Monthly Archives: January 2016

Public Shaming is The Best Motivator

It´s like if your annoying roommate was a fitness tracking app.

cakewalk

Here is app I heartily endorse.

Cakewalk is step-tracking app which nags to you and if you do not reach your goals it will publicly shame you on Twitter. As majority of New Year resolutions will be broken sometime you need a little bit of tough love to stay on the course. Otherwise it is super simple: it will set the goals based on your daily average step count and then insults you if you don´t fulfill your goals.

plasticbags

Probably someone will get upset of this “mean” app. Well get away from your smartphone and just go walking.

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Social Media is Not A Conversation, It is A Shouting Match

“Pope Francis, who is a great man, gave his first interview after being elected to Eugenio Scalfari, an Italian journalist who is also a self-proclaimed atheist. It was a sign: real dialogue isn’t about talking to people who believe the same things as you. Social media don’t teach us to dialogue because it is so easy to avoid controversy… But most people use social media not to unite, not to open their horizons wider, but on the contrary, to cut themselves a comfort zone where the only sounds they hear are the echoes of their own voice, where the only things they see are the reflections of their own face. Social media are very useful, they provide pleasure, but they are a trap.”
Zygmont Bauman

Digital tools and social media have changed our lives. Not all the change has been for good. In theory we have more opportunities to discuss with various people, but actually we are surrounding ourselves with homogenous group of people who have similar background and similar opinions as we have. Because we can select what we read, majority of people settle for narrow worldview and just plain lies. Unfortunately nowadays it is ok to be ignorant and thanks to social media, you can surround yourself with other ignorant people.

We would have the opportunity to listen to opposite views, but instead we block them. We overreact to tweets, blog posts and snapchats if they do not conform to our worldview. You cannot be sarcastic anymore, because someone will not understand your humor. If you have to explain it is humor, the game is already lost. Especially the problem is obvious with millennials.

“My huge generalities touch on their over-sensitivity, their insistence that they are right despite the overwhelming proof that suggests they are not, their lack of placing things within context, the overreacting, the passive-aggressive positivity, and, of course, all of this exacerbated by the meds they’ve been fed since childhood by over-protective “helicopter” parents mapping their every move.”
– Brett Easton Ellis (Generation Wuss about millennials)

Essentially social media has just made us bunch of weak crybabies without any sense of humor. Or maybe we have always been them, but now it is just socially acceptable.

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Three Tips for Better Productivity

Good strategy is more often not about deciding what to do, but deciding what not to do:

1. Do not go to seminars.
The speakers generally resemble something like this:

Speakers are only promoting themselves, their firm or both. The probability of getting surprising new insights or meeting interesting people is close to zero.
Instead: Exercise or go to a stand-up comedy gig.

2. Do not read business books.
Just by glancing the executive summary you will be able to recite enough nuggets to shine in your presentations. Especially avoid books that have started out as blogs (trust me I have written one).
Instead: Read Russian classics.

3. Avoid Networking events
If you need to attend networking event you are not probably a person people would want to network to begin with. As everyone is just trying to maximize the amount of shared business cards, the probability of having meaningful conversation is close to zero.
Instead: Try to go for lunch with interesting people.
Usually more interesting and deep conversations and better food as you can select the restaurant.

With these tips you will notice that your productivity will jump through the roof and you are living more balanced and meaningful life.

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Always Go Beyond Numbers

People don´t understand probabilities.

“When people hear these analyses, however, they are not reassured but become more fearful than ever — they hadn’t realized there are so, many ways for something to go wrong! They mentally tabulate the number of disaster scenarios, rather than mentally aggregating the probabilities of the disaster scenarios.
Steven Pinker, Blank Slate
 
I think generally people don´t understand numbers, period.
 
Good example is the probability of someone becoming a NBA player. The odds are naturally low, but there is a good indicator that increases the probability. That indicator is height.

For a man between 6 feet to 6”2”, the chance of being in NBA is five in a million.
At 6”2” to 6”4”, the chances improve slightly to 20 to million.
Man between 6”10” and 7 it is 32000 in a million (3.2%).
And for men over 7 seven feet tall, 17% of them are in the NBA right now*. So every six guy over 7ft you would encounter would be NBA player. Because massive growth is quite often attributed to some disease, it is even more likely that healthy seven-footer is a NBA player. So with narrowing the group, we have actually find quite a good indicator of your probabilities of becoming NBA player.

It is always important to go beyond the numbers.

JJ Redick

JJ Redick is one of the rare NBA player with shorter wingspan than his height

Even the short NBA players are not really that short. Nate Robinson is only 5”7”, but his wingspan is 6”1”. NBA players in general have almost double more wingspan than regular people. Generally it is really rare that a player has shorter wingspan than his height. Yao Ming was one of them, but on the other hand he was 7”6”. So if you would need to predict someone´s ability to be a NBA player and you would need to rely only on two data points: height and wingspan would be probably the best with the former being more important.

*Stats read from a great book by David Epstein: The Sports Gene.

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Why Spotify Discover Weekly Is The Best Music Curation Tool?

Apple Music arrived with big bang. Its approach to music streaming is surprisingly old school. It relies a lot on human curation and its programming resembles old radio (some of the shows are definitely worth listening though). It´s biggest rival Spotify is relying more on big data. At the moment it seems that latter approach seems to be the winning formula. Eventually recommendation engines will become a core differentiator (as the libraries will become quite identical) for streaming services, so the headstart Spotify has is not insignificant.

Human curation was the way taste making happened back in the day. I used to rely almost totally to Dj Anonymous on my music recommendations. Best dj´s in the world have much more refined taste than any machine yet. The challenge with human curation is that it does not scale.

The recommendation engines were not really been yet up to task because the algorithms have not been advanced enough to recommend right songs. Music is nuanced thing and linear recommendation is not usually providing satisfying listening. Previous Spotify recommendations have been borderline ridiculous:

Prince Spotify

Previously there has not also been enough data available. For recommendation engines to work, you need to have massive amounts of data and something that is relevant. The key for Discover Weekly to work so well is that Spotify realized that the data they should be mining are the playlists people are making.

“For all the special sauce and the algorithmic work, the fact that we’ve kept it simple and that it’s just a playlist has really helped it resonate with people”
Matthew Ogle (Discover Weekly Product Owner)

The more people are making playlists in Spotify more “human curation big data” they are gathering. Currently there are over 2 billion playlists in Spotify. Spotify has been able to strike the right balance on learning about your listening habits and combining that with the big data:

“On one side, we’ve built a model of all the music we know about, that is powered by all the curatorial actions of people on Spotify adding to playlists. On the other side, we have our impression of what your music taste is. Every Monday morning, we take these two things, do a little magic filtering, and try to find things that other users have been playlisting around the music you’ve been jamming on, but that we think are either brand new to you or relatively new.”
-Matthew Ogle (Discover Weekly Product Owner)

In the beginning I wasn´t that impressed with Spotify´s weekly recommendations. Majority of the songs I knew already (20+ years of record collecting has its handicaps). After couple of weeks I started to appreciate the brilliance of it. Spotify Discover Weekly has become my “comfort playlist”. It plays stuff I know, but drops every week couple of nice gems I had not heard or had totally forgotten. During working week I listen to lots of weird stuff outside my usual taste profile, Spotify´s weekly recommendations don´t seem to pick on those anomalies and the quality is constant:

Like mentioned earlier, eventually data will trump human experience. In many fields, we are already there.

“In the next generation of software, machine learning won’t just be an add-on that improves performance a few percentage points; it will really replace traditional approaches.

Today, you’re much better off building a smart system that can learn from the real world – what actual listeners are most likely to like next – and help you predict who and where the next Adele might be.”
Eric Schmidt, Alphabet executive chairman

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Decisions Are Not Made Through Consensus

I don´t believe in committees.

I don´t believe in creative circle jerks.

I don´t believe in finding consensus.

I believe in getting shit done.

That requires collaboration but combined with firm decision-making.

Shared responsibility usually means no responsibility.

Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and usually you want to smell only your own one.

Plus ideas are like farts.

Good strategy is about making choice.

And usually making choice means that there are opposing views. Some views will be supported and some won´t. And that is ok. In well-functioning organization you are listened but you also know who makes the decision. Opinions are listened, but not everyone is decision maker. Who makes the decision also holds the responsibility of the outcomes.

Consensus means no ownership. What’s important is not that everyone agrees, but that everyone is heard and then the right person makes a decision.

Gokul Rajaram, Square

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Yes, David Bowie is Dead But Your Brand Should Not Care

David Bowie was a great musician, whose music will live on for a long time. Because he was such an iconic figure, there has been unleash of public tributes I don´t remember encountering since Lemmy died. All of those public tributes I can understand. The death came as a surprise and people want to showcase their empathy in social media.

However what made me sick this:

crocsbowie

Real-time advertising can be valuable tool, but you should remember the following rules:

1) Just because everyone is talking about it, that does not mean they want you to join the conversation. If you don´t have anything valuable to add to the mix, stay away.
2) If your product is not relevant to what is happening do not jump on the bandwagon (Jack Daniels works with Lemmy, ugly rubber boots not necessarily that well with Bowie)
3) If you have to jump on bandwagon (when in doubt: don´t jump) at least be respectable

Milk and Lemmy don´t necessarily mix that well, but apparently you can do that with a good taste and respect.
4) Generally it is easier to create real-time content on happier topics than death.
5) If what you are doing feels that it makes you a jerk, that is a strong indication that you should not be doing it.

And don´t even start with “every publicity is good publicity”-bullshit, although Crocs Facebook page has not probably gotten this much traction in a long time.

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10 Things You Need To Know About Cinemagraphs

If short-form video was the previous content buzzword, in last months people have been raving about cinemagraphs.

Essentially they are individual instants of motion are isolated against a static image, “living photographs” so to speak. They have been around for a while though, invented originally by Kevin Burg & Jamie Beck. Because they work perfectly in visual mobile platforms (Facebook, Instagram), they have been generating more buzz in recent months.

As everyone is raving about cinemagraphs, here is a short cheat sheet to showcase that you know what you are talking about in meetings:

  1. Good cinemagraph should be hypnotizing.

The goal of a cinemagraph is to keep audience longer watching your ad. Same way as fire is hypnotizing, great cinemagraph creates a loop you end up watching longer than you intended.

  1. Good cinemagraph starts with great photo.

You cannot create an effective cinemagraph out of crappy picture. The movement will not capture your attention, photo will. The movement makes you watch it longer.

  1. Ideal for Facebook and Instagram.

The recent looping video in Instagram and FB autoplay are perfect vehicles for cinemagraphs. Cinemagraph is elegant format, which works perfectly to feed-based environments that do not use sound that much.

  1. You buy it like a video.

When considering the ad cost, you have to factor in that cinemagraphs are considered as a video instead of a photo.

  1. It is not necessarily always faster to produce than ordinary video.

It can take weeks to produce high-quality cinemagraph.

  1. Cinemagraph is great vehicle for product advertising.

Because you end up watching the video longer, ensure that your product is there to be seen. Besides ability to increase your brand recall, you can actually show the actual product inside the bottle as well (see below)

dolcegabbana

  1. Currently they are more viral than ordinary photographs

They have 71% more organic reach than regular photos.

  1. Ensure that you make the loop seamless.

Nothing looks more clunky than cinemagraph that does not loop properly. You want to create the hypnotizing effect (point 1)

  1. They will become more commonplace

As your profile image in Facebook can nowadays be 7 second video instead of just a static photo, people are becoming more adapt at creating their own

  1. Be creative

With relatively new format, we have only scratched the surface of the creative possibilities it can provide (like vertical videos). Experiment and test different cinemagraph ideas, the rules have not yet been set in stone.

Our digital world is getting more mobile and visual and the rise of cinemagraphs is just a one manifestation of that.

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More Willpower for the New Year

Did you make a new year´s resolution?

If you did, you are likely not alone.

Also if you are not able to follow it through, you are definitely not alone either.

62% of Americans make new year´s resolutions, but only 8% are able to fulfill them.

The biggest reason for that is that people are trying to make too big lifestyle change at the same time. You try to quit smoking, lose weight, start exercise, save more money and at the same time live your life to the fullest. No wonder, that you are feeling overwhelmed. One of the goals could be achievable but achieving all of them at the same time would be quite impossible feat.

Willpower is muscle.

Like muscle, it gets tired. In experiments, straight after accomplishing a task that requires people to restrain their impulses (i.e. saying no to chocolate biscuits), students were far more likely to underperform at other willpower-related jobs (i.e. solving a puzzle). So if you ha

Like muscle, you can also train it. In one study, students were asked to watch their posture for a week. At the end of the week, those students performed better on self-control tasks (not related to posture) than students who had not been exercising control all week. That is why people who are able to maintain regular sports regime, are also able to achieve more during their workday (this is just anecdotal experience with myself).

So for this New Year, I will not promise to quit smoking (mainly because I would need to start it to be able to do that) or anything of that sorts. Instead I will recognize the moments that are draining my willpower and keep training the willpower muscle.

Plus I will take better care of my shoes and eat more soups.

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