPad coupled with the iRig Mic Cast, iRig Recorder or Hi-Q MP3 Recorder creates a nice portable rig for on the fly podcasts with minimal editing abilities. There are a multitude of apps for managing servers, RDP, VNC, time management, invoicing, blogging (this entire post has been hammered out on my Nexus 7 using the WordPress app) and almost anything else you can think of – so you can certainly get by without your laptop, but they are mostly one-trick ponies.

I expect that as mobile productivity apps mature, and someone figures out that for folks like me productivity requires true multitasking, then one day I may be able to shed my laptop for a iPad 17 or Nexus 21 – I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.

Side note: Having not yet gotten my grubby mitts on a Surface or other Win 8.1 tablet, I obviously can’t comment on those from a productivity perspective.

Stitcher – Please Give Podcasters Some Link Love

StitcherStitcher is awesome. It is one of my two favorite podcast apps and if you love listening to podcasts you should be using it. If you’re a podcaster you should have your show listed on their service, and if you’re anybody at all, you really should be listening to Nothing Serious on Stitcher.

Now that the gushing and fawning is out of the way, I want to briefly discuss one of the very few problems I have with the service – Stitcher is crap at giving link love back to podcasters.

I’m not the only one who thinks so, it was this Facebook comment by Jason Calacanis that prompted me to write this post:

Calacanis

Stitcher is building a business on the back of content created by podcasters but doesn’t give the content creators a link to their websites or twitter accounts (something that most services do and more…).  This lack of love from Stitcher feels dirty, especially to podcasters that hustle to get listeners, swap promos, promote each other, and promote services that promote them.

You might say that Stitcher is promoting your content and getting you listeners, but let’s be honest here, unless you’re a “big” podcast they’re not really. Legions of podcasters provide links to Stitcher from their websites in order to make listening easy for listeners, it’s got little to do with traffic.

Well, at least for us it’s got little to do with traffic – out of the 21,415 (at the time of writing) downloads of Nothing Serious Podcast, only 64 listens have been on Stitcher, where we are on 10 people’s playlists. I don’t think I need to do the math for you to realize how tremendously small a percentage (0.29%) of downloads that is.

Again we, Nothing Serious, are a small podcast, but I would wager that so are the vast majority of the 15,000+ podcasts that Stitcher is building its business on, and that each and every one of those podcasts would appreciate a link from the show page back to their sites so that listeners can find other means to subscribe (yes, outside of Stitchers garden) can get access to additional content and find links to join the communities that surround their favorite shows.

It’s not really much that’s being asked for. All podcast services / directories that I know of (even iTunes) provide (at least) links to the shows website, and most go much further.

So how about it Stitcher? How about you take a step toward the middle of that two-way street called the podcasting community and show us all a little love?