Tag Archives: Google

It’s Not About What You Wanna Be When You Grow Up: It’s More About Who You Are

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It’s the age-old question we’ve been asked and often asked ourselves: ‘with do we want to be when we grow up?’ The question then translates to ‘what do I have to learn in order to get the job I want?’

Back in the days, once you got a skill and got a job, you stuck with that job. In the 21st century, things changed and to keep up with the changes (or if you’re looking for that promotion) you keep up with the latest developments in your job, earning and learning more until you finally retire.

But now the times have changed. Instead, there’s no longer that one job / one skill mindset (unless you’re talking about something really specific with specific ‘work/skill tracks’ – such as law enforcement, military service or specified services – such as government work.  For the majority of folks, the workforce environment is changing – and fast.

The rise of this new workforce approach is not new: it’s rather odd, dating back to World War II, where housewives were hired by larger factories seeking replacements for servicemen. Major corporations enjoyed this approach: temporary workers earning wages, but with little to no protection and largely kept at work owing to a specific need of meeting governmental orders for munitions and supplies.

Once the war ended, it was business as usual, with regular jobs and workers back in place. But the memories of those years were not lost on companies who, years later are enjoying the new norm of temporary work. This rise, coupled with governmental sponsored heath insurance, made micro-jobs even more attractive to both workers seeking to become more entrepreneurial and attain flexibility, and companies seeking to reduce the miscellaneous costs of health insurance, retirement and unemployment insurance

The side effect is tremendous worker competition to secure work.  Now, with a greater work pool, employers can afford to offer far lower (read: “competitive”) wages to meet specific jobs – and with that, the virtual elimination of regular jobs is now far more focused on ‘project’ driven work – projects within a company that need to be fulfilled but are done so though the efforts of employees hired to work just for the project and then usually released.

So what does this mean for the worker to be / student seeking work down the road?

Futurists and human resource executives say that our work lives will consist of doing several long-term projects or tasks at once. “Instead of identifying your job role or description, you [will be] constantly adding skills based on what is going to make you more employable,” says Jeanne Meister, New York-based co-author of “The Future Workplace Experience”.

If you’re younger, this will likely mean the ability to pursue flexibility and interests rather than getting a more traditional role – say in accounting, marketing or finance. More and more, it’s now a matter of employers looking not for specific job titles to be fulfilled, but rather reviewing and seeing what skills and abilities individuals bring to the table to undertake projects.

The flip side is however, many HR departments are not up to the task: how does one readily codify what skills outside of the usual listed ones that employees have? Do hobbies and interests outside of the workplace count and if so, how does one capture these into something meaningful and relevant to the project demands at hand? Thus, although this approach sounds ideal for employers, the problem remains: in order to make money work has to get done, and how one contracts out for the work and insures that the right people are on hand to get it done. And sadly, as with any era of changes, the old approaches and people are not immediately up to the task. Many HR departments – and recruiters – are not entirely up to the task at hand.

At least, not yet.

In the meantime, future employees need to determine what arena they’re interested in. As one example, rather than say to yourself, “gee, I want to be a doctor when I grow up’, potential employees need to talk about a greater goal; in this example, “using empathy in a medical setting”. Sounds weird; so what’s the difference?

Everything.

Now, you’re no longer limiting yourself to being ‘just a (traditional) doctor’, but rather opening up to a wider range of opportunities and potential directions. Rather than just being a ‘doctor’ you could consider other services and opportunities based on your own personal abilities and skill-sets. Are you good at writing, budgeting or able to mange people? Maybe you should go in the direction of health administration. Perhaps having worked as a babysitter and later, as a part-time daycare / caretaker while attending college, you should utilize your skills of relating to younger children into the realm of pediatrics.  (These are just basic, simple examples used for illustration).

We’ve reached a point now where’s it’s not so much just what you’re taught in school, but what you’re truly good at beyond just the textbooks and classrooms. So how do you line up with you’ve got and what you’re about with getting a job? There are a variety of ways which you, the potential employee could do, but sometimes the old-fashioned way is the best.

Take a piece of paper, relax, turn off the phone and jot down what you enjoy, what you’re good at and ask yourself: what do you want to be doing five years from now?

It’s worth noting that many skills are not readily taught and that more often than not, much of what we have and use on a regular basis we generally don’t realize we’re doing, or recognize as a valid job skill. Able to talk to people and break down barriers? Capable of writing a good phrase or word? Skilled in learning a new language readily, or discerning social trends and attitudes?  Capable of analyzing problems and coming up with meaningful and effective solutions? Add it all up and chances are you’ll find a career direction or path that you could both live with – and make a living.

To be certain, there’s a lot of uncertainty (!).

For instance, the more successful workplaces are going to be those who work to retain the skilled employees with both the abilities and the institutional knowledge (albeit that process will, over time, become more selective). The question is: how does one do these selections to meet both long-term and short-term needs?

It also remains to be seen what impact the elimination or drastic change of the ACA will do to the rising rend of micro jobs. With micro-jobs, there is a growing tendency for employees to push for more C to C (Corporate to corporate) or 1099’s (i.e., contract employees) as opposed to stand W-2 employees (with full benefits); having health care coverage is something that employees will seek as a matter of survival and depending on where you reside, can make a difference in career choices and locations, creating even greater job market disruption and social instability with folks moving about the country, if not the world.

Are universities up to the task? Are colleges going to move with the times and change-up the traditional assumptions of education? And what should those changes be? It’s worth noting that more and more, the trend is moving toward a greater emphasis on humanities, coupled with technical training: how much should this balance be? Or are we simply looking at this all wrong? Do colleges still play a vital role as they once did?  Clearly, some humanities skills are going to grow in value – such as writing and the ability to ‘cross-connect’ and understand different cultural norms, vis-a-vis ‘Cultural Morphology 101’; perhaps the curriculum of the 21st century should reflect this growing reality.

Critics point out several key points worth noting. For one, the uncertainty factor rises: if you’re working on a project by project basis, then it gets all the more difficult to remain rooted within one location, something which will have a direct impact on your household and family, not to mention the social net as families become more dispersed and communities become more fragmented. Witness, for example, the growing trend of workers moving out of the country into countries with lower costs while offering basic medical services: http://nypost.com/2016/11/28/its-easier-to-live-the-american-dream-in-bucharest/

Another issue is that of continuity: some companies will feel even less empathy toward their employees and with that, greater employee turnover will take place, creating greater workforce alienation and the likelihood of company failures as institutional memory is lost and internal problems compounded by outside / foreign competition.

Although the notion of micro-jobs sounds great for companies and can appeal to some employees attracted to entrepreneurship, clearly it’s not going to be for everyone and there are a lot of ‘kinks’ to work out in the coming decade(s).

One thing is for sure: your job is no longer yours, but maybe, just maybe your future is there – somewhere – for the taking.

(For more on this, check out “The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees” by Jeanne Messier and Kevin J. Mulcahy).

How An AI Defines Customers

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Recently, in the Business Insider, a story spoke about how a Japanese Advertising agency hired an AI (see above picture) to do an ad campaign (http://www.businessinsider.com/mccann-japans-ai-creative-director-creates-better-ads-than-a-human-2017-3).

Surprising, it was rather successful.

The inventor, Shun Matsuzaka, “wanted to create the world’s first AI creative director, capable of directing a TV commercial”.

He did it. But before you can say “holy crap!” consider that the AI, like any electronically developed and programmed instrument, must be designed and have focus in order to do its job. You gotta tell it what to do and how to do it. So Matsuzaka’s team, “McCann Millennials” outlined two basic approaches necessary to capture an effective ad campaign:

The creative brief: The type of brand, the campaign goal, the target audience, and the claim the ad should make.

The elements of the TV ad: Including things such as tone, manner, celebrity, music, context, and the key takeout.

Confectionary corporation Mondelez took on the contract and hired the team’s AI, and so the contest was on. Selecting an industry expert to take on the challenge of creating a wining ad campaign against that of the McCann machine, the application approach was that the client was asked to fill out a form with all the elements they wanted to appear in the ad. The AI robot then scrambled the database for ideas (humans were required to actually produce the final creative).

The two spots would then be thrown to a nationwide poll, where consumers could vote for which ad they preferred.

The key phrase in which the ad was to revolve around was the following:

“Instant-effect fresh breath that lasts for 10 minutes.”

The winner?

Depends; 54% of the public participating in the vote voted for the human.

But for the ad executives, the AI won hands down. As the article stated: “when the 200-or-so advertising executives at the ISBA Conference were asked which they preferred, they voted for the crazy dog spot, directed by the robot. Clearly those advertising executives were not the target market for this particular campaign, but the experiment appeared to demonstrate just how creative — and funny — AI can be.”

Humor in AI?  Viewers familiar with science fiction will hear the common refrain that ‘robots can’t make people laugh.’ Guess that’s not the case anymore. Meantime, the McCann Millennials are at it again – this time, working on a “commercial database for the music industry to see if it can create the next pop smash hit.”

Somehow, I think  this latest project will be proved to be far easily for them to achieve.

(To see the ads, go to the link above and judge for yourself).

AI In Our Time?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) development has reached a major milestone: a machine that’s truly capable of learning on its own.

Google (or rather ‘Alphabet’ as the parent company is now known as) uses a comprehensive model / layout different from what has been developed before in the rapidly developing field of AI, developing its own version of AI – a machine known as ‘Deep Mind’. What Alphabet has done is to take the storage of conventional computers, and link them with a neural network capable of ‘parsing’ out the data, determining what is relevant and what is not in tars of problem solving.

This has often been the challenge of ‘learning machines’: determining what is junk and what isn’t. Now, working with a neural network and accessing large amounts of data, the AI model can more quickly access and sort through what would be ‘good’ data versus ‘bad’ data.

Neural networks aren’t new; they’ve been around for some time (see this article about neural networks to learn more: https://www.scribd.com/document/112086324/The-Ready-Application-of-Neural-Networks). Like a typical human brain, neural networks uses ‘nodes’ to activate specific points needed to solve a problem. In the case of Alphabet, the AI is streamlining itself to find the quickest route to solve a problem. And, as with a human brain, in time the AI will use the data obtained to become more efficient at finding the right answer to problems, growing in greater efficiency and ‘learning’ how to learn.

Or another way of putting it: ‘Deep Mind’ derives solutions based on prior experience, recovering the correct answer(s) from its internal memory on its own, rather than from human conditioning and direct programming and then proceeds based on its own ‘experience’.

Sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it?

‘Deep Mind’, the AI which Google / Alphabet has been developing, was recently able to beat a human at the game of ‘Go’; no easy feat to do as the number of possible choices for each individual ‘stone’ playing piece being placed on the board – and the subsequent patterns thereafter – numbers in the millions, far more than the number of choices and the impacts from each individual choice/move a traditional Chess game can offer.

So combining Google’s vast database of files and server warehouses located internationally, linked to a neural network and overseen by a rudimentary form of AI, Google / Alphabet now has a machine capable of learning on its own.

The next step would be to pair a quantum computer to a network layout similar to what is described here – but then again, Amazon is already working on that.

Still got quite a ways to go, but singularity is looming ever closer.

The Age of Alexa

 

As a birthday gift for my daughters, Flora and Cora, their grandfather purchased for them an Amazon Echo (aka “Alexa”).

If you’re not familiar, the Amazon Echo / Alexa is a voice command controlled free-standing computer (with a nice speaker system to boot!) that links with your wireless network. Measuring some 9.3 inches with a circumference of 3.3 inches, Alexa can just about fit anywhere. In addition, it looks attractive (in a manner of speaking) and readily plugs into a regular wall outlet for power (it connects to your wireless network; no wired connections are required). With some adjustments and minimal amount of programming (took me all of 15 minutes to get it going) you’ll be able to give direct voice commands. Alexa can either answer your inquiries or (depending on your set up) control the lights in your house, control your thermostat, give you automatic news and sports updates as well as tell you the weather, your commuting time or even where the nearest restaurant (down to the type – Belgium ale house, Indian, Chinese, etc.) is to your house.

But doing a little research and experimentation, Alexa can do a lot more – and not just for your home (more on this in a moment).

As an old-timer, I’m amazed at this recent technological development if for no reason than I can appreciate what’s involved. First off, I’ve been working with voice command / recognition software since it first came out back in the 1990’s: things have come a long way. Used to be you had to spend about an hour just to ‘train’ the software/computer to recognize your voice (what with your inflections, accents, voice idioms, etc.) and then more time spent on getting it to do what you wanted it to do – open files, do basic computer commands, etc. And even then, it was rarely perfect: if you were hitting 95% accuracy, you were down great.

With Alexa, there was no hesitation: no training. Alexa was out of the box and running down the road in mere minutes.

Damn; that’s powerful.

No matter who you are, so long as you speak the language that it’s set for, it’ll respond. So literally out of the box, I and both my daughters were taking and using Alexa. Even now, my guests – upon visiting – now ask Alexa for the weather or for sport scores, along with local news as a matter of course, just as they would ask anyone else.

But aside from Alexa being able to give you a host of information – such as cooking recipes, bartending (excuse me, “Mixology”) recipes for drinks or for random facts (‘on this date,…’), with some adjustments and hardware / interface additions, Alexa can water your lawn, control /monitor your house alarms.

Sometimes, amusing situations can arise – such as when my younger daughter asked “Alexa: how old is the Earth?”

Alexa replied “The Earth is 5.35 Billion years old.”

“I knew it! Those people who keep saying that the Earth is only 7,000 years old don’t know what they’re talking about!”

So it’s all fun and games, right?

Not when you check out the IFTTT page for Alexa (IFTT – “If / then” user programming routines). Alexa comes with an ability for folks to program basic interface commands enabling users to link Alexa to various apps and also create routines. Want something done automatically? With a little bit of simple programming, anyone can make their Alexa do things automatically and with a mere voice command.

The potential for Alexa can go beyond just a cool item for the average household: the potential for business applications is also well worth considering. Aside from stock indexes, one could create business services and routines both for the average user and for the business / service end of things. Already, there are ‘recipes’ for users to link to their Evernote and Todoiast, along with dictating short emails (sending them out) or dictating voice message for your Skype. As one example, I can set up and schedule calendar events on my Google calendar just by using my voice – and it’ll appear on all of my calendars (phone, computer, etc. simultaneously).

I would not be surprised to see businesses – especially those who profess the notion of being ‘lean and mean’ – installing Echoes in their offices as means to better streamline operations (not to mention that Echoes could also be of good use for non-profit and governmental agencies as well).

In a manner of speaking, although this is not exactly new technology, the way it’s being recast is nothing short of remarkable. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Echo came from Amazon. After all, as I had previously written, Amazon and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been quietly working together for seveal years now, with Amazon’s in-house computer network now being the repository of the CIA’s records – and ground zero for a development project based in Vancouver, Canada for true AI (Artificial Intelligence) development (https://shockwaveriderblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/the-cia-and-jeff-bezos-working-together-for-our-the-future/) utilizing quantum computing. Feel free to read my past posting on this subject matter: it’s well worth the read and helps one to better appreciate what’s taking place now.

I cannot help but wonder if Alexa is but one minor result  / spin-off from that ongoing effort. And granted, Alexa may sound awesome and smart, but it’s certainly not about to pass the Turing Test.

If Alexa is any indication, we are indeed entering a new age  – the Age of Alexa.

New Future Careers (A Slightly Cynical Overview)

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For quite some time, I’ve been reading a number of reports, white pages, books, blogs and whatnot about the future state of work. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s pretty much a crap shoot however you look at it. And so, like many others, I’d figure I’d give my insight into the future career development trends.

It used to be that there would always be jobs that could be considered ‘safe’ and ‘stable’. No more. With the constant and exponential advance of technology now becoming so prevalent, what were once considered safe careers are going to require – at the very last, some major revamping on some folks part, while other careers are going to – within the next 10 or 20 years – simply disappear. So how can you tell where things are going to go? What’s a good job to have now that’ll be there later on? Kind of a silly question when you think about it, especially when you consider that on average, a person can expect to hold anywhere from 3 to 5 CAREERS, let alone more than a dozen jobs – at a minimum – given today’s economy.

So,…

Want to know what jobs are really going to be hot? Where you should look to catch the next wave? Look no further and read here!

Let’s look into the crystal ball to see the future (we’re talking about 10 to 20 years; any more and it gets tricky).

And please, try not to laugh too hard, get shocked or disgusted: this is merely a ‘suggested listing. Take it or leave it as you please.
Professional Assassin

It’s a rough and tumble world: hiring somebody who can make ‘incidents’ look like accidents will truly be irreplaceable. This kind of work can be applicable to both the private and public world. Fort example, as elections become more demanding and costly, removing pesky political candidates seeking ‘meaningful’ change can be irritating if not upsetting to your electoral base; make it look like a heart attack or a car accident.

Similarly, working for that promotion can be so much easier when your competition suddenly chokes on their morning muffin or has that sudden heart attack at their local coffee place. When you think about it, if you could ‘eliminate’ your competition at the cost of a year’s salary knowing that you’ll be able to get it all back – and more – within two years (and depending on your career track, maybe even move up higher in the food chain) maybe the ROI (Return On Investment) is something to consider. Just remember to ask yourself if you can live with yourself afterwards and deal with the morality later on.

Unlikely to happen? Well, think again. Statistically speaking the U.S. national homicide solution rate is around 50%. In others words, on average, 1 out of 2 homicides goes unsolved. The figure varies from start to state, so before you think that folks are going to get caught – well, yes, there’s always a good chance as not everyone can go out and commit a ‘successful’ murder: but surprisingly, the odds do favor folks more than many realize: http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2013/01/rates-of-unsolved-murder-by-state.html

And please spare me your shock: assassins over the course of the centuries have often been employed and extensively used. In some time periods, it was often de’rigor (witness the Italian Renaissance of the 1400’s) as assassins were not so much used just for killing, but also for defense against possible options of entry, methods of poisons or other dangers. Sometimes the best defense is hiring those who know the inside tricks: who better to know a professional than another professional?

Law Enforcement / Criminal Intelligence

With the sudden expansion of assassinations, who else better to solve murders than a detective?

But criminal intelligence will be much, much more than just detectives solving crimes. With the rising influence of the Internet and crimes being committed long distance and across boundaries, having an innate sense of patterns coupled with a strong knowledge of the law and technology / database processes will be fundamental in this growing job field. Having good shoes can always help, but more and more it will more a matter of professionals able to research, review and seek out information online and from a wide variety of sources (in addition to good old fashion direct contact) – and often all done at the convenience of a computer terminal.

The good news what with folks turning more and more to computer usage and the growth of the Internet, law enforcement agencies are better able to share information and with some good old fashion sleuthing and persistence, you could be one of the good guys who gets the bad guys.

Research Analyst

Along the same lines, Research Analysts will become very useful for journalists, attorneys, people seeking electoral office or other gig level professionals. Knowing the dirt on your opponents, seeking market opportunities and potential patents and licenses to exploit will be invaluable in the coming 21st century. Likewise, publications seeking to do a story will need background and having somebody on hand to do just that – whether it’s the office intern trying to make a name for themselves.

Social Media Expert

You are only as good as your reputation and word – and given the prevalence of the Internet, how you appear on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. ultimately impacts your business and your professional standing. Having the expert(s) on hand to help guide you through the jungle of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will become important as there are a number of routines, services / website worth focusing on (and others that are on the way out) as well as ‘tricks’ you need to know to have a positive impact. The good news is that SEO’s are becoming more common, and with that, more career opportunities are starting to open up.
Writers – Creative

Nothing can readily replace good, creative writing (but then again, there’s also television, so it evens out). Fact is, the most despised, abused and neglected part of many marketing, film or other work involving a mediocrum of creative work is that of writing. Still, if you can live at shit wages and live the life of a professional dealing with routine neglect and abuse, there’s a future in here – somewhere, I’m sure but don’t ask me; I still haven’t found it.

Artists – varied

Ditto for graphic artists, although now it helps to have a good computer / graphic design background if you’re going to have any sort of ‘serious’ career (although I’m not sure a lot of artists are going to be happy over this. I sometimes wonder what would Picasso do with an Apple,…?).

Alternate Energy Professionals

Whether you’re a salesman selling solar panels or a journalists writing about new energy trends, having a good knowledge of alternative energy systems will be a crucial skill in the coming decades. Knowing the cost effectiveness of various energy processes, how they actually work and where each energy system would be most effective and applicable will be a vital role throughout the world, regardless if you’re looking into credential or commercial applications. many lesser developed nations are turning to alternative energy solutions owing to the greater return on investment that alternative energies offer and the ease in which they could be installed. In some instances, military forces worldwide are looking into this function as operations become more far-flung and with rising logistical challenges, having a self-sufficient force in the field can offer a serious tactical advantages.

Nurse

As the population grows and ages, the need for professional care takers will be needed, whether at the home (for the few select ones) or for larger medical institutions. This will become even more acute as universal health are grows and service demands rise. In addition, rising violence in some locations may offer greater need for emergency staff capable of assistance that could save lives, especially with those assassins and crazed morticians running about.

Morticians
Speaking of morticians,…

Somebody has to bury the bodies; as the population grows so too does the demand for burials. Granted, it ain’t your grandfather’s mortuary service anymore and morticians are now being franchised ala McDonald’s, but still the skills will come into ever greater demand in the coming decades. Thing is, however, it’ll likely evolve into a ‘cut throat’ business so I’d be careful about hanging out with morticians after work.

Non-Profit Professionals

As governments become more and more stretched to the limits of spending, social gaps are growing and with that, having the skill set of non-profit management will become more prevalent and necessary.

Non-profits increasingly carry the load of many governmental agencies, as governmental agencies increasingly sub-contract out what normally would be covered by governments. Thus, having the ability to fund raise, effectively manage and maintain cost-effective non-profit service and keeping those costs down will be vital skills to have in the continuing century as public service weakens even as public needs continue to rise.

Mercenary

In today’s world, security is becoming paramount and possessing the skills to kill (aside form being that of an assassin) will become ever more needed. Whether you’ll wind up with a Blackwater (now known “Academi”) subsidiary or working as a security guard for some corporate entity, having muscle on hand is always good for some folks as there are a lot of weird and dangerous people out there (perhaps including assassins or hungry morticians).
Jobs that are on the way out:
Programmer

While it is good – if not important – to understand programming, owing to the number of programmers found throughout the world the cost/value ratio of programming is dropping. To be certain, it will always be vital to have on hand good / expert programmers, but increasingly, as with any over-flooded market, having too much of a skill set is bound to thin things out and thus, unless you’re really good with solid experience, changes are you’re going to find it hard to get by on just being a programmer alone.

Add to this how many HR departments really don’t have a clue what it is they’re looking for (Java script? Are you f**king serious?) along with now many programming jobs being simply ‘off shored’ for pennies to the dollars (witness the story of the gentleman who offshored his work to programmers while still collecting his salary and making a profit in the process – that is, until his HR found out and gave him a test for his programming skills, which he failed and was promptly fired).

Financial Analyst

For those of you who despise Wall Street and their minions of money, you can cheer; soon, many of these so-called financial whizzes will find themselves on the receiving end of pink slips. What’s replacing them, however, may be even more scary: computers.

Wall Street is fast becoming a land of algorithms and high-speed / power processing. Much of what financial analysts do today on Wall Street can – and in many instances already are – being replaced. If you’re a financial analyst reading this, better sharpen up your resume or learn about computers while you still can. So now we can look forward to getting endless emails about potential investment opportunities as you face your home foreclosure.

Attorneys

Increasingly, attorney’s are a dime a dozen. Granted, nothing can replace a ‘good attorney;’ but as computers and advanced legal services go online with computer algorithms, you’re really not going to need as many attorneys to conduct legal review and/or research. Utilization of the law requires much more than just key words or phrases; legal analysis is a tricky realm to navigate but increasingly, it’s being mapped out and navigated (some have even suggested that in the coming 10 to 20 years, it may be a big as nearly 9 out of 10 lawyers today will no longer find work!). Word to the wise: IBM’s Watkins (http://www.ibm.com/cognitive/outthink/).

In time, the cost of having access to an advanced legal service is going to be more cost-effective than maintaining legal experts on staff. Soon, even many in-house secretaries and paralegals may soon themselves facing new and uncertain futures owing to templates and online services replacing much of what is being done in-house, along with Siri-like secretarial assistants and document imaging / file management systems. Still, somebody has to make the coffee and clean the office dishes (wait a minute; that’s why we have unpaid interns!).
Knowing the direction of trends and where things are going is something that the graduating class of 2025 (if not sooner) had better keep in mind as clearly things aren’t what they used to be. Change doesn’t have to be bad; just to be willing to see change and to adjust for it is, as Charles Darwin pointed out in his “Origins of Species”, necessary for survival.

That and a twisted sense of humor.

The War on the SEO Front

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Silent and deadly, they work.  Relentlessly; non-stop and without rest.

They are international – or they could be local and/or regional.

The Robots. The Scammers. The Haters.

These are but a select few of many variations inhabiting the realm of social media; and they are rarely – if ever – your friends.

In time, as your social media presence grows so too does attention to you and who you are. Sometimes, it could be mass marketers looking to expand their client base – or they could view you as somebody to sell possible leads, franchise opportunities or market specific services such as business associations based upon your religious or social beliefs.

On the flip side there could be scammers, creating false personalities and attempting to learn more about you so as to steal from you. This is nothing new and often happens on such sites as LinkedIn or Facebook, whereby a picture of somebody is uploaded and a false identity complete with schools attended, places worked and personal interests – all of it created to lull you into joining and linking up with them. Once done, they now have better access to you and your social sites, finding out more about you and your associations and connection and in time, depending upon their interests, gaining more information to steal from you and/or use aginst you.

Other times, some will even go so far as to create a mirror site of yourself, sneaking in and getting the acceptance and connections from your friends and contacts without their knowing it’s really not you they’re talking to. This happens more often than many realize; next time, be on the lookout from folks who send out notifications about somebody doing this kind of identity theft.

And then there are the dedicated few – the angry ones or outright vicious mercenaries – the Haters. The Haters are out to destroy you and your reputation. Sometimes it’s all part of a greater scheme – say, corporate warfare. Dragging somebody or an entity into the mud with false statements and innuendo, even going so far as to create entire fake news sites and (sometimes) utilizing them to nefarious ends – and perhaps under the banner of ‘satire’ (one such classic site is that of “abcnews.com.co”. To many internet uses, it would appear to be the site of ABC News but in fact is not, and often it’s satire has resulted in some interesting results: witness the false news report about the NCAA pulling out of North Carolina). Other times it could be candidates and groups of angry people who are attacking public figures during election cycles, or professional associations not happy with their workplace bosses and place of employment.  Another classic example is the now infamous “whitehouse.com” (and not the “Whitehouse.gov”) – with people clicking on it thinking they’re going to the Washington, D.C. White House, only to find they’ve been re-directed to a porn site (as of this writing, this is no longer the case).

But other aproaches impact in other ways – witness, for example, “Tmobile”. Type “Tmobile” in a Google search sometime and see what happens: you’ll get, at the top of the list, a site known as “http://tmobile.pissedconsumer.com”, complete with a litany of complaints and attacks against Tmobile Corporation.Whoever manages and owns the domain and website cannot be readily found as the domain where this site resides is held by a ‘proxy’ – under a privacy cover.  And what’s more, they not only have the “.COM”, but also “.NET”, “.ORG” and “.INFO”. Which may, in part, explain why this specific site has a 94% SEO ranking: it’s popular and thus it will continue to have a high ‘hit rate’. But unfortunately, it cannot be good for business with Tmobile and to many, it’s not going to be easy to find out who’s sponsoring this site for all anyone may know, it may not be a group of unhappy consumers, but could be managed by one or more of Tmobile’s competitors.

One can only imagine how some folks at the Tmobile Corporation feel.

Now take this example at a more personal level.

Say you undergo a bad divorce, a dispute with a business partner or you’re involved in a nasty lawsuit. What better way to get back at somebody and hurt them but to attack their online reputation with negative information, malicious websites, or even go so far as to create other false sites with the intent to state negative or satiric news (sometimes the worst thing you can do to somebody is to mock them)? Think about it: what better way to help influence a future trial date but to get some negative information about your legal opponent?

Not to sound paranoid, but it happens more often than people realize – and it’s very, very easy to do.

What to do?

  1. Your best defense is a good offense. Get your name and positive reputation out there before others do, but also take control of your name – specifically, domain names. If you’re “Joseph Smith” then depending on who you are or what who you do, it may be worthwhile to spend the couple of dollars to get your name with a .COM, .NET, .ORG and a .INFO. Doesn’t mean you operate a website on those domain names (although it couldn’t hurt); what it does mean is that you’ve secured your name for yourself, and not for somebody else to obtain and go about dragging your name in the mud.
  2. Continue practicing good SEO by posting things about yourself on a regular, constant basis. Content is kind and the more you put out about yourself, the better control you are of your own reputation (for more on this, see prior postings on this subject).
  3. Don’t connect with just anyone; choose your connections wisely. See who your potential connections are connected with. Confirm they’re real; sometimes doing a reverse picture lookup is a good idea: confirm that there are indeed a real person, and not just someone else’s pictures.
  4. Get into the routine of checking up on your various sites and posting new items. Don’t get carried away: just 15 or 20 minutes a day is usually good for most people. (for larger entities, you may want to consider contracting this work out to SEO professionals. Rates can vary, but you’d be surprised how cheap this can be).

There are many other approaches, practices and routines; we’ve only just skimmed the surface.

An ounce of prevention is worth several  pounds of cure. Depending on your needs and concerns, spend some time setting up your plan and your approach – and get to work. The time, planning and effort you spend securing your internet reputation now will more than pay you back in dividends.

 

Understanding Social Media Ranking

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We discussed the power of your name and the importance of controlling your internet presence; now let’s look at the social media platforms by which you will do this.

There are a multitude of internet social sites, varying from a wide range of interests and focus. Your mission, however, is simple: finding the most prominent social media sites to establish your internet presence, enabling you to more readily ‘spread out’ and develop a greater internet impact. Remember: consistency across your social media platforms is vital. Your information about yourself should be consistent – as best as you can – with what you’re saying in all of your sites. Additionally, how you list your name should also be consistent as well (i.e., ‘Joe Smith’ is not necessarily the same as ‘Joseph Smith’).

Some of these sites are self-evident in their purpose and how they present you, the user – Facebook, for instance. But each site varies in their approach and their approaches of what they want you, the user, to employ. Thus, we’ll look more into the aspects of ‘traffic’ and presenting yourself in a way that’ll ensure greater internet presence.

It Not Just About the Number of Users,…

…it’s really about the amount of traffic and what drives that traffic. Sure, some sites can have a lot of users, but it’s more than just users which count. Understanding how ‘Alexa’ and traffic ranking works is very important.

Alexa Internet, Inc. is a California – based company providing commercial web traffic data and analytics. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com. Founded as an independent company in 1996, Alexa was acquired by Amazon in 1999. Alexa is an industry standard service utilized by many to determine internet traffic ranking, and thus knowing a sites Alexa ranking is important in terms of understanding any social media sites ranking.

Alexa’s traffic estimates and ranks are based on the browsing behavior of people in Alexa’s “global data panel” – which basically is an active sampling of all internet users. Alexa’s ranks are based on the traffic data provided by users in Alexa’s global data panel over a rolling 3 month period. Alexa ranks are updated daily, with a given site’s ranking based on a combined measure of Unique Visitors and Pageviews. Unique Visitors are determined by the number of unique Alexa users who visit a site on a given day. Pageviews are the total number of Alexa user URL requests for a site.

Bear in mind, however, multiple requests for the same URL on the same day by the same user are counted as a single Pageview (so clicking on your very own sites from your home computer all the time doesn’t count).

With Alexa, the site with the highest combination of unique visitors and pageviews is ranked #1 – but also importantly, it’s not just the number of users alone a social media site has that counts.

So clicking on the below link, we look at the top social media sites on the internet:

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Viewing the chart we see the usual top-level social media sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, etc.

But note this: in terms of Alexa ranking, the top fifteen social media sites are not as strong as they appear to be, emphasizing an important point: if you really want to get at the top in terms of getting successful hits, you need to produce fresh content.

Content Is King

Ultimately the biggest factor determining one’s internet presence is content: new material will beat out repeated stories clicked over and over. In the long run, regurgitating the same old story over and over will lessen interest and lower your ranking (this is not to be confused with how you describe yourself on your various social media sits: your bio is constant and although its good idea to review and update). It’s primarily what you post on your accounts which drive interest. Get into the habit of posting something on your social media sites on a regular basis, no matter how small it may be – an occasional Tweet, comment, maybe even moving up to a blog – can make a big difference bulding and defining your internet presence.

Thus, to help your ranking you need to do the following:

  1. Codify your name and make it consistent.
  2. Develop a good bio; generally, the rule of thumb is that it should be no less than 300 words. Don’t have much to say? You’ll figure out. One trick is to also insert your name within the body of the bio (just make sure it matches your user name). Often, writing in the third person, although a little strange for some, is also a great way to have your bio presented.
  3. Connect the dots – i.e., if given the option to link with other social media sites (preferably those you already have a presence on) do so. This will create your ‘web of presence’ on the Internet. Interconnecting your social media sites make for a far stronger internet presence and will sure better control for you to determine the direction you want your Internet presence to go.
  4. Post, write, update. Some things on Facebook you’ll want to keep amongst your friends, but every so often it’s good to post something ‘Public’ as it’ll get picked up by search engines. Likewise, posting on LinkedIn, Twitter or writing an occasional blog are excellent ways of creating live content, and thus drawing more positive attention – and traffic – to you.

The Internet is not something to fear or avoid; rather, it’s an opportunity to control how you appear and what you offer to prospective buyers, employers, your professional peers both nationally and internationally or developing new contacts. For some, social media can be a nuisance and a bother; it’s your choice. But in today’s world it’s best to consider controlling what aspects of your person and who you are. Who you are on the Internet increasingly plays a bigger role than many realize; ignoring the Internet is often done at one’s peril. Who knows what comes up about her whenever somebody does an Internet search; better to define that for yourself before something or someone else does. Besides, what better way then to put your best foot forward?