Fake It ‘Til You Make It – The Thin Veneer Of Social Media?

The Higton Bros may have hit an uncomfortable nail squarely on the head with this video about the reality behind the status updates of our friends and those we follow online.

Facebook can be depressing because everyone else’s lives are better than yours… But are they really?

The video hasn’t last any of its relevancy in the 6 months it has taken to come to my attention (hat-tip to Fast Company) and should serve as a stark reminder that many people who suffer from social anxiety (which I guess we all do in some form or another,  except the most confident of us) are not only dealing with FOMO (fear of missing out syndrome) but with social pressure to be as interesting as everyone else.

It’s a reminder to all of us to take everything we see online from the happiest status update, to the most blistering outrage, with a healthy pinch of salt. It should also bring to the surface the necessity of reaching out to people “in the real world” and finding out what is actually going on before relying on oft ambiguous social updates.

Finally, it’s a stark reminder that if you really want to have awesome stuff to post online – you need to get off your ass and do stuff!

The Beatles Had It Right – Can’t Buy Me Love

Valentines Diamond

So, Valentine’s Day, eh?

My beautiful wife is rather fond of pointing out that “all men pay for it in the end”, and yes Sara’s talking about sex.

She’s not implying that all women are prostitutes, but instead referring to how relationships function and the simple fact that if you want to get something, 99% of the time you have to do something first.

Another way to put it is – lazy, inattentive, unappreciative husbands typically only get two things – nagged at and then divorced. And rightly so. May I add that it also works the other way around.

I have no problem admitting that I dislike Valentines Day. Not because I don’t want to show my appreciation for my wife. Trust me when I say that she will be treated like royalty tomorrow – pampered, have her favorite meal cooked for her, be lavishly spoiled with gifts and I’ll be spending as much time with her as possible.

No, I dislike Valentines Day not only because it is so commercialized but because so many people appear to need Valentines as an excuse to go the extra mile and show their partners how they feel, and so many others are only putting in the effort because, well… It’s Valentine’s Day.

I do not have an ulterior motive when it comes to February 14th. This isn’t a “I’ll treat her like a princess today, and she’ll let me into her castle tonight” kind of thing. Yes, it’s an excuse to buy an extra present or two and maybe go out for a special meal, or to cook her favorite food, but if we are honest with ourselves, we should be doing it all the time.

If you find yourself in a relationship where you are essentially bribing or being bribed in order to get a little “jiggy jiggy” on Valentine’s Day, maybe you need to reevaluate…

I think the reason Sara and I are so happy together is that we don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to roll around in order to make each other feel special. There’s always random “just because” gifts that don’t even have to be expensive, it can often be as little as randomly picking up someone’s favorite ice cream when at the store, or cooking their favorite dinner. They’re just little things that say “I’m thinking of you”.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not perfect. We have our bad days. We argue, we’re grumpy, we piss each other off, but…

We’ve each been around the block before. We’ve learned from our past relationship mistakes and each know how important it is not just to feel loved in a relationship but to make your partner feel loved too.

We always tell each other how we feel, how much we love each other, and we try to talk through an empathize with issues that we may each be having. We make a point of kissing when we see each other, holding hands when we’re out together, message each other and finding time everyday just to be together and talking about our days.

Sara is not just my wife, the mother to my children and the person whom I share a house with. She is my best friend, my confidant, my partner, my lover and everything I could ever want, and more.

If you feel about your spouse, partner or significant other, the way I feel about Sara, I can’t imagine how you could wait or allow yourself to be limited to one over-commercialized day a year to show them just how much you love them.

Dear Podcasters, You’re Ruining My Run (Podcast Loudness)

Audio stereo WAV in Audition CCI’ve been making a concerted effort to get back into shape and while I’d love to say that my beer-gut is diminishing, sadly the most noticeable result has been a growing irritability caused by podcasts that are all published at different audio levels.

Let’s talk about LUFS:

Loudness, K-weighted, relative to Full Scale (or LKFS) is a loudness standard designed to enable normalization of audio levels for delivery of broadcast TV and other video.

LKFS is an abbreviation of:  Loudness K-weighted Full Scale, and one unit of LKFS is equal to one dB. The LKFS term is used in the ITU BS.1770 standard and the ATSC A/85 standard also operates with this term. Other organizations, such as The European Broadcast Union (EBU), uses the term LUFS, which is an abbreviation ofLoudness Units Full Scale. Despite the different names, LFKS and LUFS are  identical.

The LKFS standard (ITU standard) is what allows you to listen to the radio at a consistent level without having to turn the radio up or down every time a new tune is played (unless they’re cranking out some AC/DC then you have to turn up the stereo – it’s the law). That’s awesome right?

What’s not awesome is when I’m on the treadmill and every other podcast is barely audible over my headphones, while others are way too loud, forcing me to have to repeatedly fiddle with the audio levels on my phone.

Let’s face it – I’m not the most graceful of people at times. One of these days, pulling my phone out of my pocket while running is going to result in my breaking a leg as I go flying backwards off the treadmill and into the min-fridge.

The solution is to make sure that every podcast has consistent audio levels, and the magic number that has been settled on is -16 LUFS. I’ve embedded a tutorial by Mike Russel from Music Radio Creative so you can see just how ridiculously easy it is to do Adobe Audition CC.

I don’t know if Audacity can adjust LUFS out of the box (it’s been years since I’ve used it) but I’m sure there are plugins for it (a quick search found this LUFS meter), and even mobile podcasting apps like Auphonic can automatically adjust the levels as they process the audio.

So fellow podcasters, there’s really no excuse to now have your audio at the correct levels and give podcast listeners the best experience, is there?

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.